By Marilynn Preston, Energy Express
When we humans imagine ourselves “exercising,” we tend to focus on playing sports, working out on machines, going for a 30-minute walk. Yes! All great ways to boost your energy and give your body the juiciness and joy it deserves.
But don’t limit your exercise routine to these big-picture pursuits. There is the outer game – played out on tennis courts and treadmills – but there’s an inner game, too, going on inside every nerve, cell, muscle and bone of your body. And if you’re not playing in that arena of body awareness, you’re missing out on a wonderful, almost magical, opportunity to improve your well-being.
SENSE YOUR SACRUM
Let’s focus on the sacrum, to begin to shift your thinking. Do you know precisely where yours is? You should. Your sacrum – the Greek word for sacred bone, where Greeks believed the soul resides – is holy ground when it comes to the health of your low back, your legs, your everything. It is centrally located at the base of your spine and if it’s not stable, strong and in balance, it can pinch, bite and break you, in the form of a back pain, leg pain, numbness, tingling and worse.
The inner game begins as you connect to your skeletal-muscular self, using an anatomy book for guidance, or learning from a master teacher, or engaging with the detailed images at www.innerbody.com, where you can pilot through the body using 3-D rotating images.
So, zoom in on the sacrum, the large triangular shaped vertebrae that joins up with your hip bones to form your pelvis.
Admire the architecture, front and back, right and left side. Notice how it sits between the two pelvic crests (called the ilium). Now find your own sacrum. Frame your two hands around it. I like to relax my thumbs onto my pelvic bone and flip my fingers around so they are pointed toward my spine, resting on both sides of the sacrum. Hello sacrum. How ya’ hanging?
ANATOMY IS DESTINY
Between the sacrum and the ilium is the notorious sacroiliac joint, or SI joint. The SI joint – the star of many a yoga class – stabilizes your pelvis and lower spine whenever you do any kind of movement. See how important your sacral region is?
And here’s another ain’t-nature-grand fact. When you’re young, your sacrum starts out as five individual bones, or vertebrae. During late adolescence, the five vertebrae begin to merge, and by the time most of us are 30 years old, our sacrum has formed into one single bone, roughly the size of your hand.
Your sacrum is a very strong bone, because it has to be. Besides protecting all the spinal nerves of the lower back, and the entire female reproductive system, the sacrum supports the weight of the upper body as it spreads across the pelvis, into the legs. It also locks the hip bones together on the back and supports the base of the spinal column as it interacts with the pelvis. The bone itself has a spongy interior, and appreciates nourishing fluids.
A HAPPY SACRUM IS A BALANCED SACRUM
Once you focus on the architecture of your sacrum – complex, connected – you’ll understand why having a sense of it makes sense.
How does your sacrum feel when you gradually bend forward from the waist slowly? Or arch your back? Is there tightness? Imbalance? Are there twinges? Self-care begins when you sense and listen to your body, to the clues it is giving you about how it feels, what it needs.
And what it needs in the sacral region is stability, strength and enough juice to keep the nerves that pass through the sacrum moist and happy.
Which brings us back to exercise, and the science of going small, with Somatics training, yoga, qi gong, the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais and more.
Even the best doctors were flat-out wrong when they used to tell people with low back pain to go to bed and rest their back until it got better. The opposite is true. Now doctors will tell you that it’s slow, subtle, gentle exercise that helps ease the pain and promotes healing.
Marilynn Preston is a healthy lifestyle expert, well-being coach and Emmy-winning producer. She is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.