Holy Bones, Part III • 3 August 2007

This past April first, I picked a water bottle off the floor and felt a rung fall out of the tensegrity sculpture that is the low back. A shot of tension, direct to the left quadratus lumborum. Ping.

(Interpretive interlude courtesy a teacher-friend.)

>> April Fools of all days. Hmm. the Fool is the 0
>> key in the Tarot Arcana. It is connected with
>> revolution, genius and sudden and unexpected
>> change.

For months I’d been doing a practice that ended at Durvasasana and then went straight to the calf or knee-grab in the backbending scene. Might’ve had something to do with it.

(Interpretive interlude courtesy wikipedia)

“Durvasa is an ancient sage, who was known for his short temper. Maledictions or curses he gave in his rage… ruined many lives. Hence, wherever he went, he received great reverence from humans and Gods alike.”

Through the first of June, everything was chaos and tension. Insanity. The Q-L made a fist and just wouldn’t let go, the kidney beneath (according to my masseuse) became crazy-inflamed, and a second fistful of tension coalesced and stalked all over the place, from the erector spinae to the psoas. It spent two weeks high under the right shoulderblade, for no good reason at all. I practiced first series for a month, negotiating with the tension, as my spine turned into a cartoon of a piano keyboard dropped off a cliff. In May, I edged back into second, and in June with the storm mostly pacified I broke down and got some bodywork. One brilliant session of acupuncture, and then a cycle with my chiropractor, who moved the L-4 and compensating T-5 about two miles back to center from opposing directions.

I got back into the full program, and that’s when I could see clearly that the foundation was off. I don’t know when the movement took place, but the sacrum had somehow shifted toward the back of my body. And it was tending to spiral to the left, which left the right side of my body even more stable than usual, and the left confused.

(Insert your preferred interpretive interlude here.)

UHPadangusthasana is half rock, half jell-o sculpture. This is the case even when the pelvis appears aligned, in that the crests of the ilium are balanced. There is a little piece of pure pain, the size of a lemonhead, resting in the inner left edge of the sacrum itself, maybe just alongside on of the false vertebrae. This isn’t in any of the S-I joints, I don’t think, but rather just sitting there sucking on the edge of my halfway-evolved ancestral tailbone. I don’t feel it when I bend forward or back, but rather when I stand on my feet, purposely bear down hard into the ground, and go looking for sensation. It hurts a lot, but only on command like this. Bizarre.

As a side note, it might useful for one or two people if I wrote about the difference, for a woman, between bearing down in the pelvis and pulling in and up with the pelvic floor. A friend and teacher put this into words for me last week, pointing out that a woman’s pelvis will separate (SI trouble, anyone?) if she bears down into it, and that lightness and lift are found when she does the opposite. I’ll come back to this later if anyone asks.

Meanwhile, the lumbar spine and the whole pelvic complex, really, have restructured around the shifted sacrum. It’s a new body in this sense, and I’m not sure how to operate it. In bending my back, it doesn’t hurt (and the lemonhead of pain doesn’t light up): it simply doesn’t move. (By ashtanga standards, that is.) Before April, dropping back into a backbend with the feet parallel beneath the hips felt normal, and nice. It was about working the rotation of the thighs and the energy in the balls and arches of the feet. Now, the same movement feels like a drama, mostly because the low back does not participate the way it once did. Aah, she went off to college and forgot all about me and never writes home. In kapotasana, whereas as going straight into the ankles and walking to the calves was once the protocol, I now drop to the heels and leave it there: this clarifies that the last 3-4 inches were previously coming all from the lumbar spine rather than the thoracic. So maybe leaving kapo at the heels from now on is a good idea no matter if realignment happens or not.

In any case, the recent drama and fear around backbending are obvious to anyone observing. I am, they tell me, a transparent girl. A month or so ago I started facing up to the closing backbending sequence, the first time with another teacher. When I hit the floor about a mile from my feet on the last dip and walked in no more than a palm’s length, she was perplexed. I came up and she asked about pain. “No,” I said, “It just doesn’t move.”

Well, that’s where you start. We kept at it, mostly because she kept me honest. The main teacher returned and I continued to face up to the back body, even though I was not enjoying it and I rarely do anything I don’t enjoy (shallow owl). God he gave me a serious look those first few days, but after a bit we re-found the lightness there.

Telegram to the sacrum: come back home, will you?

Well, the sacrum started talking back. I have always avoided any kind of snap in the S1-L5 joint, envisioning a new line of bone dust shaved off my skeleton, and a backbend or three subtracted from my lifetime, with each pop. But the first few cracks of the sacrum this time around were phenomenal, and as my teacher predicted I actually came not only to accept, but to expect, the snap. The first one was on a Monday around the solstice, and instead of the usual electric shock it hit me like a sedative. I drove home in a stupor. The next couple of weeks the sacrum went through its chatty toddler phase, moving around and drawing attention to itself all day. These days, S1-L5 sounds every few days, quietly.

But still, it hasn’t really shifted. Or, it has and it hasn’t. Maybe it’s taking the plate-techtonics route and I have to wait a few more eras for observable change. I don’t think I’ll get the satisfaction of a dramatic recovery on this one.

Last week in jest I told the Editor—scientist, materialist, de-facto atheist that he is—the list of indications of a misalignment in the first and second chakras. Because the thing is, I’ve had some utterly bizarre hangups this summer, mostly having to do with family bullshit and dissatisfaction with the shape and size of the investment portfolio, and various annoyances with our apartment. All things that never get to me. The next day, in just and yet dead serious, the Editor asked me to do whatever it takes to realign “the pelvis.”

Sometimes it’s the most mundane, practical experience that makes you a little bit of a believer in the interpretive side.