May 30, 2010

Sitting seiza for tea

One of the most difficult things about studying tea is sitting seiza.   As I am getting older, it is getting more difficult for me to sit for long periods of time.  I do tell my students that like any other physical activity (and sitting seiza is a physical activity) you must get in shape.

Sensei once told my husband when he first began to study tea, to sit in the bathtub at home.   He did, but it was so painful for him that he thought that sensei recommended it because it was almost a relief to sit on tatami after sitting on the cold porcelain!  What she forgot to tell him was to fill the bath with hot water so that it would relax the muscles and tendons and help buoy up his weight.

Seriously, sitting seiza does not come naturally to us.  I tell my students that they need to get into shape.  Sitting once a week will only get you so far.  It helps to sit a little bit every day and work up to longer and longer periods of sitting.  I have my laptop computer on the coffee table and sit seiza while working on computer for as long as I can before I rest, or I sit seiza while watching TV to keep in shape.  Breathing, and keeping your mind focused on your temae will also help.

Sometimes, sitting on the meditation seat helps, especially with the ankles. New students usually need a sitting aid such as this stool. One thing to be very sure of is if your feet and ankles are numb, please be very careful and not get up until you get the feeling back into your feet.  We have time, and a good first guest will be able to tell a story, or discuss some aspect of the tea room, or utensils to help distract the other guests while the host recovers feeling in his legs. You can purchase one of these seats from  It comes in its own little carry bag that gives you a little extra padding, too.

Another thing that I have discovered that helps is acupuncture.  In fact, if you are in Portland, I recommend Working Class Acupuncture, because they charge a sliding scale $15-35 per visit.  Very affordable.  It is community acupuncture. They treat you in lounge chairs in one big room. You can stay for as long as you like.  You can find other community acupuncture clinics all over the U.S.

Besides the pain of sitting seiza, acupuncture will help with a lot of other things, too.


  1. I find whenever I sit in seiza, outside of the tea room, I am instantly comforted. Until the tingly legs kick in, of course. :)

  2. Tsukimi Warwillow,
    Thank you for your comment. I have short legs and it sometimes is uncomfortable to sit with legs hanging and not touching the floor. As I am gettting more used to sitting seiza, I find myself sometimes sitting seiza in chairs.


  3. My friend sent me a few other pointers for sitting seiza:

    "In Japan today, after returning from a month of Ochakai from Kanto to Kansai, there are many experienced practtiioners, all Japanese, who are also making use of these little benches. The main advice they gave me there for non-Japanese studying Chanoyu outside of Japan is to use a bench from the start, even during one's temae, and then gradually increase the amount of time sitting in seiza. They also suggest crossing the big toes back and forth, sitting with proper posture/weight distribution throughout the body, spacing between the legs appropriate to men/women and that many there do squat exercises to build up strength in the legs for standing. In Omotesenke in particular, this is critical as we must rise from our temae position with both legs simultaneously (not one at a time, or using one leg to help the other) so taking care within the seiza of temae is important.