How many hours a day do you spend in your car’s bucket seats? Slouching on the couch? Slumping at your kitchen counter’s bar stools? Hunched in front of the computer? If you’re like most people living life, it’s quite a few. The good news about all this hunching, slumping, and slouching is that your body is already really good at a two common Pilates maneuvers—tucking the pelvis and flexing the spine. On the other hand, how many hours a day do you spend arching your back and popping your ribcage forward to counteract all that hunching? Then tack on the number of hours spent practicing  backbends like upward dog, wheel, and camel pose in yoga class to reverse the slumping from the day. It all adds up to your body being able to do two things: flex the entire spine or extend the entire spine.

A lot of yoga classes start with a simple warmup called cat/cow- which involves flexing and extending the spine.  Many Pilates classes teach pelvic bridging and roll downs which involve only flexing the spine. So if you do Pilates and you start to embody that shape as your daily posture, you might be pretty good at tucking your pelvis like Elvis and rounding your spine like the hunchback of Notre Dame. Or maybe you’re really good at backbends but continually thrust your ribs like Mary Lou Retton long after your “heart opening” yoga practice has ended?

When people who are doing all the “right” exercises yet still have pain, their body blind spots are often the culprit. When I look at the kinds of movements my clients and students are doing, I sometimes find that the exercises they’re practicing a lot—because they’re so good at them—are actually reinforcing the same postural positions they hold all day long in their daily life and in their fitness routine.

Which side of the fence are you on? Are you Elvis with a tucked pelvis— really great at roll downs and roll ups in Pilates? Or are you a back-arching, booty-popping Beyoncé—a master at urdhva dhanurasana (wheel pose) and ustrasana (camel pose)?

Perhaps you’re good at both: you can flex your WHOLE spine or extend your WHOLE spine.  But herein lies the problem of differentiation: most people can’t flex their lumbar spine while extending their thoracic spine, and most can’t extend their lumbar spine while flexing their thoracic spine.

Challenging yourself to break out of the box of your established movement patterns can help get you out of pain and improve your posture. On Friday, I’ll get down to the nitty-gritty with an exercise I happen to love called the WAVE. It’s great because it forces people to do the opposite of what they’re good at, whether that happens to be tucking your pelvis and flexing the spine or arching your back and sticking your bum out.

Here’s what you’ll get out of the WAVE:

1. YTU ball placement is used to help locate bony landmarks in the front and the back of the torso. The breathing strategy fosters a “rest and digest” response that establishes a calm environment to explore body blind spots.

2. The wave-like pattern of movement helps establish new neuromuscular connections for students who have only experienced cat/cow pose or the traditional Pilates bridge using flexion in both directions.

3. Awareness of the interconnectedness of the diaphragm, TA, multifidus, and pelvic floor.

While a backbend may be easy for some, are you able to engage in multidirectional spinal articulation?

While a backbend may be easy for some, are you able to control your spine in every position?

One thing the WAVE is especially good for is becoming much more aware of spinal articulation, the ability to exert muscle control over a particular part of the spine while revolving back and forth through flexion and extension into what’s called undulation.  I started teaching this exercise when I noticed that many of my students had difficulty differentiating their pelvis from their spine, and their lower back/lumbar spine from their ribcage/thoracic spine. Many complained of back pain but were unable to pinpoint where it was coming from. Thanks (no thanks!) to stiffness, weakness, and/or imbalances in the spinal muscles, my students found it challenging to engage in multidirectional spinal articulation.

The lesson here is that you need to pick exercises that you aren’t good at and that may be frustrating. If an exercise is so ingrained you can do it in your sleep, then there are going to be a multitude of other types of movements that you need to do to challenge your motor control. If it is too familiar and comfortable you may be on the road to a repetitive stress injury.

With spinal articulation it’s not all or nothing—undulate a bit, and explore the spectrum from Elvis to Beyoncé and back again.

Come back Friday to see how to do the WAVE!


Get Therapy Balls to improve flexibility.

Learn more about neutral spine here.

Read more about core strength.

