A few years ago, I got one of those amazing viruses that totally incapacitate you for twenty four hours. At a certain point, my fever must have gone through the roof. I began to babble (unfortunately I was alone, so no one took notes of what channeled wisdom from the astral plane I may have imparted). I closed my eyes to try to calm down and suddenly saw my skeleton illuminated, as if all the other parts of me had been burned away in the fever. Every bone, my skull, the joints were visible against a brilliant red background. “How beautiful!” I exclaimed, overwhelmed by the intricacies of my structure. As I shifted in the bed, this magical hallucination animated for me, a graceful dance that involved ribs and spine, clavicles and skull. Then my fever broke.
My husband teased me, saying I was having Feldenkrais visions, but to this day, I can’t forget the sense of awe at seeing my bones moving. Mabel Todd, a movement studies pioneer from the early twentieth century once compared the human organism to a bridge, with the bones being what are called in engineering the “compression members”, like the steel and concrete pillars of the bridge .The muscles, ligaments and tendons are the “tensile members,” the suspension cables of a bridge. You can imagine what happens to the compression members and ultimately the structural integrity of a bridge if one of the cables is not exactly the right length. It would eventually collapse.
Because the human “bridge” is constantly in motion, as well as weight bearing, our suspension cables need to constantly re-organize according to our needs. Sometimes some of the muscles and tendons, due to habits, trauma, tension or other factors, begin to shorten or lengthen unnecessarily, pulling the skeleton out of its most effective uprightness. Rounded shoulders, head protruding forward, pot belly or side leaning all affect our central axis. Then, “ …more muscular effort must be exerted to maintain its position in space, which involves an unnecessary strain and waste of energy,” says Todd in her book, The Thinking Body.
You can’t just “command” your skeleton back into balance. But you can learn new, more effective habits that help balance the intricate relationship between stability and mobility. Feldenkrais lessons become like an inner dance, where awareness leads and all the other parts are delighted to follow. Try this free mini-lesson to see how your skeleton likes to dance! Happy Halloween.