A female pelvis is structurally more predisposed to instability so it’s super important to know how to take care of them in our practice.
Every body’s body is different and what works for one person may not work for another but I wanted to share what I’ve learned over the years working with some sacro-iliac joint instability in a yoga practice.
Starting with some cues I hear often that don’t necessarily suit the female pelvis:
‘Tuck your tailbone’
‘Square the hips/pelvis’
‘Keep the pelvis still and twist the spine’
‘Keep the pelvis level like a bowl’
‘Imagine you’re in between two panes of glass’
If I am in a class and a teacher uses these cues, I’m not going to be upset or judgy, we all have our passions and interest areas and we can’t know everything! AND we’re often taught this stuff in our teacher training. So please, if I ever say anything that doesn’t work for you in class LET ME KNOW <3 So I can keep learning and growing and being as inclusive as possible.
Keeping the pelvis safe in twists
Twists have been shown to be the main culprit behind SI joint injury because many of us have been taught to hold our pelvis still and move the spine. For example twisted chair and lining up the knees, twisting wide leg forward fold and keeping the pelvis level, seated twists and keeping the pelvis anchored to the floor. What this can do in many is overstretch the ligaments that hold the pelvis to the sacrum as the spine and pelvis move not together as intended but separately.
If you get SI joint pain, try moving the pelvic and the spine together and this can include letting the pelvic roll forwards in a standing side bend.
More info: https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/glute-anatomy-improve-yoga-practice
Keeping the lower back safe, engaging the glutes and protecting the organs of the pelvis
My Well Woman Yoga Therapy training with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli initiated the exploration of the pelvis and posture for me. She explained that the pelvis is not a bowl and the pelvic floor is less a floor and more a back wall. The pubic bones are that join together at the front of the pelvic and intended to support the pelvic organs rather than tucking the tailbone and dumping all of the weight of the organs onto the pelvis ‘floor’ muscles. Meaning that a slight anterior (forward) tilt of the pelvis is quite natural in many women and tucking the tail bone can reinforce poor posture and pelvic organ health.
And then I discovered the genius that is Leslie Howard and her programme Smart Ass, Dumb Ass. She speaks about how chronic tailbone tuckers can predispose themselves to lower back pain and weak glutes.
‘As yogis, we’ve always been taught to tuck, tuck, tuck our pelvis for certain poses’ says Howard, referencing this common yoga-class instruction that leads many students to round their lower and upper backs and flatten their butts. ‘If you tuck too much, your gluteus muscles turn off.” Instead, you want to use these muscles as they were designed to be used, engaged, but not clenched, while standing and walking, or while practicing poses like Vrksasana (tree), Virabhadrasana I, II, III (Warrior I, II, III). When your glutes don’t fire in these situations, you are often relying on other supporting muscles, such as the hip flexors, psoas, and quadratus lumborum in the lower back, to stand, she explains. Because of the ripple effect misalignments have throughout the body, chronic tailbone tuckers often experience pain in the lower back near the sacroiliac joints, where the spine meets the pelvis.’
And finally this article shares on the importance of posture, pelvis and pelvic floor health. Speaking about how we need to walk more, squat more, move more and sit on our ‘sitting bones’ (ischial tuberosities) and not our tails, freeing the tailbone and freeing the pelvic floor.
I’m still surprised that these cues haven’t made it into the majority of teacher training courses and I’m SO hoping they do looking forwards so that women can experience less pain and suffering in their pelvic region.
When I am experiencing SI joint pain, I skip out twists altogether during class and take 5 mins at start/end of class in supported constructed rest, which is usual constructed rest with a brick between the knees and a belt holding the thighs tight to the brick. It helps to realign the muscles and bones of the pelvis using gravity alone and the props help to facilitate a release of the gripping and holding that can worsen the pain.
I’d love to hear your experiences of the pelvis and yoga practice?!
Photo (c). @ellieindyablack