Living in Your Bones


By Allison Suran, PT, GCFP

Spring 2004

When was the last time you thought of your own bones? Your doctor has most likely mentioned the benefits of calcium for healthy bones. And, you’ve probably heard about osteoporosis, bone fractures, and bone density scans. But in everyday life, how do you really feel your own bones inside of you?

We live in a society obsessed with surface appearance. Skin, hair, nails, muscles (or the lack of), and soft tissue (the nice word for fat) are imprinted into our mental awareness to the point that most adults cannot pass by a mirror without considering their exterior appearance. When a health issue affects something on the inside, you may feel helpless, powerless, or confused. This is also true with your skeleton. When you stand up from sitting, if your muscles are weak, you may notice some soreness or difficulty; but when was the last time you considered the organization of your skeleton in this activity? Unless you’ve received some Feldenkrais lessons, probably never.

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais believed that moving with effortless freedom meant discovering the optimal organization and alignment of your skeleton. Through this discovery and the intelligence of your nervous system, your muscles can learn how to support new ways of moving. Ultimately, you have the potential to change the way you learned to move as a child, and to discover a way of being and moving that is more satisfying and less stressful and hurtful to your physical system.

Strengthening and stretching your muscles can contribute to optimal health in a number of ways. However, if you’re simply stretching and strengthening inefficient movement patterns you may not be freeing your system from the stresses of poor alignment, posture, or body mechanics that may have been ingrained in your body for decades.

The benefits of engaging your awareness to consider and explore how your bones are interrelated through all of your movements does more than help you on a physical level. When you learn to use less energy to move your body, you have more energy to live your life. As you train your mind to attend to your own living experience through your body, you can have more appreciation for each moment of life with the potential of less mental obsession in the past or future. As you learn to feel your inner responses more deeply, you have the potential to respond more thoughtfully to your environment, friends, and associates with less unconscious and potentially harmful reactions to unpleasant situations.

So next time your body is speaking to you, begin to listen to your skeleton. How are your hips aligned over your feet? Is your body aligned over the front, back, inside or outside of your foot? And which way helps you feel tallest, lightest, or allows greater freedom in your breathing? When you lean forward to stand up, just how does your knee track over your feet? Does your back and neck extend and tighten, or can you find a way to stand up that doesn’t cause increased tightness in your back and neck muscles? What about paying attention to how you breath? The simplest way to tune in, is to feel the movement, or lack of movement, in your ribs, chest, and back with each breath. Whether you’re sitting in traffic, standing in the grocery store, preparing dinner, or involved in your work, it’s relatively easy to pause and bring your attention to your bones through your breath. It just takes practice.

Learning to live in your bones means letting your bones, your skeleton, and your current physical organization be your teacher. This curiosity can lead you to become more authentic in your relationships with others and yourself, and to truly show up for this powerful living experience called LIFE!