Joints can be viewed as relatively simple structures. You can look at them and classify them via how they allow movement. But a more important point is understanding how they are lubricated.
Note that most joints that allow movement between adjacent bones are synovial in nature. There are joints that are not synovial and while they allow movement, it is more movement due to growth or movement that allows for bones to adjust relative to each other to distribute forces. this mainly is limited to the suture joints in the skull.
Where movement of one bone relative to another is driven by muscles (as opposed to growth) in general these require synovial joints to act as a medium for connecting bones and allowing their relationship to be controlled via muscles.
Related to the idea of joints distributing tension is the idea of them acting as shock absorbers or rather, shock distributors. Imagine, if a joint capsule is sufficiently tensioned so that lubrication pressure is maintained, that same tensed connective tissue can be used to transmit shocks between the parts of the body it connects. So for example, if the knee joint capsules are sufficiently tensioned during the impact of running, the impact shock could be transmitted past the knee to the hip. And assuming the hip joint capsule is sufficiently tensioned, it can pass the impact shock to the upper body.
Of course this would also require that the joints of the foot and ankle be sufficiently tensioned.
For more on this check out the barefoot running heel strike article.
Synovial joints in general are meant to be lubricated. Lubrication is important because it allows these joints to function without creating friction. And this in turn is important because it means that muscles on opposing sides of a joint can share and distribute loads the way a pulley system does.
An important question you could ask is How to know if your joints are lubricated. Hopefully this article explains it.
For more on this (and this relates to having agency) you can read muscle control for proprioception and joint lubrication. Here the idea is that muscle control gives us proprioception. Not only that, if it also gives us joint lubrication, then because it also gives us proprioception we can learn to feel (or at least get an idea) for when our joints are lubricated or not.
For more on the mechanics of joint lubrication and how muscles and joints work together you can read: how muscles and joints work together.
Looking at muscles can be important because these along with connective tissue are the main drivers of proprioceptive information within our body. Muscles create muscle activation sensation which is inversely proportional to how much stretch a muscle is undergoing and proportional to effort or output.
For more on this (and related articles), read sensational anatomy. At the very least you can get an understanding of why this website is called "sensational yoga poses".
Perhaps one of the biggest points about muscle control, and actually about muscles in general, is that in order to activate, muscles need an opposing force to work against. Sometimes that force comes from something outside the body, something you are working against. Sometimes it comes from the weight of body parts being moved or stabilized. And failing that it can come from the activation of opposing muscles. Read more about this in muscles are force sensors.
As for fault finding and problem solving, you might find some of the ideas in motor control for yoga.
Connective tissue, when subject to stretch or tension creates connective tissue stretch sensation which is proportional to stretch.
Both signals together give our brain information on how the parts of our body relate. But, except for in limited cases, you can't have connective tissue tension unless you first have muscle activation.
In order for any muscle to activate, it needs a force to work against.
This can come from working against external weight or force, say lifting weights or carrying groceries. It can also come from body weight. And in the absence of either of these, it can come from opposing muscles.
So without an external opposing force to work against, muscles can work against each other. This is generally easier to achieve in static positions but it can also be achieved while moving slowly or non-ballistically.
While it's generally called isometric contraction, I'll say that that term is limiting because muscles can also oppose each other with slow movement and with slow and repeated (or rhythmic movement).
An important point to note is that when opposing muscles work against each other, they stabilize the joint (or joints) they are working across. This generates sensation, generally connective tissue tension, at the joint itself, but muscle activation sensation also either above or below (or above and below) the joint.
And so an option when feeling and controlling the body is to focus on the sensations generated at the joints when using "muscle control".
Rather than saying one is better than the other, I'll suggest that both are options and the better you learn both, the better you can understand, feel and control your body.
The articles below mainly focus on joints and muscles from an outside perspective This is important so that you have a framework for understanding these elements.
To fill that framework with actual understanding when you then experience the sensations generated by muscles and connective tissue in your own body and learn to control them.
When looking at the body, in particular with regards to feeling and controlling muscles, we can focus on muscles themselves and the joint or joints that they work on or we can focus on the joints themselves.
Both can be felt. Both can be controlled. And both of these offer slightly different ways of controlling, and experiencing our body.
For more on learning to feel and control your body check out Anatomy for muscle control.
If you want to know some of the benefits of muscle control (and thus why you should learn it) read why learn muscle control.
One possible answer to this question is to gain agency. And you can read about that in gaining agency through muscle control.
Another possible answer is so that it is easier to experience your anatomy and via that experience gain a better understanding.
To make learning muscle control more useful it can help to have some principles for learning and applying muscle control. For more on this you can read Muscle control basics and muscle control principles.
