Moving from the Periphery - Openness

Four healthy movement goals are widely accepted. They are:

  • Smooth movement is better than jerky movement.

  • The whole body is one integrated unit.

  • Energy is not wasted by tension.

  • Joints are not being compressed.

There is one concept that addresses all four. It is peripheral movement.

Peripheral movement embodies two understandings. One is anatomical design. Another is visualization to engage.

First, consider anatomy. The general rule is: movement occurs peripheral to the controlling muscles. For example, muscles originating in the torso move the shoulder joint and upper arm. Muscles originating in the shoulder and upper arm move the elbow joint and lower arm. Muscles in the elbow and forearm move the wrist and fingers. Muscles originating in the hip and thigh move the knee and lower leg.

Muscles perform work by contraction, not expansion. When a muscle fires, it pulls in every direction that it possibly can. That means that over-tight muscles can cause tension and joint compression. They are pulling the joint inward.

This has practical application. Pulling inward on yourself is a root cause of disease and pain. It’s better to employ a sense of outward expansion. Be generous and give yourself internal space. To address joint pain, rotate the joint that is peripheral to the painful joint. If your knee hurts, rotate the foot. If your shoulder joint hurts, rotate the elbow. If the elbow hurts, rotate the wrist.

Second, create a mental visualization of expansion. The general rule is: imagine that body parts are moving peripherally away from each other. When rotating the foot (to help a painful knee), imagine that the foot is floating off the lower leg. When rotating the wrist (to help a painful elbow), imagine that the wrist is floating off the forearm.

For everyday living, you can visualize that the intelligence for all movements is in the toes and fingertips. That creates the ultimate sense of expansion throughout the whole body.

I once shared this concept to tai chi instructor. Her response was, “Oh. You mean being open?” We were using different words to describe a well-understood way to live.

Treat yourself by exploring this. You’ll move with greater ease, and more capability. In later years, your joints will thank you.


Jack Menear