Understanding Pelvic Tilt

Understanding Pelvic Tilt

Note: Touch or hover your mouse over underlined terms for a definition.

The pelvis has three primary skeletal components: the right hip, the left hip, and the sacrum. While these pieces can move independently, they often work together as a unit, and the each piece exerts an influence on the pelvis as a whole. They will be discussed collectively in this article. Pelvic tilt involves a simultaneous movement of both hips, the sacrum, and the lumbar vertebrae.

To understand pelvic tilt, find your ASIS – a small bony projection at the upper front of the hip bones. When this point moves forward and down, the pelvis is in a state of anterior tilt. When the ASIS moves up and back, towards the spine, this is posterior tilt.

ant pelvic tilt

This movement of the pelvis is important to be aware of in most Yoga positions as it has a significant effect throughout the body. Keep in mind that the pelvis has other axes of movement as well, and they all influence each other. I do not mean to imply that tilt is always the most important, but it’s too complicated to tackle them all in one article.

When the pelvis is tilting anteriorly, the hamstrings and abdominals are lengthening, the lumbar spine is in extension (arching forward), the quadriceps and muscles of the back and spine shorten.

Conversely, a posterior tilt shortens the hamstrings and abdominals, lengthening the muscles of the back and the quadriceps while the sacrum moves downwards (e.g., ‘tucking the tailbone’) and pulls the lower back with it. (unless you’re very flexible or move the rib cage forward, the lower back will most likely be in a more or less neutral curve.)

A chronic tilt in either direction is a likely cause of injury, instability or dysfunctional movement.

Through the process of Yoga, the ideal outcome for the pelvis is that it becomes free and stable. As someone who has a chronic anterior tilt eliminates their restrictions and weakness, they will be able to move freely between anterior tilt (useful for some forward folds and extreme backbends), neutral (walking position, Samasthiti, some standing positions), and posterior tilt (some standing positions, leg-behind-the-head asana). There would be a similar outcome for someone who began stuck in posterior tilt.

Moving from being stuck in one direction to stuck in another is not a healthy outcome.

Neutral Alignment

First, let’s look at neutral alignment (Samasthiti): 

pelvic tilt

A neutral position in the pelvis is one in which the ASIS is in vertical alignment with the pubic crest. The AIIS (anterior inferior iliac spine, the projection of bone between the pubic crest and ASIS) is also in vertical alignment, though it lies slightly behind the line. The coccyx is in horizontal alignment with the pubic symphysis (midway down the pubic bone – cannot be seen from side view).

The photo to the left shows an anterior tilt of 15°. It can be seen that the abdominal organs must now be restrained by the abdominal muscles and fascia. If this position is typical in a body, the psoas major is likely to become weakened due to being chronically shortened and tight (hypertoned).  The weight of the body

At first glance, it is tempting to simply tilt the pelvis posteriorly. This will feel very stable and grounded through the pelvis, lower back, and torso. However, there are some complications. In Samasthiti  and many other Yoga positions  we are attempting to elongate the spine – increasing the distance between the sacrum and the atlas (the vertebrae at the top of the spine). Increasing the space between each vertebrae requires that the muscles of the back be relaxed, because muscles can only pull things together – in this case, the vertebrae.

The posterior tilt of the pelvis can be made using several different combinations of muscles. The most common engagement if you just hear “tuck your tailbone!” is to engage the gluteal muscles. As they contract, the gluteals pull down on the bottom-most fibers of the lower back, both the fascia (thoracolumbar fascia) and the muscles that arise from it (the erector spinae group). This creates a compressive effect through the lumbar spine, ‘squeezing’ the vertebrae together and down towards the hips and preventing them from elongating and lifting away from the pelvis. It can be seen in the above left photo that weight being transmitted through the spine would create a shearing force through the lumbar vertebrae; force would travel not only downwards, but also at an angle through the vertebrae, especially the topmost and bottommost of the lumbar vertebrae (chronically, this would be felt as a painful pinching). Furthermore, chronically tightening the gluteals and external hip rotators will exert a pull on the head of the femur, pulling it back and rotating it externally. This can often be observed as a continual splaying outwards of the feet while walking or standing. This position will strain the structures of the leg and foot.   

A more suitable option for our goals is to use the deep abdominal muscles to lift the front of the pelvis upwards while keeping the gluteal muscles relaxed. This is one of the actions of uddiyana bandha — to lift and support the hips in a neutral position. Then, use the pelvic floor muscles to subtly draw the pubic bone and the coccyx together and gently down. This is a very subtle movement, almost a sensation of heaviness.

In a healthy body, a posterior tilt of the pelvis will not flatten the lower back. In the above right photo, a healthy neutral lumbar curvature is retained. The reciprocal muscle of the abdominals (rectus abdominis in particular) is the psoas major, which attaches to each of the lumbar vertebrae and travels through the interior of the pelvis to the top of the inner thigh. When well-functioning abdominals lift the hips to find a neutral pelvic tilt, the psoas will also help support the lower back and preventing its flexion. A minimum tension of the spinal extensor muscles will stabilize the spine from behind.

