The god bone

It was a big weekend with Doug Keller at Sun and Moon, was kicked off with a deep dive into the sacred sacrum or ‘god bone’ as some call it.

So many new things to me, embarrassed to say that at first I thought he was talking about mutation to describe the tip or tilt of the sacrum, but in actuality he was talking about a nutation (the tailbone tips up and lower back arches) and counter-nutation (the tailbone tips down and lower back is in flexion).

We learned to scrub the sacrum – lying on our backs, knees bent and gently dragging the sacrum on the mat upward, feeling the flat portion of the sacrum.

Here’s why it’s important to understand the sacrum and how it works (especially if you are a runner) – it is a point of origin for many injuries (this is my definition, Doug Keller never explicitly said this). If your sacrum is locked and tight, then it causes problems in your hips, spine, knees… you get the drift.

Unlocking it is subtle, quite simply… do yoga. There are many poses that can be helpful in unlocking the sacrum, particularly back bends, cat/cow, twists, etc. But most importantly, draw your awareness to your sacrum by learning to scrub your sacrum and feel your sits bones.

Keller described the sits bones as the little feet in your lower glutes that you feel when you sit up very straight. Movement can help keep the fascia or connective tissue surrounding the sacrum “juicy” (technical term). If it’s juicy, then it can freely move within your pelvis and therefore protect you from injury.

Many running injuries are linked to a chain reaction throughout the body and the key is to find the origin of the injury rather than solely addressing the symptoms. Pay attention to the sacrum and surrounding tissue, fascia or connective tissue throughout the body, and the IT band. While most runners are familiar and aware of the importance of caring for the fascia and IT band, it’s important to include the sacrum for pre-hab and re-hab as well.

Jai Doug Keller!

OM. OM. OM.

right effort

The yamas are the principles of ethical behavior for everyday life in our relationships with others and with ourselves, as written in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Yoga Sutras outline the theory and practice of yoga.

Once you become familiar with the yamas, they grow and evolve with you as your life grows and evolves. When I was first exposed to the yamas, the principle that affected me most deeply was that of brahmacharya, or right effort.

Slowly throughout our lives we’re given lessons that guide us toward right effort, although the natural inclination is to cling, grasp and strive for what we want. Right effort speaks to the habit of stepping back, starting with OM, and easing our way through the journey.

It is easier said than done, just as all the simple yet profound lessons in life.

If you want to feel this in your body, sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. You may want to sit on a rolled up blanket if it is easier. On the exhale, slowly fold forward. This is paschimottanasana, seated forward fold. The tendency in this pose is to strain to reach your toes. The tendency is to strive to stretch as far as you can reach.

Yet this is a relaxation pose. In order to best feel this pose, bend your knees and rest your torso against your quads, then slowly straighten your legs and stop just before you begin to feel like you are straining. Now breathe deep and with each breath, you may find a bit more space to straighten your legs a bit more with each exhalation.

Now forget the pose and feel the experience. Let the breath breathe you and let go. Release. Resist the urge to grasp or cling to what you feel your perfect pose may be, just let the pose be whatever the pose is. Let your body be wherever it is today. Let yourself be.

The feelings that we experience in this pose – resisting the urge to strive and adopting the right effort – is a wonderful metaphor for life as conserving our energy and efforts and focusing on ease and finding more space in the body will help us find the true benefits that we are seeking.

Now apply this to your life right now. What are you grasping for? What do you want that you are not getting? What are you striving for? Step back and start with OM. Let go of the need to grasp.

One of my favorite quotes is ‘what we seek, we are’… I believe it’s Rumi. Whatever you seek in the world, you must first find within yourself before you ever find it outside of yourself. In different terms, if you never find love within yourself then you will never find love in the world. If you never find compassion within yourself, then you never find compassion in the world.

Step back and start with OM. Apply the right effort to whatever you are doing and avoid grasping, clinging and striving. This is what we can learn in seated forward fold, to practice right effort. This is brahmacharya.

move

Establishing a regular asana (pose) practice has enormous benefits for building strength, balance and flexibility. Based on your needs and preferences, you will find poses that appeal to you and work for you with experience.

I recommend attending hatha yoga level I classes first to ensure that you are doing the poses correctly working with an experienced teacher. You may want to shop around and try different studios and teachers to find a class that is most helpful to you.

Based on your training schedule, you may want to aim to practice yoga 2-3 times per week, starting slowly and gently. It is important for runners who have a demanding training program to take a very easy relaxed approach to yoga to experience the full effects. Less is more here. Never strain in a yoga class, as overdoing it can set you up for future running injuries. Never do anything different just before a race or big training run, start slow and gradual as you integrate running within your routine.

Once you have a good foundation, you can access yoga classes online at your convenience. I recommend Yoga Anytime, which offers a trial subscription and offers a wide variety of practices with various teachers.

Over time, you may want to develop your own home practice based on the poses that benefit you the most. While there are significant benefits to attending classes in person, you should be aware that there are options that may be helpful for committing to a regular practice.

Generally, you will want to make sure that you are including poses in your practice that can be beneficial for runners. Once you are familiar, consider the following poses that may be particularly helpful for runners based on individual needs:

• Core poses – Pelvic tilt, cat/cow in table position, bird dog from table, plank, side plank

• Lateral strength poses – single leg/double leg raises, scissoring, running legs from supine position, single leg lowering, side angle pose

• Back strengthening – Locust, locust legs, bridge, one-legged bridge

• Balance poses – Rising and lowering on toes, tree pose, stork/holding one knee in front of body, dancer’s pose, warrior three, half moon

• Inversions – Downward dog, legs up the wall, shoulder stand

[Note: If you don’t know any of these terms, ask me!]

You can gradually incorporate select yoga poses based on your individual needs, below are guidelines to use as a starting point for consideration and discussion with me:

• Hill reps or sprints – Static hamstring, quad, glut and hip flexor stretches, such as runner’s lunge, walking dog, thread needle in supine and lateral side bends

• Long road or trail run – Foot stretches, inversions, full body stretches, six directions of the spine, hip mobilizing movements (talk to me!). If you have difficulty falling asleep, try deep breathing, meditation or relaxation exercises

• Light run – Dynamic cool down such as sun salutation, balances such as tree, strong standing postures such as lunging warrior one and goddess pose

• Rest days – Strong flow sequence to build strength as well as in lateral strengthening poses to restore muscle imbalances. Meditation, breathing and relaxation to disconnect from training stressors and reset your frame of mind