Back Cramps During Meditation
I have been meditating for about 15 years. I focus on my third eye and use the mantra “I and my father are one.” A few years ago I started getting strong cramps in the upper right side of back during meditation. Sometimes the cramps get so strong I have to end my meditation because I can’t take the pain. Afterwards the cramps fade away quickly. I also used to hear ringing in my left ear, but that has stopped now.
—Natasha, South Africa
It sounds to me like you are getting tense during meditation: perhaps in the effort to focus strongly at the spiritual eye. Do you practice any yoga stretches or similar physical movement before sitting to meditate? I don’t know your overall health or age, of course, but at Ananda we practice the 39 Tension Exercises (“Energization Exercises”) that Paramhansa Yogananda created specially for meditators (and anyone). (Not everyone is going to practice the yoga postures, whether due to interest, time, health, or age.) They take between 12 and 15 minutes to do after you’ve learned them.
These tension exercises stretch, energize and relax the body (and thus the mind) prior to sitting. Several of them are excellent for the back cramps you describe. At the risk of oversimplfying just one of them: arms outstretched at shoulder height in front of you with fists closed; tense the arms about “medium” tension: now swing your arms side to side with your feet apart at shoulder width and your hips and legs remaining stationery facing forward; let your eyes and head follow the arms (which stay together, the fists facing each other). Back and forth to your full swing as your mobility permits; slow at first, then, if safe to do so, pick up a little speed. Concentrate on the upper back as if by this action you are adjusting the upper vertebrae. There are 38 others! You can learn them from ananda.org.
Getting back to the third eye, let me say that many meditators simply “strain” to focus there. It should be relaxed. The eyes mustn’t be looking too far up but rather through the point between the eyebrows and as if looking through that point at a point two feet or so (arms length) in front of you. It should feel natural, the way the eyes go up when someone asks you a question and you look up to “think about it.” I used to get headaches when I first meditated because I was straining to stay focused. A good approach is to always focus on the heart center, relaxing there first, before commencing your technique(s) that engage the third eye.
During your meditation, scan your body every so often for relaxation and correct posture. The technique of tensing the whole body (while sitting) as you inhale and then expelling the breath forcibly through the mouth as you relax can also help. The spine should assume its natural curvature with the chest up and shoulders relaxed down. Your head should remain level (parallel to the ground) and not be straining up.
I hope you will find these simple suggestions helpful.