Have you ever stopped to consider just how dependent your every movement is on those miraculously slippery and cushioned spaces between your bones? Our joints are essential for bodily movement and yet somehow incredibly under-appreciated. Life without joints is hard to imagine; our joints really are crucial to living life as we know it, and caring for them can have a huge impact on how comfortable we feel in our bodies. So, do your joints ever talk to you? Are they especially conversant at certain times of year or after specific types of activities? Maybe your joints seem to pipe up at random, or perhaps they’re more persistently vocal. Whatever the case, you will find some useful strategies for supporting your joints below.
- Practice joint rotations: Practicing a series of gentle joint rotations daily helps to lubricate and protect the joints. In fact, it is often recommended as part of an Ayurvedic daily routine, and it only takes a few minutes. Consider doing about 10 rotations in each direction for each joint. Start with the arms, rotating the wrists slowly in each direction. Next, place both hands on your shoulders (right hand to right shoulder, left hand to left shoulder) and draw circles around the shoulder joint with the elbows – first rotating backward, and then forward. Then, let your arms hang long and circle the shoulders themselves, first backward, and then forward. If you are comfortable doing gentle circles with your neck, you can do a few in each direction before you shift your attention to the legs. Begin there with the ankles. Fold one ankle over the opposite knee and use one hand to gently turn your foot in circles around the ankle joint – first one direction and then the other. Then stand up, bend your knees, place your hands on your thighs (just above the knees) and make circles with your knees in both directions. Now separate your feet, place your hands on your hips and make wide circles with your hips – first clockwise, then counter clockwise. These practices are very effective at increasing circulation in the joints and supporting proper lubrication. If the entire practice is too much, you can focus where you need the most support, or reduce the number of repetitions for one or all of the joints. If your hands or feet need a little extra attention, you can massage the knuckles on the fingers and toes with gentle circular motions, one at a time.
- Get Regular and Appropriate Exercise: Our joints are meant to move. In fact, proper movement supports their overall health. But, some activities are far from supportive. The type of movement that is right for you will depend on your constitution, your current state of balance, and any other special considerations you may have (injuries, vulnerabilities, etc.). In general, however, the joints are supported by low-impact activities. There are more specific recommendations for exercise in the resources on balancing vata, pitta, and kapha in the joints.
- Practice Yoga Regularly: Yoga and gentle stretching can help to improve circulation in and around the joints. Yoga also nourishes our bodies with prana, the vital life force. Cat Cow (especially if it is done as described in this link, with an organic wave type motion) is wonderful for juicing up the vertebral joints along the spinal column. More specific ideas for yoga practice are included in our resources on balancing vata, pitta, and kapha in the joints.
- Eat a Balanced Diet with Sufficient High Quality: FatsBecause tissue nutrition determines the health of the joints, a balanced diet is critical. In particular, make sure you are getting an appropriate amount of high-quality fats and that you are actively tending to agni. Different constitutions and imbalances require different amounts of fat and different types of foods. More specific dietary recommendations are included in our resources on balancing vata, pitta, and kapha in the joints.