I've been browsing through a wonderful new book about myofascial efficiency in movement. Born to Walk, by my friend, James Earls, delves into the minutia of joint mechanics and into how they are supported by the soft tissue layers. The book is exhaustively researched and elegantly illustrated. Earls considers the helical motions of the feet and pelvis, legs and spine, and for my money, gets it about as right as right can be. Body workers and somatic educators will do well to study this fine volume. Browsing through Earls’s book got me thinking about what interests me to write about and to teach. Muscles and fascial chains seem to me to be servants of consciousness, so I’m grateful to James for mapping their interplay so beautifully. What fascinates me are skin and bone, and how those tissues contribute to conscious embodiment.
I enjoy meditating on joint mechanics—in the same way that I might enjoy a jigsaw puzzle, or admire the technique of pointillist painters. I like seeing how all those tiny interfaces compose a whole, how interacting surfaces glide within the body’s fascial bed to produce motion. But for me, perception is the main event. I’m fascinated with how awareness applied to specific bones can spark innovation in the body’s movement.
I find that most people can sense themselves at the bone level. Tuning in to our bones leads us to the perception of weight. Even someone who purports to have little proprioception can learn to appreciate the weight of her arm. When you feel the weight of your bony self, you relax, and you begin to allow your body to be supported by gravity.
With the capacity to yield one’s weight to the ground evolves the further capacity to distinguish the weight of one bone from another—the weight of your ulna from your radius, for example. Bone awareness seems to automatically melt the tissue tensions that can weld those two bones together. The application of consciousness to the bone level incites the soft tissues to respond in a ripple effect: as I sit typing this, and sensing my ulnas, I notice that my shoulders soften at a deeper-than-trapezius level: my thoracic outlet becomes more spacious, and my respiration slows. Reaching for my tea mug is more sentient--the cup’s surface feels tackier and more apparently warm than it was for the previous sip. Being present in just those two bones has changed my coordination, my posture, my visceral function, and my experience of the moment.
Cuboid consciousness can change your life
Bone awareness is one of my main teaching tools . By teaching clients to value the presence of their cuboid bones, for example, I’ve helped them improve their reception of the ground’s support. As one client found her left cuboid bone, I watched the transmission of support travel all the way up to her head, unraveling curvatures—a thrilling moment for us both. (You can discover your cuboid in my online workshop, Know Your Feet.)
Being present in my bones makes a difference in how I feel, how I experience the world, and how I navigate it. For navigation, though, we have to be conscious of space—of the people, objects and events in our surroundings. Spatial awareness gives us the lift and tone and incentive to move.
So I continue to be intrigued by the perceptual organization of posture and movement. Weight and space: when we can be present with both, our joints decompress and naturally efficient motion emerges. The beauty and simplicity of this simple human experience continues to inspire me.
© 2014 Mary Bond