Three things you need to know to keep your joints healthy and carefree for life with our fabulous Yoga and QiGong teacher, Mimi Kuo-Deemer.
Truth be told, as we age, we dry out. If you are a springy, juicy 20 or 30 year-old, you may not think twice about lubricating your joints! I certainly didn’t give my joints much thought a couple of decades ago. Thankfully now I’ve learned that having healthy and supple joints is vital – and takes work. I give my joints quite a lot of love and affection today, and I’m hoping that if I’m lucky, I’ll still turn the occasional cartwheel in another 20 years.
Here are three main ways to keep your joints healthy and carefree:
1. Stimulate the flow of synovial fluid before doing strong movements
Synovial fluid is the key to preventing friction between your joints. It helps absorb shock, protects the joint spaces, and also supplies vital nutrient and waste transportation within the cartilage. Doing slow, circular movements will help the body secrete this fluid into the joint cavity. This is important to do BEFORE any high-impact movements such as chatturanga or handstands. One simple thing you can do before a yoga practice is to circle or gently shake your hands and wrists before you practice. If you have more time, try some qigong joint opening practices to prepare your joints for more dynamic movement.
2. Move the joints daily but avoid excess.
In Chinese medicine, qi is life energy that can be balanced and healthy, but also stale, stuck, deficient or excessive. It moves through meridians and energy gates, many of which are located in the joints. When the joints are blocked, it causes the qi to stagnate, causing pain, stiffness and disease. Similarly if the gates aren’t letting anything in it can lead to a deficiency of qi in the joints. This can cause arthritis or lead to an overall lack of nourishment in the body. Excessive qi in the joints can occur when the energy gates are too full. This can manifest as inflammation and agitation. My advice? Do gentle movements that circulate the energy through the joints daily and keep the qi in a healthy flow.
3. Never lean into the joints
Whenever you sink into a deep lunge or lock out your knee in tree pose, you risk crushing one bone against another and pushing through the soft padding of the synovial fluid. This is terrible for your joints – not to mention your cartilage and bones! Whenever you enter into a posture, think about keeping healthy space in your joints by recruiting the use of the surrounding muscles. For example, instead of sitting deeper into side angle pose (parsvakonasana) to get a better “stretch”, stay higher up and use the muscles around the legs and hips to prevent the top of your thigh bone (femur head) from crushing into the hip socket (acetabulum).
Mimi teaches meditation, QiGong and vinyasa yoga that is cross-pollinated with aspects of Daoist and Buddhist teachings. In 2002, Mimi co-founded Yoga Yard, Beijing’s first and leading yoga studio, which she co-directed for seven years. She now lives in London, and teaches classes, workshops and retreats in the UK and internationally.