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the sphenoid: find the wings and let your breath fly

Enjoy this exploration of the sphenoid taken from my Field Notes From The Body publication that you will find on Substack. The full version is freely available - take a look.

In my weekly Rise & Shine sessions, we spend time attending to the breath in imaginative ways before leaning into some Quiet Practice. Here are some ideas for somatising the sphenoid that we have explored.

An eagle flying in a cloudy sky


There are some very odd shaped bones in the skull and face, and of them all the sphenoid is actually not the most irregular, in fact it has a symmetry. You will really benefit from a set of pictures of the bone from different angles, or a 3D model to appreciate its form, or animation*.

However, while you are reading this, place the tips of your index and middle finger softly into the dip of you temples, just behind the bony part of your eye socket, and above your cheek bone - slip your glasses off to do this, if you wear them. You are now in touch with the Greater Wings of your sphenoid. Notice the distance between your left and right fingertips to appreciate the wingspan of the bone, and register how each wing arises out of the sphenoid Body located at the mid-point between your finger tips, set back behind the bridge of you nose.

Follow this by moving the tip of your index fingers to locate the joints of your jaw (temperomandibular or TMJ) just in front of your ear lobes. Again, find a sense of the mid point between your finger tips. This will give you an idea of where the Body of your sphenoid articulates with your occipital bone. Here, you might recognise how the sphenoid forms part of the floor of the cranium, and ponder on your beautiful brain floating just above.


The overall shape of the sphenoid bone is bird-like and this is reflected in the naming of its parts. It has a central body, greater and lesser wings, and pterygoid processes (you can see these as the lower limbs of the bird) - pterygoid from the Greek pterugoeidēs: winglike. You might place your finger tips on your temples again and evoke and image of a bird (I like eagle or owl) into your imagination. The sense of bird-like vitality, of true wings and feathers, may change your felt-sense of the bone. Remember how a bird can use the uplift and changing currents of air to fly, to leave the ground, to defy gravity. These ideas can be helpful when you go on to explore your breath.

*Premium subscribers to Field Notes From The Body will have access to my personal Resource Library which includes my Pinterest boards, Spotify playlists, and guided audio and video practices.


Now you have a clearer idea of the location of your sphenoid bone, settle in for some breath awareness practice. As you draw breath in follow its journey done the trachea and bronchi into the lungs, and follow the reverse journey of the out breath. Track the in/downward sensations and the up/outward sensations of the passage of air. Bring into your awareness the accompanying motion of the ribs and diaphragm.

Next, as you draw breath in, guide it under and along the Greater Wings of you sphenoid and then let the out breath fall away effortlessly from the wing tips to the sphenoid Body. Breaths may begin to feel like slow wing beats on a journey to nowhere.

Notice any changes in the spreading of your ribs and diaphragm as you breath takes easy flight.

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