To briefly review last week's blog : The 3 Gluteal Amigos made up the outside back wall of the tent, the Illiacus spans the inner back wall, the Piriformis - ties in midway, and the Psoas, hangs from trees and swoops through the inside of the tent’s back wall before attaching down in to the rebar. Today, we are going to take a look inside this tent, getting a closer sense of the other structures that lie within, and change metaphors frequently. Because this tent is a portal to alternate dimensions.
Let’s go inside.
First of all, I’d like to present you with the image of a teacup and a saucer. Two separate containers, designed to work together with the express purpose of conveying liquid from one area to another. In a similar fashion, we have two pelvic floors, both in a muscular and a skeletal sense.
The Greater Pelvis, is bordered on either side by the upper blades of your hip propellors, flying high above their body of the sacrum. The deep notch in the back is filled in by lumbar fascia and various muscles, and in the front, the wings are connected by layers and layers of abdominal muscles, and their associated fascial sheaths. This is the teacup, which holds your lower abdominal organs.
The Lesser Pelvis sits below, bordered by the lower blades, made up of the pubic symphysis in front, the ischium ( sit bones) on the side, and in the back, the sacrum and coccyx. It contains your reproductive and eliminatory organs. Don’t you love how our body organizes tasks in to their separate compartments? It’s like we’ve got a kitchen, then a bed/bath combo! ). The muscles controlling this area look like a kite with an infinity symbol overlaid for some control over the currents that pass through. This, we can think of as the saucer, providing an additional layer of support for the tea, holding the cup and its contents as it projects through space.
As far as the muscles themselves, your abdominals insert themselves in to your pelvis. With the outside back and sides, we have the Transverse Abdominals, which embrace your sides before fascially encasing the Rectus Abdominus. The RA deserves its own sentence, originating up at your solar plexus, and attaching to your pubic bone before turning in to the Pubococcygeus muscle, which ( surprise!) connects the underside of your pubic bone to your coccyx ( your tailbone) Making up the inside back line are the Siamese Psoas twins, as they gracefully release your lumbar spine and slide diagonally forward towards the Pubic bone before slipping down and wrapping themselves around your thigh.
Before getting in to the muscles of the lesser pelvis, it’s helpful to understand that there are two types of muscles that live there : striated and smooth. Striated muscle looks like it has stripes on it, and is usually attached via tendons to the bones. Movement control of striated muscle is voluntary ( i.e. you can think about it and make it move). Smooth muscles are under involuntary control, and have to do with parasympathetic function. They tend to surround your organs, in this case, the digestive, eliminatory and reproductive ones. When your body is stressed out, the striped muscles tend to tense up, but the smooth ones relax ( a common reaction to the “fight or flight” response in the body is to eliminate the bowels, which does make running away a lot easier if a big animal is chasing you). What’s the takeaway from this? If you want to have success mobilizing your pelvic floor, you’d better be relaxed first.
So you have muscles that surround your organs, and other ones that hold these lower bones of the pelvis together and control the entrance and exit of various substances/entities. If you consider the variance in size of what enters and exits, you can imagine the potential ability for movement that is available to us down there. Going back to our three qualities of muscular activity ( contraction, static, and extension), it may now seem more obvious why we might want to exercise all three when we get to the pelvis.
Misalignments are common in this area. One only has to imagine the parent with the 2 year old on their hip ( raises hand), the “ lounger” with one hip out and the other leg bent, or the golfer, rotating with impressive velocity consistently to one side to understand that one could ultimately “ train” the hip bones to have one forward and one back, and that the muscles would learn to isometrically hold the pelvis in that position. That, of course, affects everything connecting to it, which in this case would mean your torso and your legs. Your spine extends off of your pelvis and your shoulders also depend on its stability to balance themselves. Your legs come out of it, and for even gait ( balanced walking) rely on their pivot points ( the hip sockets) to anchor their movement. If you imagine the hip bones for a moment as two wheels, and then raise one up and push it forward, you could see that your car would have a hard time staying in it’s lane. Here is a simple exercise to see if this is you:
Stand up. Place your hands on your hips with your middle fingers on the front bones and your thumbs on the back part by the SI joint. Tilt one side forward in to your hand, return it back to center, and then repeat on the other side. If one side feels more comfortable moving in to that position than the other, then most likely your body is used to having that side forward. That will also mean that your spine is happier rotating to the opposite side. i.e. if your right hip is usually forward, your torso will tend to turn more to the left.
I’m going to give you another fun exercise to do while you’re sitting here and reading this. It’s best done on a firm surface for feedback, so if you’re lounging on an overstuffed chair, you’ll want to table this until you’re riding the bus ( or sitting on an equivalently unforgiving cushion).
Rock back and forward on your pelvis about 8 times. Do you feel movement on your sit bones? Try imagining that you are sitting on carbon paper, and look at the pattern your sit bones would be making on the seat beneath you. Are the lines equally dark? Is the pressure the same on both sides? Are the lines of equal length? Now lift one sit bone, then put it down and lift the other one. Repeat that pattern 8 times to let your brain familiarize itself with that pattern. Now stay on one sit bone, and lift the other one up in the air. Slowly swing the sit bone forward and back about 20 times. Then stand up and feel the difference between your two sides. You will most likely notice that standing feels firmer on the side you swung, and if you use your fingers to feel your lower abdominals, that they are tauter and flatter on the side you swung. Now sit down and repeat that on the other side.
As you see, movement is possible, and the more we know about our anatomy, the easier it is to create it. I wasn’t kidding when I called this area a “portal”. The Sacred Geometry going on here is astounding.