“Why can’t you be more like the right knee?” I said silently to the left. “The right knee is fine with traveling.”
Understandably, the left knee didn’t respond.
After fidgeting about, flexing and extending the knee, moving my bent leg medially then laterally, hugging both feet into the tiny airplane seat and climbing over my neighbor repeatedly to walk the aisle, I was beginning to get as annoyed with my left knee as the man sitting to my left was undoubtedly becoming with me.
This scenario is typical for me on any long plane or car ride. There just simply isn’t enough room for me to fold my leg in so that my left heel rests under my right hip, like when I sit at my desk. Plus, the seats are made for larger people with bad posture. I was already alternating between using my shoe and my book for low back support, but what to do with this knee?
I took a deep breath and remembered one of my movement classes in massage school – neuromuscular repatterning. I again heard my teacher say: You have options. You don’t have to keep doing it the same old way.
And I knew that I needed to use the rest of the time on that airplane to find my “joint sweet spot” – the spot where your joint is aligned with maximum space and minimal effort. There should not be any contracting muscles to hold the joint in place, rather bones should be stacked so that the joint structure is relaxed into the support of gravity and alignment.
Now, I had already been fidgeting about trying to find a comfortable spot for my knee, but I hadn’t been bringing my attention to these principles of minimal effort. Instead, I had been swinging around on a pendulum making big change after big change with little awareness.
Finding the sweet spot usually involves small changes and then pausing to pay attention.
In the end, I found the spot. I had to bring my foot a little closer to my chair and just slightly medial (not as far as I had tried before). I also put my foot on a book to leave more space between the back of the joint and the chair. Presto! Effortless alignment. Ease. And much less annoyance for both myself and my neighbor.
A great way to experiment with finding the joint sweet spot under much less dire circumstances is the lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Start with one leg at a time and adjust your foot position until you feel the ease of effortless alignment. Your muscles will not need to do anything, it will be as if your leg is magically suspended.
Sometimes, if the feet are close enough together, just letting your knees come toward center to rest against each other will do it, but not always. Every body is different, so there is no set of cues that will work for everyone. Only experimentation and awareness.