Yoga is for everyone!
Neutral Pelvis is one of the most important alignment cues in my teaching and personal practice. In previous posts we talked about the few alignment points one needs to pay attention to have a safer Yoga practice and to be more confident doing Yoga at home. We discussed neck and shoulders, and now we are moving on to the pelvis.
Our daily lives and genetics predispose us to certain deviations from neutral that can contribute to tension and weakness of the postural muscles. Some of us have the tendency to tilt the pelvis forward (anterior tilt), some of us are used to tucking the pelvis under (posterior tilt), and some of us shift our pelvis forward on top of it. Knees lock and the entire structure is so off balance that pain sets in.
Neutral pelvis mean that navel and pubis are plum and level with each other, and whatever lumbar arch materializes as a result - that's your neutral lumbar arch. There may be small variations in people based on unique anatomy, but generally navel level to pubis is a good guideline to follow.
From neutral pelvis everything else will be easier to align up or down the line. Granted, if your posture has not been good for the last X number of years, neutral pelvis will be difficult to find, its application mysterious, so here I am putting the rundown of how to find it.
- Begin standing. Observe your usual posture. Do you have a lumbar curve? Or maybe too much of it? Do you slouch and is your head forward? Or do you instead thrust your chest forward, flattening your upper back? How about tension in the neck, upper and lower back? Where do you feel the weight of your body in your feet? Towards the big toe mound? Or towards the outer heels? Also observe your breathing. Do you feel the breath move your lower ribs? Where? Front of the body, back of the body? Or maybe your lower ribs don't move at all, just the upper chest a little bit? Make mental notes.
- First one needs to unlock the knees when standing. When we lock our knees, it is more difficult to control the pelvic tilt as it becomes locked into either flat back or sway back.
- Once the knees are unlocked and the legs are straight, you can begin to reach the tailbone towards the pubic bone and the pubic bone towards the tail bone. Begin by actually moving the pelvis, tilting forward as you reach the pubic bone back and arching the low back, and tilting back as you reach the tailbone toward the pubic bone, rounding the low back. See which one of these movements seems more ingrained, easier in your body. Reach these two bones towards each other with equal amount of effort. Whatever was the harder bone to move, focus on moving that one. Stop moving your pelvis when you feel the pelvic floor between the two bones naturally lift and tone, and your lowest abdominal muscles also naturally firm up. You are probably close enough to neutral. Also, you will feel the weight of your body shift in your feet towards the back slope of the arch of the foot - the spot where your shin bones are pointing. Make sure your legs are straight, but you are not locking your knees!
- To finish, reach the hip points in front of the pelvis towards each other, pulling the lower belly in and up slightly, and at the same time reach the top of the sacrum in towards the belly, again - with equal amount of effort. As you pull the belly in, do not flatten the low back, do the opposite - create a bit of a lumbar curve (but not too much!). Stop when you see your navel and pubis line up plum to each other. You should be in neutral. It should feel as if you have a ball of energy in your belly, rotating up the front of the body and down the back, rooting you through the tailbone without flattening your lumber curve. You have the most naturally occurring low belly tone in this position. Every step you make in neutral pelvis works to strengthen your core, whereas every step you make NOT in neutral pelvis weakens it instead.
Once you create neutral pelvis, see how it echoes through the rest of your body. If you generally stand with your pelvis tilted back and the lumbar curve flattened, you will need to shift the shoulders back to set them over the hips, otherwise it will feel as if you are falling forward. If you are the opposite, and your exaggerated lumbar curve has now become normal and neutral again, you will need to adjust the shoulders too, to avoid falling back. Shoulders naturally want to be over the hips, so if you habitually tilt the pelvis back and lock your knees, your shoulders probably respond by shifting forward for balance, rounding your upper back, giving you slouchy posture and head forward look. If you sag in the low back too much, your shoulders can go either way - too far back, thus flattening your upper back (thoracic curve), or too far forward, exaggerating that upper back curve (kyphosis). Neutral pelvis corrects the shoulders almost automatically.
Now, when your shoulders have aligned with your hips, notice if that changes the quality of your your breath. When you have equal amount of space around the entire circumference of your lower ribs, you can begin to engage the diaphragm for breath, allowing the lower ribs to expand equally in all directions, including your back body. The chest should feel open, yet soft. The weight of the body should shift into the bones, so that the very outer muscles can relax, while the innermost muscles, closest to the core, can now be activated. It gives you a sense of lightness and relaxation, standing like this becomes effortless.
The mind soon follows with a feeling of joy, optimism, and peace, while you look confident, full of positive energy, at least an inch taller. Now, who wouldn't want to have that all the time? Find that golden middle in your body.
There is more, however, the profound effect posture has on the breathing (and breathing, in turn, on metabolism and digestion), which I discuss the matter in greater detail in my article Take a Long Breath Out. Read my articles on Neck Alignment and Shoulder Alignment for a more detailed look at that.
And last but not least, with proper posture in neutral pelvis, the joints in your body are better aligned and wear out a lot less. You can work hard and play hard and walk away from accidents that would otherwise devastate a body that is poorly aligned. Like a well oiled machine, the body hums with luminous energy in a good posture.
I continue this subject a little further in another post, Fifty Shades of Neutral Pelvis, meanwhile, watch my video on the difference between neutral and imprinted and how it applies to core activation in Asana and every day life.