What’s the Big Deal about Bones?
Bones form the primary structure of our body. Without them, we’d all be wobbly piles of muscle and fat, so their importance is obvious. Our skeleton is often likened to the frame of a building. However, bones differ in one key aspect... they’re alive! Throughout our lives, our bones grow, change, and re-organise themselves. Bones are flexible, adaptable, and they create blood cells. They also transmit and store energy as information.
Despite the importance of our skeleton, many of us have little awareness of our bones. Instead we tend to focus more on muscles and organs. Perhaps this is partly due to it being much easier to consciously feel your own muscles and organs than to feel tension in your bones.
As a practitioner of Zero Balancing - which focuses on the significance of bone and joint energy, I’ve found working with bones life-changing. The Zero Balancing approach to understanding bones, joints and energy colours the way I teach yoga, and to some extent even the approach I take with my garden (although more often, it’s the garden that teaches me about health and healing - but that’s for another article).
All the substances in our body conduct energy - skin, muscle, fat, hair, bone, etc. However, they all do it slightly differently because they’re made of different stuff. We can see this at play with musical instruments, for example. Consider the difference between a guitar, piano, xylophone and a church organ. Even when they play identical notes, each instrument has a distinct character because they’re made of different materials and they resonate differently.The same is true with our bodies!
The way we’re designed supports protecting our bones. Our skeleton is surrounded by muscle, fat, fascia, skin and hair. This means that most of the moderate stresses of day-to-day living impacts our soft tissue, and our bone structure provides stable support. Despite this fundamental robustness, bones are still delicate enough to pick up other vibrations.
According to Zero Balancing (ZB) philosophy the kinds of vibrations that affect the bones usually relate to four types of experiences.
Early Childhood experiences. During the first 7 years, children are very open and impressionable - “Between the ages of 0 – 7 are our programming years. During these years, our children will spend most of their time in Alpha and Theta brainwave cycles, which is the same state that a person is in, when they are in hypnosis or meditation. So you may want to imagine your little children walking around in a permanent state of hypnosis, being programmed by the environment, open to suggestion, in a super learning state.” Not only are children’s brainwaves different, but bones are much softer during childhood. While our structure adapts throughout our lifetime, childhood is the primary development period and it sets the stage for the rest of our life.
Long-term repetitive postures or movements become built into our structure. The way you use your body affects how your bones grow! For instance, constantly using the same arm for heavy lifting leads to greater bone mass on that side.
Trauma: physical and/or emotional. Any intense experiences that penetrate the protection of your cushioning soft tissue can become trauma vibration stored in the bones.
Ancestral/Epigenetic information. Your bones hold survival strategies and trauma from events that happened to your ancestors, passed down through the generations.
These four overlapping categories that result in tense bones can seem like the kinds of problems we’re stuck with for life. How do we address feelings of abandonment from infancy so ingrained that our chest knows only tension? And what about our shoulders, turned inward over the years in a protective gesture? All the mature understanding we develop hasn’t altered that structural information still held in our bones!
However, change at these deep levels is possible. It can be more subtle and slow than relaxing a tense muscle. Unraveling lifelong tension patterns in bones can be a process that unfolds over weeks, months or sometimes years. Nevertheless, I’ve also experienced a sudden, complete and profound re-arranging of my own bones, ridding me of dysfunctional habits that no longer served me. I’ve experienced a client in a state of such deep bone relaxation that past trauma released without fanfare in a single moment.
Sometimes tension releases andt we still have ingrained habits formed around some tension or vibration that our body has come to recognise as home. The instability from an old ankle injury is gone, but our body has become so used to stepping lightly on that side it’s hard to make a change. At times like these, I’ve found a conscious movement practice invaluable to create new awareness and new habits.
Wherever we send our attention, energy follows. By paying attention specifically to our bones and joints during our practice we bring energy and consciousness to these foundational structures.
Focusing on bone and joints during yoga practice changes the way we perform familiar postures (asana). Instead of “How do I engage my muscles to lift higher?” The question might become “How are the joints of my spine able to expand and open?” Movements often become smaller, and our awareness more refined.Energy movement through the body becomes more apparent.
In my own practice, this way of exploring asana from the bones first has had a number of positive outcomes:
Focussing on bones and joints first means I no longer over-extend or strain a joint trying to achieve a posture when my joints aren’t fully aligned.
I feel much more solid and connected with my structural core - my bones. While I still experience ambient anxiety, I feel the presence of solidity inside me only a mindfulness-moment away. Feeling overwhelmed by someone else’s emotions? Sink into my bones - ahhhhh. That’s their deal, not mine! Caught up in mental churning? Yep, same thing.
When I have a profound healing session, I have a way to continue to work with the new energy and movement that has been made available to me.
When I’m in pain - physical or emotional - I know energy is stuck somewhere in my body. I have tools to drop my awareness to a level where I can move the energy itself! (Full disclosure, I don’t always remember this, or take the extra time to do it).
Bones carry so much information about the experiences we’ve had. The tension held in our bones influence how we show up in the world, for better and for worse. Change at this deep level is often subtle, but it’s important to know it’s possible! Practices that help you relax your nervous system and connect with your bones - like ZB and yoga-for-bones - are ways to help your body drop old tension so you can move through the world with greater ease and freedom.
Take a moment now. Rest your body in place. Find the places where your bones touch the earth through your seat, or your feet. Feel the solidity there. When you’ve brought your awareness to your bones, allow it to expand throughout your skeleton. What does it feel like to have an awareness that comes from your skeleton? How would you be a different person if you moved through life connected to yourself in this way?