For this month's continuing education focus on thighbones, we're excited to feature the following masterful voices from the worldwide Nia community. Read on to hear what they have to say about sensing mobile support by exploring The Body's Way. Be sure to also register for the September 10th telecourse with Debbie Rosas and special guest Casey Bernstein.

Debbie Rosas, Nia Co-Creator, says:

The thighbone, also known as the femur, is the longest bone in the body. It is an upright, vertical stilt that makes it possible for us to move when it works in conjunction with the hip joint. What keeps us shifting our body weight in a very graceful way is the rocking of the pelvis, which occurs at the top of the thighbone.

Read on to learn more about this body part, and use the following tips to infuse your Nia practice with new awareness and body-knowing:

  • Shift your perception. Think of your thighbone as a pendulum swinging freely from a ball.
  • Sense your bones. Pursue healthy movement of your thighbones by noticing the pleasurable sensation you feel as they hang down and swing. Notice any discomfort and modify your movements as necessary.
  • Recognize conditioning. Move your thighbone in all directions: front, back, left, right, up and down. Move it quickly and move it slowly. The moment you sense your movement making you stronger or more flexible, agile, mobile or stable, recognize that conditioning is happening in your legs! Seek all five sensations: flexibility, agility, mobility, strength and stability. For more information on the thighbone, refer to page 42 in The Nia Technique book.

Charlotte Kerr Jorgensen, Nia trainer, says:

We are athletes in my family–runners and jumpers, wind-sailors and weight-lifters. Our bones are good at ossification (the process of the hardening of bones throughout childhood and youth). With the exception of the occassional toe getting folded under a foot during a sand volleyball game, few of us break our bones. We love to move, walk fast, and stomp our feet. We have “sturdy” thighs, as my father would proudly say.

And so the opportunity to write about the thigh, to examine the roots of my belief about the thigh, and to get to know them more intimately is a gift. The thigh–which is sturdy, ever-present, and solid–is held in the boney suspension of my base, by the femur. I trust them, coming from a line of women and men with bones of steel and thick thigh muscles, who are strong and ready for long walks home.

So, as I pondered the opportunity to write about my thighs, I realized that the thigh is one of my favorite body parts. I like trust, and my thighs are trustworthy. What a delicious kind-to-my-body thought.

Why are they so trustworthy? Let’s examine their structure:

The femur, initiating at the hip joint, knobby and angled, is the largest ball-and-socket joint of my body. I can kick high and swing my leg around because of this joint. At the knee joint, the femur articulates with the tibia to permit flexion (bending) and extension (straightening). If you haven’t read last month’s article on the knee, take a look. It’s a fascinating and wonderful connection to the thigh!

My thigh muscles are used for walking, running and climbing. Anterior thigh muscles are divided into two groups: the iliopsoas and sartorius, which flex the thigh at the hip and the rectus femoris vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius (known collectively as the quadriceps femoris). Whew, finally, a word we are all familiar with–the quadriceps! They are a strong set of muscles that can even be trained to compensate completely for an injured knee.

The major posterior thigh muscles, which consist of the biceps femoris, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus (known as the hamstrings) extend the thigh at the hip and flex the leg at the knee.

The gluteus maximus (our Nia butt) muscle assists with the extension of the thigh during climbing and running. From it the vastus lateralis and iliotibial tract run down the outer thigh to connect with the patellar ligament. Blood is supplied to the thigh by the femoral artery, andis  removed by the femoral vein. The main nerves supplying the thigh muscles are the femoral and sciatic nerves.

I’m developing a deeper relationship with the most beautiful of the thigh muscles, the Gracilis. In Latin "gracilis" means slender. This part runs from the lower edge of my public bone and inserts at the upper part of the inside of the tibia. Its job? To help with pelvic stability and to rotate the thigh and tibia inwards.

There is a theory about intimacy when it comes to our bodies and our Nia Principles. It is relational; we must know the names of our body parts first and then we can learn the ins and outs of them, as our relationship grows.

My relationship with my Gracilis is relatively new. As I understand its slender grace, I have become aware of the grace that is packed into the strength of the thigh--my thigh. It’s not all guts and fierce stability. It’s graceful, stable, and just complicated enough to ask for a deeper relationship through sensation

Tips:

  • Keep your feet in alignment to the front ,as a habit, choosing to rotate in and out only from the hip socket.
  • Take time to review anatomy charts, books, online information so that sensation can be based in relationship to intimacy with my body.
  • Allow grace to penetrate and weave its way into strength moves.
  • If the groin or outer thighs communicate a sensation of tightness, use a foam roller along the fascia lata tendon. Yummmmmm!  

Maria Skinner, Nia trainer, says:

When I was growing up, I would sometimes look at my mother's thighs and wonder if my thighs would look like hers when I grew up. My blood is Italian and of the peasant kind. My ancestors had big hips, and although I thought they were beautiful, I noticed that the world in which I was growing up liked small thighs, boyish thighs. I was growing up in the early '70s in America, when people where just coming off of Twiggy. I read Vogue magazine and all the women pictured in it had skinny thighs, not round ones like my mom.

I looked for exercises that I could do to tone my inner thighs and outer thighs without really understanding the function of the muscles I was looking to keep toned. When I became a mountain biker, I got really strong legs, but much to my dismay, my legs got bigger not smaller! But boy, were they strong. I think I was in my 20s when I came to really appreciate my legs in a new way. These powerful legs took me up Mount Tamalpias, on bike or on foot.

When I started doing Nia, my Nia White Belt trainer said something that has stayed with me. She said that Nia had changed her body's inheritance in that her body no longer looked like those of her family members. As I began making Nia my main form of exercise, and as I used Nia practices to define my body, I noticed that my body was changing from what I had thought I was fated for. My thighs, in particular, took on a longer, sleeker shape.

In exploring The Body's Way, Nia's way of looking at anatomy from the perspective of function and fitness, I learned about the amazing muscles that surround the thigh bone: the hamstrings and the quadriceps, the inner thigh muscles, and the tensor fascia lata. These muscles work in connection with the hip joints and the knee joints to move our bodies through the vertical plane. The thigh bone rises in a slight diagonal direction out from the knee joint to the top of the thigh bone where it angles into the pelvis at the hip joint. The big ball of the hip joint is an incredibly designed body part that gives the hip joint both its mobility and its stability.

The way that Nia guides me to move keeps my legs looking and feeling so beautiful--especially my thighs!

Tips:

  • Love your thighs no matter what. Love your body no matter what. Make any changes from this place of love.
  • Massage your thighs to release tension in your quads and hamstrings to feel taller that you really are.
  • Play on the floor, stretching over your legs in all the Nia stances, using the sit bones as your support base.
  • Shake out your legs to release any extra holding in the leg bones.
  • Use your thighbones like your upper arm bones, to express yourself in your dance.