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Numbness while meditating is entirely normal, but it can be a little unnerving for some people. Here’s some advice on how to deal with it.

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Numbness is something that occurs fairly commonly when people sit to get some head space. But it doesn't happen to everyone, I'd say probably 10, 20% of people will experience it at some stage or another. Often it's accompanied by feelings of pins and needles, either in the hands, the fingers, the feet, or the toes. More often it's in the upper body. And if you think about your posture, how you're sat during your session, usually more often than not the body is set up in such a way that the blood tends to sort of drain downwards, as it does when we're sitting down. The heart has to work a little harder to keep the blood sort of pumping around. And because we completely still and the heart rate's kind of slowing down, everything starts to slow down. And that's sometimes our circulation as well. Again, this is nothing to worry about. It's entirely normal. For some people though, a certain subset of people, like it can slow down to such an extent that we start to feel a little bit numb, say like sort of pins and needles in the hands, the fingers. And it can be a little unnerving, especially if we haven't experienced it before or especially if we're just learning the technique. So the most important thing is how you relate to it. It's tempting just to sort of panic a little bit and immediately sort of get up and start shaking your hands, your arms, moving them around a little bit. But as much as possible, just try and stay with it. The interesting thing, and I say this from experience is, when you experience a certain sense of numbness in the body, we can sometimes assume, okay, that's how it's going to be for the rest of the session. But I've sat with numbness myself and just watched and observed. And funny enough, sometimes the numbness has passed. It's just been a sort of a temporary thing, a fleeting thing. So as much as possible, rather than moving your posture, simply bring your attention to the feeling. Again, it can be quite uncomfortable at first, maybe especially if you feel a bit sort of squeamish. It's quite a strange feeling to bring your attention to, but as much as possible, just focusing on the feeling rather than thinking about the feeling. Again, they're two very, very different things. As long as we can do that, and as I said, more often than not, the numbness will pass. If it doesn't and it's genuinely sort of concerning you, then you can just gently and very mindfully open and close your hands. So it's like you're stretching your fingers. Again, you're just encouraging circulation in the body or help bring greater sense of blood flow into your arms, into your hands, into your fingers. And it can just be reassuring. But as much as possible, as I say, try to do it consciously, mindfully,...


Duration4 min

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  • A former Buddhist monk, Andy has guided people in meditation and mindfulness for 20 years. In his mission to make these practices accessible to all, he co-created the Headspace app in 2010.

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