Right now, I’m pelvis obsessed.
My pelvis is top of mind lately whenever I’m walking, sitting or standing – all because I’ve lost neutral. This is no small problem in the world of healthful posture; I’m driving my awareness into the complicated parking lot of my pelvic alignment to reteach myself the natural curves of my spine in hope of avoiding the congestion, read PAIN, in the low back from which more than 70% of Americans suffer from at some point during our lives.
In my case, I plunge my pelvis forward and point the bony structures at the base of my pelvis (ishial tuberosties) toward the space in front of my feet, instead of directing them toward my heels. This is a very common misalignment in our siting culture, made up in large number of folks that further compound the problem by sitting way too much, as well as sitting poorly. We all get very accustomed to the sensation of rolling the bottom of the pelvis under us and sitting too far back on the meat of our bottoms, carrying this position into how we move around the world. This familiarity can play games with perception as well, allowing this misalignment to sneak below your awareness like the background noise in a coffee shop, ever present but unsensed. This habit has some significant consequences, none of which include a healthy low back.
Mary Bond shares in her very compelling book, The New Rules of Posture, that “sitting or standing with a backward pelvic tilt for extended periods of time puts uneven pressure on the lumbar disks, unduly stretches the sacroiliac joints, stresses spinal muscles and compromises the curves of the upper spine and neck.” (p. 62). These are far-flung results of tilting the pelvis toward the back plane of your body – all the way up to the curve of your neck and impacting the stability of the house for your nervous system: your whole spine. Pretty heavy fallout from a potentially unnoticed postural habit.
When the pelvis tilts posteriorly, the head of the femur bone (the big thigh bone) nestles itself into the front curve of your hip socket, often turning your toes out to the sides, collapsing the chest and pushing your head forward. This stance slackens the buttock muscles and shortens the external rotator muscles that live beneath your gluteus maximus muscle, resulting in a sacroiliac joint that can become unstable. As Jill Miller points out in her book, The Roll Model A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body, the sacrum is the “baseboard for your entire spine” (p.85). Who would build a wall above an unstable, tilted baseboard and expect it to withstand the challenges of the external elements? How can you or I expect a tilted sacrum to buttress the spine for the challenges of modern living?
In order to confront the complications of this habit, you must create an understanding of pelvic neutral, discover actions that peel the head of the thigh bone away from the front of the hip socket, and then adopt this stance to provide a foundation for the lift of your spine into its natural curves to sustain mobility throughout your life.
My pelvis obsession has helped me along the path to pelvic neutral and opened up the lanes of congestion or traffic at my sacroiliac joint.
Tune in later this week for a video tip on retraining understanding of where your femur bone points in your hip socket and how that can help you discover pelvic neutral for a baseboard that can bear the many encounters of a busy, mobile spine!
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I feel I have been on a journey of working on neutral spine alignment my whole life. Thank you for sharing this journey. I naturally am in the opposite position, less tuck or posterior tilt and more arch or anterior tilt. I think exploring the mobility of the pelvis though this method along with other teachers that work with anatomical cueing as certainly helped me find a more neutral position without flaring my ribs and honing n on where my ischial tuberosities are in relatio ship to the movement of the pelvis.
This is something I have struggled with my whole life and I too, am “driving my awareness” to posture and pelvic tilt. It is VERY challenging but this article has explained what actually happens to our bones when we sit in the posterior tilt. Thank you for your detailed explanation. I intend to read your next article.
Ooo. I am very guilty of scooping my glute flesh under me and tilting my hip bones up when I sit for long periods of time. I never thought of it as putting pressure on my low back and throwing my pelvis out of neutral. But it makes sense why that prolonged shape would make the SI joint unstable. But I am still not sure why peeling the thigh bone way from the hip socket will help me achieve a better neutral?
Nicely put quote from Mary’s book. There’s a lot to explore with the pelvis and posture is no joke!
Thank you for sharing your obsession. It’s contagious, I have it too!
I love the analogy that the sacrum is the baseboard for the entire spine. I am aware of my continuous need to correct my posture, which ultimately will improve issues (pain and stiffness) in my hips, knees, and low back. Thanks for the insightful article!
Thank you for your article and the resources. I’ve also found Katy Bowman’s work very helpful.
