The function of joints in the body is so obvious that we take them for granted. In fact, being able to take any one of the physical functions in our body is a blessing because it means that agni is strong, dosas are in balance and there is svastha or good health.
It is only when we begin to notice little changes that our attention is alerted. Changes usually start small and eventually create health problems if we fail to recognise them and act in time.
Joints may begin to crack and get stiffer with age until one day, we find that we can no longer enjoy a full range of movement.
Change is inevitable and as time goes on, we need to take a lot more care if we are to survive the ravages of old age. There is plenty of evidence, and always has been that we can do it too. For most people, it is possible to slow down the aging process and maintain good health with the right diet and lifestyle interventions.
We need to pay much closer attention to foods that diminish our digestive fire (agni). When agni is diminished, instead of feeding our tissues, we are left with a sticky residue known as ama, which deposits itself whereever it gets the chance to. We all have weak spots. (khavaigunya)
If we have vata vikruti or an imbalance of vata, ama tends to build up in one of the seats of vata. This may be in the primary seat, the colon, or it may be in one of the secondary seats like the lower back, hips, bones and joints. Ayurveda says, where there is pain, there is vata.
If you have joint pain, back pain, hip pain, knee pain, emotional pain, then vata is blocked.
The cause of the imbalance is an accumulation of ama which can be in the form of kapha (mucus) causing swelling or pitta (acid) which causes inflammation.
There is a lot of compelling scientific evidence that inflammation is implicated in most disease pathologies. Inflammation is an immune response to something in the body that shouldn’t be there. When we eat too many acidic foods for example, the body may run out of resources to metabolise it into what it needs so it becomes a type of ama. Excessive acidic food can also lead to perforation of the intestinal wall and subsequent leakage of into the blood stream. This is known as leaky gut (intestinal permeability) and is much more common than people think.
Considerations for Joints
- Assess joint mobility in the broader context of your health. If joints are stiffening, swelling, hurting etc in tandem with other symptoms like tiredness, heaviness, loss of appetite, then it is a problem that needs a much broader intervention.
- Yoga and the joints: Does your yoga practice ultimately free up your joints or make them feel even more sore? If there is a lot of ama in the system then yoga on its own will be insufficient and can even make the problem worse.
- Marma points are clustered around the joints. Marmani are sensitive points and zones in the body and act like junctions or stations of prana available for use. If marma points are sore, inflamed or swollen, then this is a sign that the local area is out of balance. There is an excess of ama dosa and the tissue has been corrupted.
- Joint massage should form part of dinacharya. Daily oleation using sesame oil or a medicated oil to help relief pain symptoms and remove ama. Castor oil (eranda taila) is an excellent analgesic but can be very sticky to use so is best mixed in with sesame oil.
- Asana should always be gentle and focus on joint mobility exercises whenever joint mobility is impaired. There will be less chance of injury and aggravation. Over exercise without dietary changes will dislodge and circulate ama, providing temporary relief but once the body settles down again, you could end up feeling even worse.
The main joints to pay attention to are:
- Spine (a row of facet joints that fit and work together)
- Knees (a complex hinge joint)
- Shoulders (ball and socket joint)
- Hips (ball and socket joint)
- Hands and feet (phalangeal joints)
- Sacrum (synovial)
These should all be considered and mobilised gently in a simple dynamic sequence.
Keep your joints healthy by eating, living and exercising properly.