How do we support the hydration of the body? Other than drinking plenty of clean water and eating lots of fruits and vegetables, we can prepare our body’s various tissues to better receive hydration through movement and compression.
Like a sponge, our body absorbs water better when it is not bone dry. Part of the remedy here is perspective. For example, the description “bone dry” is misleading. While the bones we have all witnessed in forests and science classes are dry, the bones of a living organism have fluid moving through them. In fact, they are pink with blood flow and slightly supple. They have a spongy space inside called marrow, where nearly all blood cells are created.
For many, simply understanding that fluid (mostly water) flows through all systems of the body can aid in absorption.
Movement practices that support this understanding include swimming, tai chi and mindful improvised dancing. When moving to support hydration, let babies be your guide! Human infants have an excellent understanding of their bodies as mostly a sack of water-filled sacks. Their bodies are up to 80 percent water. As we age, this percentage decreases until it is around 30 percent at age 70. These percentages vary according to a number of factors. Much of what we associate with aging is actually a drying out. Limited mobility, achy joints, and pain can all be alleviated by bringing more fluid into the tissues of the body.
Another effective way to hydrate is through compression. This can be achieved through touch from a professional bodyworker, a loved one, or oneself. The techniques are endless—from myofascial release to acupressure to Swedish massage. After good bodywork, one might feel one’s body is integrated. This is a strong indication of fluid flow being restored to formerly dry places.
In addition to human touch, I highly recommend foam rolling with a soft roller, such as a Melt roller. If you have ever used a classic foam roller and found yourself bracing against it, it is too hard. A soft roller allows one to relax the tissue over it, thereby moving fluid in.
These tools work in large part with fascia, an intelligent web in the body whose list of functions is ever-expanding as scientists learn more. Stretching can hydrate your fascia and muscles (which have fascia running through them), but it’s best to practice when your body is warmed up. This could be after a workout or massage.
Even so, tune in to the muscle and make sure you feel the stretch at its belly, not at its ends. Even when stretching is performed well, many people find compression to be a more effective tool for relaxing and hydrating. It helps to imagine a piece of meat we are familiar with—say, a steak. In order to soften this tissue, most would agree that tenderization (compression) is more effective than pulling from two ends (stretching).
Restoring fluid flow to the body can feel like magic. Hamstrings that have been hard for years begin to soften, joints crack less and movement feels easier. This is thanks to tissue that is able to hold and move fluids, hopefully moving our bodies closer to the 70 percent water that is our birthright.
Hilary Clair is a chef, dancer and somatic movement artist with a passion for understanding how anatomy and nutrition influence health. She lives in Forest Knolls.