For a few months, I have been contemplating a piece about the joints. The first time that I addressed this perhaps undervalued component of the physical body was in 2018: “The Heat Is On “ provided a practice to cope with sweltering Summer temperatures and humidity’s effect on the joints.
At the time, I was in the early throes of osteoarthritis, but did not know it. Because I was—and am—a very physically active person, I dismissed the sudden, sharp pain in my right hip to having “moved the wrong way.” When the acute phase passed into an intermittent, dull ache, my bodyworker self assumed that I could apply what I knew and remedy the situation over time.
I wrote that first post about joint pain five months after the first mysterious flare-up. Several months later—nearly a year in—the left hip began to display similar discomfort. When I finally sought chiropractic help, that practitioner recognized textbook symptoms of arthritis and suggested I see an orthopedic specialist.
After the official diagnosis, I endured another year-plus of increasingly debilitating pain. During this time, I had no choice but to reduce beloved movements, then those that were “functional”: To stand, bend, sit up or down, or turn over in bed became a dreaded effort.
This trip back through that challenging time leads to this Silent Sunday. Having experienced the rigors of osteoarthritis for nearly three years—and now rejoicing in the privilege of pain-free movement after a double hip replacement last year—I am more aware than ever that the body requires constant monitoring and maintenance.
More significantly, I have developed a deep reverence for the esoteric underpinnings of anatomical structures.
When one is young and healthy—or older and without physical concern—the goal of movement tends to be one of having fun, pushing boundaries, and muscling through feats of endurance.
That there are unexplored realms within any given anatomical feature that factor into “what makes us go” may be rarely considered.
My own fascination with the wealth of information hidden within joints—specifically those of the hips—was expressed in the following piece that I wrote post-surgery. Included within the post is a visualization and meditation practice, should you want to more deeply explore the potential that lies within your joints:
Finally, it may be helpful to supply some learned background. For example, joints, according to Louise L. Hay in her book, “You Can Heal Your Life,” reflect the ability to change directions in Life. If stricken with arthritis, joints may reveal the presence of underlying resentment.
Further, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, joints align most closely with the Wood element. Wood, associated with the Liver and Gall Bladder organ systems, corresponds with movement, and is demonstrated by the qualities of a “pioneer”:
Action compels the Pioneer. …The urge to get things moving, make things happen, and voyage onward typifies the Pioneer. … [When thwarted,] what was once a gratifying challenge can become an aggravating distress…
The above description (from Beinfield and Korngold’s “Between Heaven and Earth”) reinforces the notion of joints as agents of change. When one’s plans and anticipation of newness go unmet, resentment may build: thus, Hay’s note of arthritis as a reflection of that disappointment.
Another, not-well-known aspect of the joints—indeed, of the whole body’s hidden realms—is that of marmas. Marmas, according to Frawley, Ranande, and Lele in their book, “Ayurveda and Marma Therapy,” are sensitive pressure points that correspond with specific parts of the body; however, the reach and complexity of a marma surpasses any localized position. While marmas can be used to address a physical or psychosomatic condition, they also connect to the subtle nerves and energy centers of the body (nadis and chakras, respectively).
As stated in the book, “Marmas are classified by their dominant physical constituents as muscle, vessel, ligament, joint, or bone-based regions, [and as such], mark the junction of the body with the mind. … Treating them can release negative emotions and remove mental blockages, including those of a subconscious nature.”
With regard to the above information, one begins to understand how the joints are a significant representative of the often unplumbed depths of the physical body. When their function goes awry, it is not only mundane activity that is affected: unresolved emotions and conflicts, latent fears and dormant dreams—one’s history of being rises up and requires reckoning.
Next time: Joint Effort—A More-Than-Movement Practice