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Reflection: The Sacrum and Being In Charge

September 27, 2011

I’m putting the finishing touches on my workshop, Sacral Movements – Sacral Moments, that begins this Wednesday evening, click here for info. The sacrum is the king pin, or keystone, of the skeleton. One of it’s primary jobs is to distribute the weight to the pelvis and hips, thereby taking the strain off the spine and allowing us to stand upright.

There are joints on either side of the sacrum, you’ve heard of them, the sacro-illiac joints, where the sacrum attaches to the pelvis. Some people think the sacrum moves in those joints and some people think not. Some describe 35 muscles being attached to the sacrum, others name 45. One thing it seems everyone agrees on is that the sacrum plays a vital role in our stability and ability to move.

In addition, there are many different strategies for how to work with the skeleton to create more comfort. Many of those strategies are about stabilizing the sacrum or strengthening the muscles around it or relaxing the muscles so they don’t pull on the sacrum. As you can imagine, the remedy you apply depends on your theory of how the sacrum works.

The differing opinions led me to think about my 30-some years working within the medical-rehabilitation system. The ill patient goes to the doctor, the doctor makes a diagnosis and prescribes a plan of treatment. The patient follows the plan of treatment and hopefully gets better. But sometimes he or she doesn’t get better. Sometimes there is still a problem that prevents a person from doing things in life that he or she needs and wants to do.

But what if we decided that we could take care of ourselves? Not to avoid doctors, we will need them from time to time. But what if we could take on the job of prevention and self-care. What if we could access the information within our patterns and movements and learn to know ourselves in such a way that we could keep ourselves on a wellness path rather than on an injury path?

One day, a woman called to see if I could help her. She was in her 60’s and had lived with serious pain for well over 15 years. She had kept thinking things would get better until one day she could hardly walk up her stairs. She finally acknowledged that she was not improving. She was scared about the quality of her future life and she wondered if she could come in for a few sessions. As we talked and I began to share how I worked, she informed me that she was scheduled for major spinal surgery in two weeks time so she couldn’t come in right away. I wish I could tell you she came in to see me and then avoided her surgery, but that’s not what happened. I never met her. I was left with a feeling of sadness that the woman had suffered so much.

I wish that more people knew about and could learn the preventive power of the Feldenkrais Method®. In my preparations for my sacrum workshop, in my free association in thinking about everything from the sacrum to sovereignty to self-care, my own bias becomes clearer — that everyone should learn to ask questions and hone attention skills that will become their early warning device for situations like the one above.

My bias comes from my conditioning and learning as a child. I grew up the daughter of a working-class family in a small town in southern Oregon. We primarily lived off the land during my very early years and our parents taught us to be respectful but ask lots of questions. We were to ask why. We were to wonder and inquire. My brothers and sister and I became resourceful problem-solvers and we are to this day.

That attitude has carried over into my thinking about my classes. I teach Feldenkrais® classes because I believe it is never too late to learn to take care of the self. It is never too late to begin a quest to retain balance and resilience and flexibility. You can’t prevent aging, but you can age gracefully, elegantly, and comfortably.

I can definitely say that my students and I are on a path of inquiry, to unlearn and then re-learn. We believe we can manage our own comfort but that doing so usually involves letting go of what we most often do. Once we release our vice grip on the-way-it’s-always-been-done, we can experience change and softening and opening. We can find new ways of sitting, standing, and walking, and enjoy the improvement in the quality of our lives.

It’s amazing to watch and amazing to teach, whether it’s about the sacrum or posture or walking or running. I am enthralled . . . yet again.

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