by Dominika Borovansky Gaines
The Diamond is a Person’s Best Friend
Recently I had the good fortune to attend a Pelvic Anatomy lecture given by Lissa Michalek of SomaticAnatomy.com. Rather like a stand-up comedian and dressed in a full-body muscle-imprinted unitard, Lissa went over the bones, ligaments, muscles and fascia of the pelvic floor and torso. Amid bouts of laughter, I had several “ah-ha” moments, which gave me several ideas to experiment with in my teaching.
The first is quite simple: the combined shaped of the pubic bone, two sit bones and coccyx is rather like the shape of a diamond. When sitting or standing (or lying in “neutral”), the diamond should always be balanced on its four corners and face in the direction of the feet.
An anteriorly tilted pelvis has more weight toward the pubic bone and a posteriorly tilted pelvis has more weight toward the coccyx. (A “tucked” pelvis takes the weight back toward the sacrum.) When seated or walking we have the most efficient alignment if the diamond remains balanced front-to-back and side-to-side. When the diamond is oriented in this way, the pelvis is also more likely to be under the ribs, stacking the pelvic and thoracic diaphragms, which allows for more efficient breathing.
Don’t Kegel, Narrow!
Shifting our attention to the common topic of pelvic floor strength, we first need to bring awareness to the muscles of the pelvic bowl. As you can see from the image, there are several layers of muscular tissue. One of the problems with “kegeling” is that it can create an overtightening of muscles that are already tense/short. If you are chronically tucked–and if you spend any time sitting in a car or overstuffed couch, this position is almost unavoidable–it is likely that you’ve shortened the distance between your pubic bone and coccyx. The common Kegel cue to “stop the flow of urine” closes the urethral sphincter; sitting on your sacrum closes the anal sphincter. Assuming that one segment of your pelvic floor is shortened in length, adding more tightening will not make it more functional. It’s important to remember that a muscle that is chronically held short/tight will eventually become slack (like a rubber band losing its elasticity). Pelvic floor health requires a balance of tone in all the muscles.
So let’s consider another way to create pelvic floor support. At the superficial layer of pelvic floor musculature, there is a muscle that spans the distance from sit bone to sit bone. This is the transverse perineum.
To explore this muscle, find a seated or standing position with a balanced diamond and then imagine that you are slightly narrowing the distance between your sit bones by putting just a slight tension in the muscle. This will effectively “narrow” your pelvic outlet. Maintaining this narrowing, bring your attention to the rest of your pelvic floor; you should be able to “narrow” without also squeezing the front or back of the diamond. Your pubic bone is still in front and your coccyx is still in back. As you shift your awareness up, you might notice that this slight narrowing creates an activation of your lower abdominals and a slight upward tug at your sacrum. This co-activation is good as it creates a belt of support around your lower abdomen.
Free Your Femurs
This belt of support also allows for more freedom of movement within the hip joint without engaging the low back. The diamond is at the bottom of the pelvis. Your acetabulum, where the ball of your femur meets the socket of your pelvis, is higher up and more toward the front. This means that your pelvis doesn’t have to move for your legs to move. (It can, it just doesn’t have to.)
Lying on your back with your knees bent, the diamond now facing in the direction of your feet, lift one bent leg at a time, keeping an awareness of the diamond. Does the diamond tip or can you keep it still as you move? Standing, imagine your balanced diamond and draw small circles with one leg. Notice again the position of your diamond as you move.
Finally, take a walk around the room, using the narrowing image for the site bones to create the belt of support. Sense how the pelvis can float over the legs and as you skim the floor as you walk. Now, do a Kegel and walk some more. Can you feel a difference in the tension at your hips? Does it change how you walk? Go back to the narrowing and walk again.
I encourage you to take the Diamond with you. Notice how you sit in the car and on your furniture. Notice how you stand. Notice the position of the pelvis when you walk and add some narrowing. And if you would like more information about the pelvic floor, check out this video.
Diamond + Narrow = Freedom