With this alignment, the lumbar spine will be balanced atop of the sacrum with a minimum of strain. The rib cage will be both lifted vertically (another action of the bandhas) and be supported by the dual action of the muscles of the front and back of the body. The entire spine will come into a series of four gentle, relatively shallow, counterbalancing curves.

When the pelvis is tipped anteriorly, the hip socket (acetabulum) and head of the femur come forward of the center of gravity, causing asymmetrical muscular engagement when walking and standing. The hamstrings, gluteals, and abductor muscles tend to shorten and engage when the pelvis is anteverted, while the quadriceps and adductors lengthen. This force is transmitted down the legs, often leading to a rotation of the knee and ankle. This can often be observed in the feet: the toes turned outwards, with weight resting into the outside edges of the feet (a healthy foot will carry weight through the inner arch). 

In a neutral pelvic position, the feet and legs will be more directly beneath the center of gravity (slightly more forward relative to the pelvis), allowing the muscles of the outer leg to disengage and the psoas to participate more fully in the movement of walking, resulting in a lighter stride. Movement will be more integrated between the torso and lower limbs, as the psoas is one of the principle connectors of the two, allowing force to be communicated more effectively and the body to be in greater cohesion. 

In addition to bringing the spine and the joints of the leg into alignment, neutral pelvic position benefits the complicated musculature of the pelvic floor and abdomen. The engagement of the outer leg and gluteals tends, over time, to widen the pelvic floor and weaken the pelvic floor muscles. With a anteriorly tipped pelvis, the organs must be supported by the abdominal walls, often observable as a sagging or distention of the belly or sides of the abdomen. If you visualise the pelvis as a basin or bowl (an oversimplification, yet largely truthful) filled with water, you can easily see that tipping the bowl forward will effectively decrease its volume as water would begin to spill over the front edge. In the same way, anteversion of the pelvis decreases its ability to contain and support the organs, displacing the effort of supporting the upper body from the bones and tight web of ligament and muscle at the pelvic floor to the less-suitable abdominal muscles and fascia.

Posterior Tilt

There are many positions in which a full posterior tilt (including the use of the gluteal muscles) can be very beneficial  the engagement of the gluteals is not to be discouraged in many positions due to the alignment of the legs and/or the position of the body relative to gravity. Deep flexion is found the leg-behind-the-head asana and some arm balances, while a more mild posterior movement is found in the Utthita standing positions 3 Virabhadrasana (Warrior) poses.  These are excellent examples of poses which require the effort of tipping the pelvis posteriorly. Although the effort is of strong posterior rotation, ideally the pelvis ends up in a neutral, floating position. It has the sensation of posterior rotation due to strong resistance of the psoas and hip flexors.  They challenge the body in different ways, but all commonly create an anterior ‘sag’ in the lumbar spine, with severe anteversion of the hips – this is the body’s way of compensating for lack of strength (in the quadriceps of the front leg and the abdominals) or flexibility (in the quadriceps of the rear leg and psoas) by distributing the effort over multiple joints and muscles. Unfortunately, this tendency can create pain, instability, or tightness over time if left unchecked. By being mindful of pelvic position, and keeping the pelvis rotated posteriorly, you will maintain a strong, stable alignment and experience greater benefits from the pose.

Let’s look at Warrior I. Ideally, the spine will be in a neutral position with the gaze lifted just until the thumbs can be seen. The essential stretch here is not a backbend, but rather increasing the flexibility of the quadriceps and psoas of the back leg while strengthening the front leg. Eventually, for an advanced practitioner it ends up as a mild backbend focusing on length, with the arms lifted straight overhead (not pictured). However, when those relatively new to Yoga or in a bad habit focus solely on reaching the arms straight arm, movement tends to originate from “rib thrust” rather than shoulder movement. This has the result of creating a lot of compression in the spine, creating a dead and probably painful asana as pictured below left:

warrior tilt

 

The photo to the left is an example of compensation.
The spine often moves in sections; as you can see in the photo to the left, the quadriceps & psoas of the back leg are tight, and have pulled the pelvis into an anterior tilt.  It is apparent that the spine is moving in straight segments, rather than integrated curves. The bottom section of the spine (the sacrum) is moving with the back leg, projecting force forward at a 45° angle. The connection between the sacrum and the lumbar spine is the next point of mobility, and the lumbar spine moves as a unit for an additional ~15° of rotation.The juncture of the lumbar and thoracic spine is the most mobile spot in the torso, and there is a severe bend in the spine at this spot (“rib thrust”). Lastly, the cervical spine has fallen back to a 90° angle behind the body.

This means that the sacrum is facing almost the opposite direction as the cervical spine — each part of the spine is collapsing backwards, and working against every other part. This will create compression and pain, not to mention being an ineffective position to work with the deep hip muscles. Someone who regularly practices this position will no doubt have feelings of crunching and pinching throughout the spine.

