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Healthier Joints

9 Apr 2016   Shanti Gowans

The secret to healthy movement is to know how to protect your body and joints from strain, while working your muscles in the right way, which is the skill of being able to contract and relax your muscles as needed.
Protecting your joints can be fun, because your movement feels easier and more pleasurable. Who really wants more tension, strain or pain in their body?
Here are some pointers to healthier joints:

Stop. Centre yourself before you start your activity or practice. Take your awareness from being outwardly focused, to bringing your awareness within you. to your breath, a body area such as your feet or lower belly, or even a scan through your whole body. Once familiar and practised, it will only need a short time to get centred…which brings you present for the activity to follow.
Practising good alignment means you understand how your joints are meant to move, so you can hold them in the optimal place when you are doing your movement practice or exercise. For example in a Lunge, the knee should generally be aligned over the foot. It also means not twisting a joint or laterally moving a joint if it is not meant to do that action.
Minimise impact
Any action where your foot comes off the ground has the potential to create impact to your joints. For example, when you run or jump, if your landing foot sounds loud, then the impact force is probably high. Instead you can land softly and quietly and so reduce joint strain. Move with minimal impact. One way to do this is to have strong muscles, which absorb the forces which would otherwise cause strain on your joints. Another way is by developing good technique, to land softly and absorb force through many joints, as in a spring.
You can also avoid joint impact by not jamming your joints at the end of the movement, for example over straightening your elbows in a push up, over bending your spine in a back bend, or standing with your knees extended beyond neutral.
Balance is king. Think of a balanced approach to your activity. This means finding balance in what you are doing. For example:
• Balance activity with recovery and rest.
  - Rest/recovery also needs to take account of your fluid and nutritional intake.
• Balance the exercises you do. Avoid over doing one thing for example, many repititons of Sun Salutations.
• Balance the body parts you work with. Understanding your core is helpful, but focusing just on your belly or core can cause imbalance and strain to your body.
• Develop balance in your postural muscles.
• Balance your physiology, knowing and applying when to stress it and when to relax it.
• Balance between contraction and relaxation. It is unhealthy to hold a body area overly contracted all the time eg pulling your stomach in flat, pulling your shoulders back, or of course the opposite, which is slouching. You need to be able to both contract and relax muscles as you need to, and most importantly use just the right amount of tension to do the activity. During sport you will notice that tensing or trying too hard will affect the judgement, speed and accuracy in your game. 
• Balance can also refer to practising Yoga's Balancing Exercises which improve your strength, and train your sensory and nervous system to respond in an optimal way to keep you upright against gravity.
Strength and Flexibility
Strength and Flexibility is queenBalance both strength and flexibility, according to your specific needs. 
Stop an activity which causes unhealthy pain or strain on your joints.
A wise path to health is moderation.


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About Shantiji

Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.

Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography

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