Right now in central Virginia, spring is springing like nobody’s business.
Everything is blooming. Ev. Ery. Thing. (Just ask my allergy-tormented husband.) The place is awash in color: white and pink and purple and yellow and tons of tender baby green. Pollen notwithstanding, it’s a wonder to be outside. I can practically watch the world grow and bloom.
Word geek that I am, spring is my favorite season name. It’s such a rich, multi-faceted word: spring forward, spring out of bed, a fresh water spring, a sproingy spring in a clock, springing the news, springing for dinner, springing someone out of prison. Spring is loaded with energy, life, potential. (In Spanish the word for spring is primavera or first green. In French it’s printemps or first season. Both are descriptive but in English, spring is an action, a movement, a feeling.)
Spring is the most spacious of the seasons. What with its pushing out of the ground into the cool air, stretching of branches and unfurling petals and leaves, it’s practically yawning awake. Spring is free from the contraction of winter’s cold, the oppression of summer’s heat or fall’s dying back. No matter where you live (Southern Hemispherians are in autumn now and there are plenty of places in the Northern Hemisphere where *shudder* it’s still snowing), the feeling of spring is worth cultivating in body and mind.
To cultivate spring in ourselves (at any time of year) is to cultivate spaciousness.
In the body, spaciousness – the spring in the step – comes at the joints. The more space and support we have around the joints, the more responsive and buoyant is our movement. Often as we age and eventually if we misuse use the body, compression and contraction can happen around the joints. It takes awareness and conscious practice to maintain the spaciousness that allows light, graceful movement.
The body’s language is sensation. Pleasure says yes. Pain says no. Most of us have a joint or two (or three) that speak to us rawther noisily about not having enough space and just generally not being happy about how we’re using them. For me right now it’s my left knee and right big toe joint. For you it may be a shoulder or hip. For your friend, it may be their lumbar spine or neck.
Knowing the pressing places that need the most attention is a great place to start in spring-loading and spacious-making our joints. Whenever I feel particular tension or pressure in a joint, the first thing I do is to look at the joints above and below it.
Okay, that’s totally not true, the first thing I do is go right to the place that hurts and rub it with liniment or ice it or both. Then I get very worried and absolutely sure I will never dance or hike or bike again. THEN I look to the surrounding joints.
Very often, pain in a joint is a result of tightness or weakness in a joint nearby. That tightness or weakness causes the hurting joint to compensate in some way. Expand your attention to notice how you are using your hip and ankle if your knee hurts. Notice what’s happening in your upper back and elbow if your shoulder hurts. Notice what’s going on with your middle back and hips if your lower back is sore.
Joints are where movement happens. This makes joints the places in our body that have the most power and potential – and the places that are most vulnerable. For all your joints, whether they are bitching and moaning or whispering sweet nothings, allow them both space and support.
As you move and sit and stand and walk, see how much ease you can create in your joints. Imagine your joints breathing. Dippy trippy hippie as it sounds, this joints-breathing image allows me to bear down less and open up more even in the middle of a long hike or the tae kwon do section of a class.
Moving with ease and grace actually takes strength and determined practice. A balance of strength and flexibility around your joints allows upright alignment, soft placement of feet and easy movement from floor to standing and back again. There are lots of ways to do this but the most natural is to use your body weight and move in a variety of orientations, planes and directions. I love yoga for this, but there are lots of other modalities that offer similar benefits including Pilates, Tai Chi, 5 Stages of Self-Healing and many more.
Space and support creates a spring-loaded body, but we can do the same in our hearts and minds. Tomorrow, a bit on that.