Did you know that our sacrum has natural regular movement in connection with the spine above, separate to the surrounding bowl of the pelvis.
The sacrum and coccyx which are the lowest parts of the spine are not fused to the pelvis, but instead are connected via strong ligaments. Back in the day they were individual vertebrae and formed the basis of our tail.
Looking up the evolutionary tree, when walking on all fours, a tail helps stabilise balance and allows for a longer jump. It is easy to see that the spine runs from the top of the neck all the way down to the tip of the tail. Along this line, it runs through the pelvis, with the two big ear-like illiac bones resting in contact with the sacrum (shown in red on the diagram) at the sacro-illiac joints.
Movement of the tail physically connects to the health and stability of the spine above the pelvis (such as in the lumbars and thoracics).
As we have evolved and become bipedal, life living in the vertical has reduced the need for a tail. The bottom 4 vertebrae have become tiny and form the coccyx, with the 5 vertebrae above fusing to form the sacrum.
The many ways our sacrum moves
Different magnitudes of movement occur at the sacrum.
- With physical movement (big movements)
Physical movement of the hips, tilting them forward, back & side to side moves the sacrum on a mechanical level via the ligaments and muscles.
- With breath (medium movements)
Every inhalation we take, creates a lift and opening along the front of the body, causing each vertebra to move and gently rotate, with the back of the vertebrae (the spinous processes) moving down and sacrum rocking back, with the opposite movement on exhalation.
- With the rhythmic cycle of cerebral spinal fluid (tiny movements)
Even sitting or lying still, there are micro-movements occurring along the spine with the natural cycle of cerebral spinal fluid. The timing of this cycle occurs every 100 seconds and is essential to maintaining the health of the pelvis.
As a movement therapist working in a number of modalities, movement of the sacrum is key to health. It is great to support and keep high mobility in this area, to reduce lower back pain and optimise flexibility and a sense grounding in the pelvis.
Through Structural Integration or practices such as Yoga & Pilates, physical balance around the sacrum can be improved, through stretching & release of the myofascia.
On a subtler level, working with the sacrum through Craniosacral Therapy it is phenomenal to see disturbance in the micro-movements settle, & to resolve & calm delicate cases of nerve impingement and vertebral compression.
If you want to play – Exploring your tail!
The use of visualisation combined with physical stretches or movement, can be an incredible area of exploration & lead to an intuitive deepening of a stretch. Inspired from the yoga practices of Vanda Scaravelli, Angela Farmer & Anita Lewis, next time you are in a forward bend, sitting on the floor – try imagining a tail. See how long it is, what type of tail it is, and as you stretch forward, it may go 45 degrees down into the ground, take it back to the horizontal, or down to the vertical, or side to side and observe the changes in the stretch, your pelvic position and spine above.
Through this play and exploration, you may find directions for your tail that are very easy, and others that are harder to visualise or experience. They can be the doorway to deepening your practice and opening up new layers of movement.