Healthy Beginnings

Get the good out of your skeleton for a healthier mind

Pay more attention to your body, and your skeleton, to enjoy better mental health and physical wellbeing.

Buried right below the surface of your skin, pretty much in plain sight, is your skeleton, the most important mental health resource you’ve never heard or thought about, right? Surprisingly, the skeleton contributes a large and direct component to our mental health once we have an active, vital connection to it.

So why don’t we have this already? The short answer is — 21st century disconnection from us, made worse by a few specifics.

Take a look at your own body. Our bones are well concealed by skin, muscles, fat and hair, and much of the time, by our clothes. Being mostly out of sight, we don’t generally feel our skeleton until we bruise or break something. Even then, our bones are tough, having the tensile strength of cast iron, so you might think we’d be more aware of them.

Perhaps not surprisingly, once we begin to experience skeletal support, something organic in us responds to this strength, and an almost magical process sets in motion. Our sense of self begins to change fundamentally.

We feel the quiet, deep and neutral support of our strong bones — reassuring, pervasive and, for many people, transformative. We are paying more attention to our bodies. We feel more self-confident; our posture and movement improve.

This is evident in my Feldenkrais classes when students discover they’re no longer locked into cycles of pain and instability. Negative habits shift, bodies become lighter, better aligned, attitudes more optimistic. People learn real self-care and begin to take more responsibility for how they move, feel and act.

No matter our condition, with more attention, our access to strength and support from our skeleton means we are sending more positive messages to the brain.

Using ‘body language’ is another way to do this. Body language is a powerful two-way communication tool. It informs our own brain as much as it does those around us. When we move in ways that connect us to our inner skeletal strength and support, we feel it!

That is also true of our habitually weak, self-defeating postures. So we want to know what we communicate through our bodies, consciously and unconsciously. Are we standing tall, eyes at the horizon, engaged? Or stooped, fatigued, eyes down, spine slumped?

These things really matter. And we will notice them if we work at it. Click here to see the famous tedTalk presentation by Amy Cuddy that explains what I mean in detail.

Dr. Feldenkrais worked with similar concepts more than 80 years ago. Although neuroscience has yet to completely explain the mechanisms of action, we know that using the brain to change the body and the body to change the brain are powerful interrelated, exciting concepts (see Dr. Norman Doidge’s books).

The process begins by finding our skeleton, feeling how our bones provide structure, support and strength to body and psyche.

All we need to do is slow down and focus on our body. We can do it anywhere: at work, in the store, while exercising. It is a useful, mindful way to ground and reduce stress and tension, to discover our own power to improve our health and wellbeing. It is part of our remarkable capacity to heal, fueled by our desire and commitment.

Carole Bucher, BA, is a Guild-Certified Feldenkrais practitioner/teacher and owner of Reno Feldenkrais Integrative Movement. Visit renofeldenkrais.blogspot.com to learn more.