Stability, options, and the skeleton

What are you associations for the word “stability”? What do you think you need to make yourself feel more stable?

We often think in terms of strength and fixed structures. Particularly these days the phrase “core stability” reinforces our view that the only thing between us and nirvana is strengthening our abdominal muscles.

A surprising message in the Feldenkrais Method is how much stability can come from freedom and finding new options, rather than from making ourselves rigid. The skeleton (not the muscles) have the task of carrying force. Literally the operation of forces makes bones; your skeletal structure can change through life depending on how you use yourself, how forces pass through you. And when you do use your skeleton well for support, all sorts of chronic muscle tightness goes away–your muscles no longer have to fill in as force-carrying tissue for bones that aren’t in a useful place, and they no longer have to work overtime to keep you from falling over.

You can massage a tight muscle or “release” it through imagery until the cows come home, but if that muscle is doing something it needs to do to keep you from falling over, given your use of your skeletal structure, it’s only going to get tight again.

So the correct alignment of your bones will free your muscles for action–right? But there isn’t one right alignment to find; depending on the details of what you’re doing and the environment you find yourself in, your skeletal structure needs to find a slightly different option for passing forces through.

If you wake up your ability to sense gravity, and increase the options you have available for how you can use your skeleton, all those automatic processes that govern balance in gravity will find the “right alignment” (for what you are doing in this place now). Effortlessly. And that’s where you find stability too.