A more stable solution is one in which the upper body remains neutral, and only the legs move (right side photo). Neutral does not mean relaxed, however. By finding a sense of grounding through the front of the ribs as the abdominal muscles engage (pull the bottom of the rib cage and the pubic bone towards the navel) and keeping the pelvis rotating posteriorly, you will keep the pelvis in roughly the same position as a standing posture, maintaining an effective base for the spine. Lifting the hips into a posterior tilt will ensure the muscles are lengthening or strengthening fully, and that the main work of the pose is not being displaced to the torso, where it does more harm than good. Note that although the effort is of strong posterior rotation, ideally the pelvis ends up in a neutral position. It has the sensation of posterior rotation due to strong resistance of the psoas and hip flexors.

The above right photo is a good solution to find a foundation in the pose. After that is established, the hips stay stable and over the course of some months, the ribs start to expand and lift while the shoulders open, moving towards a more expanded expression of the asana with a slight backbend, with the hands directly overhead and the gaze upwards.

Arm balancing asana are another place where posterior tilt is found. Stability and strength in Bhujapidasana and Bakasana involves a deep tuck of the pelvis and flexion of the spine.

The Ashtanga system has a large focus on leg-behind-the-head asana. If you practice these poses, you can start with a deep flexion of the spine and pelvis. Once the leg is in position, encourage a gentle counteraction of straightening the spine. Due to the structure of the hips, a slight flexion and rounding is not a problem. These are a family of flexion-forward-folds. If you’re able to practice these movements, the flexion is healthy.

Anterior Tilt

An anterior pelvic tilt is useful for setting the body up for non-flexion forward folding positions and for the deep backbend family. In the primary series, this applies to all forward folds except kurmasana and supta kurmasana. 

The principal action of forward folds is a lengthening of the entire back side of the body, from the heels through the backs of the legs, to the back of the spine all the way to the crown of the head.  Anteriorly rotating the pelvis will ensure that the hamstring muscles are lengthening to their full capacity while simultaneously rotating lifting the pelvis to set the spine up for elongation. It’s common to see a very curved spine in forward folds for beginning practitioners. This typically results from tightness in the hamstring muscles, which pull the pelvis into a posterior rotation as they lengthen. The sacrum will be in a roughly vertical position, and each vertebrae bends a little bit more, from which the head hangs heavily.  Focusing on rotating the pelvis anteriorly will be much more effective in correcting the pelvic imbalance than reaching for the toes and attempting to force the back down (which has the added negative of a high risk of back injury). As this tightness is released, the sacrum will rotate more and more, and the spine straightens. Eventually, the spine will be stay fairly straight and most of the motion will be initiated by the pelvis.

A well-functioning psoas major / rectus abdominis relationship is easy to judge in this position. When the spine is in flexion (folding forward), the navel should draw in towards the spine as the abdominals release. This movement can be furthered or reestablished by engaging the bandhas.

sitting tilt

Observe the principles of biomechanics in both the seated and standing forward fold:

Posterior pelvic tilt curves the back as the head is ‘forced’ down towards the knees to deepen the pose. The effort through the arms plus gravity presses down on the spine at the junction between the thoracic and cervical spine. This force is transmitted down the spine to the junction between the thoracic and lumbar spine, ‘bulging’ the discs outwards. This is a very weak position for the spine, and can lead to injury. Note that regardless of whether there is pain, force, or energy, is pressing back through the discs, causing strain. This bulge may then become severe enough to warrant a medical diagnosis as a “disc bulge,” which is often diagnosed only if there is pain due to nerve compression. A disc herniation is of the same mechanical force but greatly increased severity, meaning that the hard outer shell of the disc has cracked and the soft, gel-like center leaks out.

Folding in this way will never quite result in a complete forward fold, as the sacrum is not involved with the movement. The head may come closer to the knees over time, but a substantial gap will always remain.

A healthier pattern to practice in forward fold is to create an anterior tilt in the pelvis. By lifting the sacrum and rotating the pelvis anteriorly, the practitioner creates a smooth, integrated transfer of force through the spine as a unit, by rotating the sacrum and lower back to be in the same plane of force as the thoracic and cervical spine. Extending through the crown of the head elongates the spinal column as the navel and rib cage move towards the thighs. To get a feel for this (unless you have a neck injury), look up and forward – the sections of the spine move in relation to each other in order to keep balance; looking up will move the rib cage toward your legs, which is a synergistic movement for forward folds.

Forward folds from standing (as in the Sun Salutation sequence) work in much the same way.standing tilt

In both cases we are attempting to lengthen the spine towards the toes. To perform this position effectively, ensure that the mechanics of your body is working with you, not against you.

If you’re practicing the intermediate or advanced series (or the poses from those series, if you practice a different style of Yoga), an anterior tilt of the pelvis is necessary for the deep backbends. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog), and bhujangasana (cobra), however, are mild backbends which benefit from a slight posterior movement of the hips. In the practice of deep backbends like ustrasana, laghu vajrasana, the kapotasana family (including raja and eka pada), urdhva dhanurasana, and dropbacks, draw the sacrum in and up. Keep drawing the coccyx and pubic bone together and slightly down to narrow and stabilize the pelvic floor. The lift of the sacrum in and up creates a chain of lift and strength up the spine, allowing a more even backbend and opening of the thoracic spine. Often Yoga practitioners are told to drop or tuck the sacrum in backbends. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of stress on the SI joint and the sacro-lumbar junction, leading to the reputation these poses have for pain or injury. It also locks the thoracic spine, making it much more difficult to expand the ribs.  Dropping (posterior tilt) the sacrum opposes the movement of extension in a backbend, creating strain and stress.