For myself, I've used it to solve various joint and muscle pain problems. I've also used it to improve flexibility, (including side splits). And I've used it for more effective handling while lifting weights.
In general it allows me to directly experience my body while I am using it.
Another benefit is that it has allowed me to optimize how I use my body. Note that this has taken a lot of time. But the benefits are that I can now use my body more effectively while at the same time having a better understanding of it. For more on this you might like optimal performance in yoga.
Some of the articles do include exercises for feeling and controlling the muscle or joint in question. But for more detailed and systematic approach to this check out my courses on learn 2 understand. These are called "driving lessons for your body" in that each focuses on isolated msucle awareness and control so that you can learn to feel and control the muscle(s) in question without having to think about how to do it. You can then use the awareness and control in the service of whatever it is that you are doing at the time.
These articles focus on (or have links to) joints as well as recognizeable regions of the body that might be important for purposes of improving strength and/or flexibliity or for dealing with pain.
Note one idea that can be especially important to the hip joint but is also relevant to joints in general is the idea of centration or centering. Read about that in Joint centration.
Also for general suggestions on how to approach joint pain take a look at joint pain yoga.
The articles on muscles below are grouped roughly according to category but their may be overlap.
Most of the anatomy that is focused on in this website is anatomy that is related to movement and posture (and in some cases, pain). Some ideas that can be dragged from "traditional" anatomy (i.e. that used by doctors and others working on bodies that aren't their own) bear mentioning here. This is so that we can retain what's useful for us.
One idea for getting more familiar with anatomy is learning to draw it. It forces you to look at the relationships between parts (and between reference points on parts.) Even if all you are trying to do is get a better feel for your own body, drawing anatomy can help you better visualize your own anatomy, giving you better "built in tools". For more on that, read learn anatomy for yoga by drawing it.
Note that even if you suck as an artist, learning to draw is pretty much the same as learning to control your body. The better you can control your body the better you can do art like drawing. And while these days lots of anatomy books rely on computer generated drawings, in the old days, anatomists drew their own pictures.
If you are going to be looking at anatomy texts as a reference for learning your own anatomy, be aware of the anatomical position.
While it's very important for doctors and surgeons (and massage therapists), particularly when working on a body that is supine on a surgery table, it's more of a hinderance for ourselves. We don't need the anatomical position as a reference to figure out movement. We just need to know how the parts of our body relate now (and how we want the parts of our body to relate.
And as we get better at feeling and controlling how the parts of our body relate, our bones (and the earth) become the reference system we can rely on.
For more on why yoga teachers don't need the anatomical position when studying anatomy read the anatomical position article.
One thing that I've struggled with as a yoga teacher on occasion is the importance of anatomy. How much do my students need to know? Actually, they don't need to know. What they need to be able to do is feel and control their body and that's what I teach them. That being said, if they want to become better practitioners, anatomy can serve as a road map to helping them learn their bodies. I'v written a bit more about this in anatomy as a road map.
For an index, of sorts, to articles on this site that are anatomy related (and sorted alphabetically), check out: Anatomy, biomechanics, muscle control and proprioceptionnot updated!.
Published: 2020 10 27
Updated: 2020 11 04
- Alternatives to the Anatomical Position
- Anatomy as a Road Map to Experiencing Your Body
- Low Back Stability: How is the lower back stabilized? Why does it matter?
- Anatomy for Muscle Control: Understanding your body via Muscle control and Proprioception
- Anterior Hip Pain: Dealing with hip pain that occurs near the ASIC
- Long Hip Flexor Muscles: Take out the Slack For More Effective Forward Bending
- Barefoot Running Heel Strike, Good or Bad?: Figuring out for yourself whether or not heel striking is good or bad for your knees when running barefoot
- Biceps femoris, outer hamstring pain: alleviating hamstring pain
- Concepts Of Tai Chi for Yoga and Life : Finding Balance
- Connective tissue tension: Passive proprioception from stretched connective tissue
- Elbow Joint Anatomy for Yoga Teachers: Stabilizing the Shoulders from the Ground Up
- Experiencing Your Anatomy: Helping You to Better Feel and Control Your Body While Doing Yoga
