classes     taijiquan     self defence     qigong     tai chi for health     about us     reviews     a-z

Crook of the elbow

Many women carry bags in the crook of the elbow. This is particularly bad for the health. The elbow is not a weight bearing joint.
Hanging a bag from the elbow promotes a very high degree of physical stress in the body.


Poor use of the arms means that the body is under major duress. And for no real reason.
Since the elbow is not supposed to bear weight, the muscles of the arm, shoulder, back and neck must compensate. This is a fast track method for headache.

Hand luggage

Carrying too much in the hands is pretty much the same as using the crook of the elbow. Somewhere else has to compensate for the weight.

Across-the-shoulder bag

Across-the-shoulder bags are fine if you do not put much in them, or if you are just hopping in and out of the car. However, if you like walking, they are not such a good idea.

Weight distribution

An across-the-shoulder bag does not balance the weight and puts strain on just one side of the body; pulling in towards the neck.
The weight does not drop down through the body via the shoulder joint.
It pulls across the body. The more heavy the bag, the more notable this gets. Also, the position of the bag may impede the natural swing of the arm and this affects gait.

Physical awareness

You may or may not notice the strain yourself. It all depends - not on strength - but on what you are used to, along with physical awareness and sensitivity.
If you have poor bodily awareness, then the chances are that much of what you do day-to-day causes minor strain. Tension in the upper back, neck and head is likely.

Ignorance is not bliss

Not noticing the problem indicates that your awareness is poor. It does not mean that the problem doesn't exist.


I have clicky shoulders from taekwondo training in my teens and Sifu Waller encouraged me to be careful with how I 'use' my body. I'm very cautious when using an across-the-body bag. I keep it very lightweight - purse, sunglasses etc. If I'm shopping; supermarket or town, or walking anywhere, I use a backpack.



The solution is to wear a rucksack of some sort. A backpack or small rucksack will distribute the weight more evenly across your shoulders, hanging down the body, rather than cutting into the neck.
It is more balanced.


It is not all that difficult to carry quite a heavy rucksack with ease. The key lies with design.
The functional, ergonomic design of a rucksack enables the human body to lug a reasonably heavy load with no adverse side-effects. Unless of course you over-do it...


A backpack is essentially a mini-rucksack. Less than 20 litres is ample for most purposes.

What about messenger bags?

The design suggests that it can do the same job as a rucksack/backpack. After all, a messenger bag has an equivalent capacity... Yet, the design is flawed.
If you carry anything more than a threadbare amount of gear, it will harm your body. The bag is sold on the basis of convenient access. Unfortunately, this must balanced against the risk of strain.

Capacity & design

When you buy an across-the-shoulder/messenger/man bag, the capacity of the bag suggests that the bag can be filled with quite a lot of gear.
Indeed, a messenger bag can be filled with a comparative amount of gear to a backpack. So what? A messenger bag is an across-the-shoulder bag (see above).

Vintage-style bags

Old-fashioned styling may look nice but it brings an added complication: weight. The heavyweight cotton is tough, durable and made to last.
It is also heavy relative to modern fabrics. The bag itself is heavy... before you put anything inside it.


The danger with aesthetics is that practicality and functionality may be sacrificed in favour of appearance. This occurs in all facets of art and design.
A pretty-looking bag may well be pleasing for you, but arthritis caused by poor posture and bad body use will affect you long-term.


From car seats to constrictive clothing, from chairs to shoes that distort posture,
many features of modern life curtail our natural movement patterns.

(Liz Koch)


Practicality is concerned with doing or experiencing rather than theory. Ideas are wonderful and can lead to all manner of creativity.
However, at some point thought is rendered in physical form. Ideation and actuality are two different things entirely.
Something may be theoretically feasible and sound in principle but prove disastrous in reality.


Examining the underlying character of something is important in Taoism. What is its essence?
In nature, you seek to understand the purpose of things, but accept that whatever you encounter may serve a function that escapes our comprehension.
From our perspective many things in the natural world have no discernable function.


When things are made by humans, they have a clear purpose. Somebody thought it up. Somebody designed it. And somebody constructed it.
If you consider a bag... A bag is only of value to the extent that it can fulfil its purpose.

What is the purpose of a bag?

A bag is supposed to:

  1. Be comfortable

  2. Free-up your hands

  3. Keep your gear safe

  4. Enable you to carry things

  5. (Potentially) keep your stuff dry

  6. Enable you to carry relatively heavy objects without discomfort or injury

Now, ask yourself: is this what your bag does?

Choose wisely

Carrying things affects your health and wellbeing, and should not be dismissed as trivial. Ask any walker about the value of a good, well-fitting, ergonomic rucksack.
This same consideration can be applied to all manner of things: your footwear, your clothing, your chair, your working environment, and so on...
Chuang Tzu said: "When the belt fits, you no longer realise that you're wearing it."

school database

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 17 September 2019