Dr. Dean

My Feet Fall Asleep During Meditation. Is This Dangerous?

Posting Date: 03/30/2000

Dan: I meditate every morning for about an hour. I sit in a cross-legged position with my legs in front of me on the floor and very often my feet fall asleep. Also, several times a year I go on retreats and my feet fall asleep off and on all weekend as I meditate.

Can this do me any harm?

Dr. Dean: If this were television I could draw you a diagram of the nerves in the legs. Most likely you are compressing your perineal nerve, the nerve that runs right along where your legs are crossed.

Compressing that nerve causes numbness and can also make it hard for you to stand up. This even happens to some people who sit on the toilet seat for too long.

Now the question is, can it harm you? Probably this isn't a big deal, because the medical literature is not full of reports on people whose feet are injured by meditation, but I do have a little concern that daily compression of your nerve could cause a permanent palsy. Compression can also cause neuropathy. The simple solution is for you to change to a more comfortable position that still allows you to feel the power of the meditative process.

Patients can actually wake up from surgery with palsied nerves, because lying asleep on the firm operating table has unknowingly caused compression.

In the 1950s I personally experienced Saturday Night Palsy which was peculiar to the sexual climate of that era, when people spent time hugging and touching. Nowadays we just jump to the sex part.

This neurological phenomenon occurred when a guy took a girl to the movies on a Saturday night. It happens as little by little you sneak your arm up the back of her seat, and finally get it into position, where it lies frozen until she passes you the popcorn and your arm falls right into the bucket. You have lost complete control of your arm because you've compressed the nerve that runs under the biceps next to the bone.