Extract from the upcoming book TAO OF MOVEMENT – the WATTER element part
In the western view, the bones form the human skeleton. The skeleton is a kind of framework that protects the internal organs and at the same time acts as a support and structure to which other body structures are connected – tendons, ligaments, muscles, fascia – ensuring the movement of the human body. In everyday life, bones are not given much attention because they are hidden in the depths and we tend to completely forget about them. We notice our bones only when we hit one, break it, when it hurts us, or when we begin to feel the problems caused by thinning of the bone mass. We consider bones to be a dead mass that is somewhere in the middle of our body and holds us together. Taoists also perceive bones from their functional point of view, but the bones also mean something more to them. They are a basic substance where the purely physical dimension extends into energetic, even spiritual contexts. Bones are for them our deepest foundation, they are the matrix that will remain after us even after the death of the body itself. Thanks to the bones, a trace of our soul remains after our death on Earth. Everything else is decomposed, the matrix stored in the bones remains.
However, Taoist wisdom is very close to ours. For example, the phrase “I feel it in my bones.” When this sentence is pronounced, it is clear from its subtext that something really important is about to happen. We say this sentence if we have a strong feeling, a premonition, we instinctively feel something, the intuition, our sixth sense, is involved in our perception. We feel it in the bones because the bones are connected to the fundamental source of our Qi, which is stored in the kidneys and subsequently in the bones. By cultivating through Qigong meditation exercises, it is stored even in the bone marrow. The bones are dependent on the kidneys and the kidneys are dependent on the bones. This relationship takes place at the level of the bone and bone marrow relationship. The marrow stored in the bones ensures their strength, firmness and flexibility; the bones “in return” prevent the essential richness of the marrow from shattering. And our whole organism depends on the marrow. Because the marrow produces blood, it is the basic nutrient substrate of our body.
In the Taoist tradition, bones work in the human body just as mountains work for the Earth. Just as a mountain naturally directs the flow and circulation of water and air, so bones naturally direct the circulation and movement of Qi energy, the essence of the Jing, the spirit, the blood, the marrow and body fluids, all the most important components of our body. In addition, the tradition believes that bones vibrate like hollow whistles, especially when Qi flows around and through them. These living whistles are responsible for the vibration of celestial Qi and Qi in the environment throughout the physical structure of the body. This philosophical view is confirmed by modern research that began in the middle of the last century. It proves that bones, as the body’s only solid crystalline substance, are able to generate electricity. When the bones are pressed, weak electric currents are generated in the bones. These control the organization of bone cells and their arrangement into the supporting beams. This phenomenon is called the “piezoelectric effect” and has been documented by many studies. It is therefore possible to measure the electromagnetic field of bones, to measure how they receive and send electric current to our organs, blood cells, nerves and meridians. At the same time, this delicate current in the bones works for the whole body as a kind of tuner. Taoists have long seen great importance in various exercises aimed at strengthening bones and the bone marrow. Fortunately, these Qigong exercises still exist today. For example, “bone compression” is aimed at amplifying this current. With the help of an electromagnetic field, this exercise can regenerate bone tissue, which can be used, for example, in the treatment of bone fractures. The respective bone cells mature faster in the corresponding electromagnetic field.
The bones are alive, constantly regenerating, even their shape is changeable. The skeletal structure is subject to a process of constant change during a person’s life. Changes in children and adolescents take place before our eyes. Unlike an adult, a child does not have some bones completely ingrown, they have a much softer structure, some of them are even cartilage. Their bones gradually grow, lengthen, gain in density, volume and strength. However, the process of change does not stop even in adulthood, because bones are in a constant process of development all their lives. Even the bones of an adult are not unchangeable units. They are fed by small arteries that penetrate into the marrow and are connected to other structures – tendons, muscles, fascia. Therefore, the bones also change and adapt to the conditions and demands that their “owner” gives them. Conditions can be either destructive or constructive. Due to their plasticity, their balance can be destroyed or restored. I myself have experience with the change in the shape of my own bones after seven years of conscious work on their transformation. Conscious connection to one’s own bones can fundamentally affect the health, the way we move, but also the way we perceive our existence. Although the bones are in the depths of the body, almost every one of them can be sensed to the touch or through meditation.
