´To stay young, keep your legs open ´-Yamuna Zake
These were the words repeated by Yamuna Zake during one of the many training sessions in New York. Everyone laughed of course but despite the obvious double entourage insinuated in this phrase, from a mechanical and energetic standpoint behind this tongue and check comment resides an insightful and wise observation.
You are only as old as your spine
As one ages, thanks to gravity and bad posture habits, our pelvis begins to close in on itself which results in a curved spine. You see our pelvis is not just one big block of un-moving bone. It is actually composed of two different parts that come together in various points, namely at the pubic bone and the sacrum. The pubic bone is often an ignored piece of anatomy. When I get clients to figure out where it is and place a bit of pressure on it with a Yamuna ball, there is usually a shocked look of ´what the hell is that?!¨ and ´ooooooh that is weird!!´. These are of course normal reactions when dealing with an ignored body part. The body, like any good friend or lover, wants to be acknowledged and taken care of in all of her glory. Unfortunately, often only certain parts are paid attention to, and in relation to our bodies, these are usually the belly, in an effort to get abs of steel, the chest to get those bulging pecs (or breasts) and/or of course the perfect beach bum. This pigeon holed focus on the appearance of body parts creates a great imbalance in the overall functioning of the body and our levels of mobility and vitality. Imbalances in the body create difficulties in movement and energy flow. This eventually manifests as chronic fatigue and chronic pain found in the neck, hip, back, knees…etc.
This is why Yoga is so healing. It focuses on WHOLE body movement and not just pieces or parts and essentially the fulcrum of that movement and awareness that makes life so enjoyable rests on, in and around the pelvis. This is why the majority of Yoga poses focus on movement around the pelvis. The seat of kundalini energy (life force energy) resides here, resting at the base of the spine around the coccyx and sacrum at the back of the pelvis. Furthermore,the Liver, Gall Bladder, Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Spleen, and Stomach meridians run right along and through the pubic bone, iliac crest and sit bone down to the down to the big toe.
Then there is the famous ilias psoas which runs right through the cup of the pelvis and connects the femur and lumbar spine. This is often called the muscle of soul and when a threat is perceived and a flight reaction instigated, this is one of the first muscles to activate. This is also one reason why runners and other athletes can suffer from lower backpain as well as stressed out office workers (due to stress and long hours of sitting poorly).
In addition to posterior and anterior parts of the pelvis there are also the internal (abductors/pubic to knee) and external connections (IT band/hip to knee) of the pelvis which if blocked up can create hip, feet and knee issues as well as energetically being connected with issues of digestion, gynecological problems, anxiety and fear.
The Pelvis and your Breath
There is also a direct connection with hip mobility and shoulder mobility. I remember a few years back when I was working around the hip with a swimmer who was having chronic neck and shoulder issues. We got in with a ball and started to work with a few Yoga poses to open up the space around the internal and external insertion points of the femur head. After we were done, he sat up and just looked at me shocked and couldn´t believe that the pain in his left shoulder had totally disappeared without me touching it. An open pelvis with moveable connecting parts is not only essential for freedom of movement, but also for freedom of breath. It is yet another reason that 60-70% of all Yoga poses center around opening and aligning the pelvis.
Obviously hip flexibility is important to sit in any cross legged meditative pose, but there is so much more involved than just achieving a comfortable sitting position. When the pelvis is open and the sit bones correctly aligned and firmly sitting on the ground (not tucked forward or put off to one side or the other) than the spine automatically straightens and lengthens up through the top of the skull which then has the effect of lifting and opening the rib cage, which then of course, creates more space for the breath and allows for all the benefits that deep breathing provides such as – slower heart rate, balanced blood pressure, relaxed nervous system and consequently the ability to think and act with the pre-frontal cortex in charge rather than with instinctive fear reactions.
Fountain of Youth: From the inside out
The mechanics of Yoga is not about getting you the perfect body, it is about getting you INTO your body. This of course takes more than just standing on one´s head while watching the daily news. Without awareness, breath and time, Yoga becomes nothing more than a simple practice in gymnastics and can often lead to injury. This is why in Karmuka Yoga every pose is done with awareness, time and silence. Staying in a supported pose for an extended period of time, especially around the pelvic zone, not only allows one to get into the deep connective tissue and fascia surrounding various joints (eg. the hip joint) and muscle groups, but it also gives the practitioner the chance to observe whatever other things, be it physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual blocks that might bubble up to the surface while in the pose.
Taking time to get to know and breathe into all the many points connected to and through the pelvis is guaranteed to not only make you look younger but also feel younger for many reasons. Starting at the pelvis, one improves basic mobility from the hips down as well as directly affecting and correcting posture from the hips up. The pelvic-shoulder connection affects the entire shoulder girdle and ribcage. By working directly with the pelvis, this connection can enable one to improve oxygen intake as well as creating more space and movement through the entire digestive tract. Why do we lean back after a big meal? It opens up space around the digestive tract as well as increases movement of the diaphragm downward. A well working digestive tract means greater capacity to absorb nutrients as well as expel waste. Better nutrient absorption as well as a clean digestive machine results in a clear complexion, an effectively working immune system, reduced instances of illness, higher levels of energy as well as freedom of motion and movement…and are these not the TRUE markers of youth?
Hip openers may not appear to directly address the superficial markers of youth and beauty, but as highlighted above, you now know better. You do not have to go to the Amazon or run off to some hidden mountain find the fountain of youth. It is in your pelvis! Just take a deep breath, sit up tall, spread those legs wide…and smile knowing that you are bending forward towards greater vitality and longevity.
January 18, 2020
Karmuka Yoga Spine & Pelvis Workshop
To learn and feel for yourself greater mobility and vitality in just one session with the integrated techniques of Karmuka Yoga and Yamuna Body Rolling, contact Karmuka Yoga and reserve your place in the January 18th Pelvis and Spine workshop 2020!