Beginners Core: How to do Pelvic Tilts.
What if reducing back pain, increasing core awareness, and strength. Reducing hip pain and aiding the natural curves in your spine “were” easy to do?
It has been brought to my attention on more than one occasion that we as a society often overlook the power of simplicity. Is it that we are lead to believe that if something isn’t complicated? Or expensive or taught at a fancy center that it cannot truly be helpful?
I occasionally have students mention that they are off to PT for this or that. Only to find that what they are being told to do are the very things they are learning in my classes. And the therapists are amazed at their sense of awareness and ability. Now, this is not to toot my own horn. But rather push my point that sometimes we don’t realize the power of something until we step away from it.
And the same goes for simple movements.
Have back pain? Who doesn’t?
Struggling with your, ahem, pelvic floor? You’re not alone.
What if there was something you could be doing right now to help those areas improve?
Would you be O.K. with the notion that the approach was simple, elementary, small and lacks a fancy name and does not end in a complicated arm balance? Would that be O.K.?
Sometimes to truly take a step forward, we do in-fact have to take a step back, and that is where pelvic tilts come in.
Not in the sense that we are losing ground or less than, but rather that we are in deep need to create a deeper sense of awareness and understanding of our body and how it moves.
Pelvic tilts truly are one of my most favorite moves, and I often think of it as a secret weapon! This small movement packs a powerful punch! That it simultaneously free your lower back release your hip flexors. In addition, pelvic tilts improve core function and awareness and ungulates your entire spine.
I know what you are thinking now, “where can you sign me up” for learning how to do pelvic tilts??
Except as a yoga and movement teacher for over fifteen years now I have learned that one: I was practicing pelvic tilting all wrong. And two: I see many following in my similar footsteps.
Let’s fix that!
There are tons of benefits to pelvic tilting and it SHOULD be an exercise that everyone does regularly. Because you can do it in just about any plane of motion and position.
If you need a list of reasons WHY pelvic tilts are not just good for you, but necessary!
What are the benefits of Pelvic Tilts?
- * Pelvic tilts create a sense of awareness of the pelvic floor muscles
- *Pelvic tilts release sacral (SI joint) pain
- *Pelvic tilts release the femur, tailbone, sacrum connection for more mobility and motility
- *Pelvic tilts help one access and tone the lower abdomen muscles
- *Pelvic tilts release lower back
- *Pelvic tilts liberate the entire spine
- *Pelvic tilts loosen tightness hanging on the shoulders
- *Pelvic tilts release tightness of the inner hips and inner pelvic attachments
- *Pelvic tilts tone the pelvic floor and core muscles
- *Pelvic tilts activate the glutes/buttocks
- *Pelvic tilts increase awareness of the hip-spine relationship
- *Pelvic tilts assist in a deeper breathing and better lung use
- *Pelvic tilts enhance your body’s natural alignment and curvature
- *Pelvic tilts assist your lumbo-pelvic relationship to sit in neutral with less pain and restriction
- *Pelvic tilts improve posture
- *Pelvic tilts help you look taller and leaner
- *Pelvic tilts teach you how to wear your core on the inside of the body rather than the outside
- *Pelvic tilts release the lateral side body
- *Pelvic tilts stretch the abdominal walls from sitting all-day
- *Pelvic tilts release the fascial netting of the lower body and spine.
By now you are wondering how do you effectively and properly practice pelvic tilts?
How To Do Pelvic Tilts:
- Pick your position. You can practice pelvic tilting lying down, standing in a slight chair pose, sitting, or even prone. I think supine is the simplest way to practice and the floor gives you good feedback as to what you are doing for starters.
- Lying down with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, make sure your heels are not too close to your sit bones, when they are too close it inhibits the range of motion for pelvic tilting.
- Find your breath, a deep breath in through your nose and out through your nose to settle into your body.
- Keep your body relaxed for now, INHALE and work to arch your lower back away from the floor, like there was a pin poking you. Do not lift your hips off the ground. Go as far as you can comfortably and keep stretching until your inhale is complete.
