Bones, Gravity, and Yoga
"Sticks and stones may break my bones..." But, as a yogi, I doubt it.
206 bones. The foundation for your muscles, organs, nervous system, and everything under the skin. Each bone plays a part in the body theater.
26 per foot and 27 per hand. 33 vertebrae in the spine. Sternum with 12 pairs of ribs. 2 femurs (thigh bones). 2 tibias, 2 fibulas (bones below knee). 2 radius and 2 ulnas (forearm bones)2 humerus (upper arm). 26 bones in the head (skull and face) 2 scapula (shoulder blades) 2 clavicle (collar bone)and hip bones comprised of 3 bones, the pelvis.
You actually have a few more; but, they're much smaller...but, no less important. The ear has 3 small bones that make it possible for you to savor the touching vibes of sweet music. The "hammer", "anvil" and "stirrup" ear bones detect 40,000 different sounds. Wow. Magnifies the notes you hear to a new level of appreciation.
Take a yoga practice focus to the bone. Practice momentary detachment from muscular flexibility. Imagine yourself simply as a skeleton on the mat. In plank, feel the foot and hand bones pressing into the earth. Feel the vertebrae actively held. Feel the arm and leg limbs keeping you up. You don't feel heavy...you are sensing gravity. Gravity keeps us down and our bones counter by moving us up. This recipe gravity, bones and yoga create the groundwork for a great adobe to live in.
Bones are constantly breaking down old cells and rebuilding new. Bones are the factory for red blood cells. They need you to put some pressure on them to ignite their internal workout. They are 20% water. Bones are 20% of our mass. They are the strongest parts of our body. Some bones can withstand thousands of pounds of force per square inch. They can break...they can repair themselves. They are a little less stronger than steel. Really.
Like everything else, don't use it, lose it. Eradicate your ego's ideas of what you should feel or be able to do on the mat. Know that you're 'bad to the bone'! Weight bearing movements stimulate the production of fresh bone tissue. Prevent or reverse osteoporosis with yoga. The intentional use of your weight and resistance to succumb to gravity ignites osteocytes, osteoblasts, and osteoclasts (bone cells) to keep the bone factory humming. If you don't show up for "work", what motivates them to keep going?
Every pose starts from the bone. Pick a pose and envision the bone structure necessary to create it. The classic song chanting the "leg bone is connected to the hip bone..." is finally understood. Bones may be individual pieces; but, joints connect them to each other. We use placemats on our table to prevent damage...joints provide the sliver of space each bone needs for cushion. The spine is very expressive when it is expected to do the unexpected.
Reach those arms up in Warrior I and you might notice previously unnoticed nuances. All 27 bones in the hands open. The arm bones help lift up the rib bones. Feel the space open up between each one. The foot's placement directs the leg's alignment. Gravity holds you steady as you actively reach higher. A genuine sense of being a yogi warrior is felt down to the bone.
The vertebrae encases the spinal nerves...the messengers. Compress the messengers and don't expect positive feedback. It takes practice and time for the muscles that wrap the bones to become pliable. Build strong bones and strong muscle will follow. Stand up or sit up straight...notice physical alignment unconsciously evolve.
When the bones and muscles are in better alignment, internal parts perform better. Think about it. If you're slumped over most of the time, the diagphram can't help the lungs inhale and exhale as much, the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and stomach aren't open to perform as well. By the time it gets down to the lower lumbar, the message goes back up the captain of the ship. Your brain lets you feel the consequences of not taking care of the spine. There's a reason we reach up and arch back in the morning...the body is showing you how good it feels to open up, expand inner space and move.
You need strong bones. It's not about drinking milk or taking calcium supplements. It's about using them. You wouldn't let a cool corvette just sit in the garage...would you? What's the point of just looking at it? Dust collects. Lack of use produces nada. Work those bones and you might feel your poses deepen. Practice meditating on each bone for a few breaths. They will share the love....