Written by: Marda Zechiel -E-RYT 500, Health Coach and Creator of Alignment Yoga Sculpt and Alignment Yoga Sculpt Online Teacher Training.
The cue to “tuck your tailbone” in Anjaneyasana (Crescent or high lunge) or Utkatasana (Chair pose) is not a cue that yoga teachers should use to address an entire class. If a person with a tendency toward a posterior tilting pelvis -also called thoracic kyphosis (think cowgirl/boy butt) is told this cue it will only make that tendency worse. The goal is to find a neutral pelvis with core engagement so there is no undo pressure on the lumbar spine. If this goes on for a long time the result is most certainly lower back pain. If a person with a tendency toward an anterior tilt (duck or cheerleader butt) is told to “tuck your tailbone” the cue might be more successful but, again not a cue for an entire class.
Posterior tilt Anterior tilt Neutral spine
#1 Awareness of pelvic tendencies and identifying if there is an issue.
*Empower yourself or your students to understand their tendencies in yoga class.
An exercise to make students aware of Tutorial :Anterior and Posterior pelvis tilting in cat and cow postures. Then, using the mirror while standing can identify if they need to correct an anterior tilt or posterior tilt. Many yoga asanas can be fine tuned if students understand how to find their neutral spine.
In my personal practice I have been exacerbating my posterior tilt by “tucking my tailbone” even more. After practicing this way for 10 years incorrectly in postures like Virabhadrasana II. The following pictures show a subtle difference.
Warrior II with posterior tilt Warrior II with neutral pelvis
I need to check my pelvic alignment every time I come into Warrior II. In my 500 hour teacher training with Inner Power Yoga my instructors (Keri Bergeron and Shakti Redding) helped me see what I was doing and what was necessary to correct this posture in Warrior II. Unless the posterior tilt is as pronounced as mine it is hard to identify in a yoga class unless you are able to work one on one with a student. I believe that helping students identify their own postural tendencies is an important part of teaching yoga. This creates a dynamic experience for students and keeps the conversation, awareness and self-correcting progress continuing in each class.
A few tips/exercises to correct excessive posterior tilt:
My husband points this out to me when I am doing this! And, everyone has probably heard this from your parents “sit up straight”. Try sitting on the edge of your chair without touching the back. The tendency is to start to slouch when you get tired and is encouraged when your back hits the back of the chair. Another idea is to sit on an exercise ball with attention to correct posture and abdominal engagement. At first both of these will get tiresome; when this happens get up and move around a bit. Every day that you are aware of your posture while sitting this will get easier!
Slouch- no core/ C curve Correct way to sit to
Counter posterior tendencies
2. Stretching hamstrings
“Tight hamstrings pull the pelvis into a posterior tilt flattening the lower back.” And, tight psoas can pull lower back into an anterior, arched, lordosis posture”, (Rachel Glowacki)
a. Teaching Uttanasana (Standing forward fold) with pelvic awareness. Check out my tutorial: Uttanasana/Ragdoll - Standing forward fold NOT "Touch your toes pose".
The first time we go through Uttanasana is usually in the form of ragdoll and then bringing this thoughtfulness into all the Uttanasana’s throughout the practice.
Start with feet almost as wide as your mat and bend your knees so as to connect the torso to the thigh bones.
Bring your thumbs to your hip creases and make sure you are hinging from hip crease rather than rounding the lower back to fold over. Feel how this feels with and without abdominal engagement. Engaging the abdominals is critical in finding the hinge at the hips rather than flopping over by rounding the spine.
Once the abdominals are engaged move the torso away from the support of the thighs.
Release the arms to the floor or a block (if reaching floor is inaccessible) - knees are still bent and abs engaged
Bring awareness to the quadriceps and activate by pulling up through the knee caps. Now the front side of your body is active and engaged.
Now is the time to start to straighten the legs. It is not necessary to straighten your legs completely in order to feel the benefits of this pose.
Maintaining engagement you can now grab opposite elbows if accessible or just keep your hands on the block(s) if more support is needed.
Lay on your back and bring your pelvis into a neutral position by moving the pelvis toward anterior tilt direction to find a neutral position. Maintain this space created by moving the pelvis anteriorly throughout the exercise.
Bend your knee of one leg (maintain space)
Then, extend your leg straight up stretching your hamstring and being careful to not flatten out the lumbar spine.
Place your thumbs in each hip crease to prevent movement or rocking of the pelvis
Repeat mindfully 10x and then the other side.
4. Squats and correcting posterior tilt- Performing a Tutorial: “goblet squat” with correct pelvic tilt.
Start with feet a little wider than hip width
Hold one dumbbell hanging between your legs
Send hips straight back with abdominals engaged and slowly lower down as far as you can maintain neutral pelvic position (in this case- before you start to round out the lower back)
5. Tutorial: Alternating between Bhujangasana (Cobra pose variation) and forearm plank holds *Strengthening the lower back and abdominals to fix posterior tilting tendencies.
Start in a prone position and extend your arms forward (Superman) and press into the tops of your feet (so much that the kneecaps lift), firm up your abdominals and pull back arms as you lift the chest of the mat. Hold for 10 - 15 seconds
Make sure to maintain a neutral neck position; meaning the neck is in line with the cervical spine.
Next, go into forearm plank
Clasp hands and push floor away with forearms as you lift into plank position. (if this is too much start with your knees down until you are strong enough to hold with knees lifted) HOLD for 15-30 seconds
Repeat Bhujangasana variation to forearm plank 5X.
Thank you Rachel Glowaki for this amazingly effective sequence.
I hope this helps your practice and yoga teaching. Please feel free to email me with ideas and experiences to correct excessive posterior tilt.