I’m experiencing pain in my knees when I meditate. What do I do?

I’m experiencing a fair bit of pain in my knees when I meditate. Do I grin and bear it, meditate on it, or just move my legs?

Lion’s Roar
31 August 2016
Illustration by Nolan Pelletier.

Pain can’t be avoided in our lives, so it’s only natural that it would come up in our meditation as well. Often, it may be of the “growing pain” variety, since it can take a while for our bodies to adjust to sitting in meditation posture. (A good argument for sitting more frequently!) If you’re experiencing pain, dharma teachers advise us first to use it as an object of meditation: Notice the pain. Does it come and go? Who is experiencing the pain? When your mind is more focused on following your breath, does the pain seem to ease?

Buddhist schools have different suggestions about what to do if the pain still seems too much to bear. Some encourage you to go easy on yourself and adjust your posture to relieve the pain. Others take a harder line and ask you to maintain your position and keep meditating on the pain. Do try to sit as solidly as you can—you’ll find real benefit there—but keep in mind that what’s best for you is ultimately your call. Either way, meditation shouldn’t be torture.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.