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Got Back Space?

With the 6th hour, or session, of the Rolfing 10-Series, the intention is to establish more space and movement along the back line of the body.

As shared before, we compete every day with gravity’s pull downward on our structures.  And, as the day progresses we tend to pull, lean, collapse, and slump forward.  Think how much the postural muscles of the back of the body are working to keep us upright with our head on top of our shoulders and body so we don’t just fall into a pile on the ground.

Structurally speaking this involves areas like your calves, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, lumbar muscles and spinal erectors.  Any of these tight on you?  Ha!

Get Your Swagger On….

As with most articles, there is always a little anatomy woven in so you gain greater awareness into your body, and an added bonus is impressing your friends at dinner parties when you throw out cool anatomy words! Today we are going to start with the sacrum.

The sacrum is one of the key pelvic bones, positioned between the two ilia, AKA hip bones.  This is the base of the spine, and if you look closely down the center of the picture below you can see what looks like vertebrae, a continuation of the spine, but more ossified and considered sacral segments.  posteriorsacrum

When we walk there is a lot of movement in the pelvis between these 3 bones.  Or, I should better say, there SHOULD be a lot of movement in the pelvis between these 3 bones when we walk.  Many things can cause us to limit the needed movement in the pelvis for optimal function.  Trauma, discomfort, and learned patterns of movement.  Meaning, maybe your were told as a girl that you shouldn’t let your hips move as you walk…and as a boy, well, boys aren’t supposed to have hips that sway side to side when they walk, right?! Please hear that with absurdity in my written-tone.  Oh the cultural influences that impact our bodies from moving and functioning as they were designed to. Sigh…

That being said, you might be wondering what it is supposed to feel like when you walk.  When your sacrum is uninhibited, it ideally has a floating quality to it as you walk–a sway back and forth as your legs propel you forward with your gait.  To sashay.  In looking up the definition of sashay, it is to “to glide, move, or proceed easily or nonchalantly.”  How lovely does that sound?  I want to glide! I can honestly say I don’t feel like I sashay in my walk.  

Rolfing helps in freeing the sacrum from the surrounding hip bones helping to differentiate pelvic movement as well as allowing the spine to easily move, and undulate with fluidity.  You might play with this.  Go for a leisurely walk and draw your attention to your pelvis.  Even just imagining your sacrum having a floating quality to it can help your walk improve, becoming smoother and more glide-like.  Go out and get your swagger on…

11th Commandment…

…Love thy spine, and it will love and take care of you! I mentioned it above, but the spine is also meant to float, able to side bend, rotate, lengthen, compress, flex, and extend.   In a healthy spine, each vertebrae can differentiate its movement from the vertebrae above and below.  Oftentimes we get so restricted in the fascia that it is like our spine moves in blocks, making us feel robotic in movement instead fluid and smooth.

Most people have spines that easily flex and round forward….extension, not so much.  When is the last time you looked up at the ceiling, allowing your eyes to travel backwards, bringing your spine into extension?  The first few times you do this, it may not feel so good, but the more you practice it, you might even notice your shoulder tension starts to ease. We want and need our spines to be movable in all planes of movement.

For those with spinal fusions or conditions like scoliosis, take heart.  There is still opportunity to improve things.  While a fusion prevents movement in the fused vertebrae, there is a lot to be said for bringing relief and openness to the vertebrae above and below the fusion.  Scoliosis can range from very mild to the very severe, but the more we attempt moving in the spine to differentiate movement in the vertebrae (ribs, too) the more opportunity there is to prevent rigidity of lateral curvature to further set in.

Let’s Stretch and Move!

Here are some great stretches, some with movement, that are great for opening up the backline of the body, giving you length, fluidity, and feeling connected throughout your body.

Cat-Cow

catcow

This can be modified to a bench or chair if being on your knees is uncomfortable.  Helpful tips for this stretch:

  • Stack your shoulders above your wrists, and stack your hips above your knees.
  • Fingers should be spread apart; pressing into your knuckles will alleviate pressure on the wrist.
  • Shoulders and hips should be shoulder and hip-width distance apart.
  • Coordinate your breath with this stretch.  Inhale on the cow, exhale on the cat.
  • On the cow portion of the stretch, just let your belly hang, you know, like a cow does!  Look up towards the ceiling and let your tailbone move towards the sky.
  • With the cat, tuck your belly button in towards the spine and imagine a string pulling your spine up towards the ceiling.  See if you can feel individual vertebrae movement. Tuck your head and tailbone.

Good Hammy Stretch

Tight hamstrings can be problematic in shortening the backline of the body.  They attach to the bottom of the pelvis and can prevent good pelvic movement.  This stretch can be modified to a seated position, or with your foot propped up on a step.

Standing-Hamstring-Stretch

Please read the following, because it will change the quality of your hamstring stretch.  The goal is not to reach your toes.  Most of us doing hamstring stretches can touch our toes, but we are accomplishing it more by bending in the spine than actually lengthening through the hamstrings. So here is what I want you to do.

  • Keep your spine straight.
  • Make sure your hips are squared off.
  • Start to hinge at the hips with a flat back.  Feel that?!  Now you are getting a good hamstring stretch.  I would hold for a good 30 secs.

I almost guarantee 100% of you will not reach your toes…unless you cheat!

 

Spinal Extension

Tadasana-Mountain-Pose-Yoga-682x1024

This a pretty simple stretch, but I want to offer a few tips to make it most effective for you.

  • Stand with feet together, or slightly apart for better balance.
  • Bring arms up above your head.
  • Check in with your shoulders, are you wearing them as earrings?  Drop ’em.
  • Now that you are set up, begin reaching towards the sky with your arms, and if comfortable, lead with your eyes and chin drawing a line on the ceiling, getting you into more spinal extension.
  • Don’t push it, you don’t have to go far to get the benefits of this stretch. hold for a comfortable 20-30 secs.

There are several different stretches for the spine and pelvis, but these are a few to get you started!

Have fun!  I hope to see some of your swaggers coming into my office, showing off your floating sacrums!