Experiment for yourself. In a standing or kneeling (ustrasana) position, take your hands all the way back to your sacrum and squeeze the elbows lightly together. Lift the sacrum up into your hands and give a slight force of resistant, pressing into your hands. Use that force to lift the ribs up towards the ceiling and lengthen the spine.

Then try the opposite: tuck the tailbone. Which feels more conducive for you to start a backbend? (Hint: in my body, tucking the tailbone is agonizing and injurious during a backbend.)

This is only an introduction. Take what you’ve learned here to any other Yoga pose — see how it fits, and find a method that works for you. Pelvic tilt has a dramatic impact on the entire body, and a small difference of only a fraction of an inch could make the difference between reinforcing patterns of resistance in your body or performing an asana effectively.

36 Comments

  1. Kim Wood · December 31, 2013 Reply

    wonderful article! so happy I found this site….thank you!

  2. maan · April 9, 2014 Reply

    wow.. this is so informative.. love the sample photos.

  3. Judy · April 25, 2014 Reply

    The sample photos are so helpful! I struggle with this in my daily life and often have difficulty in determining the proper form for yoga postures. The photos are so clear. Thank you for sharing this info!

  4. Linzi Stimpfle · April 28, 2014 Reply

    Good day,
    Based on what I’ve read here and other sites (along with confirmation from my chiropractor), I believe I have an anterior tilted pelvis….chronically. Is there anything I can do to correct it? It is causing me a lot of pain in my low back, left hip socket front and back, as well as left knee. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
    In Gratitude,
    Linzi Stimpfle

    • Griffin · April 28, 2014 Reply

      Hello, thanks for the comment Linzi! A pelvic tilt such as you describe, especially with asymmetrical pain as you describe, is typically not only a tilt anteriorly but also a rotation with one hip raising higher than the other vertically. Improving the alignment of the pelvis involves the posture of the whole body, especially that of the feet, ankles, knee, and hip. Correcting this on your own would be somewhat difficult as your sense of your body’s alignment (proprioception) is probably distorted. For example, you probably feel “straight” in your twisted standing position, and would feel a true neutral to be very asymmetrical. Therefore, if you have access to practice with an instructor with a good knowledge of anatomy and therapeutic yoga, that’s your best bet. Otherwise, I’d recommend practicing with the information described in this article as well as the other posts I have written about Yoga positions. Even if you’re not doing them 100% correctly at first, you’ll be increasing your awareness of your body and reawakening/exploring hardened areas of the pelvic muscles/ligament/fascia (hardening results from chronic tension in the soft tissue, which accompanies the pain you describe). A useful exercise would be to practice standing against a wall. Put your heels fully against the wall. Play with tucking the tailbone and trying to spread the lower back into the wall (the action of uddiyana bandha – a suction of the navel/abdominal contents upwards towards the interior of the rib cage). The entire back side of the ribs, both shoulders and the back of the skull should be against the wall as well. This will most likely be quite difficult for you. After you’ve accomplished this, try raising the hands to the wall overhead and keeping the low back to the wall. Over time this can reeducate your body how to hold the pelvis in a more upright vertical position.

  5. Rena · May 2, 2014 Reply

    great visuals, great explanation. Love your way of explaning the arrows of action and the wheels.
    Great Website!
    Sat Chit Ananda.
    Rena

  6. lisa · August 17, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for this post…I appreciate your knowledgeable and I am hoping you will be able to give me suggestions. I am tall 5’10 and did break my right femur as a teen ager I had been an equestrian for 5 years prior to the injury. I am now in my fifties.

    While upright my pelvis is in anterior tilt with a slight sway back (this was always the case) . What is perplexing is any type of sitting forward bends are quite difficult…..even sitting on blankets or boosters my pelvis does not want to tip forward….hence if i try to bend forward my upper back is quite rounded. Butterfly pose and also childs’ pose are quite difficult. In child poses I cannot get my forehead to the floor. I feel like the it is my hip which is much stiffer then the left which does not allow me to have more pelvic freedom. I have done yoga for the past twenty years and I have not found any release in my hip. I have tried most yoga styles and many teachers….do you have any ideas? I am devoted to my practice and crave the release. I am looking for suggestions for my home practice.

    Namaste…..thank YOU !
    lisa

    • Griffin · September 5, 2014 Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes, what you have described is quite common: the pelvis seems to be stuck in an anterior tilt while standing and posterior while sitting. An injury always complicates the situation. I have a student in a similar situation (Arthritis in one hip, severe thoracic curvature in forward folds) who has made substantial improvement over the course is the past year.

