I was trained as a chiropractor and had always seen the body through “chiropractic eyes.” Yet when I started training in the “Svaroopa” style of yoga, all that changed. Up until that point I believed that the base of the neck was the seventh cervical vertebra, the place where the neck met the shoulders. What I experienced during the yoga training was that the spine really was one unit and the bottom of the neck was so intimately connected to the coccyx, a group of usually 2 to 4 partly fused tiny bones that articulate with the sacrum also know as the tailbone, that the tailbone could pull the neck out of alignment.
The position of the tailbone affects the alignment of the whole spine, and more profoundly reflects our core beliefs, our personality and our moods. If you have an anatomically short right leg, the body will lean to the right when you stand. In the same way, if your tailbone is tucked, curled, and misaligned, your shoulders will thrust forward of the midline. You cannot sit on one end of a seesaw without affecting the other. The same is true in the spine.
The tailbone is about the length of your pinky and in a grounded individual it will project straight down between the legs. It is easily palpated. However, when the tailbone is tucked under, it is hard to feel the tip as it is pointing towards the front of the body rather than the floor. Physically, tailbone misalignments can cause anything from knee problems to carpal tunnel syndrome to panic attacks to migraines to incontinence. Muscles from the pelvic floor become tight and weak causing the tailbone to be pulled off to one side creating an imbalance in the pelvis. This sets off a chain reaction; shifting the weight bearing to one leg, causing compensatory muscles like the psoas (hip flexor) to clench in response until eventually the neck is thrown off balance. The weight bearing of the body is shifted from the bones onto the muscles and if the body is misaligned for long periods of time may be a contributing factor to osteopenia and osteoporosis.
The tailbone is intimately associated with the root chakra, the chakra that is associated with our right to exist, to belong and to be here. The tailbone acts like an emergency brake when something challenges our survival. According to Wilhelm Reich, the father of bioenergetics, muscles become tense and later can turn into armor with certain childhood traumas. Anodea Judith, author of Eastern Body, Western Mind, states, “when we feel pain, our natural tendency is to move away from it, shutting down the awareness of feeling.” The tailbone locks forward, pulling the meningeal system tight. When we experience danger or a situation that has all the elements of a past trauma, our energy is drawn up toward the head. We defend against feeling this fear or pain by energetically and physically shutting down awareness of the pelvic region and the lower extremities. It’s a survival strategy. The down side is if we can’t feel our root we become ungrounded, mentally unstable, out of touch, overwhelmed. Our breath and our immune system become compromised.
A curled-under or tucked tailbone means your body is in survival mode – fight or flight. Long soft palpable tailbones will elicit feelings like, I am safe, I belong, along with a sense of being rooted. The root chakra is the first chakra. It is about arriving and stability. When the tailbone is long it translates to “I am here,” “I agree to living on earth.” Based on your emotional state alone, you can probably predict if your tailbone is misaligned or not.
Given the high stress culture we live in, chances are you can benefit from deep core releases in the tailbone and pelvis. One simple yoga pose is to lie on your back and place your legs up on the wall (making sure your back is flat.) Bring one knee to your chest and interlace your fingers around the top of the shin, holding the knee in line with the nipple. Allow the leg to soften under your fingers and feel the femur moving down toward the floor. Breathe gently and become aware of the release in the hip joint. Hold for about a minute and then let your leg go back up onto the wall. Notice the difference between the two sides. Repeat on the opposite side.
There is nothing like the experience of pleasure in your body. The ancient mystics said that an open root chakra, also known as the Mulhadara Chakra gives rise to bliss. We must embody our pelvis and tailbones to feel this bliss or as Alexander Lowen poignantly stated, “without awareness of bodily feeling and attitude, a person becomes split into a disembodied spirit and a disenchanted body.”
When you go to the chiropractor, make sure your tailbone is evaluated even if you have no particular physical pain. Let your tail wag!
Dr.Devorah Feinbloom was voted Best Female Chiropractor in Boston by SELF Magazine. A summa cum laude graduate from New York Chiropractic College in 1983, Dr. Feinbloom has created and led many holistic workshops in New England. She combines light force chiropractic , Neuro Emotional Technique, Transformational Kinesiology, Total Body Modification, body-centered counseling to help the body become more conscious of iteself, to help the body release “locked in” negative emotions and muscle patterns and to give the person the grounding experience of the divine within. Dr. Feinbloom has offices in Boston and Northern Massachusetts.