How to Meditate Even When You’re Feeling Fidgety or Stiff

Wendy Miller
May 9 · 6 min read

Two common complaints for not meditating are not being able to sit still or being too stiff. These are certainly understandable frustrations, but they don’t have to mean the end of your meditation practice. There are several things you can do to ease both being fidgety and feeling stiff so that you can more easily settle into your meditation practice.

If you’re fidgety

Prepare yourself

Being fidgety usually doesn’t come as a surprise. You already know that you are a naturally fidgety person or that you’re feeling that way today. You might be tapping your fingers, shaking a leg, or doing other things that give it away. This knowledge will let you prepare yourself.

Fidgeting is quite often the result of excess energy. This is easily remedied by burning off that excess energy. Go for a run, do some yoga, or take a walk before you sit down to meditate. You could also go for a swim or ride a bike.

It doesn’t really matter what you do. Just engage in some physical activity that will expend energy before you sit down to meditate.

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Remember your progress

When you feel like you can’t sit still, it feels so much easier to just shrug, decide to skip your meditation and move on with your day. And while there certainly may be times when this is the right thing to do, more often than not, you want to make sure you stick with your practice.

Moments like this are when it’s important to remember your progress. Think back to the first time you meditated and compare it to the most recent time. Notice how different the practice itself felt, as well as how you felt after. If you track your meditations using an app or a calendar, look over all the sessions you’ve done.

While one skipped session won’t totally derail your progress, remembering how far you’ve come will encourage you to meditate anyway, just so you can continue to see the same progress.

Follow your breath

Whether it’s excess energy, stress or something else that’s making you want to fidget, slow deep breathing can help. It gives you something to focus on, distracting you from the fidgety feeling. It can also ease the feeling causing the urge to move, lessening the urge.

Deep breathing activates the vagus nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system and triggers relaxation — and that can help ease the fidgetiness.

Even if you usually do a guided meditation with imagery, this is a good time to focus solely on your breath. Keep bringing your attention back to your breath whenever you get distracted.

Hold something

Sometimes the best way to combat the fidgetiness is to embrace it. Hold on to something while you meditate that allows you to fidget without being disruptive. Mala beads are perfect for this purpose, as you can move them through your fingers one-by-one as you meditate.

You can also hold a squeezable stress ball, a coin, a marble or two or a pen you can twirl. Try to use something that you can move quietly so you don’t distract yourself from your meditation. Just give yourself something small and easily maneuverable that you can play with.

Touch a physical anchor point

Providing yourself with a physical anchor point, something you can touch with your body, can help ease the urge to move. Try sitting with your back against a wall or sitting in a chair instead of on your cushion. Put your hands on top of your desk if you’re meditating at work.

Use this anchor point to keep yourself from fidgeting. Keep in contact with this touch point throughout your meditation. You could even make it your meditation: focus on how the surface feels, how it feels to meditate in this different way, and what it’s doing for your restlessness.

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Keep practicing

Practice makes… not perfect, but better. You just have to stick with it. One of the benefits of meditation is that it can make you more comfortable with stillness, make you more relaxed and therefore, ease restlessness.

If you need to do shorter meditations, change up where or when you meditate, or make other changes, go for it. But keep up a daily practice so you stay in the habit and get the benefits.

If you’re feeling stiff

Stretch regularly

Whether your stiffness is caused by a health condition or by simply spending much of your time sitting or standing in one position due to work, regular stretching can help ease it. You don’t have to go to extremes. All you need is a few light and simple stretches.

Try to stretch a few times a day for maximum impact. If nothing else, stretch before you sit down to meditate so that you’ll be a little looser for those few minutes.

Do yoga

Meditation is actually a branch of yoga. But the physical poses, or asanas, of yoga can help ease your stiffness as well. You can take a class at your local studio, use a website or an app, or grab a book. Yoga For Everyone by Dianne Bondy is an excellent resource to provide you with modifications to asanas so that you can work on increasing your flexibility and relieving tightness without hurting yourself.

Meditation and yoga asanas go quite well together, with or without stiffness.

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Sit up straight

If you slouch or slump, your muscles can begin to feel like they’re tightening or tensing up, contributing to a feeling of stiffness. Sitting up straight can help keep those muscles feeling long and supple. If you only sit up straight while meditating, though, you’re going to feel stiffer.

Sit — and stand — up straight. If you realize you’re slouching or slumping, make a conscious effort to straighten up. You can even buy posture correctors to help with this if you need one.

Use props

Sometimes there’s really nothing you can do to eliminate or improve stiffness. Some health conditions make it a permanent part of your life. If that’s the case for you, use props to ease the stiffness.

You might put yoga blocks beneath your legs, brace yourself against a wall with a pillow behind your back, or sit on a thicker cushion. You might even skip sitting on a cushion and sit in a comfortable, cushioned chair instead.

Warm up

Stiffness is often made worse by cold. Even if it doesn’t seem like you’re cold, try warming up a bit by draping a blanket over your lap or shoulders or bumping the thermostat up a couple of degrees.

If it’s just your hands or feet, try wearing socks or some thin gloves. Take a warm shower or bath to help ease tense muscles.

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Listen to your body

There are plenty of things you can try but, in the end, your body knows what’s best for it. If sitting on a hard chair or a cushy recliner is what makes you feel best while you meditate, do that. If a walking meditation feels more comfortable, walk away. All the suggestions in the world are just that — suggestions. If your body says it’s not working, then listen to your body.

Although meditation generally doesn’t have any negative side effects or the ability to hurt you, it’s never a bad idea to check with your doctor before you begin if your stiffness is caused by a health condition.

Wendy Miller

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Meditation teacher, Writer & Mom using my skills & experiences to help busy women find time to do what matters most — cultivate a life they love.