      I typically think of this as an improper origin of movement. The commonality between the two positions is tight leg tissue and imbalanced musculature in the stomach and around the spine, a crescent of dysfunction from the arch of the ribs to the knees. Though of course, any imbalance such as this affects the entire body.

      The work I give to my students who are in a similar situation is fairly comprehensive… In standing positions, the psoas muscles need to be lengthened to release the spine. This can be done effectively in positions such as Trikonasana (triangle) or Virabhadrasana I (warrior I) by learning how to expand and fill across the lower back, reversing the anterior position of the pelvis and lifting the stomach and front of the hips.

      Other standing positions are also helpful to connect the strength of the legs to the upper body, which often are not integrated.

      In sitting positions, the body needs to learn how to create movement from the hips and not the upper body. Any folding movement should be initiated by a lift of the sacrum. It will likely be a very tiny movement, perhaps remaining almost fully upright. The muscles of the quadriceps and abdomen should be fully released. They flex the spine and will prevent folding movement. You can touch your belly to test this. Make it soft. There should be no tension or hardness. This type of work may need to start with bent knees or from standing or both. This type of therapeutic forward fold should not continue past the point where the spine begins to be in flexion. The hands pressed into the floor beside or behind you will help to lift and straighten the spine. So think Dandasana (staff) not paschimottanasana (full forward fold)

      Continuing forward folds in the way you have described will only contribute to dysfunction. Take a break from it for a while even if it feels like you want to fold more so your body has a chance to make a new pattern.

      For my students, I typically give manual adjustments to help initiate movement until the muscles are more balanced and return to conscious control. I find that they are unable for a time to create the movement on their own. In the absence of a teacher, you can teach yourself – you will have to be very attentive to the sensations of the body, use your hands for feedback on body position and to find areas of holding and tightness, and perhaps use video or photos to refine and monitor movement.

  7. Linda Compau · October 6, 2014 Reply

    My pelvis has an anterior tilt since my spinal fusion (T11-S1). No amount of therapy will correct it (tried for a year). Could the fusion be keeping it from going to the neutral position?

    • Griffin · October 14, 2014 Reply

      Linda,

      Yes, since the base of the spine (sacrum) is part of the pelvis, having a fusion – especially one involving S1 – directly influences the movement and position of the pelvis and potentially the body as a whole. After such an extreme procedure, improvements in rehabilitation will come slowly (more than 1 year). Keep trying. After a fusion, the position and movement of the spine (and therefore the pelvis) is relatively fixed. Any change will be small. However, even if you don’t notice a position in the degree of pelvic tilt, working to create strength and suppleness in this area will support the spine and help prevent it from deteriorating.

  8. V · January 9, 2015 Reply

    When doing poses like downward dog is it better to have a posterior rotation or anterior rotation? I am new to yoga and I’m finding that in quite a few poses I come out of practice with a really sore lower back right above my pelvis and I’m wondering if it’s because I’m tilting my pelvis in the wrong direction.

    • Griffin · January 15, 2015 Reply

      Hi Venessa,

      That depends a little bit on the rest of your body. It’s best to have a long, taut line in the upper body in downward facing dog. Imagine a board laying flat all the way from the wrists, up the back, to the hips. (You can actually get a board if you want to test it!)

      If the hamstrings and shoulders are pretty tight, making the back rounded, encouraging an anterior rotation can help straighten everything out.

      It sounds like that’s not the case for you, though, if you’re experiencing pain there (the sacrolumbar hinge). Many people are capable of “hyperextending” in downward facing dog, meaning the back is pretty deeply arched (lordotic) and the head and chest are coming down towards the ground. This can create a feeling of pinching or pain in the lower back.

      Do not try to press the ribs to the toes. Instead, try to find the strength of the legs to lift the sitting bones and pubic bone up and back (diagonally, away from the hands). Finding a very slight posterior tilt of the pelvis might be helpful, but I’m taking maybe 2-5 degrees. Quite subtle — just enough that you can feel the strength of the legs and a feeling of suction or “hollowing” in the belly. The abdominal muscles should be fully relaxed, giving the appearance of a narrow waistline. If you’re very flexible, you’ll find you actually have to lift up away from the ground. Press into the finger tips, and lift from the hip creases to feel like you’re being stretched long and taut. The back should the long, feeling a stretch of the spine (axial extension) as if you were laying in an inversion table.

      After finding the correct position, you will not have any pain in the lower back and the whole body will feel very buoyant and light. The legs work very hard here, and pushing into the fingers (especially the index finger) creates a feeling of lightness in the shoulders.

  9. Neha · March 2, 2015 Reply

    Dear Griffin,

    what a wonderful article. I have been practising yoga for almost 3.5 years now but i still struggle with forward bends. I have noticed I have weak inner thigh muscles. I was always an anteriorly tilted person until lately i have been correcting my posture throughout the day. But I really want the release in forward bends.. i get extreme pain in the hamstrings while doing prasarit paddotanasana. Please advice how can i improve the bends?

    neha

    • Griffin · March 2, 2015 Reply

      Hi Neha,

      Thanks for the comment! I am happy that you enjoyed the article.

