Mastering the Sensation of Moving the Elbow Joint

This month we’re exploring the elbow joint, a shallow hinge joint formed by your upper arm bone; the humerus and your two forearm bones; the ulna and radius.
I find the elbow joint to be a part of the body people almost never think about until they experience injury or pain. For me this was true. It wasn’t until I began to study tae kwon do that I even noticed my elbow joint. In the process of learning to deliver powerful hand and arm moves, the elbow became a part of my body I learned to pay attention to, tapping into the body’s natural design to gain relaxed dynamic power by using my body functionally, the way it is designed. Once I mastered the technique of using the elbow to initiate hand and arm moves executing martial art blocks, hand strikes, punches, and elbow strikes were delivered with greater precision, control, power, and grace. Additionally, the wear and tear I was sensing in my shoulders and back magically disappeared, and all because I was moving The Body’s Way—respecting the design and function of my body.

The first time I walked into a martial art studio and was asked to move, all I could do was perform jumping jacks and leg lifts. I was horrified to discover I had forgotten how to move. I had perfected exercising, but I had no knowledge and skill about moving. Through martial arts I discovered there’s a whole lot more to moving when you consider the way the body. With my eyes open and in front of me a new world to discover, movement became a way for me to fulfill my life’s purpose: inspiring people to feel to heal.

For me the journey of learning about movement started by studying the martial arts - tae kwon do, tai chi, and finally Aikido, which to this day is my favorite. From there my exploration took me into the world of dance arts where my attention was on expression and finally, the healing arts, where I discovered a personal interest in exploring the human body and the process of healing. In the end, Nia was born, and that was over 30 years ago.

In my opinion, Nia is the best of the best, which is why unlike traditional exercise workouts, you can come into a Nia class and experience a workout where you may focus for the hour on the elbow joint. Why a focus?

I believe people’s time is valuable. I also believe body literacy, which is the ability to read and successfully interpret signals coming to you from your body, is critical to getting the most out of the time you put into what you do. My 30-plus years of experience has taught me that the more you know about how to move, the more you can move efficiently, placing the attention on you, on what you’re doing, and not solely on the teacher. I know that no matter where you go to take a Nia class, you can expect the teacher to teach you something about moving that will make moving on and off the dance floor more comfortable and pleasurable. How? In Nia, teachers use somatic leadership techniques, like incorporating a unique focus, to help you master moving. Setting a focus is a technique designed to help you learn to direct your attention. A focus can be placed either on a body part, such as the feet, spine, or elbow joint, or a concept like drawing energy in before you move it out, or on a Nia principle such as natural time or moving the body’s main thirteen joints. You’d be amazed at what can happen when you focus your energy and attention on one thing for an hour. So how can you focus on the elbow joint and master the sensation of properly moving your elbow joint? It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Before you exercise/dance, choose the focus of the elbow joint and say, “Today my focus is on my elbow joint, the shallow hinge joint formed by the end of my upper arm bone and the top of my two forearm bones.”
  2. Direct your attention to your elbow joint, using the elbow to initiate movement, and sense all the unique sensations that arise from focusing on the elbow joint.
  3. Ask, “What did I learn?” By taking a few moments to self reflect and mentally acknowledge what you learned from focusing on the elbow joint, you’ll gain body knowledge and body literacy about the elbow joint, knowing how to functionally move and use the elbow in ways that leaves you living and moving in a “smart body!”