embodiment etudes

short somatic studies applied to yoga

Month: December, 2011

integrating foot to pelvis

by julee snyder

We have now explored many of the key anatomical points from the foot to the pelvis and how they relate to yoga asana. We began balancing how we distribute the weight through our feet noticing how our choices, or habits, translate further up the body.  Today I will begin to highlight certain key relationships of the foot to the pelvis.

These connections come from the Body-Mind Centering work.  First, the sole of the foot is related to the iliac fossa, or inside bowl of the pelvis; and the top of the foot is related to the back surface of the pelvis.  The big toe relates to the pubic bone.  The second toe relates to the sitting bone.  The middle toe connects us to the hip socket, he fourth toe to the ischial spine and greater sciatic notch, while the little toe relates to the sacroiliac joint, the PSIS, and the posterior iliac spine.

A great place to feel many of these connections is in bridge.  Come into bridge with all of your weight on the outside of your foot.  Notice how there is little support for the front of your pelvis and all of the strain goes into the back of your pelvis.  Now do bridge again with all of the weight on the inside of your foot.  What do you notice?   Do bridge with the weight equally distributed through the foot and notice how this balances the inside and outside of your ankles, knees, hips and thighs, as well as the front and back of your pelvis.  Continue to explore these connections in all of your poses.

When looking at the pelvis and the pelvic floor, we began to see the significance of relating each side of the pelvis to its respective foot.  The dome of the foot, the plantar fascia, is related to the pelvic floor on that side of the pelvis.  When ever one leg moves forward that side of the pelvis anteriorly rotates at the pubic disc to accommodate the movement.  If the foot externally rotates, that pelvic half flares outward.  Keep exploring the connection of each foot to its respective pelvic half.

Also keep in mind that within each of the limbs, there are many spirals.  But for now focus on the relationships of periphery to core.

Happy practicing!

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the pelvic floor

by julee snyder

The pelvic floor is one of the many doming structures in the body that provide horizontal support.  The above picture is a view of the pelvis from below.  It shows the four key bony landmarks that form the diamond of the pelvic floor.  At the top is the pubic bone, actually two pubic bones with the pubic symphysis between them.  To each side of the horizontal line are the ischial tuberosities, or the sitting bones.  And at the lower end of the vertical line is the coccyx or tail bone which is the very end of the spine.

Take a moment to sit on a piece of paper.  Lift up one sitting bone and touch it with your finger.  Find where it would sit on your paper and place a dot there.  Do this for the other sitting bone.  Place your pen vertically right in front of your pubic bone and place a dot on the page.  Do the same for the very tip of your tailbone.  Come off of your paper and draw lines between all four of your points.  Then draw lines running from sitbone to sitbone and from pubis to tail.  Label your drawing.  Where you have lines, there are muscles.  Wherever there are muscles, there is the possibility for movement.

Take a moment to look at the pelvic floor muscles for both the female and male anatomy.  Notice the similarities.  Notice the figure eight shaped muscles that runs from pubis to tail and encircles the pelvic openings creating sphincters.  Notice too the large muscle that fans from the coccyx  out toward the sitting bones and under the more superficial muscles to attach to the pubic rami.  This is the primary doming basket structure of the pelvic floor.

Below is a sequence to begin waking up the pelvic floor.

Get into a comfortable all-fours position.  Find the tail bone and begin to explore movement initiated from this place.  Don’t isolate the movement, but rather allow it to ripple through your spine.  Continue for several minutes.  Then move your attention to your right sitting bone allowing movement to begin from here.  After several minutes of exploration, bring your awareness to the relationship between the right sitting bone and the tail.  Let them move towards each other and away.  Let one initiate and the other follow.  Let it become a playful dance.  After several minutes.  Do the same sequence on the left side.  Once you’ve completed the left side, expand your awareness to include both sitting bones and the tail.  This is the back half, or back triangle, of your pelvic floor.  Let the three points move in toward each other and then spread away from each other.  Notice what kinds of movements or asana this facilitates.

Now do the same for the front triangle of the pelvic floor.  Begin with the pubic bone.  After some time, go to the left sitting bone.  Then relate the two to one another.  Go to the right sitting bone.  After some time relate the right sitting bone to the pubic bone.  And then bring all three points into your awareness.  Gather all three points together and then let them spread away from each other.  Notice what kinds of movements or asana this facilitates.

Then begin to balance the back and front of  your pelvic floor.  Let that balance inform you as you do different poses and exercises.