Trina Altman

Trina Altman E-RYT 500, is an Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher trainer, STOTT PILATES® certified instructor, and a graduate of YOGAspirit Studio's 500-Hour Yoga Therapy Program. While at Brown University, Trina took a Kripalu yoga class which ignited her passion for the practice. She teaches weekly Yoga Tune Up® and Pilates Tune Up™ classes throughout Los Angeles, and trains yoga teachers in anatomy and in Yoga Tune Up® across the country. She is an Rx Series teacher trainer for Equinox, is on the faculty of Kripalu, one of the nation's premiere yoga institutions, and is a regular presenter at yoga and fitness conferences such as ECA, Yoga Alliance, SYTAR and many others. Trina's teaching fosters body cognition and self-discovery, firmly grounded in anatomical awareness. She builds bridges between the mystical and the pragmatic, and specializes in helping others to access their body’s tissues and their heart’s purpose.

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Mariana Espinosa

I really liked that you wrote about dissociating the parts of the spine, particularly during flexion in one part and extension in the other one. We are constantly moving just in one direction with our spine, whether we do it while moving (for example in Cat/Cow) or in a static way, so incorporating this new movement choice in a conscious way can be really challenging and also mind-opening. Also, I really appreciate the last words, to do more of what we are not good at and try to do less of what we already know. Great reminder! Thanks.

María Kiekari

Im a fan of spinal waves, but when i started to bring them into my practice It was frustrating at times because i could not move my thoracic spine, not that now i can a lot but at least i know my blind spots.

Suzanne Boivin

Very complète on spine undulation

Mélanie Roy

Thanks for the article. Indeed, our mind prefers to work in its comfort zone, but when we deprogram it is the human body that rejoices.

Colleen Flaherty

“But herein lies the problem of differentiation: most people can’t flex their lumbar spine while extending their thoracic spine, and most can’t extend their lumbar spine while flexing their thoracic spine.” Just tried doing this and had to think A LOT! A fun new practice! Additionally, I love how you said people are good at the moves that reinforce the posture they live in all day long. Some instructors think this is a good thing and praise their students but if we’re not challenging them to do the opposite of their normal, are we creating well rounded strength and optimal… Read more »


Elvis or Beyonce? Let’s work towards being able to consciously do them both. So many of us can’t differentiate our pelvis from our spine, the different sections of our spine, or our ribs and shoulders from our spine. And how we practice- ribs out? pelvis tilted forward? – is how we move through life and reinforce our patterns. The WAVE is a great technique that moves beyond ho-hum cat-cow and wakes up the whole spine.


Wheel is my favorite and it comes easily to me, that being said, it is not a natural instinct to want to engage the core in this position. I tried it and was able to move further into the posture than ever before.


I love the point you made about students not being able to differentiate their pelvis from their spine. I find a lot of beginners I work with have that same problem. I’ve taught cat/cow before with blocks on my students pelvis’ so they can attempt to move without moving the block. I think there is such a desire to “look” like the pose rather than move the right muscles. It’s how it feels not how it looks!!

Jess Blake

After about 10 years of yoga practice, I am a Beyonce. I notice that it is very challenging for me to flex my lumbar spine and I have a hard time, reigning in my front ribs. I am looking forward to practicing the wave to uncover my “blind spots”.


In the YTU training I learned to activate my tubular core while doing dhanurasana. This is a pose that is very accessible to me since I have an accentuated lordosis. It’s not a natural instinct to want to engage the core in this position since I tend to focus so much on getting the bend. I discovered as I allowed myself to learn it and do it another way that I actually went further and with no pinch in my low back. The posture felt great! Creating the wave ondulation of the spine on all fours is quite a challenge.… Read more »


It was during my YTU Level 1 training that I realised that I reinforce the same/comfortable postural positions in my daily life and in my fitness routine. Thanks for reminding me that I need to get uncomfortable with my practice. Can’t wait to try the WAVE!

Julie Cadorette

Love the title of your article; I couldn’t help but read it! Thank you for explaining that spinal movements aren’t limited to global flexion or global extension, but that we can control different parts of the spine. I’ll practice the wave!