- Pause for a moment.
- Now EXHALE and glide your lower back into the floor, WITHOUT squeezing your buttocks together or lifting your hips up off the floor while pelvic tilting.
- Now repeat again drawing a deeper sense of awareness to the movement, between what moves and what doesn’t.
- After a few rounds, on the exhales work to draw awareness and attention to your anal sphincter, with the exhale on the posterior tilt (when you tip back into the floor) work to contract that part of the pelvic floor. Notice what else wants to contract, more than likely trying to do the job for this part of your pelvic floor, especially if you have never used it before.
- Inhale release the anal sphincter. You will notice if you contracted when you proceed to release. Do this several rounds.
- Now mentally move forward on your pelvic floor and work to contract the vaginal passageway or for men the soft tissue behind the scrotum. For many, this will be more difficult, especially if there was trauma (like giving birth) the nerves and tissues may not be connecting back with the brain properly.
- Repeat the process of EXHALE contract and tip back, and INHALE release and tip forward. This will feel more internal. Think about contracting while in cold water, or for men like flexing an erection, women engaging during intercourse. (I see potential practice opportunities to engage your pelvic floor here).
- Now finally move even more forward on the pelvic floor and think about where your pubic bone is and work to contract the lower front belly and pelvic floor on the exhales. This will feel more like pulling inward on the belly, but this time it’s triggered by the pelvic floor not the navel. Think of the action of cutting off the flow of urine or holding when you have to go to the bathroom. Good news, those two actions ask you to use your pelvic floor muscles.
- Repeat tilting trying to engage each of these three areas, all individually, and all together. Notice what is easier and what takes more work.
A few other tips about pelvic tilts:
As you become more comfortable with the movement, especially while lying down. Consider adding in the arms to the movement. INHALE and arch the back, release the pelvic floor, AND reach your arms overhead! STRETCH. Exhale and return back to the floor and contract the pelvic floor.
By incorporating the arms in you get more of a full spinal interaction. Plus, the hip flexors and lower back get even more limelight. Notice when reaching if one arm hits the floor and the other does not. This can easily become a tool for not only teaching pelvic floor activation and releasing the lower back. Which can also assist spinal and fascial assessment as well.
Here’s to happy pelvic tilts!
P.S. Not sure where the heck your pelvic floor is??? >>> CLICK HERE. <<<
And learn about it NOW!
PPS Here is a great video I shot of an entire series of pelvic tilting, core integration, and full spinal release! Because everyone needs a visual!
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>CLICK HERE <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
This video was created because of my yoga former teacher training students,
may you never stop learning.
The Down Dog and Puppy Dog Blog: What You Are Missing
I never really gave much thought to Down Dog. I mean, it was a pose that I could do for the most part. Sure my shoulders were weak, and I felt a bit shaky. Overall, my Dog was down.
Well, at least I thought. I believe there is a part of your brain that stops thinking, opening itself up to learning when we think we got it. That was me in Down Dog.
As my shoulders got stronger to hold the weight of my body, I began to build patterns to get the pose done. Patterns that left me avoiding critical areas that I could most certainly be liberating via The Dog.
A few years after entering into the world of teaching yoga, I soon discovered I was missing some significant aspects of training in the asana department. I mean, I knew the basics. This pose looks like this, so let’s shove your body into that pose. Amen. (insert sarcasm)
An entirely new world opened up to me when I stepped out of the yoga world to learn more about the body. Like really learn about how the body moves, why things happen, why body parts hurt and how to unwind the body with cues and directions beyond “if it hurts don’t do it” and “honor your body.” Which are both beautiful and sound cues, but I wanted to understand? I wanted my students to understand so that they and I could take back ownership over our bodies and start to truly mend injuries and issues that don’t ever seem to go away.
I took training from The Gray’s Institute. From Katy Bowman, Leslee Bender, Anatomy Trains, and got my hands on all I could find from the teachings of Dr. Stewart McGill, to name a few.
