Do you inhabit your pelvis, or is it a numb absence at your center? Curious toddlers and maturing adolescents absorb their parents’ discomfort with the pelvic area. Sexual abuse survivors detour around painful memories stored there.
Cultural rules encourage us to withdraw awareness from our pelvis except during sex, and maybe even then. The pelvis is not only the site of sexuality, reproduction, and elimination. Awareness in your pelvis can help balance your whole body and allow you to move from your center.
You may believe your hips are too wide, or too narrow. You may feel shame about sexual feelings. You may struggle with incontinence, constipation, infertility, or chronic pain.
There are many reasons to proceed slowly and with compassion as you consider connecting with your pelvis. The bony structure of your pelvis provides a neutral starting point for awareness.
Hands on hips
When you put your hands on your hips as if scolding someone, your hands rest on your iliac crests, the upper curve of your pelvic bones. What sensations do you notice as you rest your hands there? You might notice pressure, tingling, warmth, irritation, blankness, or absence.
Our bones, pink with nourishing blood, form living, responsive anchors in our bodies. Pressing gently, you can follow the curve forward to the front of your hips, and back to the base of your spine. Imagine living as that solid curve of bone. What qualities come to mind? To me, that curve feels strong, open, and capable.
Support for the spine
The thick, triangular bone at the back of the pelvis is the sacrum. In standing or sitting, it transmits support from the pelvis to the spine, which emerges from the top of the triangle.
Rest a hand on your sacrum. It might be more comfortable to use the back of your hand. How does that feel from the inside? You might notice coolness, numbness, prickling, steadiness, or nothing. Imagine how it feels to be a sacrum. Do you notice any difference from your contact with your iliac crests?
The angled surfaces on the sides of the sacrum where it meets each ilium form the sacro-iliac (SI) joints. Although strong ligaments keep the bones close together, these are mobile joints. When muscles are tense, ligaments are strained, or bones are immobilized, the SI joints can be a source of low back pain.
Using both thumbs, find the back of your SI joints, often farther apart for cis female* than cis male bodies. You can follow the iliac crests around, or follow your spine down, or ask your intuition to guide your hands. The SI joints might be sore when you press on them.
At the lower tip of the sacrum, we have the remnants of a tail, 3-5 tail bones forming the coccyx. They curve away from the surface of the body, but you might be able to feel the first one at the bottom of your sacrum. Can you bring awareness to your coccyx? These unassuming little bones can come to our attention suddenly if cracked in a fall, making sitting painful for months.
Bones in motion
Allow your weight to settle into your pelvis. If you sit on one hand and rock forward and back, you can feel your ischial tuberosity (sit bone) on that side, at the bottom of your pelvic structure. Like the SI joints, the sit bones are also often farther apart for cis female than cis male bodies. Yours may be wider or narrower than you expect.
On each side, the rounded head of your femur (thigh bone) connects to the acetabulum, a hollow on the outside of your pelvis just above the sit bone. Slowly stand up. Can you feel the bones moving? Now that you are standing, can you feel your pelvis supporting your upper body? What happens if you give your pelvis permission to rest more deeply on your supporting legs? Bend forward at the hips to feel your pelvis rotating on your femurs.
Standing upright, gently tilt your pelvis forward and back. What muscles help you make that movement? How does your spine respond to the change at its foundation? Do you notice any shifts in your feet? Do you have an emotional response to the different positions? Come back to your usual standing position and notice how you hold your pelvis.
In her beautifully researched and illustrated book 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, Esther Gokhale recommends that we allow the top of the pelvis to tilt forward so that the sacrum is higher in the back. If we still had a tail, it would flow out behind us instead of being tucked between our legs.
The tucked pelvic position has only been considered good posture for about a hundred years in Europe and the US. Other cultures have maintained a more structurally aligned good posture with a forward-tilted pelvis supporting a relatively straight back and rolled-back shoulders. How does it feel to allow the top of your pelvis to tilt forward?
Take up space
Now that you have explored the bony structure and motion of your pelvis, take a deep breath and allow the bones to settle comfortably. Where do they want to be in relation to each other? In relation to your feet? Your spine? Allow yourself all the space you need to find ease.
What works for you
As you move through your day, check in with your pelvis. What sensations do you notice as you sit, stand, and walk? When you inhabit your pelvis, you gain direct information about what works for you, rather than relying on external rules.
Eight Steps to a Pain-Free Back by Esther Gokhale carefully describes new ways of sitting and standing to help stretch and relax your back. Read more about the Gokhale Method, including articles and photographs.
Pelvis images modified from Gray’s Anatomy via Wikipedia’s Human pelvis article.
* The cis prefix describes someone whose gender identity matches their anatomical gender at birth. Cis females generally have wider pelvises with a rounder opening, adapted for childbearing.