Today’s blog entry attempts to answer a reader’s question about sitting support while also sharing something from my current class. Shawn’s question was about lumbar support for sitting and why I recommend the Zackback sitting strategy that advocates sacral support instead. My reply to Shawn went something like this: For sitting in the car I like to work my sacrum back into the corner between the seat and backrest and then place the Bucky “Baxter” just behind my diaphragm (below the bottom corners of the shoulder blades). The result simulates the support strategy of the Zackback chair. I agree with developer Dennis Zacharkow, PT that the spine is best supported above and below the lumbar area.
After writing to Shawn I realized that he and others might take advantage of the support sensation exploration that I often share with students in my classes. The intention of the exploration is to give you an opportunity to deeply recognize the sensation of sacral support so that your body will begin to crave it.
In the photo at the top, Marisol (kneeling) has her palm on Jacqueline’s sacrum. Your sacrum is the triangle-shaped bone at the very bottom of the spine.
When your sacrum is held in this way you can derive a subtle sense of security. When we cradle an infant in our hands, we instinctively support the head and sacrum. So an early imprint of the sensation of security is evoked when those specific regions are supported in present time. You’ll need a friend with whom to exchange the following exploration.
SACRAL SUPPORT EXPLORATION
Note that Jacqueline (partner A) is following the rules in Chapter 3, Smart Sitting: the stool is adjusted so that her thighs angle downward from her hips, supporting her lumbar spine in a neutral curve. Her pelvic floor diamond is spacious. With smart sitting established, Marisol (partner B) places her palm on Jacqueline’s sacrum. That’s the whole experience--the two of you remain there for at least 5 minutes. Partner B needs to be comfortable kneeling or seated in a way that lets her maintain steady, gentle presence (not hard pressure) at Partner A’s sacrum. Partner A’s job is simply to drink in the sensation of that presence. Partner A can ask for a little more or a little less pressure, and for B’s palm to move a little bit up or down. The process is one of “re-imprinting” this supportive sensation, so it needs to feel “just right”.
Almost everyone who has participated in this exploration with me (maybe a hundred people over several years) has agreed that sacral support feels wonderful--and that it helps the rest of the spine and trunk to rise upward without effort.
Partner A soaks up the feeling of sacral support for five minutes or more and then, when she is ready, she moves away from the supporting hand and stands up. It’s important for the imprinting process that Partner A moves away from the support in her own time, rather than having B’s supporting hand abruptly pulled away. People often report that walking feels different after this exploration. There may be more awareness of the ground, more lift and ease in the whole spine--or both. While walking isn’t really the focus of the exercise, it’s certainly true that having a clear sense of one’s sacrum makes standing and walking feel more stable. The main goal of the exploration is for participants to develop a sensory reference for choosing how to support themselves in chairs. Once you do the exercise, refer back to my answer to Shawn and see whether it now makes better sense.
Because seat designs haven’t yet caught up with somatic experience, we may sometimes have to settle for less than perfect sensations of support. But with body awareness, ingenuity and some props like Bucky Baxter, we can help ourselves to achieve sacral support in most chairs.