Improving Joint Flexibility

Jane, a 55-year-old bookkeeper, complains that her hands and fingers feel painfully stiff, especially when the weather turns dry and cool. Sometimes her joints make a cracking sound when she bends them. She consults an expert in Maharishi Ayurveda and finds out that Vata dosha is at the root of her problem, which is why it tends to flare up during Vata (late fall and winter) season.

Jason, a 30-year-old writer, finds it hard to bend his knees at times. His legs and joints feel heavy and swollen, and ache when the weather is cool and rainy, as in Kapha (spring) season. After consulting an ayurvedic expert, he discovers that his problem is due to ama (toxins ) collecting in the joints.

Joint problems like Jane and Jason's affect 80 percent of the population over age 30. Fortunately, Maharishi Ayurveda offers natural solutions to help people improve joint mobility.

Vata-Related Joint Problems

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, joint problems such as Jane's start when the Vata subdosha that governs the circulation and nerve impulses goes out of balance. Her circulation, metabolism, and ability to absorb food are weakened; as a result, the bone tissue does not receive enough nourishment and eventually starts to degenerate. This in turn causes a drying effect in the subdosha of Kapha that governs lubrication of the joints. When the joints are not lubricated properly, this creates pain, a cracking sound, and diminished flexibility.

Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Pacify Vata

If you have joint problems such as Jane's, follow the Vata-Pacifying Diet and daily routine. Include all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent) in your diet. Favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes, as these help pacify Vata dosha, and eat less bitter, astringent and pungent foods. Other healthy foods to include in the Vata-Pacifying Diet are grains such as quinoa, rye and amaranth, cooked in water with a small amount of ghee; freshly-cooked organic vegetables; split mung dhal soup; and sweet, organic, juicy fruits. It's important to eat a diet rich in calcium, including high-quality organic milk and vegetables such as spinach, kale, asparagus, and root vegetables cooked with Calming (Vata) Spice Mix. Avoid caffeine and an acidic diet, as these destroy the ability of the body to absorb calcium.

At the same time, follow a Vata-pacifying daily routine. Go to bed before ten o'clock at night, and rise before six a.m. Avoid too much stimulating activity at night, such as watching television right before bed. Eat your main meal at noon, and eat a light, nourishing dinner early in the evening. Engage in some mild exercise such as walking for half an hour a day. Practice the Transcendental Meditation® program on a regular basis to dissolve stress and calm your mind. One of the best things you can do for this type of joint problem is a daily ayurvedic oil massage (abhyanga) to improve circulation and settle Vata dosha.

Herbs to Help Vata-Related Joint Problems

Osteo Relief, the herbal formula for this type of joint problem, has a special name in ayurveda — santarpana, which means nurturing. Based on this nurturing theory of santarpana, Osteo Relief's precise combination of herbs nourishes and supports the bone tissue and joints, and enhances the lubricating fluid of the joints.

Calcium absorption is usually a problem with this type of joint problem. Take Calcium Support to provide nutritional support to the bones. This remarkable herbal formula supplies your body with 500 mg of bioavailable calcium a day — and at the same time enhances your body's ability to absorb calcium from calcium supplements and the foods you eat.

Ama-Related Joint Problems

Jason's joint problem is associated with ama collecting in the joints, and is characterized by a heavy, stiff feeling. Sometimes a bout of cold, humid weather can trigger these symptoms. That is the first stage. If nothing is done to dissolve the ama and it sits in the joints for a long time, eventually the toxins become more irritating and reactive in nature, causing the joint to become inflamed, swollen, and painful. In this kind of environment, ama also mixes with the natural lubricating fluids in the joint governed by Shleshaka Kapha, forming an extremely sticky, toxic substance that restricts mobility and disturbs circulation in the joint.

If the ama, amavisha and Shleshma stay in the joints for a long time, eventually the structure of the joints and the bone itself become damaged. Once these morphological changes happen to the joint and bone, the problem becomes extremely difficult to correct.

Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Reduce Ama

Follow an ama-reducing diet consisting of warm, light, dryer foods that are easy to digest. Eat more nourishing soups and warm, freshly cooked grains and vegetables prepared with Stimulating (Kapha) Spice Mix and spices such as ginger, fennel, cumin, and peppercorn to stimulate digestion. It also helps to eat an apple cooked with prunes and figs each morning for breakfast. Avoid eating leftovers or processed foods.

To keep your digestion working properly, avoid day sleep, and go to bed early so you can rise before 6:00 a.m. Exercise for half an hour every day, and choose a type of exercise that you enjoy. A brisk walk is ideal for most people, along with yoga asana stretches, although if you have more Kapha dosha, you may need more vigorous exercise to stay in balance. You'll feel lighter and more energetic just by making these simple changes in your routine.

Herbal Formulas to Help Prevent Ama-Related Joint Problems

While abhyanga is not recommended on top of swollen joints, it can help to gently apply Joint Soothe II, an ayurvedic oil designed to lubricate and strengthen the joints and liquefy impurities.

Once liquefied, ama can be internally eliminated by taking the Flexcel tablets. These two products work together to effectively penetrate, dissolve, and eliminate ama and to lubricate the joints to restore their natural balance. If there is a lot of ama, you could take Elim-Tox-O with the Flexcel tablets.

Prevention is the key. It takes a great amount of effort to get rid of ama that has circulated throughout the body and settled in the joints. So once you start taking care of your joint problem by reducing ama, be careful not to accumulate ama in the future. Examine your tongue in the morning — it should not be coated. If you feel even a little stiffness or heaviness in your joints, start following the ama-reducing recommendations immediately. This is truly a case of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.

A Powerful Way to Improve Circulation in the Joints

What: Abhyanga (daily ayurvedic oil massage)

Why: Increases circulation, prevents impurities from building up, and lubricates the joints. It also tones the muscles, calms the mind, soothes the nerves, and promotes deeper sleep. It's more powerful than a cup of coffee for waking up and energizing sleepy brain cells.

Who: Anyone can benefit, from babies to the elderly

Where: Choose a place that can be washed clean, such as the bathroom floor. Spread a towel and sit on it.

When: Traditionally done upon rising, before the morning shower or bath (the heat helps the impurities flow out and washes off the oil).

How: For most body types, start with Organic Sesame Oil. (For instructions on curing the oil, click here — or you can buy it already cured). For a calming effect during Vata Season, use Moisturizing Herbal Massage Oil.

Warm the oil in a small plastic bottle. Dip your fingertips into the warm oil and apply it lightly to the entire body. Start with the head first.

Using the open hand — palm and fingers — stroke the bones with long, straight, back-and-forth motions. Use circular, gentle motions on rounded areas such as joints and the scalp.

Use lighter pressure for sensitive areas such as the abdomen or the heart. Use more oil and spend more time where nerve endings are concentrated, such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and along the base of the fingernails.

After you're done, relax for 10-15 minutes and let the oil do its magic. The longer the oil is on, the deeper it penetrates. During this time you can read something relaxing or uplifting, rest, or get ready for the day. Dab excess oil off with paper towels if you like, then follow with a relaxing warm bath or shower. If your schedule doesn't allow for a daily massage, try to squeeze it in at least three or four times a week. You'll find it's worth it!


Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.