Yoga and a Good Joint



Nothing like a well lubed joint. A good joint will hold you in delicious zones you forgot. Seriously. Love having a strong wrap on the outside, good juice on the inside and not taking it too far. You know what I mean. Excessive pulls can rapidly push you out of your happy place. Repercussions can be a long term pain in the joint...literally.

Thinking Green Goddess...Ganja? No man, this is about the joints in your body. Not saying you can't do yoga and the other simultaneously...but, you might be a bit more relaxed than wise. Just saying...not nay-saying. Got to focus on the joints of a lifetime...your own.

Yoga and joints. Tricky combination to balance. Do not confuse flexibility of muscles with over-extension of joints. Joints in the body connect the bones. Joints are held together by a joint capsule and ligaments. The connective tissue is stiff...yet, pliable. It is not designed to reach new edges...muscles are. Keeping muscles around the joints strong and long stabilizes the pivotal point. Some poses of the past are not reflective of anatomically wise poses of the present. Yoga injuries should be rare; not frequent. Practice common sense as you venture new edges.

Multiple factors play a role in what you can do, should do or not do in yoga. Joint structure, ligaments, muscles, prior injuries, fat tissue levels, body temperature, gender, genetics, the weather, age, current activity level, what you're wearing...all affect range of motion. Even your emotions of the moment matter. Ligaments and tendons (the parts that connect muscle to bone and joints) are not meant to be over-stretched. Once over-extended, like taffy, not coming back to original status. Muscles, warmed up, can significantly lengthen. Done correctly, flexibility of muscles broadens and they actually start to hug closer to the bone. Practice yoga long enough and you will notice your body changing shape. It is re-contouring itself as muscles hug the bone tighter.

You don't want to re-contour your joints. Try and you might be asking for a hit of an expendable joint to ease the pain. Each joint has a specific form of movement. Elbows, for example, bend or open one way. No circular motion. Same for knees. Hips, ankles, wrists give a larger range of movement. But, again...are not seeking to be hyper-extended. Hips are notorious for being tight. It takes time to get pliable. However, know all bodies are not built the same. Some are just not designed to do the splits. The alignment of the hip socket, femur bone and ligaments might not welcome such a pose. I've been practicing for ten years and am not much closer to doing the splits than when I started. Used to think I could only get 'so good' at the poses...until I realized poses are only a piece of the practice...nor, does it define your 'yoga expertise'.

It is time to stop associating yoga strictly with flexibility. Time to focus on strength and stability. Flexibility will come as the body re-adjusts to soft shifts of alignment. To practice yoga for a lifetime...which is possible...you need to strengthen the muscles around the joints. It's a win-win. You work your optimum range of motions while building or maintaining muscle mass.

Bursitis is common ailment of the joints. It is a pain that manifests near joints. Repetitive motion, age, systemic diseases, like arthritis and diabetes, can ignite bursitis. It is inflammation of the bursa...the sac that holds fluid around your joint. It's the cushion for your joints. Cushion degenerates with age and wear and tear. Younger yogis have more 'juice' in the sack; however, like the retired folks...things start moving South or out.

The synovial fluid is a viscous (yolk like) substance that reduces friction in the joints. Kind of like the best oil for your engine. It provides oxygen and removes wastes to and from the joints. With repetitious use, it becomes thinner in density. When you hear your joints crack, it is when the synovial fluid is insufficient to fill the expanding space the joint and gas (mainly carbon dioxide) dissolved in the liquid is released to fill the open space. (that's the crack you hear when you pop your knuckles) If you're over 40, you probably have noticed a little more popping as you get moving in the morning.

Father Time thins out the amount "oil" you have to lubricate the joints. Medical treatment via injections is an option for some people contingent on the condition. As the synovial fluid thins out, the cartilage wears thin. Worn down cartilage leads to osteoarthritis. Yoga doesn't get the body to make more fluid. The movements and poses help move the fluid around the cartilage...keeping it moist and nourished. "Move it or lose it" mantra is for real.

If you've got people claiming every pose is possible with enough practice, listen to your body first and foremost. You're the who's got to live in it...no one else. It's a beautiful thing. See, feel, and move to your own beat. The body was magnificently designed to adapt, protect, grow, give, reproduce, and encase Love. All it needs is you to show the love back. So many ways...but, that's another day, another article.

Step on the ground...move the skin...the bones...the muscles...the organs...talk to them with your breath. Listen to them with the sense of respect and adoration you have when listening to a wise person's advice. Practice in a state of heightened awareness and you'll get the "hit" you needed. (And it was all legal...no prescription required.)
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