Be Nice to Your Knees

These exercises are for helping you to increase awareness towards restoring functional mind-body connections. It’s always best to get your physician’s blessing before you start with these or any other movement regimen.

The T’ai Chi classic writings tell us that we aim to make our bodies stable and comfortable. If you feel any discomfort whatsoever while doing these or any other exercises, please respect what your body is trying to tell you and stop. Investigate. Ask for help. Find out what’s wrong. Never go forward hard into pain. Please remember that we don’t use force.

We keep the alignment of the knee within natural bounds, such that the centerline of the patella is on the same plane as the centerline of the shin, ankle and foot.

We stay far, far away from any discomfort in the knees.

The knees should feel neutral; empty. They almost disappear, they become so optimally functionally integrated with the rest of the leg, and the rest of the body.


Roll around your kneecap

Sitting comfortably with palms down on your thighs. On an exhale allow your body to sag forward and use this comfortable forward bending to move your palms in a half circle around your kneecap to below your knee. Allow your inhale to effortlessly unbend your torso, and let your torso’s relaxed return to vertical pull your arms and palms along with it upward in a half circle so that when your breath is full, your palms are back above the knee where they began. Do this a few times, and then see if you can repeat the move, but take the circle in the opposite direction. You are not necessarily trying to push hard, just seeking to connect with and reassure the tissues around the knee caps.
Later, if you want, you can play around with permutations, such as making it more of a pressure massage, using fingertips instead of the soft palm, etc. As long as things feel good and comfortable and fairly gentle you’ll be fine. 10 of these should be more than enough. Avoid excess.

Connecting up and down the leg
Arbitrarily, I’m starting with the right leg here.
Left palm on the inside of the right ankle (or as close as you can get to it). Right palm on the outside of the right hip. The left hand is going to come up the inside of the leg to the top of the inner thigh while, simultaneously the right hand slides down the outside of the leg. Stop for a few seconds and just tune into the feeling in your leg and notice what you feel, if anything. Then, re-set: putting the left palm back down at the inside of the left ankle and the right palm up at the outside of the hip. Repeat twice more, then switch and do the other leg three times in the same way. Lastly, again take a few seconds to just sit and notice how things are feeling.

You can use a little energy to pull the flesh upward and downward a bit as you go if that feels good.
If it’s too confusing at first to move both hands at once, with one going up and the other going down the leg, then just work with one hand at a time. When you’re more comfortable with the moves you can try to put them together.

Now that you’ve physically connected with your legs and the dominant flow of the meridians in them, use that kinesthetic and tactile awareness in the following exercise.

Shifting slowly and mindfully

In this exercise, you are going to be shifting your weight very slowly. Especially if you have any balance issues or leg strength or leg pain issues whatsoever, please use an external support of some kind. You might keep one hand on a wall next to you, or on the back of a couch, for example. You can even use a shopping cart and do this exercise while waiting in line at the store.

When you’re shifting your weight, you’ll want to move consciously in a specific direction. If you work with a floor that has floorboards, this can help with direction of movement, just follow those lines. Whatever direction you’re going to move in, the belly and the centerline of the foot both aim in this same direction.

Balance on one foot. Put your other foot ahead of you slightly, pointed straight ahead, with the whole foot touching the ground but as much as possible, putting no weight in the forward foot. Make sure all of your toes are touching ground, paying particular attention to the 4th & 5th toes. With the visceral awareness you gained from doing the previous exercise, Imagine energy flowing simultaneously up the inside of your leg and down the outside of your leg. Slowly shift your weight forward, making sure those 4th and 5th toes stay on the ground and feeling, or imagining you could feel, a flowing energy continuing up the inside and down the outside of your leg.

Try to keep your hips open and underneath you as you shift. Your shoulders, torso and head are balanced above your hips and just quietly following along.

When you have finished shifting to the new leg, check your alignment. Is your knee in line with the center of your foot? If not, you an gently make the adjustment by opening your hip a bit and making sure those 4th & 5th toes are touching ground.