“The heart is the hub of all sacred places, go there and roam” Bhagawan Nityananda

“The heart is the hub of all sacred places, go there and roam” Bhagawan Nityananda

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sacrum

I just got back from floating down The Cataract Canyon on a raft. This trip was great for many reasons. One reason was from sitting in a raft for multiple hours a day and noticing my posture, the posture of others, and the complaints about low back pain. This was a wonderful reminder of how important the sacrum. When the sacrum is balanced in rotation and is going in and up it is a beautiful thing.
The sacrum bone is located at the base of the spine and its job is to transfer the weight from the upper body to the lower body. The way we hold the sacrum in our daily life and in our asana practice is very important and can help us maintain optimum health or can act as a source of lower back pain and discomfort. The sacrum, located at the base of the spine, is formed from five fused vertebrae’s and looks like a downward-facing triangle which is interesting because the symbol of a downward facing triangle represents the unmanifested coming into manifestation. Because of where this symbol is located it is very fascinating and interesting. The flat part of the triangle that represents the direction of the unmanifested is facing upward. If you look at the subtle body energy and the chakras you see that the higher you get up the spine the more transcendental the energy gets. At the crown of our head is where we find the svadhistana, 7th chakra. This is the most mysterious and transcendental chakra and is where Shiva is said to reside. If we follow the downward point of the triangle down we find the muladhara chakra. This 1st chakra that rests at the base of the spine is the most gross, most earth, most manifested energy and is where the coiled serpent (kundalini shakti) lays waiting. (Just an interesting side note: We can see this symbol in the heart of the Anusara logo.) When the sacrum meets the pelvic bone it forms a joint called the sacro-iliac (SI) joint. Most people suffer from low back, SI joint pain, and this is normally caused and can be prevented by the positioning of the sacrum.
There are two main normally misalignments that many people habitually make in their everyday lives. There are also little ways to correct the misalignment:

1. It is very normal to collapse onto one leg while standing. For example, if you were talking to someone and you straightened and put most of your weight on your right leg and stuck your right hip out to the right with a little bend and barely any weight on your left leg. This will cause the right side of your sacrum to push back (because you are collapsing on that hip), this backward pressure and rotation on your right SI joint to go out and get stuck. When I say get stuck I mean your sacrum will be “stuck” is this rotation and will keep the sacrum turned at an awkward angle.

a. How to identify which way your pelvis is rotated: lie on your back, with your knees bent in and your feet on the floor. Gently flatten your lower back to the floor. Keep your feet on the floor and slowly bring your knee to the right, and then a few inches to the left. Feel for a knobby place (the PSIS, Posterior Superior Iliac Spine) around the back of your pelvis. The side where the knob feels the most dominant is the side to which your pelvis is rotated.

b. You can also identify this misalignment with the help of a friend. Turn around so your back is facing your friend and lift up the back of your shirt. Have your friend notice the two indents at the top of the sacrum (you might need to feel around for these). Have your friend put their finger on each one of these indents notice how they are positioned. Then lift up one knee hip level and then do the same with your other leg. Have your friend notice what finger moves the most as you left up your knees.

i. You can help correct this misalignment with the first universal principle of Anusara yoga which is open to grace. When we talk about the first principle we are also talking about the inner body. If your pelvis is rotated away from optimal blue print so if your inner body. To correct this turn your inner body away from the side that you pelvis is rotated, and this may feel very imbalance it is actual balanced and neutral. Having the misalignment in the sacrum has re programmed your body to what “neutral” is however the body is wrong and this new "neutral" is continuing to move the body farther and farther out of alignment. By turning your inner body way from collapse you can “re program” the body so the sacrum is facing straight ahead. Whenever we talk about principles it is important to remember that we are always practicing a combination of the 5 so even though I am emphasizing the open to grace in this situation you still want to do everything else as well. For example if you don’t work muscle energy, engaging the muscles then you can’t maintain the position of the inner body.

2. It is also very common to round you low back causing the sacrum to go out and down. When the sacrum is positioned like this you are causing too much compression on one side of the vertebrae and too much extension on the other. We want the sacrum to be going in and up because this puts a natural inward curve in your back which helps align the whole spine.

a. You can create the sacrum going in and up using the Anusara universal principles of alignment. Inner spiral the thighs, take the inner thighs toward the back of the room or if you are sitting down toward the back of your chair. This should cause a trench like curve in your low back and cause your sit bones to widen. This is great now we want to get the core working to help support the spine so create outer spiral by scooping the tail bone under so the curve inst quite as intense and so you can feel the low belly lift. And way-la! Sacrum in and up. You can reach your hand to your low back/sacrum and you should feel the downward facing triangler-ish bone going in and up to the base of the spine.

I like to imagine my pelvis as a bowl filled with water. And as we have talked about above the positioning of the sacrum has a huge impact on how that bowl is held. If your pelvis is rotated toward one side your bowl will be tilted and the water will spill out to that side. If your sacrum goes out and down, your bowl will be tilted backwards and the water will still out toward your heels. If your sacrum is not rotated and your sacrum is going in and up your bowl will be neutral and your water will be contained. In your daily life and in every asana pose we are working, using the universal principles of alignment, to make sure our bowl/pelvis/sacrum is neutral.

Some asanas categories to work with finding balance in the sacrum:
Asymmetrical Poses where one leg is forward and one is back (lunges, parsvakonasana, parsvottanasana, virabhadrasana, Trikonasana…): in all of these standing poses you want to create that neutral pelvic bowl. Do this by balancing out the outer spiral (scooping the sit bone) of the front leg and inner spiral on the back leg. It’s an asymmetrical pose, so the sacrum will need to tip in and up faster on the back leg side, while it will need to go down and in faster on the front leg side. You can take your hand to your low back and feel the sacrum to make sure it is going in and up, you should have an even lodorsail curve in your back. If the curve is really big lengthen your tailbone toward the earth so the low belly engages.

Sitting poses and forward bends (sukasana, uttanasana, janusirsasana, upavista konasana): for all forward bends, the top of the sacrum must draw in and up before moving past 90 degrees in the pelvis. This is a crucial alignment for the health of the lower back.

Symmetrical poses where the feet are in one line (Ustrasana, tadasana, utkatasana): as a symmetrical pose, this is a really great way to realign the sacrum/pelvis. Use your inner body to balance the rotation of the pelvis. Inner spiral the thighs and emphasize this on the side that the sacrum is rotated toward. Then apply outer spiral and emphasize this action a little more on the side that the sacrum is rotated away from. So to continue our example from above, you would inner and widen your right sit bone out a little more, and you would scoop your left sit bone under a little more.

Prep for shavasana: bend your knees and put your feet on the floor knees over ankles and isometrically draw your heels back toward your sit bones which will create a lodotic curve in your back. Keep the curve as you straighten one leg at a time toward shavasana

Resources:
Yoga nerds notes by Zhenja
Yoga as Therapy, By Doug Keller):
The Anatomy coloring book, by Wynn Kapit and Lawrence M. ELson
static.howstuffworks.com/.../sacrum-picture.jpg

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