When you are ready, you can then break the pelvic floor up into its right side and left side, exploring in exactly the same way.  Once you have woken up the right and left triangles of your pelvic floor, begin to relate them to their corresponding legs and feet.  Let this inform your practice of asymmetrical poses allowing the left pelvic floor and pelvic half relate to the left foot and leg, and the right pelvic floor and pelvic half relate to the right foot and leg.

Remember, practice makes practice.  Happy practicing!

the pelvis

by julee snyder

Let’s take a walk around your pelvis and identify some of the bony landmarks.  Start in a short lunging position.  Bring your hands to your hips, the big arc at the top of your pelvis.  These elephant ear shaped structures are the ilia and your hands are resting on the iliac crests.  Pick the side of the forward foot and begin to walk your fingers along the iliac crest until you come to the bony point at the front.  This is the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS).  Now walk along the hip crease to your pubic bone.  You are now walking along the inguinal ligament. Many muscles pass underneath of it.  Place one finger at the pubic bone and another at the ASIS.  Halfway between these twp points, under the inguinal ligament, is your hip socket. See if you can find it.

Now return to your pubic bone.  If you walk towards the center you will feel a little divet; this is the location of the pubic symphysis.  Walk back to the pubic bone and follow bone, to the side of the gentials, along the ramus, until your land on your sitting bone, or ischial tuberosity.  From there you will make a diagonal, poking through flesh to feel the sacrotuberous ligament and possibly the greater sciatic notch.  Continue up to the sacroiliac (SI) joint, where the sacrum and ilia meet, and then to the posterior iliac spine, where the iliac crest begins on the back of the pelvis.  Now find all of those same points on the other side.

Most people think of the pelvic girdle as one fused mass of bone when actually there is more movement available than one might realize.  I like to think of our having two pelvi, one right and one left, with our spine in between.  Each pelvis meets the sacrum at its respective sacroiliac (SI) joint.  This joint is in part a sliding joint and in part a rolling joint.  While it was meant for stability, there is some capacity for movement.  It is stabilized by a mass of ligaments that are often strained in yoga.  The two pelvic halves meet at the pubic symphysis at the front midline of your body.  This allows for quite a bit of mobility.  The two halves can slide up and down in relation to each other, inflare and outflare, as well as rotate one anteriorly and the other posteriorly in relation to each other.

In yoga, we are often taught to square the hips, but let’s dissect that concept a little further given the above information.  Here’s the first idea: the hips are only ever truly square when both of the legs are doing the exact same thing.  Remember, a previous concept, wherever the foot goes so does the pelvis.  So as long as both feet are doing the same thing, both sides of the pelvis are doing the same thing.  As soon as one leg moves forward and the other one back, perfectly square hips no longer applies.  But there are stages of its deviation, so let’s look at those.

Stand in tadasana and feel your hips square to the front.  Now step your right foot back into a short stance lunge with the back knee bent.  Most people can keep their hips perfectly square, with some effort, in this position because the right thigh has not begun to tilt its ilium forward yet.  But as soon as you take a longer stance or straighten the back leg, the hip extension reaches its maximum, pulls on the iliofemoral ligaments and begins to tilt the right ilium forward.  It’s the movement at the pubic disc that allows this to happen without necessarily altering the left pelvis.  In fact the left side may posteriorly tilt slightly as a counterbalance to the right side.  But we don’t practice warriors with the back heel lifted, so go ahead and roll it down, but pause for just a moment.  Remember that the foot and pelvis go together.  So when you externally rotate the back foot down into its 30-degree angle, you are also going to outflare the right pelvis by about the same amount to avoid torque in the knee. To maintain the square to the front shoulder position in warrior one, roll the belly and the ribs toward the front in opposition to the rooting back leg and pelvis.  Yes, there is a mini-twist inside Vira 1.

Now what about warrior two?  I like to begin this study from wide mountain pose facing the side of your mat.  Turn your front leg out and your back leg in about 30-degrees.  Notice that this immediately turns the hips slightly.  Allow it!  Doing so allows the front of your hips to stay soft, deepens the bend in your front hip for poses like triangle and side angle, and protects the front knee.  I know this is in opposition to what many of you have learned as squaring your hips to the side wall, but let that instruction go for awhile and try this instead.  Even out the horizontal alignment f your hip sockets so one is not lower than the other.  And bend the front knee over the ankle lining it up to point toward the middle toe.  Rotate your chest and shoulders toward the side wall and float the arms.

Play with these ideas for awhile and let me know what you find.  Happy practicing!