One alignment cue I hear far too often in yoga is to “tuck the tailbone”. Honestly, it’s one that I’d rather never hear again. Anyone in my classes will know that I get a twitch when I hear it. Why? Because 9 times out of 10 it’s counterintuitive to what we actually need, which is to stop tucking your tailbone in yoga poses.
Anatomy is amazing. I’ve been fortunate that my 200 and 300-hour yoga teacher training was super heavy in anatomy, physiology, and technique. We half-jokingly call ourselves ‘anatomy nerds’, but in reality it’s true. One thing I love to learn about is how our bodies move. And because of this, one thing I am sure of it’s that when standing the tailbone shouldn’t tuck! Read on to learn more or watch the video below.
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5 reasons you should stop tucking your tailbone
Firstly, let’s discuss what a tuck of the tailbone looks like. If you’ve done arch and flatten before, you’ll have moved through these positions: tucked, neutral and arched. Shown below you can see neutral, tucked and arched lie on the opposite extremes. Posterior and anterior tilt of the pelvis.
Secondly, I want to mention that there is nothing inherently wrong with the movement of tucking the tailbone. When it’s needed. And that depends on the PURPOSE of the movement. For something like cat pose, we need a tuck. However, for standing poses like tadasana we need to embrace the “S” curves of the spine.
Thirdly, most of us already in tucked position for the majority of the day. We sit to eat, sit to commute, then sit more at a desk to work. Even worse, we sit seated in a slouched position over-exaggerating the tuck of the pelvis. So why would we reinforce that tucked position with more lumbar flexion in our yoga. Again, SOME poses need a tuck, the majority don’t! You have to know. what you need.
Tucking shortens the pelvic floor
Tilting the pelvis posteriorly shortens the pelvic floor. While many think that this is a bonus, it’s not. Think of your pelvic floor like goldilocks, not too lax, and not too tight. A chronic short and tight pelvic floor can cause many issues. Such as: tailbone pain, low back pain, pain during intercourse, even prolapse, and incontinence.
Triggers fear/shame response
When we think about tucking the tailbone it’s easy to think about a dog tucking its tail in fear. No surprise then that tucking in humans elicits the same fear response. Tucking the tailbone creates a contracting of the front body, a pattern of fear, shame, and trauma. It’s a tough position in which to feel self-confident and empowered.
Another reason to stop tucking your tailbone is to allow the breath to to be
less constricted. Tucking the tailbone changes the action of the diaphragm and restricts breath. This can lead to anxiety and increase stress as we have to breathe more into the upper chest.
Decrease Glute Development
One major factor in tucking the tailbone is our glutes disappear. Tucking decreases glute development, reduces hip extension, tightens hamstrings, decreases hip extension and changes our natural gait. Instead of hip extension and long strides, tucking causes shorter more frequent steps, and less movement of the pelvis and lower back.
Disrupts lumbo-sacral rhythm
Tucking the tailbone reduces the lumbar curve and in doing so interferes with lumbosacral rhythm. Prolonged “flattening” of the lumbar curve can cause low back pain and degenerative disc disease. It can also alter the position of the organs and causing prolapse. Tucking causes the core stabilizing muscles to lose their focus on stabilizing the trunk and pelvis and instead, the lumbar flexors activate. The whole musculature around the pelvis gets confused and chaotic.
The Bottom line
In conclusion, know what you want from the yoga pose. Be aware that “standing tall” doesn’t mean flattening the lower back. It means embracing the natural curvatures of the spine. Remember, when standing, tucking the tailbone does not create more stability in the lower back. Stop tucking your tailbone.
- Have you heard this yoga cue before?
- What is your natural pelvic position?
- Do you spend a lot of time seated or in the tucked position?