Spring is blooming in San Francisco! The sun is shining, temperatures are warming, and flowers are blossoming. For many of us this comes as a relief after a cold, rainy winter. There is a new sense of possibility as our pores stretch open to soak in the sun and limbs reach out with newfound vitality
And…this transition can also emit a frenetic buzz. If you did not achieve a sense of rest during this Winter’s hibernation or if the transition to Spring happens too quickly, you may experience a period of increased anxiety that impacts your thoughts and permeates your physical being.
If this is the case, you’re not alone. In this season of rebirth when life can be busy and stressful, our work is to deepen our commitment to practices that keep us steady and centered in our beings. When anxiety builds, our nervous system runs on overdrive. Nerves buzz throughout our body. Breath speeds up. Heart rates increase. Muscles become jittery and want to move. Thoughts spin frantically. It can be difficult to sit still and difficult to focus.
To decrease these symptoms and find steadiness we must work directly with our bodies. Each of our unique bodies will respond to the right movement for ourselves, and sometimes differently from day to day, so this work can often be a matter of experimentation. Sometimes, meeting our increased internal pace with cardio vascular activities is helpful. If we match the speedy pace of our breath and hearts by running, or biking, or walking fast, or dancing, or swimming we can often titrate out bodies back down to a slower pace.
Breathing techniques are instrumental in calming the nervous system. My favorite is to practice extended exhale breathing. Start by taking an inhale and counting to 3, then exhale counting to 6. If this is easy, you can increase the count to 4 and 8. Continue this for at least 10 breaths and just notice what happens when you are able to hold your focus.
One of my favorite practices has evolved from my study of Body-Mind Centering and Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. It’s a Somatic meditation focusing on our skeletal body. Our bone structure forms the blue print of our physical form. The size and shape of our bones and the different ways they connect within joints defines our capacity for movement. Our skeletal body is a map that unveils all potential movement and embodiment. Bringing our consciousness into the bones provides an opportunity to release fears and inhibition and to return simply to this place of potential.
Following are some basic guidelines for this practice. Take as long as you want with each step. Let these be tips for entering your own body and feel free to follow your intuition.
If you are new to this type of practice it can be helpful to practice within a safe container with someone you trust witnessing and guiding. If you’re interested in individual or group work feel free to contact me directly. Individual work can happen both in person or via Skype.
Here’s to a blooming Spring filled with possibility and play!
Embodying the Skeletal Body
(Remember that this practice is simply an exploration into yourself. There is no right way to do it and no expected outcome. Your opportunity is to notice whatever is here and whatever arises. Have a journal near so you can take note of whatever arises. And…Have fun!)
Find a comfortable position where you feel alert and supported in your body.
Begin by taking account of where you are starting from. Some questions to consider are:
* What is the pace of your thoughts? What sort of thoughts are running through your mind? Are they scattered and jumping or are you honing in on something in particular?
* What is the quality of your breath? What is the pace of each breath?
* Can you feel your heart beating within the space of your lungs?
* Do your muscles squeeze to bone? Do they soften into your seat?
* What emotion(s) are most present right now if you’re being totally honest with yourself?
Now bring your attention, your awareness into your bones. It can be helpful to look at the picture of the skeleton, to see the names of the bones and to envision them, each one, alive in your body.
Allow yourself to move from your skeletal body. Notice how your skull stands aloft. Notice how your sternum, your chest lifts. Find the humerus bone in your arms and notice it’s range of movement reaching out from the scapula. Notice how the metacarpals bend at each tiny joint allowing your fingers to reach and stretch and squeeze. Notice the fluidity of your spinal column made up by each vertebrae linked together. Stretch your femur bone in the thigh out from the pelvic bowl. Explore your skeletal body with a sense of awe and curiosity. Move in anyway your are called allowing the movement to begin with the bones of your body.
Use your breath. With each inhale, imagine your bones expanding opening to take in oxygen. Notice their porous nature and allow them to reach and stretch.
What are the sounds that arise from your bones? Can you allow that sound to ripple out with freedom. Does the sound differ from different parts of your skeletal body?
In this place of your skeletal body, when you’re fully settled here, what do you notice? What sensations arise? What thoughts or images or memories drift across your minds eye? What emotions are most present?
When you’re ready to come to a close, take a moment to ground your experience. Bring your attention back into your breath. Allow yourself to feel the fullness of your body beyond your bones. Feel the air on your skin. Take in the sounds and scents and colors around you. Take a moment to note what you have experienced in a journal so that you ground this new knowing into your being, whatever it is.
And, finally, take a moment of gratitude for the consciousness and wisdom held in your bones.