This gentle yoga practice is designed to restore flexibility and relieve pain in our stiff joints.
Television trail-blazer Dorothy Fuldheim once quipped, "This is a youth-oriented society, and the joke is on them because youth is a disease from which we all recover." Some of that recovery is growing in wisdom through our experiences, and we may also be recovering from the overuse, misuse, or lack of use of our joints during our younger days!
Whether we are dealing with old or new injuries, chronic illness, inflammation, arthritis, or we are simply feeling stiff and stuck from lack of movement, lack of mobility and pain in our joints can be a very debilitating and life-limiting challenge.
The main function of our bones is to provide structural support, and our joints enable flexibility and "give" so we can move well. We have synovial joints, where the ends of bone are connected by a joint capsule containing synovial fluid, allow freedom and fluidity in the articulation of our movements. But some of our joints, namely the spinal joints and the sacro-iliac joints, do not release synovial fluid. Thankfully, Gentle Yoga helps all our joints regardless of their condition!
How Yoga Helps*
According to the wisdom of Yoga's sister Science of Health, Ayurveda, by the age of 50 we are entering into the Vata season of life – a concept characterized by dryness we see in our skin, our hair, and sometimes feel inside our bodies. This can end up manifesting as joint stiffness and pain.
According to this time-tested approach to health, there may also be an overload of toxins in the body, which end up accumulating in the joints. Ama, a Sanskrit word describing these toxins caused by improper digestion, first creates stiffness and heaviness in the joints. Then over time, the joint becomes swollen and painful.
A Gentle Yoga practice is key to keeping the joints juiced up, as long as we stay within the comfortable range of motion. Moving slowly and using visualization to breathe in light and spaciousness into to the areas that are uncomfortable is a very effective strategy to create a sense of openness and ease in the joints.
Some people find the heat in a Hot Yoga class very beneficial, and I encourage you to connect with the studio and the teacher to ask them in detail how their style of yoga offered will help your symptoms and the teacher will provide modifications to keep you out of pain.
Using our practice to cultivate more alignment of our bones and strength in our muscle tissue is also a wonderful way to help the joints function more optimally and help us connect with the joy of movement!
Prioritizing Joint Health
If you take your joint health into your own hands with these simple ideas, you will see amazing improvements in a short period of time!
Practice Yoga Daily
When we practice every day, even for 15 minutes, we create momentum in the direction of health and self-healing. Our bodies are designed to self-heal, and our yoga practice enables these innate abilities. Find a class that is suitable for your body's needs or look for a teacher online! Have a conversation with the teacher before you commit to a class, and ask them to explain how they have helped others with joint issues, and how they can help you with your specific challenges.
Watch Your Thoughts – Cultivate a Mindfulness Meditation Practice
Bring your full awareness to your breath and your surroundings. Whether you are sitting or walking slowly with purpose, allow the mind to quiet down by bringing your awareness back over and over again. Once the mind slows down, we can identify some of our inner dialogue. Some of this dialogue may be completely out of line with what we want to be thinking, and this may actually be increasing our pain levels. Metaphysically, our joints represent ease of movement and changing direction in life, so we could be experiencing a sensation of being "stuck" on some level. Awareness through mindfulness can give us an opportunity to correct wrong-thinking, and make adjustments to our inner dialogue.
Let the body's wisdom speak to us. There may be messages the body is trying to give us that are drowned out by the thinking aspect of the mind. Many people experience "Aha!" moments that can accelerate their healing journey.
Nutrition And Self Care
• Explore Ayurvedic principles of nourishment – engage an Ayurvedic health counselor or research ways of preparing and enjoying a sattvic diet. Adding turmeric and ginger to your meals may be very helpful.
• Get checked for food sensitivities – try an elimination diet and see how your body feels. Avoid dairy, sugar, and alcohol, and explore vegan alternatives.
• Stay well hydrated and add oils, inside and out – Increasing consumption of plant based oils in our diets can have a beneficial effect on our joints, because they are Vata pacifying. So can a daily Abhyanga self-massage with Sesame or Almond oil. A Castor oil pack with a hot water bottle resting on painful areas can also provide relief, and detox the lymphatic system in that area.
Joints For Joints?
Many people are reluctant to manage pain through medication because pain meds can be addictive. Medical marijuana is becoming a mainstream solution for pain management, and is not addictive. The Indica species of cannabis plant is more suited to this purpose, as it doesn't provide a strong euphoric effect in comparison to the sativa species. So speak to your doctor to find out if this is a wise option.
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