A few months ago, one of my original yoga teachers, Donald Moyer, observed my Tadasana. Under his scrutiny, I tried extra hard to perfect my pose. To my surprise, he said, “You’re tucking your pelvis.”
What? If left to its own devices, my body is overly mobile in the lumbar spine. I am a natural pelvic “tilter.” I typically get corrected for too much anterior tilt. Was I overcorrecting?
Donald observed that I was clenching the gluteus maximus, i.e., buttocks, and the external hip rotators. He advised me to soften and spread instead–to correct excess tilt by lifting through the anterior vertebrae. (An aside: “buttocks” must be among the top 10 most frequently used words in any given Iyengar yoga class, don’t you think?)
Since then I’ve changed the way I align my pelvis–by lifting through the core, not by contracting the large, strong hip muscles. Here are a few actions that work for me:
- Scoop the navel in and up
- Slide the anterior face of the sacrum up
- Raise the front hip bones (ASIS)
- Pull the crown of the head up, as if hanging from it
- Draw the shield of L5 in and up (Caveat: don’t try this unless you’re in a class with Donald Moyer)
While I’m correcting my pelvic tilt with a lighter touch now, body workers (such as massage therapists) sometimes still advise me to let my sacrum tilt more. Hmm…
A few thoughts: In poses that instigate lumbar overarching (such as Bhujangasana), I must continue to elongate the lumbar spine and, yes, firmly roll the buttocks down. But in neutral poses such as Tadasana, I should relax the glutes, lift through the core, and be less wary of my natural pelvic tilt.