A very good article. I have a habit of backing up to a counter in my kitchen right up against my sacrum and then everything you said happens. I will stop this unhealthy habit at once.
This is such a large problem for modern western influenced society. Our chairs have eve been designed to make you more comfortable in this position only make the problem even worse but it is just that normal! I have lost neutral as well and actively try to adjust, when I notice. The Yoga TuneUp balls are not just good for rolling but I have found them to be quite helpful to rest between my chair and lumber spine at my desk at work or driving to remind me to keep lordosis in the spine. Between strengthening and a constant reminder to sit with a neutral spine, I feel on my way to recovery. Looking forward to reading the follow up post.
Wow– great pose on the negative consequences of sitting with poor posture! I love your sentence “pretty heavy fallout from a potentially unnoticed postural habit”– because that is so true. This should become common knowledge because I think a whole lot more of us with desk jobs would thinking about standing more often and/or just getting up to move around. I wonder if this posture mixed with unawareness has led to many a bulged disks in the lumbar spine.
I had an SI issue after an auto accident years ago. It led to a lot of other issues. Thankfully, I found a modality that reversed the issue and brought stability back to the area. I’m looking forward to seeing what YTU can add to what I am already doing. Thanks!
Read this post after reading “Hip Socket Space, Available Immediately! A step on the path to pelvic neutral”. Should have read this one first 😉 as it provides a more detailed explanation as to why we want to find, work towards and maintain a neutral pelvis. As I was reading it I found myself becoming more aware of the anterior tilt that my pelvis defaults to. I think you’ve made me pelvis obsessed now too!
Awareness has the power to heal and correct the physical imbalances in our bodies. I have yo-yoed with finding my pelvic floor for many years now. This article has reminded me that it requires continuous work to be able to realign your body and to break old habits. It is never to late to make changes and to reap from the benefits of this work. Thank you for sharing 😉
“The sacrum is the baseboard for your entire spine. Who would build a wall above an unstable, tilted baseboard and expect it to withstand the challenges of the external elements? How can you or I expect a tilted sacrum to buttress the spine for the challenges of modern living?”
What a great question, if we always build our poses from the ground up, why would we not fix our base and build our way up!? Such a simple concept yet I never thought of the spine in this way before. I would love to learn more about being able to read the bony landmarks or joints in a persons body to see if their pelvis is level, or if their spine looks healthy. Obviously there’re people with severe issues such as scoliosis that will show right away, but I would love to train my eye to find the more subtle nuances that need correction. I believe my disc injuries occurred over many years until it gave out one day and wish I would have known how to find the imbalances so I could have done the corrective work to prevent injury. Great insight on how important a neutral pelvis is to our postural health!
Pelvis: “baseboard for your entire spine” I have to relook at that page in Roll Model. Thanks for including it in your post.
The ripple effects of a tucked pelvis are many. Thanks for the informative article on why to find a neutral pelvis. it’s also a big benefit to the health of the pelvic floor!
great description of the fallout of a posterior pelvis. You didn’t even go into the very real, and unwanted effects on the pf and voiding and sex! 🙂 Motivation to untuck that pelvis folks. lol Thanks! I’m going to share this with my students.
j ai grandement apprécié cet article merci!
The first step is awareness and from there we have the power to find more information to make adjustments to correct imbalances. Thank you for this wonderful reminder for me to stay focused and discipline in my practice.
This has really ignited my need to explore my pelvis more! As someone who has been suffering from SI hypermobility and a posterior tilting pelvis, I had accepted it as a part of getting older or just a part of my natural gait, not being able to work out how to correct it without having to constantly make conscious corrections while moving through life, which is tiresome. This gives me much more tangible tools to use.
Great article Kate! I too have lost my ‘pelvic neutral’. After years of being asked to ‘tuck under’ in yoga classes, I have become so obsessed with keeping my back long and tailbone tucked that I’ve caused a lot of unnecessary strain. I think as a yoga community, it’s so important that we encourage everyone to explore what is natural within their own bodies since we all have a different neutral, whether it’s the curve of our back or the tilt of our pelvis. Thanks for bringing awareness to this common issue.
