My understanding of the human body has evolved over the past several decades from my work and personal interest as a movement guide and body worker, particularly with Kahuna Romi.
I started out by learning to recognise and catergorise movement dysfunctions and techniques to help fix problems. I learnt that body parts are unconnected and classified into separate systems. For instance, if a person presented with knee pain, a treatment plan was developed to entirely focus on getting the knee back to working order without taking into consideration the whole body situation.
This knowledge has value but we can magnify its value if we understand that our body has intelligence separate from the mind. It knows what is needed to restore wellness, so instead of approaching the body as a collection of unconnected systems that may need fixing, which is of the mind, it makes sense to connect to this intelligence with the language it understands and responds to; movement.
Gravity is a vital element to take into consideration when desiring functional pain-free movement. The way we stand upon this earth sets up the positioning for the rest of the body. Our weight drops into our feet and rebounds like a bouncing ball. If the feet are out of alignment the weight drops unevenly into the feet, quite often on the outer edges. As a consequence the body adjusts at the joints to stay upright. It’s like the body zigzags, first at the ankles, then the knees, hips, lower back, ribs, shoulders and head.
The weight is thrown forward and the thigh muscles tense to stablise the body. There are two factors at work here that influence the functionality of the knees. The weight positioned in the outer edges of the feet flex or bend and rotate the ankles, knees and hips externally, then the tension in the thigh muscles restrict range of motion in the hips and knee joints.
If we take a pause here and look at this picture, the first thing that may come to mind is, change the position of the feet, problem fixed!
This again is the mind looking for solutions to fixing a problem, but the body has its own way of going about restoring balance. This primal aware intelligence communicates with the body as a whole unit, all parts connected electrically, the nervous system receiving and responding to the body’s situation.
The more of our body we have in motion the greater our range of motion, the more coherent are these messages and the more appropriate are the responses.
When there’s pain or dysfunction of the knees, instead of trying to fix the problem, we can start changing the situation by becoming aware of how they are connected through movement to the rest of the body and how we can allow that movement to flow through.
The knees not only bend our legs as we walk, they help maintain the spine’s position by adjusting to the shifting weight of the body, especially over uneven surfaces, functioning like a spring. When there are knee problems there’s imbalance throughout the entire structure.
I’ve noticed that knees are a repository for fear. The fear of falling is primal because we live with gravity, which is why the alignment of the feet is so vital to our safety and wellness. The nervous system responds to the danger of falling by shifting to sympathetic response…fight/flight/freeze.
Because of this understanding I approach knees through the feet, ankles and pelvis. The primal fear of falling wraps around the knees like a tight bandage, repulsing direct interference. The pelvis is the roundhouse that separates and guides our weight down to our feet and our feet are the rebound interface with the earth. The quality of their movement and range need to be explored and improved for the knees joints to realign safely.
I’ve found ankle flexions and extensions to be of invaluable help in reconnecting the feet to the head. Watch the video for this months issue ‘Restoring Knee Function’ for instruction in flexing and extending the ankles, knees and hips.
Changing the way you think about problems in your body as something that’s happening to you instead of you happening to your body builds compassion and strengthens your ego or sense of self. Our body is the vehicle of our spirit, the manifestation of our relationship with self and our greatest teacher.