bodywork: the pelvic girdle
Last Saturday I found my way to a secret garden (Kingwell Walled Garden, Timsbury) to attend a workshop with Markus Heimpel. Markus is a practitioner and teacher of shiatsu and an important influence in my life. Spending time with 8 shiatsu practitioners was interesting in itself. The day was open to all bodyworkers and I felt very honoured to be invited to work with this group; finding workshops about Thai massage which resonate with how I work is a difficult task.
The day was spent exploring the bony contours of the pelvis, acknowledging the shape, the support and the space it offers us. This was done through touch, discussion and movement. Our attention is often drawn to neck and shoulders to relieve tension. Focusing on the pelvis, I became acutely aware of the tensions in this area. Muscles from the back and the legs attach to the pelvic bones, creating different forces through the girdle. For example, several key muscles of the hip joint, including the gluteus maximus, iliacus and piriformis, insert onto the surface of the sacrum and pull on the sacrum to move the leg. The muscles respond to postural habits as well as active movement. This central part of the skeleton can have a profound effect on our sense of centre, whether we feel light or heavy both physically and emotionally. Its orientation affects the shape of the back, how we carry our head and the motion of the legs from hip to knee to ankle. A slight twist or tilt ripples up through the body to affect the shoulders, again feeding into the neck as our evolutionary requirement to keep the eyes level with the horizon kicks in.
Experiences in adolescence, intimate relationships, pregnancy and childbirth can be held in the pelvis. Those experiences can be positive and/or negative. As a bodyworker, I attract clients with physical issues however it is rare that discomfort or pain is not felt in the mind and emotions. The held emotions of the pelvis need a safe space to be released. Some physical examples of emotional tension you might be familiar with are the tight neck after a difficult interaction or the twisting of the solar plexus when you are anxious. Working with the body gives insight to subtle aspects of a person.
Within the pelvis, an area I do focus on regularly is the sacrum – the keystone of the pelvis. If you place your hand at the base of your (lumbar) spine so the hand curves around your bottom, you will mirror the triangular shaped sacrum in the palm of your hand, tapering down to the coccyx. The joints between the sacrum and the ilium (the winged pelvic bones) are called the sacroiliac joints. Many ligaments bind the sacroiliac joints together tightly to reduce motion and solidify the pelvis. The female sacrum is shorter, wider, and curved more posteriorly than the male sacrum to provide more room for the passage of the baby through the birth canal during childbirth.
The sacrum also surrounds and protects the spinal nerves of the lower back as they wind their way inferiorly toward the end of the trunk and into the legs, including the sciatic nerve.
Taking the time to consider the role of the pelvis in our bodies has reminded me of all the reasons for paying it attention. It can have a profound effect on our wellbeing as it impacts on where we feel our centre, how we walk, how we carry ourselves and find our structural integrity, how we connect intimately with a partner and how we carry our children.
The name sacrum honours this part of the body beautifully so to finish my reflection here are some ideas about the naming of this bone:
- Roman: os sacrum = the holy bone
- Greek: hieron osteon = holy bone; hieron is also a temple, in this case the temple that held the female reproductive organs
- The afterlife: the sacrum is usually the last bone of a buried body to rot. It is suggested that the ancients believed the sacrum to be the focal point around which the body could be reassembled in the afterlife.
- A sacrificial vessel: there is some archeological evidence to support the use of the sacrum as a vessel to hold the sacrifice in ancient sacred rites.
© Yvonne Cattermole