Silent Sundays: Joint Effort–Introduction

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.

https://everythingelsa.blog/2018/05/26/the-heat-is-on-water-bug-treatment-to-ease-joint-pain-from-humidity/ 

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:

https://everythingelsa.blog/2021/05/16/silent-sundays-pockets-of-change/

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

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Homestead–Conclusion: Solar-Powered and Heart-Centered

Last week, I began this series, “Homestead,” with a question: What is your psycho-spiritual, interpersonal, most balanced state of being? From where does that particular energy emanate? In sum, what is your Center of Operation, your Homestead?

In Part One, I offered what I perceive to be my personal set-point: Intuition, and its (for me, sometimes elusive) energetic harmonizer, Rootedness. The routine provided the means to connect the First and Sixth chakra, so that the base of the Lower Triangle could readily accommodate the near-tip of the Upper Triangle of chakras.

Then, a few days ago, I explored Creativity and its necessary colleague, Expression. In sum, the practice stimulated and joined the Second and Fifth chakras, so that one’s creative spark could find its way to manifestation.

Today, in conclusion, I suggest what arguably could be the most essential Homestead pairing: the Third and Fourth chakras. Regardless of the energies that seem to come most easily for you, or those that you turn to when challenged, the vibrations that stir from the Solar Plexus and Heart Center are fail-proof for all. When in doubt, turn to your Heart; when beleaguered, delve into the Solar Plexus for confidence and perseverance.

With that in mind, today’s practice may be seen as The One to use as a catch-all boost or remedy. I, for example, who feel most at home in the Sixth Chakra (or Third Eye), often need to stimulate the Earth-based energy of the Root, or First Chakra. Because that vibration is not my strongest, I need Sun Energy to motivate me; and because I want to ensure that any practice resounds with Truth, I need to include the vibration of the Heart Center. Thus, no matter your Homestead—your comfort zone—its energies will be enhanced by this Solar-Powered, Heart-Centered practice.

To begin, lie on your belly. Place the arms in “pitchfork” or “scarecrow” position: upper arms at shoulder level, elbows bent to 90 degrees, with the forearms perpendicular to the upper arms. The palms face down; the head may lie on either cheek.

With eyes closed, begin long, deep breaths through the nose. Because you are prone, breathing requires more effort, as the belly, ribs, and chest must work against the floor. Use this sensed resistance to focus on the physical regions of the Third and Fourth Chakra: from the base of the ribs, to the sternum. With each inhale, consciously draw the intention of awakening energy to these areas; with each exhale, send the gathered vibrations out through the torso and limbs. Continue this opening breath and visualization for 3 minutes.

From lying, press back into Baby Pose. Interlace the hands behind the back, with the index fingers extended and together to form a pointer. Lift the arms as far up and away from the back as possible; extend long through the elbows. This stretch opens and charges the Heart and related meridians that run through the arms. Inhale in the raised-arm position; exhale to lower the arms down to the back. Move as rapidly as you can: inhale arms up, exhale down. Continue for 3 minutes, taking a break as needed.

From Baby Pose, roll up to sit on your heels, and then “stand” on the knees. (Use whatever bolsters or padding you need to make this possible.) With hands on the low back or bottom, inhale to curve back into a modified Camel; exhale back up to neutral. Continue this moving, modified Camel—inhale to arch back, exhale to re-align—for 1 minute.

Then, immediately come forward into a Plank Pose, as in the initial position for push-ups: if necessary, bring the knees to the floor as a modification. Hold this strong, long position, and begin Breath of Fire through the mouth: rapid, equal breaths, like a panting dog. Continue for about 30 seconds, and then close the mouth and continue Breath of Fire through the nose for another full minute.

Immediately return to the Moving Camel position. Standing on the knees, hands placed on the low back or buttocks for support, inhale to arch back, exhale up to neutral. Continue for 1 minute.

Now, instead of Plank, help yourself onto your back. Immediately raise the legs—straight and together—1-2 feet off of the ground: The higher the lift, the less taxing it will be for the low back. Simultaneously, raise the head and shoulders up, reach the arms straight out, and gaze at the feet: Begin Breath of Fire through the nose; continue this Stretch Pose for 1 minute.

From this highly energizing posture, lower the legs. Bend the knees, and keep the feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Raise the hips into Half-Bridge; interlace the hands under the lifted body, and extend the arms toward the feet. Roll the shoulders open as much as possible, feeling the stretch across the chest. Breath fully and deeply, allowing the belly to rise and fall as you do so. Continue for 1 minute.

Next, lower down, and draw the knees in toward the chest. Make yourself into as small and tight of a ball as possible; begin rolling back and forth on the spine for about a minute. This movement helps to consolidate, and then spread the stimulated Solar Plexus and Heart Center energies throughout the system.

Special note: This Ball Roll (appropriately called “Roll Like A Ball” in Pilates, and ubiquitous as a transitional move in Kundalini Yoga) is an exceptionally centering and elucidating exercise on its own. Practice the Ball Roll for 1-3 minutes anytime you want to shed or neutralize unwanted energy, and replace it with calmness and confidence.

From Ball Roll, shift yourself into a seated posture. Place the left hand on the chest, so that the thumb tip and index finger tips reach up to touch the collar bone; the palm is splayed wide against the chest wall, with the other fingers together, relaxed, and pointing to the right.

Place the right hand beneath the left, against the Solar Plexus. The right thumb extends up to touch the lower (pinky-side) edge of the left hand, with the right fingers together, relaxed, and pointing to the left.

With eyes closed and the mudra in place, begin long, deep breathing through the nose. As you breathe, use your mind’s eye to draw an oval of circulation from the right palm into the left, and back into the right: Continue this visualized loop of breath for 3- 7 minutes. When you feel finished, ease into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…