We continue this week’s challenge with our focus on the sacrum and pelvis. For background, consider checking out the challenge from last week and the week prior.
This week, we will explore how we can use deep pelvic muscles to move our sacrum, specifically connecting our sacrum and tailbone to our hip joints.
An exercise to develop awareness of the deep pelvis.
First, we will try an exercise to perceive a subtle action within our pelvis (Thanks, again, to Eric Franklin). With your right hand, find your right femoral trochanter (this is the top of your thigh bone). You will place your fingers on the big nub of bone that is beneath your hip bones. Place your left fingers on your sacrum.
Now, with your eyes closed, draw a mental line between your two hands, connecting your hip socket and your sacrum. Continuing with eyes closed, draw those two points together. Envision the muscle fibers gliding into each other, and then release them, letting the bundles of muscle fibers glide out. Repeat the drawing in and letting out four more times.
Release your hands and wiggle around some, how does your hip socket feel now? What is the difference in feeling between your two hips? Stand on your right leg, then your left. How does each side feel? Do you feel a deeper opening in your right hip? Are you perhaps more stable? For the sake of balance, repeat this exercise on your left side, taking some time to perceive how it feels before and after.
This exercise is great to repeat often, and will help you gain both strength and flexibility in your pelvic muscles. Each time you do it, you will also perceive the greater subtleties of your body’s experience. Sometimes I even sneak off to a quiet place at milongas to do this if I feel particularly un-grounded. The result is always an improvement in my balance and groundedness, as well as making me feel more settled emotionally, since the muscles we use here are linked to the parasympathetic nervous system.
Anatomy of the pelvis for the geeks.
It is not necessary to know which muscles you use in such an engagement, aside from the perception that they are deep, rather than superficial (your glute muscle might “activate” toward the end of the contraction, but should not be solely responsible for the engagement).
For those who are interested, however, the muscles that create this action are the piriformis and the illiococcygeus. The piriformis, which is not technically a muscle of the pelvic floor, but in close proximity, connects the front of the sacrum and the femoral trochanter.
The illiococcygeus muscle is a part of the pelvic floor muscles and extends from the ischium (the lower bone of your pelvis, from which your sits bones extend) to the coccyx.
In this image, the piriformis is in the upper left side of the picture in very light pink. The illiococcygeus is the very bright red muscle.
Using our pelvic muscles and sacrum every day.
The challenge, after doing this exercise, is to draw your focus to this area while you are walking and begin to incorporate this engagement on each side of your hips as you transfer weight onto one leg. As you bring your weight onto your right leg, you might be able to perceive, and enhance, this engagement between your sacrum and right hip joint. As you bring your weight off of your right leg, let those muscles relax. Simultaneously, your left side will engage as you bring your weight onto your left foot.
The key is not to forcefully contract this area, but to let it engage to “knit” your sacrum and pelvic floor to your hip joints, stabilizing the hip as you place your weight onto it. I think you might gather why this is important in tango!
Our hope is that, by bringing awareness to our movement and retraining our bodies into healthy patterns of movement, we will all begin to experience beneficial changes in our dance, as well as our lives.