      I can only give a general reply because I don’t know the particulars of your situation. If you’d like to have a more detailed response we can talk by email.

      Please read my article on Prasarita

      I have posted a youtube video that might be helpful for you. Though I am talking about posterior tilt, the exercises will likely still be helpful for you. Also, it may be that even if you’re anteriorly tilted while standing, that you post-tilt in a seated position, especially likely if your hamstrings are tight.

      In Prasarita, focus on:
      1. Keep your legs very straight, no bending the knees
      2. Find an inward (internal) rotation of the femur bones
      3. Lift the sacrum up (encouraging anterior tilt of pelvis)
      4. Fold only as far as you can with a straight back. At some point, your upper back and neck will start to round. Stop before that, and focus on the movement happening crisply at the hips.
      5. Don’t go so far that the hamstrings are painful! Give them gentle stimulation with straight legs, but don’t try and force yourself too deep. The hamstring muscle also needs to be engaged, or active, during the folds. It may be easier to find that engagement if you don’t practice on a sticky mat. If your legs have the potential of sliding, you will naturally engage your inner thigh muscles to prevent yourself from ending up in the splits. I also like to think of bending and straightening my knees at the same time. Although nothing happens visibly, it creates a lot of stability at my knees and some bulk and protection for the hamstring.

      To help with the strength of your inner thigh in general, focus on extension through the big toe mounds. In standing poses, even samasthiti, you will notice that perhaps you are standing on the outside edges of your feet. Lift your toes up, and push the roots of the big toes down so the outside edges become light or lift up off the mat. A neutral, healthy foot should have two arches, so that someone look under your foot while you’re standing and see through to the other side.

      Practice this in samasthiti first. Next, try and do it in the other standing poses. You will notice that leg you’re putting most of your weight on will “collapse” onto the pink edge of the foot and it will be difficult to lift the toes up. Keep trying! It’s useful to play with this in any standing pose, including prasarita.

  10. satya · July 11, 2015 Reply

    Simply a great article

  11. Deanna · July 28, 2015 Reply

    Fab article! So glad I found it and your website.

  12. Teemu · August 25, 2015 Reply

    How can I fix this anterior pelvic tilt?
    -Thanks for answer

    • Griffin · August 25, 2015 Reply

      Hi Teemu,

      I recommend practicing the Ashtanga Vinyasa series, preferably with a competent teacher. Be mindful of the position of the pelvis in asana, and gradually work on finding integrity from the legs across the pelvis to the spine (psoas line).

      Considerate practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa develops the Apana Vayu, which will manifest in this case as strength and stability of the deep low belly, allowing grounding. The reaction to Apana Vayu (prana vayu) is lift and space in the pelvis, spine and ribs.

      In the majority of cases of anteriority of the pelvis, the back of the body is shrunken or closed. In asana or pranayama, focus on directing the flow of breath into the lower back and the back of the ribs. This will awaken the back of the body and allow it to participate in creating intelligent, dynamic alignment.

  13. Keith · December 30, 2015 Reply

    Is it okay to round the upper back in forward folds so long as the anterior tilt is maintained? I find that I do not feel any hamstring stretch in many forward folds because my psoas do not allow for my hips to hinge very far. Rounding the upper back helps me attain that stretch in some poses.

    • Griffin · December 31, 2015 Reply

      It is okay in some cases. For example, for Paschimottanasana, in a person whose hamstrings are flexible, you will need to ’round’ the upper back to some degree because range of motion is exhausted: e.g., stomach & ribs are touching the legs. However, it is important that there is not a space between the thighs and the legs with the back very rounded, because that will put pressure on the intervertebral discs. But the upper back is not extremely rounded – it is in a neutral position rather that in extension.

      In Ashtanga, the postures in which deeper kyphosis or rounding of the back is encouraged are leg-behind-the-head postures and arm balances.

      When you’re doing your forward folds, be sure that your psoas and abdominal muscles are relaxed. They should be soft to the touch while in the posture. If the muscles are contracting, they may be preventing you from moving further into the posture or feeling sensation in the hamstrings. The activation of these muscles in forward folds is also detrimental to the health of the spine.

      For further advice, please let me know which poses specifically you are asking about.

  14. Helen · March 17, 2016 Reply

    Beautifully written articulate article.

  15. Механика наклона таза в асанах йоги - "Свет вокруг" · March 22, 2016 Reply

    […] Перевод статьи, англ. оригинал здесь. […]

  16. Desiree · June 4, 2016 Reply

    Hi Griffin,

    I really enjoyed this article. Am I mistaken with this portion of the article, should this read as “When the pelvis is posteriorly,” instead of “anteriorly”?

    “When the pelvis is tipped anteriorly, the hip socket (acetabulum) and head of the femur come forward of the center of gravity, causing asymmetrical muscular engagement when walking and standing. The hamstrings, gluteals, and abductor muscles tend to shorten and engage when the pelvis is anteverted, while the quadriceps and adductors lengthen. This force is transmitted down the legs, often leading to a rotation of the knee and ankle. This can often be observed in the feet: the toes turned outwards, with weight resting into the outside edges of the feet (a healthy foot will carry weight through the inner arch). ”

    If I’m wrong, can you please explain? I thought this is what happens with “outer spiral” when the tailbone tucks.

