(Joints and Qigong -1)
Regulating the body is important
Qigong practice is a process in which you are working simultaneously with all aspects of your Being (body, energy and consciousness). On this path you learn to regulate and constantly refine your body, mind, breathing, energy and spirit. This is a non-linear process in which the emphases of training changes in accordance with your progress and goals.
Some would like to skip the part of physical body training. After all, people expect from Qigong to “work with energy” … But in order to work with more energy you need a good and strong vehicle. This is your physical body which should be strong but at the same time relaxed and aligned so that the Qi can flow smoothly.
In order to help beginners on the path of rebuilding this “vehicle” I’ve decided to dedicate some of my posts to JOINTS. In this first post I explain the basic anatomical aspects regarding joints and I give you some suggestions how to prevent joint problems in general.
In the next posts I will write about the joint conditioning in Qigong practice and about the energetic aspects connected with joints.
Basics things about the anatomy of joints
For those who are not familiar with anatomy I will in shortly summarize the most basic information about joints which are essential to understand their functioning and the importance of moving them.
Joints permit our body to move
The joints (or articulations) permit our body to move. They are formed in the way to allow different degrees and types of movement. Our body has many joints but even scientists are not sure about the number of them. 😉 Just as curiosity, the supposed number varies between 250 -350; it depends if you define every meeting point of the smallest bones and plates as joint.
Different type of joints
Anatomically the joint is a place where two bones meet. In the western anatomy joints are classified both functionally and structurally. Functional classification divides joints according to the type and degree of movement which they allow. In the structural classification joints are divided according to the type of binding tissue that connects the bones to each other. There are fibrous joints (connected by dense connective tissue, for example sutures between skull bones), cartilaginous joints (connected entirely by cartilage, for example intervertebral discs, the pubic symphysis…) and synovial joints. First two have very limited movement. The third group, synovial joints, allow the greatest range of motion.
Examples of synovial joints are ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists… Synovial joints are basically made up of bones, articular cartilage, capsule, synovial membrane and ligaments. Then the joint is covered by tendons, muscles and skin.
These joints are freely movable and they need a system that cushions the ends of the bones, allowing them to glide over each other without friction. Synovial fluid is the viscid fluid that fills the space between the cartilage surfaces and provides lubrication for the joint so that can move smoothly. Its function is also shock absorption. Besides these synovial fluid delivers nutrients and oxygen to the cartilage on either end of the bones of the joint which (unlike most body tissues) doesn’t have its own blood supply. Joint movement helps circulate the synovial fluid throughout the joint.
Ligaments and tendons
Each joint has ligaments which join bone to bone and tendons which join muscle to bone. It is very important that these ligaments and tendons are strong and flexible. Ligaments are responsible for holding joints together and providing their stability. Tendons are primarily responsible for moving a bone. But both are critical in they enable joints to move correctly and smoothly.
To summarize: If you want to maintain joints healthy the movement is essential.
Some suggestions how to prevent joint problems in general
“It is better to prevent than to cure!”
Nowadays a lot of people have problems with their joints and it seems that only rare are aware of the most common reason – the lack of movement. For healthy joints the movement is essential. In the Eastern civilizations where sitting on the ground is a part of culture, the people until the old age are able to sit on the floor. The constant practice of these movements enables their joints to stay pretty flexible.
The lack of movement and exercise weaken your joints, making them stiff and inflexible and causes insufficient nourishment for articular cartilage. It also causes stagnation of Qi in the joints. If this condition lasts for a long time can cause more serious problems as for example deterioration of cartilage.
Easy and gentle movements of Qigong exercises are ideal to support the production of synovial fluid which nourishes the articular cartilage of joints. They also maintain joints flexible and relaxed.
Avoid extreme exercise
But also the opposite extreme is not beneficial for joints. Too much of extreme exercise or/and carrying heavy loads also cause joint problems, for example wear and tear of joint cartilage. There are a lot of extreme sports in which joint injuries are very common and frequent.
Maintain normal body weight
In time also the overweight can be the reason for joint problems, especially with knees, ankles and hips and of course with the spine. It is as if you were constantly carrying heavy loads.
Improve your posture (body alignment)
When your body has considerable body misalignments the joints are forced to carry too much of the body weight which normally would be carried by the body structure. Appropriate and regular Qigong practice can greatly improve your body alignment and relieve the pressure on your joints.
Maybe it will seem illogical but also constant stress influence on the condition of joints. From the Qigong point of view stress causes tension and where is tension Qi stagnates. And stagnated Qi is always only the preliminary stage of manifested physical problem. Also in this case the daily Qigong routine will help you to relax physically and mentally, reduce stress and keep smooth flow of Qi in your joints.
Resolve tensions caused by repetitive movements daily
There are many jobs, tasks and also sports which require from you the same repetitive movements for a long time or even day after day. These movements create tensions in particular areas of the body. If you release these tensions daily, the tissue would be easily able to relax and the Qi will be able to flow. When tensions accumulate over longer period of time it is much more difficult to release them.
If your work is predominantly sedentary, try to stand up, stretch and move your joints for few minutes at least once every hour.
Your joints will be thankful to you if you try to avoid extreme cold. If sometimes you are not able to do so, try to keep your joints warm by wearing appropriate clothes. The same applies also to the practice of Qigong.
Warm up before any physical activity
If you warm up before you start with any kind of physical activity (Qigong, martial arts, different sports, physical work…) you will reduce greatly the risk of injury. The injuries of joints in which are usually involved also joint ligaments and tendons can be complicated and it can take a long time before they heal. Believe that the time spent for warming up is really smartly used.
Eat food which supports life
Eating unprocessed, natural, organic, alive food rich with vitamins, minerals, enzymes… helps you to nourish your body well, including your joints. Nowadays are very common so called joint degenerative diseases. In my opinion this problems are quite always connected with some of above mentioned habits accompanied by a long lasting consumption of poor and unhealthy food.
Maintain health of your internal organs
Healthy internal organs are the foundation for the health of all your body. Healthy life style which supports your internal organs includes enough sleep in the night time, natural food which provides the body with necessary substances and energy, enough fresh air, movement, clean environment… and calm mind, emotional stability, life satisfaction, desire for creation, good relationships…
Qigong practice regulates Qi circulation in internal organs and ad more advanced stages also strengthen and improve the health of internal organs.
Continue reading: Joint conditioning
May the Qi be with You!
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