I’m pretty sure my ribs are slightly thrusted and my pelvis is posteriorly tilted. I can backbend for days but my spine doesn’t like to round and I’ve lost my thoracic and lumbar curves and have a slight reverse cervical curve. I’ve been retraining my body from years of pulling shoulders back and swan diving forward in forward folds and am learning how to not move into my full ROM in backbends. I like the fluidity of the wave movement and have been integrating it a bit into my classes – it’s a great way for students to experience where… Read more »

Evelyne Linder

I needed to read this! For years I thought I had great posture but recently I have realized that I have been thrusting my ribs and that my thoracic spine is frozen to my shoulders! ;-(
I’m going to head over to the other article you mention and start practicing the spinal undulation.

Gail Portrey

Great reminder that what is uncomfortable can be a great teacher. Keeping connected proprioception, listening to your body and exploring can lead to a stronger and better functioning body. With the help of one of my teachers, I have corrected an overly posteriorally tilted pelvis.


I never thought of it like that, what a great way to think. I always felt the poses I avoid are the ones I need the most. Those tend to be the poses that show my weakness. Now I embrace those pose to work on. I used to have some sticking points in my spine. Between Pilates and yoga I have a more mobile spine. I can’t wait to work with my clients on the wave.

Linda Rigell

I agree with all you have said about how our habits are creating pain in our bodies. 40’years of yoga have taught me this. Oh, how I can do what looks like a beautiful back bend and it feels so,good. I’ve also got a fantastic rib thrust as payment. No more Back ends for me. Have to opt out of those “heart openers” in yoga classes. ?

Mairin McCracken

I love the concept of having body blind spots. I think this is especially true for our back and pelvis, since we don’t have eyes in the backs of our heads! In yoga and dance we often practice in mirrored rooms and focus so much on what we see in front of us. I will definite take on the challenge of finding my own body blink spots and moving toward building more strength in my spine rather than always back bending. Thanks, Trina!

aniela eva

Yes thats the challenge. Practice what you’re not good at or where you cant move. A good reminder with reasons why.

Linda Brown Arrandt

This post was great. I really like the Elvis & Beyonce analogies. I think this points out that we need to look at our own body blind spots more closely. I realize why I do not like to do certain exercises and do others so well. It will be helpful for students to find their awareness of their own postural positions they hold in their daily living and exercises. Having a greater awareness is important to tweaking your body (sometimes ever so slightly) to make profound changes for overall postural health and pain erasure. I liked how you said, “When… Read more »


Thanks Trina! I am both elvis and beyonce, however i do have a hard time isolating movements flexion and extension at the same time. Looking forward to try The Wave. Awareness is definitely only the beginning.


This post is such a helpful reminder of a couple of important concepts for me. 1) If a pose / movement feels comfortable for you, while it may feel “comfortable,” it may not be what your body needs. i.e. Get out of your comfort zone with some movements as they are probably what your body needs. 2) The spine and it’s beautiful curse and movements — don’t take them for granted! While I don’t have lower back pain, I do occasionally have mid back issues, have mid back sensitivity and when I begin to focus on where my thoracic spine… Read more »

Amie Alapeteri

Thanks for this blog! So true, you spend the entire day hunching and then you try to reverse that by spending weekly yoga sessions in extension! I’ve realized, while taking YTU training, that we must find neutral. We absolutely need to educate ourselves and our students.


Well hello there, and thank you for this lovely blog post. It is certainly interesting to think some of us are attracted to Pilates because of more ease in flexion, and others drawn to Yoga because backbending comes more naturally. This is true I’m sure for some people, just as certain bodies excel in particular sports and find themselves honing in on these pursuits. It’s a bit of a survival-of-th-fittest story I suppose. Then of course these movement habits, or natural proclivities as they were, are super developed while other skills fall by the wayside. How we suffer for our… Read more »

Alexandra Duncan

I greatly look forward to learning the WAVE and more about spinal undulation. For years I have been damaging my spine with different activities and was always an avid backbender. Due to my lordosis they always came easy to me and when you are young you just dont feel the pain. As I am getting older I am paying the price and need to learn strategies on how to undo my patterns and retrain myself. Your article shows that you can practice the best of both worlds, Yoga and Pilates and have a healthy spine.

