The Skeleton Dance
In our most natural state we are relaxed and in harmony with our true nature. When there is an accumulation of stress, our body is held in an unnatural way. This lack of fluid relationship within our body can result in numerous imbalances which if not addressed can lead to serious health concerns.
This light-hearted approach to movement uses principles of perpetual motion and relaxation to free up the skeleton. Particular attention is given to lubricating the joints through movement, shaking out the limbs, and laying down the bones into a pose of profound relaxation and stillness. All of these approaches to movement help release tension, increase flexibility, renew the vital life energy and encourage free flowing self-expression.
The Skeleton Dance initially focuses on the following areas in the body: the four limbs, the three pivot points throughout the spine, and the joints. First we establish the four quadrants in the body which consist of 1) the left upper torso and the left arm, 2) the upper right torso and the right arm, 3) the left lower torso and the left leg, and 4) the right lower torso and the right leg.
Figure 3: The Four Quadrants in the Body (A.D.A.M.)
The four quadrants in the body come together in the middle of the abdomen at the navel. This cross section separates the upper quadrants in the body from the lower quadrants and the left quadrants in the body from the right quadrants.
Consideration is also given to the three pivot points throughout the spine located in the neck, behind the heart, and behind the navel.
- The cervical spine in the neck is just below the first and second vertebrae connected to the brainstem and covers the area from the base of the skull to the upper back. The cervical spine allows the neck to move in multiple directions.
- The thoracic spine is behind the heart directly between the shoulder blades and allows the upper body to twist, turn and tilt in multiple directions.
- The lumbar spine, which is behind the navel, allows the lower body to twist, turn and bend in multiple directions.
Figure 4: The Spine (University, Duke, 2004)
The 3 pivot points are located at the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar curves in the spine. These curves in the spine allow the torso to move, bend and twist in various directions.
These three pivot points in the spine also allow for independent and interdependent movement between the upper, mid and lower body. When establishing the four quadrants in the body, the midpoint between the thoracic curve and the lumbar curve separates the upper body from the lower body; the center of the spine separates the left side of the body from the right side of the body.
The four quadrants in conjunction with the three pivot points throughout the spine hold the keys to movement and flexibility in the body. When the four quadrants and three points are lubricated, we experience an increased freedom in the skeleton which allows the limbs to move and swing with ease. When we practice the Skeleton Dance, there is a natural lightness of being that comes over the body.
The four quadrants associated with the torso in addition to the four limbs and the three pivot points in the spine allow for independent and interdependent movement between the upper, mid, and lower parts of the body.
A little bit of information about the mechanics of the body can assist you in purposefully releasing your joints, which will increase the range of motion and flexibility in your body. There are several kinds of joints throughout the body. These include the pivot joint, ball-and-socket joint, the gliding joint, and the hinge joint.
The pivot joint is located between the first two cervical vertebrae, the atlas and axis, located in the joint that joins the skull to the vertebrae. The pivot joint allows for the head to pivot from side to side and up and down.
Ball and socket joints are formed by the ball-shaped head of one bone fitting into the cup-like cavity of another bone. They provide swinging and rotating movements found in the hips and the shoulders.
Hinge joints act like the hinges on a cabinet or door and provide back and forth movement and spiral flex for rotation in the elbows, knees, and fingers.
Gliding joints are joints that join flat bony surfaces. They facilitate sliding, bending, and twisting movements in the wrists and ankles.
The Skeleton Dance is a free-flowing, non-directive, light-hearted approach to movement and fitness. Its purpose is to limber up the skeleton and your vital life energy through moment. It can be done standing up, sitting, or lying down. You can totally mobilize or immobilize your joints depending on what you feel your body needs in the movement.
Simply put on your favorite music and let your body move playfully. There are no specific patterns, sequences or movements to follow. Let your skeleton dance. You can let your limbs hang like a rag doll, bend forward and allow your upper torso to hang and sway back and forth and/or from side to side. You can explore the full range of motion in the pivot points, allowing your torso to twist, turn, bend, and flop. Shake your joints: allow them to swing, move, slide and flow in as many directions and angles as possible. Each time you do the Skeleton Dance; try to explore the full range of motion in your joints. Allow yourself to experiment with the speed and the force behind the movement, switching from fast to slow, from gentle to robust. Balance cycles of perpetual movement with letting your body become totally relaxed and still. (Smith, 1993)
The Skeleton Dance is very individual; the movement is designed to help increase your awareness and compassion for your own body. Every time you do the Skeleton Dance, your movement will increase. It’s not about speed; it’s about mobility, flexibility and relaxation.
The Skeleton dance is gentle, which makes it well suited to people who do not exercise, have a sedentary lifestyle, are overweight, are recovering from an injury, have limited flexibility and/or limited fine or gross motor control. People with chronic pain and individuals who use a walker or wheelchair can also participate in and enjoy this approach to movement. The Skeleton Dance is a safe approach to movement, because it does not put stress on the body, and there is no requirement to perform specific postures. All of the movement is done through relaxation.
It is important that physical activity be enjoyable and tailored to each individual’s needs and abilities. The Skeleton Dance is self-adjusting and therefore can match the fitness and flexibility levels of everyone, thereby fostering success and increasing self-esteem.
The Skeleton Dance can be practiced within a few minutes to loosen up your bones or, when time permits, as a total fitness and relaxation session lasting fifteen minutes to an hour. Regular practice of The Skelton Dance will increase your awareness of the free flowing nature of the skeleton and encourage you to move your skeleton during ordinary daily activities like walking, standing up, sitting down, bending over, or reaching for something. With this increased awareness of the way that you move, watching the skeleton and moving the skeleton can become a practice of mindfulness.