    Just want to check. Thank you!

    • Griffin · June 4, 2016 Reply

      Hi Desiree,

      There is so much to say about the pelvis. This article is very incomplete in regard to “pelvic movement” and only seeks to explain a small aspect of pelvic movement. Let me unpack a little more:
      When the pelvis rotates anteriorly, the hip sockets do roll forward slightly. It is not a big movement especially if you’re making the movement intentionally as an experiment. The femurs will then be at a slight angle forward rather than perpendicular to the earth.

      The trouble begins when this is done over time. The pelvis will, in addition to tilting anteriorly, move forward in space. The ribs move back in response. The head moves forward. (Kyphosis) This is one of the common malalignment types. It is somewhat more common in women because it is encouraged by high heeled shoes.

      “The hamstrings, gluteals, and abductor muscles tend to shorten and engage when the pelvis is anteverted, while the quadriceps and adductors lengthen.”

      This part is a little harder to visualize. It may seem on first glance that “if the pelvis is tipping forward, the quads shorten and contract, the hamstrings lengthen.” While this is true in certain alignments, it is frequently subsumed by a more powerful process.
      The hamstrings, glutes, etc., are contracting in response to
      1) chronic external rotation of the thighbones and;
      2) the forward-in-space position of the pelvis.

      The ribs moving back is also in response to (2). Together, the ribs moving back in space and the effort of the hamstrings/glutes/external rotators is enough to keep someone in this pattern from falling forward.

      And, yes, you are correct: external rotation of the femurs often does coincide with a habitual posterior tilt, too. The majority of people I see & work with have externally rotated legs. There are a lot of cultural reasons for that: lots of sitting, computer work, etc.

      There’s no one right alignment. A healthy body needs a wide range of movement. The general rule of thumb I follow is that, in any position, the pelvis (or anything else) should be in the position that allows the most length and space to develop in the body. In some positions, that means anteriorly rotating as much as possible, in some, posteriorly tilting as much as possible, often, letting the pelvis float around neutral.

  17. Describe Neutral Spine Alignment | Treatment for Sciatic pain · July 3, 2016 Reply

    […] Understanding Pelvic Tilt | UP4Yoga – Correct alignment in the pelvis is essential for alignment of Yoga positions. Learn what to do and what to avoid. […]

  18. Fred Harrington · August 7, 2016 Reply

    Thanks Griffin, I just watched your YouTube video too!

    PTT has actually effected me quite badly, to the point where I now have cervical herniated discs – I didn’t even know I had a problem until this happened to me.

    Is it too late for me to make a difference with this?

    • Griffin · August 7, 2016 Reply

      Hi Fred,

      It is not too late! However, once it has progressed to the point you describe disc herniations, it becomes a very slow and careful process. It is very important that you find someone who is adept in Yoga-therapy (or other movement-therapy if you prefer) and deeply understands the process of that injury and recovery. Just going to a regular public Yoga class invites further injury and pain.

      Additionally, you will need to integrate the new movement habits and postures learned in Yoga into your day, while working, driving, sitting, etc.

      I have worked with students with herniated discs. They typically feel substantial improvement and relief after a couple months of practice (several times per week). However, it does become a lifelong practice because the discs will not “un-herniate,” so the new movement patterns need to be maintained to continue to avoid pain.

      Best,
      Griffin

  19. Elias elkhoury · November 12, 2016 Reply

    Dear Griffin,

    Very interesting article, would really appreciate your reply on my case, i had an injury 7 years ago, fell from 5 meters, broken my right scafoid, my right elbow, and my last four right ribs of the thoracique cage .. I only had a surgery in my scafoid and elbow .. After a year and a half .. I got back to what i used to do .. Body-building and swimming .. And no one highlighted any further issues in my body .. 7 months ago .. I experienced sever lower back pain on the right side .. Seen like hundred doctors .. No one diagnosed me with a serious issue .. I decided to do an MRI .. And it turned out that i have a degenerated disk disease between the L5-S1 vertebras (right bulging) .. I consulted a podologist .. He tested me and diagnosed me with a rotated pelvis (right rotation) resulting in a shorter left leg .. Associated with an anterior pelvis tilt .. I’ll be putting something like heals in the back of my shoes to correct this issue .. If you can give me any recommendation regarding this issue that can further enhance the therapy and release the pain .. Any stretching exercice that would help .. I would really appreciate it .. Thank you in advance

    Elias

    • Griffin · November 21, 2016 Reply

      Hello Elias,

      Sorry to hear of your struggles! Sounds very painful and difficult. This is the basic sequence that we teach to students who are healing degenerative disc disease or herniations:
      1. Surya Namaskara (video here)
      2. Utthita Trikonasana
      3. Parivrtta Trikonasana
      4. Utthita Parsvakonasana
      5. Parivrtta Trikonasana
      6. Utkatasana
      7. A version of Pasasana aka “Revolved Chair”
      8. Shalabhasana 15 breaths
      9. Dhanurasana
      10. Ustrasana
      11. Laghu Vajrasana
      12. Kapotasana (this is pretty deep backbend, but can be done very effectively reaching back and touching a wall or an exercise ball)
      13. Virasana
      14. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
      15. Sit upright, breathe.