Ali Bell

As an Elvis who could also backbend I have realized after a year of back pain that it wasn’t because I had good articulation throughout my spine but just that I had made my lower thoracic area hypermobile to make up for the lack of movement in the lumbar area. The WAVE is a great way to bring the awareness back to my back!

Christina Summerville

Thanks for this article! I am having fun learning YTU and finding my own body blind spots with help from the instructors! And I am really looking forward to helping my clients do the same as I incorporate YTU into my practice. We can all help our clients so much more if we don’t let them stay in the comfort zone of movements that they are used to doing all the time!

Martine Kerr

I’m a total Beyoncé. Too many attempts at landing gymnastics routines as a kid or trying to stretch myself to appear taller than my slight 5’1″…I don’t know what the culprit is…but I do know that living in my anterior pelvic tilt feels oooh so normal for me. In my kettlebell sessions, I make a point to bring awareness of my own compensations to my students to help them understand that not being ‘perfect’ doesn’t make us bad people. Just people who need to be mindful of our habits so we can reap the benefits of working on them. I’m… Read more »


Thanks for the article. I like the way you point out the difference between global spinal movements versus more isolated movements. Having recently been introduced to the spinal undulation move it has lit up a number of body blind spots for me and with this awareness I can begin to work toward improving my spinal mobility which will be beneficial in all of my yoga poses as well as my daily activities!

melissa Harris

Great article! I appreciate the bringing to light that just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it. As you say, it’s important to pick movements that may be more challenging to find blind spots in the body. Doing my Yoga Tune-up training has definitely pointed out a lot of my tendencies and blind spots. It’s challenging both physically and mentally.


Having been a student of dance and many yoga classes and also in chiropractic training, there was a lot of emphasis put on pelvic tucks, so I practiced this unknowingly for many years until I didn’t have a lumbar curve. Then recently a friend of mine began teaching restorative exercise where a lot of emphasis is placed on an anterior pelvic tilt And the light came on! Of course we need it and in chiropractic of all things you’d think they would be teaching it. But as you say Trina, they are stuck in the ghetto of a tucked pelvis.… Read more »

Soo Kim

It is so true what you say about blind spots. I also realized that I reinforce my daily routine in my yoga practice. For example, Ustrasana is the bane of my existence. I dread it. I have to mention that I work in an office all day, sitting mostly reading emails, verifying reports and records. So you can imagine how short my psoas get after hours of sitting. Even setu bandha is challenging, let alone Ustrasana. It feels like I’m tearing something inside my spine so naturally I avoid it. I dont’ like how it feels in my body. Besides,… Read more »

Praveena Chinthaluri

Absolutely love the WAVE. Being a Pilates and Yoga practitioners and instructor I have learnt to do the Elvis and Beyonce very well. But flexing the lumbar spine while extending the thoracic spine, and extending the lumbar spine while flexing the thoracic spine is a skill that I am going to have add to my tool box.
Thank you,

Michelle Artman

Good article. I will be back to see the WAVE and see if it is the same as I teach in my Yoga classes.


Such a fun read and definitely true for me! I’m great at full spinal extension and full flexion, however isolating and articulating flexion and extension at the same time in the three sections of the spine is a big blind spot for me. Awareness is only the beginning! Will try these bridge therapy ball exercises.


This is interesting because I’ve always considered myself someone who has a flexible spine, only because wheel is a relatively easy pose for me. But that doesn’t actually mean I have control over my spine, I now understand. I’ll try be aware of individual pieces of my spine and engage in spinal articulation now. Also – love the Elvis and Beyoncé analogies!

Helen McAvoy

Looking forward to doing the WAVE Trina! This is so true how we get comfortable in our box of daily movement and patterns that lead to injury. thank you I love the light being turned on from another perspective!!!