I’ve had trouble with my hips my whole life because my femur bones are internally rotated, but I’ve only recently developed a similar fixation on my pelvis as a whole rather than just the hip joints. Now I know what neutral is actually supposed to feel like and how much it’s improved my postures (in yoga and in life) I was wondering how you teach this to other people? Most of what I hear is “if you’re rounding in your spine, sit up on something” which is helpful, but I wasn’t sure if there was more you could say on the subject?
I am also extremely intrigued by the pelvis lately, so I really appreciate this blog. There appears to be a relationship of mysterious mis-perception in reguards to our pelvis and movement and I just love classes or movements that debunk the mystery and reset our “baseboard”. I can’t wait for your next post!
I, too, am pelvis obsessed. Whether standing, performing daily movements, or in yoga class I’m always thinking about the neutrality of my pelvis. I believe awareness is the first step and from there we have the power to find more information to make adjustments to correct imbalances. This is a wonderful reminder for me to keep it up! Thank you!
I’ve been living in an anterior tilt for a while, and I think I have definitely lost the sense of a neutral pelvis. I don’t doubt that it has created problems for me as the tilt was causing me to thrust my ribs and taking my thoracic spine out of its natural kyphotic curve. Thanks for the post and I will definitely look at ways to bring my pelvis back to neutral.
Love this article and subsequent comments. As a former professional modern dancer, I have the typical dancer stance-externally rotated hips and anteriorly tilted pelvis. After having 3 children, I have lost a connection with my upper and lower rectus abdominis as well as having tight hip flexors and upper back muscles. I have struggled with SI issues and found that going deep in hip openers to open my tight hips created more issues for me. Thanks to YTU for assisting me in finding neutral pelvis and keeping my hips and SI joints healthy!
Having a neutral pelvis is something that I am struggling with. I to have been experiencing low back and recently starting experiencing hip pain until I realized that it is because of the way I stand and sit. I constantly anterior tilt my pelvis but I am trying to keep a neutral position. It is a struggle to constantly remind myself to stand or sit properly.
Thrilled by this article. In YTU teacher training right now and have struggled with this all day today. Trying to figure out where my pelvis goes, where my sit bones go, and relalizing that I sit very tucked under on my comfy couch all the time. I love that couch, but it’s hurting my back, hips, etc. Am going to your next blog next and can’t wait to see it.
Put me on the list. I can think of countless times I have caught myself in posterior tilt and posterior shift. I remember I would practice tucking my tail while at work (bartending, so standing a lot) when I was newly practicing hot vinyasa flow. 200 YTT hours later, my low back REALLY HURT. I left so confused and not confident to teach because I was in pain, and I felt that meant I truly had no idea what I was talking about or doing.
Now, I have a hip issue. Still haven’t gone to PT, but I am able to feel the head of my femur jammed into the front of my acetabulum. And I realize, it’s SUPER hard to keep my pelvis neutral. And now I see why it’s so good to do asymmetrical poses (or just one of the amazing reasons)! Connecting the dots…ding ding ding. I’ve had an issue with an automatic external rotation in that hip for years. YEARS!
I also have realized that I have a very hypertoned pelvic floor, and that’s one piece I will be working on regularly. Thank you for your post!!!
I am becoming pelvis-obsessed, by way of wanting to reduce and avoiding further consequences of rounding upper back and head forward sitting. At 71, I recognize more and more how essential good posture is to retaining the strength, balance and capacities of youth. So far, so good, but I am experiencing some inevitable deterioration in these areas which is what is fueling my interest in pelvic position, even though I’m fortunate to not have back pain of any sort. Thank you for this post and I look forward to more.
How would you approach naturally occurring Lordosis? I’ve been tucking under for years!
I’m really appreciating this post! I’m finding that using the Coregeous ball daily to release my psoas is helping to open up my hips so that I can stand taller with my neutral pelvis. Thank you!
I’m pelvis obsessed too! As a former competitive gymnast, I became fixated at un-doing the “duck butt” posture, or the anterior tilt of my pelvis. I over-corrected it with tucking under, which caused a whole host of issues that you succinctly point out. I realize now after much research and self-exploration that my issue probably had more to do with rib thrusting. Finding neutrality in the pelvis and spine is quite the journey, but one I’m encouraged to be on! Looking forward to your videos – thanks!
Great article! I just so happened to find myself reading at the table with a slight posterior tilt of the pelvis. It looks like I have some habits to correct. I look forward to watching the video tips! Thanks again.