Movement is life! While I have long subscribed to this belief personally, it wasn’t until I began practicing Chinese Medicine that I began to value the idea as truth.
When I was a child, I helped my Dad fix the car on the weekends. I’m not sure how much help I was, but I enjoyed learning about tools and how things worked and I beamed every time he asked for a tool and I knew which one it was. The big take away I got from that experience was: complex systems meant to be in motion should stay in motion. A sedentary vehicle was one wrought with problems. The same is true for the beautifully complex human body.
There is a saying in China about this very phenomenon: The hinge of the door that opens and closes everyday never rusts. This common saying is referring to the joints in the body. If the joints are consciously moved and rotated every day, the propensity for musculoskeletal issues decreases dramatically. It’s akin to oiling the chain on your bicycle. When we consciously move the joints of the body, in the ways they are intended to move, we lubricate the joints with synovial fluid and keep them healthy.
Western medicine is beginning to see the inherent necessity of movement in order to promote recovery and health. Only a few years ago, the prescription following chemotherapy was rest. Now, oncologists often ask their patients to move and walk around immediately following chemotherapy, and to be outside with fresh air if possible. The same advice is being echoed in post-operating rooms: gentle movement as soon as possible. We understand this principle at the most fundamental level when we peer into a microscope: movement is life!
From an acupuncturist’s perspective, healthy joints mean smoothly moving meridians. Just as rivers in nature can get congested at sharp turns, so can the energy of the body get stuck at the joints. Opening the joints enhances the free flow of energy through the meridians and can assist in faster, longer lasting results from your acupuncture sessions.
From an athlete’s point of view, opening the joints consciously before engaging in dynamic exercise protects what could be a vulnerable place in the body from harm. Avoiding injury becomes more important than fast recovery as we age. Turns out, the same is true for older vehicles. The older they get, the more time you have to spend keeping everything flowing smoothly. And if you spend a little time regularly keeping things flowing smoothly, you avoid big problems in the future. The lesson was being offered to me at an early age, but I wasn’t yet ready for it. Isn’t that the way it goes? Thankfully, lessons have a way of sneaking up in our lives until we learn.
Joint opening exercises can be done in 5-12 minutes, depending on how many repetitions you do for each move. Check out A.J.’s short video and follow along until you’ve got it down (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfEvIw0jPr0&t=3s). Follow your body’s wisdom, do what feels good, and reap the benefits of improved health by simply moving the joints when you wake up, before exercise or during a computer break at work.
Julie Baron is an East Asian Medicine Practitioner at the Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. Julie seeks to empower individuals and communities. As a movement and mindfulness educator, she has a penchant for functional anatomy. As an EAMP, she has also has a passion for herbal medicine.