Every mover should feel obliged to take care of their bones and their kidneys. Caring for both is reflected in the whole body comprehensively. In one survey, in which the dancers were asked what the dance brought them, the answer was, “The dance has brought me osteoarthritis.” This is in fact not possible as long as the dancer or other mover knows that when we take, we must give. Especially to our own body. In this context, dancing or other more persistent movement requires more demands from the body. When we drive on the highway 150km per hour, the car consumes more fuel than if we drove 90km per hour. We need to refuel more often and that fuel should also be of good quality. Therefore, energy needs to be replenished, regularly and with quality. One way is diet – information on the kidney diet and a few recipes can be found at the end of this chapter.
When dancing, I consider working with bones to be basic. In our seminars, working with bones represents the gro of our work. If we can consciously connect to our skeletal “hardware”, our “software” will also work more consciously – hence our movement expression. We work in a way we have called “Anatomy of Movement” or “Body Awareness,” in which we work with people, so that they get to know their bodies through conscious work with the bones. We look at the bones in the pictures, we get to know the connections between them thanks to 3D models of the skeleton, but mainly we work with our own bones through movement – in pairs or individually. At first, we mostly improvise with a focus on the bones, the relationships between them, their movement possibilities or limitations. As students get deeper into their bones, we develop this work into more demanding movement patterns. Later, this perception becomes a kind of “autopilot” of the movers and they work with it automatically.
Tune into how it should be
One of the main things we bring to the attention of students is to be aware of the arrangement of the bones in their body. We live in a world where gravitational force acts. Our body is constantly exposed to this force and is forced to work with it so that we do not fall to the ground and surrender to it completely. When we lie down, we yield fully to gravity. However, we need to move and, in addition, we work in the vertical axis, so the body must be constructed so that it can cope with this really great force of gravity. Many structures are involved in this mechanism – bones, joints, muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments, which hold everything together. However, bones play a major role in this statics. The skeleton of the human body is naturally designed so that as little work as possible is expended on it. Each bone plays an important role here, so the body has fantastic support in this arrangement of bones. When the skeletal arrangement works well, the joints, ligaments, tendons, fascia and muscles also work well. If it does not work well, these parts of the body have to work excessively and it makes them tired and it even deforms them.
Nature “designed” us almost perfectly. When we start to look at our skeletal structure with the eye of a functionally natural and therefore correct arrangement, and we start consciously using this arrangement, which is offered to us by nature, in motion, we will avoid many health problems, save energy and our movement will be more organic. This knowledge is priceless in partner work. We often do partner work with excessive muscle use. They get tired and often deform. However, if we learn to lift our partner with the bones and the energy which is led through the bones into the ground, and therefore not a priori with the muscles, movement will be healthier, less energy-intensive and, of course, more natural. However, it is difficult to talk about all this, students will understand the arrangement of their skeletal structure only through personal experience through practice. Anyone who has experienced it once does not want to go back.
Each bone of our body has its own story created by the way we use it. The story is logically affected by diet, the use of the body in various physical situations, and emotions and mental mood. A hunched spine, a curvature of the body to the side, flat feet, worn out menisci, but also chronic bone and joint pain, thinning bones and the like, all speak about the relationship we have with our lives. I read somewhere that the real height of most people’s bodies does not correspond to the “original plan”. Our bones want to breathe, they want to live, they want to grow to Heaven, but we prevent them from doing so with our opinions, prejudices, routines, or low self-confidence. Personally, I recommend working with bones to every person, even an ordinary “mortal” who is not engaged in dance, sports or other physical activity. Discovering the essence of bones in your body is like touching your essence. When we not only know that we have some bones, but also feel them, are aware of their shape or weight, then we are more real. We do not deal with unnecessary things, we do not like to talk nonsense, we are true and clear. In conversations, we avoid indirectness, small talk, we easily see through manipulations and we do not allow to be drawn into them. At the same time, we feel that our word has weight, we experience that we are heard and seen, and thus treat ourselves. Our vibration is stronger, so we easily attract people with a similar focus. We can hear our inner voice or see the direction we are walking. Bones are about the deepest reality.