When I was a beginning student of SI, I asked my teacher Peter, why he had chosen to work on my ankles before fixing my back. His response was that my lower back wasn’t broken, it was just rotated. And that before it could be freed to flex and to extend without rotating, my pelvis needed to be free to pivot at the femoral heads, and my legs needed to be free to ‘hinge’ at my ankles.
He explained that when a person is unable to fully flex and extend any joint, they are forced to rotate that joint. And that the ankle, knee and hip joints need to be free to flex and extend fully before there can be balance and stability in the lower back and sacrum.
After decades of practicing and teaching, I now also understand that before there can be balance and stability in the lower back, there also needs to be a balance between the body’s anterior and posterior compartments. Between the body’s outer and inner layers of muscle and connective tissue. Between the rectus abdominis and psoas. Between the psoas and lateral hip rotators. And between the pelvic floor and the respiratory diaphragm.
And that’s just the structural side. Because I now also know that people need to feel safe and supported in this process – both from within and from without.
Of course, this can be hard to explain to clients who ‘just’ want their back fixed. (And, now, please!) They don’t really want to hear that working on their ankles is an important first step (no pun intended) toward easing rotation in their lower back. That getting the pelvis to pivot and easing rotations of the arms and shoulders will help to ease rotation of their entire back. And that creating a balance between the body’s anterior and posterior compartments, and between the inner core and outer sleeve, will help.
Much as they (and we!) might want one, there is no magic pill. No quick fix.
It’s a process. And its starts with the ankles.