- Gaining agency through muscle control : Flicking the switch to access sensation and control
- 0: Cocontracting with iliacus and the obturators for Hip and SI joint stability
- Hip Joint Anatomy: Muscle groupings that can help keep the hip hip joint centered
- Hip joint stability and control: Understanding the hip joint so you can feel it, control it and use it
- How muscles and joints work together: How muscles and joints protect each other
- How to know if your joints are lubricated: How pain and proprioception helps keep your joints safe
- Intercostal Muscles : for Ribcage Mobility and Control
- IT Band Anatomy and Bio-mechanics: Helping to control the hip or helping to control knee rotation
- IT Band Knee Pain (outer knee pain): Heel stabilization for IT band knee pain while squatting
- Joint Centration: : The Position of Balanced Space and Tension
- Joint Pain Yoga: One Possible Approach to Alleviating Joint Pain While Doing Yoga
- Knee Anatomy for Yoga Teachers: Controlling (and stabilizing against) knee rotation
- Knee Joint Stability: Controlling Knee Bend and Shin Rotation (Relative to the Thigh)
- Controlling and Stabilizing The knees: Understanding your knees so that you can feel them, stabilize them and control them
- Activating the Latissimus Dorsai: Anatomy for Yoga Teachers
- Learn Anatomy for Yoga by Drawing It
- Levator Costarum: Improve back rib awareness, mobility and control
- Lumbar Multifidus: Anatomy for Yoga Teachers
- Muscle Control Basics: It's Not Just Contracting Your Muscles
- Muscle Control for Proprioception: If we didn't have muscles we wouldn't be able to feel our body
- Obliques and Intercostals: Shaping and Controlling Your Ribcage and Your Waist
- Obturator Externus: Anatomy for Yoga Teachers
- Obturator Internus: Hip Joint stability for Increased Mobility and Control
- Optimal Performance in Yoga: Optimize performance through Clearly Defined Problems
- Pectoralis Minor: Anchoring the front of the shoulder blade against upward pulling
- Pelvic floor muscles: Helping to stabilize the SI joints (for nutation and counter-nutation)
- Peroneus Brevis: Anchoring the fibula or stabilizing the outer arch of the foot
- Peroneus Longus: Helping to anchor the fibula and shape the foot
- Psoas Major Anatomy: How the Psoas connects to the 12th ribs and kidneys
- Psoas Muscle Anatomy:: The Psoas as a Lumbar Stabilizer
- Respiratory Diaphragm: Learning to feel and control it
- Ribcage: Ribcage stability and mobility for more applicable arm strength
- Sacroiliac Joint Exercises: Feeling and controlling nutation and counter-nutation
- SI Joint Stability while forward bending: Sacrotuberous tensioning to resist SIJ shear in forward bends
- Sacrotuberous Ligament: SI stability via increased ligament tension
- Sacrum: and the Muscles that Connect it to the Legs, Spine and Pelvis
- Sartorius and Inner Knee Pain while Running
- Sensational Anatomy: Yoga Anatomy you can Feel and Control
- Long head of the Adductor Magnus: Your Backbending Friend
- Serratus Anterior Muscle Awareness: for Improved Body Awareness while doing Yoga Poses
- Serratus Posterior Inferior: Anchoring the Lats and a Co-Stabilizer for the Lower Ribcage
- Shoulder Anatomy: The Rotator Cuff, Anatomy Trains and Tuned Tension
- Shoulder Anatomy for Yoga Teachers: Shoulder Blade Landmarks
- Gluteus Maximus Anatomy: Back Bending the hip, using it to help stretch the psoas
- Shoulders and arms: Improve effectiveness: Distinguishing shoulder, ribcage, arm actions
- SI Joint Stability in Marichyasana: and Other Seated Yoga Poses
- Dual SI Joint Stabilization: In Spinal Forward Bends and Spinal Backbends
- Why Do We Have SI Joints?: So we can do movements like the splits...
- Single Joint hip flexors: A look at the hip flexors that work solely on the hip joint
- Spinal Anatomy: The elements of the spine and the muscles that affect it, an overview
- Spinal column: Learning to Feel the Individual Vertebrae And Learning to Control Them
- Spinal Erectors: Learn to feel them and control them
- Foot: Foot, ankle and shin anatomy and biomechanics
- Sacroiliac joints: Alleviating Sacroiliac Joint Pain
- Thoracolumbar Fascia (TLF): Wifi for Your Spine, Arms and Legs
- Tibialis Anterior: Rotating the shin relative to the foot (or stabilizing it)
- Tibialis Posterior: Lifting the arch of the foot or turning soles of the feet inwards
- Transverse abdominis Exercises: Training All Three Bands of the Transverse Abdominis
- Trapezius Muscle: Using it with arms lifted (And controlling it with the arms down)
- Glute and Hamstring Anatomy for Yoga: Yoga Anatomy for Back Bending and Forward Bending the Hips
- Upper Back Exercises for Yoga: Increase Awareness, Strengthen a Weak Upper Back
- Vastus Muscles: Knee extensors and tensioning devices for the overlying hip flexors
- Why learn muscle control: I've used it to deal with pain, improve flexibility and to be present
- Yoga Postures for Back Pain: A series of gentle postures to help relieve low back pain
- Hip crease: A proprioceptive reference for better hip awareness and control
- Psoas Anatomy: Hip flexion, deeper stretching, preventing lumbar shear