      Some of this sequence is already on this website, but I’m still working on adding the others. Just put the name into Google.
      This is a lot to bite off all at once–we teach one pose a time, so it would take 2-3 weeks to work up to this sequence in full.
      It should be practiced 6 times per week.
      Do each position at least 5 breaths. More is good if you have time and it feels good.
      It would be best if you could work with a teacher, but I’m not sure if that is a possibility for you.
      Generally relief is felt after about 3 weeks, and keeps improving with consistent practice.

      Hope this helps. Write back if you have any other questions, or come for a class if you are ever in Chicago!
      Griffin

  20. Candice · November 21, 2016 Reply

    Hello Griffin, i just watched your video on posterior pelvic tilt …. it was very helpful.
    i have a question though…. maybe you can help answer….. Is it possible to have a POSTERIOR pelvic tilt AND INTERNAL rotation of the femurs???

    my pelvis tilts posteriorly (if thats a word :) ) and when i put my feet together my knees turn inward and press against each other.

    any insight you can give would be greatly appreciated… ty

    • Griffin · November 21, 2016 Reply

      Hi Candice,
      Sure, it is possible. There are also genetic differences in femur shape that may influence this. One thing I notice with people who have similar posture as you describe, is that the ankles and feet are collapsing on the inner edges (this indicates weakness in the small muscles of the leg). I would start you working standing poses, sun salutation, etc, with your toes lifted up. Try to lift all the toes up as high as you can. Alternate with just lifting the big toes and leaving the little toes down. Claw the big toes into the ground. Try to figure out the muscular action of creating height/lift on the insides of the ankles.

      You can keep doing the exercises in the video, with internal rotation as shown. Just spread & lift the toes, too.
      Additionally, incorporate poses like Utthita Trikonasana and Parivrtta Trikonasana.
      Do downward facing dog, feet hip width apart, with a strap around the legs just above the knees. Press the legs out into the resistance of the strap and try to externally rotate the femur bones.
      Try the same in Samasthiti (just standing upright).
      Work on your gait while walking. Walking is a bit of a complicated process to understand, but here’s some clues: outside edges of the feet (not inside) should be straight forward, parallel to each other. Feet hip width apart. Knees facing straight forward. Make sure your toes fully articulate and you press off with the toes each step.

      You can work on this in every pose you do, and many activities during the day. Just view it as a puzzle and use every activity as a potential way of unravelling it.
      Good luck, let me know if you have further questions!
      Griffin

  21. Kay · July 14, 2017 Reply

    Hi Griffin
    You are so knowledgeable in these tilts.
    I have tingling in the lateral aspect of my left leg when I try to sit up erect e.g. during meditation and the tingling starts instantly .
    If I tilt sideways to the right lifting my left butt off and tilt a bit on the right side, tingling disappears. It also occurs in some
    standing positions.Can I fix this problem by tilt or some other exercise?I do not have pain or numbness. I would appreciate
    your input
    Thank you very much.
    Kay

    • Griffin · July 15, 2017 Reply

      Good morning Kay, interesting question. I don’t think pelvic tilt is a likely factor in what you describe. Of course, my ability to give you suggestions is limited without seeing you in person. But here’s something to experiment with on your own:

      In the short term, try placing a folded blanket under your left hip so that you’re sitting a bit tilted. Does this resolve the problem? Use that while you’re sitting/meditating so that you can do your seated practice.

      Longer term strategy, I would focus on two things. Firstly, try working with/softening the psoas a bit. Get into a ‘lunge’ position with the front knee deeply bent and the back knee on the ground (on a cushion if needed). Sink the pelvis towards the front foot. We’re looking for whether there is a strong sensation in the back leg where the front of the pelvis meets the upper thigh. Check if one side is different than the other. If the psoas is supple, the pelvis will sink fully to the front foot, if there is restriction it will be held up fairly high and the pelvis will stay in slight flexion relative to the femur of the back leg. If it seems fruitful, practice this a few minutes daily. Do not ‘bounce’ or be aggressive; just pay attention to the sensations and try to move your breathing action into any tight or restricted tissue and encourage it to release.

      Secondly, if you don’t already, spend time with backbending. Try these yoga movements:

    • Shalabhasana
      Bhujangasana
      Dhanurasana
      Ustrasana
    • Additionally, do some relaxed spinal extension: drape yourself over a bolster or exercise ball for several minutes or to tolerance.

      Try this daily for a month or so, and see if it makes any difference.

      Let me know how it goes or if you have any further questions!

      And, of course, if this condition worsens or continues, seek the advice of a doctor.

Leave a Reply