I first started to apply these concepts to my practice and saw a remarkable difference — less pain in my shoulders and lower back. The longstanding stability issues in my pelvis began to improve, and for the first time, I truly understood where the core was and how to access it.
There was a time I would walk around the room while teaching and see a student’s shoulders what I now know as “internally rotated.” I’d attempt to grab onto his (or her) upper arms and roll them out. And when they didn’t even move a millimeter, I’d walk away pretending like that was how it was supposed to be. If you are a teacher you can relate. I wanted to help; I saw the issue but didn’t know exactly how to adjust the pose or how to “fix” it. Like why didn’t that work? Why didn’t they move? What was I missing?
A lot of this video is to explain that. One’s shoulders are acting immobile and how to begin to correct this.
The day I was introduced to Puppy Dog in a new way, my entire teachings revolving around Down Dog and shoulder issues changed.
All-day long we sit, we are internally rotated at the shoulder, collapsed in the chest, and limited in mobility between the shoulder and the rib cage. So no wonder when we come to yoga and pop up into Down Dog with little notice and warm-up, we are in my mind (we could be) doing more harm than good.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO
It is my observation that Down Dog and Puppy Dog’s focus is NOT the hamstrings as they often take over the pose. Using cues to press their heels down (which is fine and dandy) and walk their Dog as the first cue in the pose. The focus, first and foremost, is the spine and shoulders, hamstrings, and calves.
Downward Dog is us upside down. And we should approach it in such away.
If your hips are tight before a hippie pose, we work them. The same should be valid for the shoulders.
Meet Puppy Dog Pose. Puppy Dog is not a fancy pose and most often looked at as a modification or lesser variation. But do not be fooled, my friend. Puppy Dog will expose everything Down Dog lets you avoid.
Puppy Dog assertively guides your shoulders and arms into their proper position- external rotation. It’s that fantastic stretch across the upper back and gives you back that full range of motion a little bit by little bit that Down Dog has been allowing you to skip over for all these years.
Puppy Dog gives you that broadening, lift, and support we struggle to find in Down Dog. And when our Down Dog’s spine looks like a macaroni noodle releasing the hamstrings and bending the knees is the action step we want to cue. See, when the arms are at full extension, and the legs everything is pulled to its max and the spine gets caught in the middle. You end up with a rounded back, tucked pelvis and shoulder issues waiting to arise. Oh snap! I didn’t even mention proper leg rotation. GAME CHANGER!
As you will find out in this video, by releasing some of the tension and adequately positioning the shoulders, you get an entirely different experience. One that in my mind is wayyyyyy better than the stuff I was experiencing earlier.
Stiffness, not your issue? Watch the video and find out how to build stability by doing Down Facing Dog and Puppy Dog the right way.
But honestly, whether you watch this video or not. The Benefits of Down Dog and Puppy Dog are out of this world amazing!
Benefits of Down Dog and Puppy Dog:
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Energizes the body
- Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
- Strengthens the arms and legs
- Helps reduce the symptoms of menopause
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves digestion
- Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
- Tones the arms and legs
- Opens the chest
- Tones the arms
- Tones the core
- Releases the spine and back
- Builds strength in hands, wrists, shoulders
Check out Hope’s other blog: 5 Things You Should be Doing to Help Back Pain
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As the creator of the Core Functional Fitness Program, I have over a decade of experience teaching and practicing functionally fit exercise. These 6 Principles are key to truly developing your functionally fit practice.
1. Three Dimensional
In order to do the things we need to in life, we have to move in a multidimensional form. In order to improve our overall health and ability to live and function, our yoga class should too. This involves moving in three planes of motion:
Sagittal, which moves front to back (lunge)
Frontal, which moves side to side (like a triangle), and
Transversus, which cuts the body in half, top to bottom (a movement like a twist or cross of the midline).
Challenge yourself as a teacher or practitioner, and move in as many ways as possible.
