When I was a dancer, just before I moved across the floor or went onstage, I would crack my left ankle and the arch of my right foot. I also cracked every knuckle on each of my fingers. If I pressed on the back of my right hip hard enough while vigorously twisting my torso to the right, I would get a good pop in my lower back. But after I began to hold my chin and snap it quickly to the side while pulling the back of my head forward for a series of neck cracks, that’s when I knew I had a problem.
You know you are addicted to something when you are insatiable. Cracking my joints made me feel ready and loose but it was a never-ending cycle of needing to do it again for that gratifying feeling. Even the sound of the crack was satisfying. I would wait for the click, thinking that afterwards all peace would come.
Around this time, I began to experience a lot of painful stiff necks. The diagnosis I received was that the curve of my neck had reversed! After studying about the neck and head, I began to appreciate my body’s sensitivity and specific structure. Years of addictive cracking, manipulation, and overwork of my body were not helping me at all. That’s when I stopped.
Resolving to break a habit is one thing but actually doing it is something else. Breaking any habit is a mind game. So I decided to play. Each time I became aware of my desire to crack a joint:
* I breathed and got more physically grounded.
* I visualized the natural, graceful curves of my spine.
* I relaxed.
I sat with the feelings of wanting to feel more limber. I breathed, rested and gently massaged my mind to relieve her of the need to correct things.
People have said that cracking your joints will cause arthritis while others argue that the scientific evidence of a link between joint cracking and arthritis doesn’t exist. Still, why stress our joints to such an extreme? We should train our bodies gently (and repeatedly) over time. Too much force is violent which is why the students in my after-school yoga program are not allowed to crack their knuckles in the studio. Ahimsa (non-violence) baby!