When we step onto the mat, we need to take into consideration that gravity is always around us and upon us. Try to play with gravity in as many different positions and movement patterns as possible. See what happens. Especially when it comes to the pelvic core and gravity, we will see the body respond differently. This can be a great way to test and build your balance.
We often think of “dynamic” as complicated or having a lot of moving parts. But dynamic can also be movement using multiple forms.
Here’s what I mean by this: When you step into a lunge, your arms always go forward and up, but what about moving your arms out to the sides or back by your hips? This way, you give yourself a dynamic range rather than always putting your body through the same performance.
Dynamic can also mean moving in and out of a pose at variable speeds and levels, depending on your ability. This type of dynamics can offer the muscles a less stressful way to release, and it gives the mind time to get to know the new body part or range of motion discovered.
It is important to understand that each individual’s needs are unique. Believing that everyone in a class should be doing something exactly the same is not only crazy but also harmful. If we consider men and women, our bodies are drastically dissimilar. Testosterone and estrogen act different on muscles and the build of a person’s body. Bone size, shape, and spacing, as well as tendons, muscles and ligaments, all are very different from men to women.
This seems like a simple concept considering the average person takes a breath anywhere from 21,000-24,000 times a day. The reality is that most people are shallow breathers and, on top of that, hold their breath. If you have the desire to improve your physical body and get healthy, it really needs to start with your breath.
Weak breath flow has a slew of negative consequences, including poor digestion, asthma, anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle cramps, and even pelvic floor dysfunction. So before you step onto a yoga mat, into a physical therapy clinic or a Zumba class, get educated and learn how to breathe; your body will thank you. There are also several breathing meditations that can teach you to tune into your breath and help you grow your breathing practice.
6. Acknowledging the Mind and Spirit
We are not just a body bouncing around from point A to point B. One of the reasons I love yoga is that yoga understands that this physical body is the most superficial form of the self. There is so much more to understand than just what you see physically.
Usually, when you have a physical symptom or issue, that “issue” has been going on for quite some time. The physical body is the soul’s last attempt to get us to listen. When I exercise or step onto my mat, it is just as much a spiritual experience as prayer or meditation, if not more. Because now there is an honoring of the body involved that I have to act on and respect … something that I can very well translate into my everyday life.
If you are interested in growing your core and practicing these principles of Functionally Fit Exercise, practice along with my Core Functional Fitness Course.
Core Functional Fitness – Functional Foundation
- 14 modules of step-by-step instruction as lecture, application, and exercises to be functionally fit
- Certificate of completion and the opportunity to continue toward teacher certification with Hope Zvara
- BONUS 60-page PDF foundational manual for your ongoing reference and application
- BONUS recordings of CoreXpert Q&A sessions with Hope Zvara
- My training comes with a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee!
Insight into Hands-On Adjusting Yoga Students
It’s either a fear or a flow of excitement for a new yoga teacher to be taught adjustments. The often-incorporated step into yoga teacher training’s that teachers are encouraged (with little to no anatomy training) to move a student’s body around with little to no knowledge of their circumstances and limitations.
I have seen a lot evolve over the years as a yoga teacher. And a lot has changed in fifteen years of teaching.
One thing that has drastically changed for me is my involvement with my students on the mat while I teach yoga.
I will admit in my earlier years in teaching, I taught a great class, very soulful, inventive but I was naive. I knew very little about the body and about: how the body moves, should move, and doesn’t move. I was taught parts and poses, I was not taught people. So, to fulfil my yoga teacher training requirements, I learned adjustments.
Moving a person’s foot here, guiding their knee there, trying to gracefully fight against their tight hips to create an experience of “openness” to the level I thought it should be, all based on poses and parts.
Can we just say that this is “not OK!”
By the grace of God, my teaching style has evolved and so has my level of education. I, now, have come to a place as a yoga and movement guide to truly believe that it is not OK to physically touch, adjust, or maneuver a person’s body no matter how much you think you know, during a yoga class.
Think about it, every other person that “adjusts”, “manipulates” or “presses and pulls” on people HAS A LICENSE!
Let me list it out for you:
- Massage Therapists
- Physical Therapists
- Medical Doctors
- Registered Nurses
All need state approved licenses to touch their clients. Yoga teachers do not. And although yoga has a way of making one feel God-like, reality is, they are not. Because yes, yes you can get hurt in yoga. And if by chance someone does, as a yoga teacher, it is best it not be by your hand.
If you are a yoga teacher one thing you can always ask yourself is: “why do I feel the need to make the adjustment”?
I spent seven years teaching yoga teacher training’s and one thing I have changed is how I teach teachers to approach students. And my process is simple:
- Verbally instruct and demo with clear instruction what the student should be doing.
If you notice a student does not understand…
- Verbally specify what the group of students should focus on and point it out on your own body (and possibly ask the entire group to watch).
If you notice that a student still does not understand…
- Verbally instruct & direct 1:1, meaning, go over to the student and from behind verbally guide them and use markers to help them guide their own body where it may need to go towards.
If you notice that student still doesn’t understand…
- Mirror them 1:1, so they see you directly with no distractions and ask them to focus in on a specific area. (NOTE: step’s 3 and 4 can be done interchangeably)
And if by chance you feel multiple students are just lost in translation, call a “freeze” moment for the entire class and take five for a mini breakdown clinic where you can teach everyone step by step in a more interactive way. The above has proved time and time again to be a simple, safe and legal way to help guide your students where you may want them to go. And as always with an understanding that not all bodies move the same way, so you may be asking something of someone that just will never be able to do it, no matter how many hip openers he or she does. ?
I know that during my years of teachings, some of my teachers were disappointed in my later training’s that I did not teach many “hands-on” adjustments, and the immediate need to go out and learn them was very apparent with some of my student teachers, sadly without even having any teaching experience under their belt, perfecting the above.
I have spent more than half my life interacting with people solely on a yoga mat and one thing I have learned is less is more. And when you adapt this to your class, what ends up happening is you facilitate your students to be self-responsible.
You request that they cultivate a sense of self awareness, in that I could move your knee out to the side 100 times and you will still never remember to do it. But if I request your awareness of the maneuver and give you a valuable reason why to explore this and ask you to do it yourself. You will more than likely do it one or two times and remember forever, which may just be another benefit of practicing yoga in a more hands-off way.
I will admit, in my earlier years I had a deep sense of ego-driven pride, when I would deeply move a students’ body and they would respond in “wow” and amazement of the release or challenge I brought to their practice. To those people I pray I never hurt you or manipulated your tissues in a way that caused later issue as if your body wasn’t willing to go there on its own, I should not have brought it there.
Naive to a great deal of the legalities to what goes into being a yoga teacher. My eyes were opened wide when I opened my own yoga studio, and then in running my own yoga teacher training.
Still not on board? It is not uncommon for yoga teachers to not even invest in liability insurance to cover the act of teaching yoga. And if you have liability insurance ask your provider if they specifically cover injuries inflicted by the you the yoga teacher. You may be surprised, they do not.
The good news: Take a load off, yoga teachers! Take a load off in that you are not responsible for your students’ bodies in a sense that THEY are responsible for themselves, something I think we all often forget about in today’s world. On a certain level, we are responsible for ourselves (a little yoga philosophy may help enhance this point).
I’m sure my students wonder why I don’t adjust them much anymore, and the truth is:
legally, I shouldn’t…
physically, I shouldn’t…
mechanically, it’s not my place…
and energetically, one must be ready for change, because if the body is holding on, there must be a reason and while instructing a dozen others in a group setting is not really the place to figure that out.
So, am I saying yoga needs to be state regulated? Not necessarily, but what I am suggesting is that all yoga teachers step back and reflect and ask is it necessary? Is there a better, safer way to help your students? And if the answer is no, then maybe that student should consider a different style of class, a private class or complimentary therapies like massage, chiropractic’s or physical therapy to help that issue resolve itself.
Because what if giving a little less, will actually, in the end give more?
Want to take a class with me? Check out my Asana Video Library.