Saggy Jeans and Tailfeathers: How Your Pelvic Positioning Affects Your Body

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Joanna Hess PT, DPT, PRC, WCS

Wait! Marie Kondo has you throwing out your favorite jeans because the joyless saggy bottoms that your tushy cannot manage to fill out? We are seeing an epidemic flat butt among mamas, plumbers, barre fanatics, and office workers—all with strangely similar symptoms—pelvic floor dysfunction, low back and sacroiliac pain, and a tucked under pelvis. In this blog we will explore why the position of the pelvis, the maker of flat butts and the maker of less flat booties, is important and how to more easily move out of this position for benefit beyond your behind.

Besides needing a new wardrobe, why should I care about my flat bum?

The flat bum or preference towards posterior pelvic tilting shrinks the distance between the front and back of pelvic outlet which changes pelvic floor muscle tension. The body needs access to the full range of the pelvis and pelvic floor muscles. Over time, this position could cause excessive pelvic floor activity to compensate for the loss of resting tension. Think of the pelvic floor muscles simplified as a rubber band between two points, the pubic bone and tailbone. When the distance between the two points decreases, the rubber band loses its stability from resting tension. Changes in pelvic position alters stability from the pelvic floor muscles. This posterior pelvic tilt position also decreases the accessibility for hip extension and therefore the upper glute muscles get sleepy. As the top of the pelvis moves back, the sacroiliac joint in the low back opens and decreases its bony stability. Translated into everyday life, the flat butt position increases the potential for incontinence, pelvic floor muscle tension, sacroiliac pain, and decreased efficiency in movement.

The Flat Bottom. Only in the eye of the beholder?

Pelvic floor and tilt

The disagreement of the “neutral pelvis” or zero-point causes confusion when describing pelvic tilt—anterior pelvic tilt, posterior pelvic tilt, and neutral pelvis. Some argue that the neutral pelvis is when the ASIS’s (front hip bones) are level to the PSIS (back butt dimples). Others say that the pelvis is neutral when ASIS’s are in the same plane as the pubic bone. Or for those with X-ray vision, pelvic tilt is the vector of the sacral angle at S2 in relation to the vertical axis. But often, neutral pelvic position is subjective to the observer and relative to other parts of the body—namely the spine/rib cage and thigh bone. Clinically, this “neutral pelvis” is hard to find because 1) pelvis’ are shaped very differently, 2) left and right pelvis on the same person can also be quite different, 3) feeling these bony landmarks have been shown to be remarkably unreliable, 4) the neutral pelvis should be on top of vertical thigh bones. See how the eyes can be tricked confusing spinal curve focusing on pelvic tilt without also including rib position.

Rib pelvic alignmentThe inability to move in and out of posterior pelvic tilt and anterior pelvic tilt decreases efficiency and possibly results in pain and instability. Anterior pelvic tilt is when the front part of the pelvis moves forward/down. Posterior pelvic tilt is when the front part of the pelvis moves back/up. A neutral pelvis on top of vertical femurs and happy rib cage should correlate with better muscle performance.

Do I have a flat butt?

Aside from the saggy jeans, the flat butts of the world have a few other correlations.

1. The Tailfeather Test: Stand comfortably and squeeze the gluts.

a. Neutral pelvis: Thigh bones rotate.

b. Posterior tilt-ing pelvis: The butt will further tuck under and mainly access the lower glutes.

c. Anterior tilt-ing pelvis: The pelvic floor muscles will do most of the work.

2. You bear weight more in the heels

3. Back of your rib cage is behind your pelvis

4. Your Thigh bones are angled so that your pelvis is front of your knees

5. Your lower belly pooch

6. You Sit with pressure more on the sacrum/tailbone vs. sit bone

7. You have Overactive and possibly overworking pelvic floor muscles—the front to back pelvic distance decreases with your posterior tilted pelvis and loses the resting tension from length. As described earlier, this is similar to tensile strength of a slightly stretched rubber band vs. rubber band without pull/tension. Therefore, your pelvic floor muscles have to work harder to keep some type of tension for purposes like continence, stability, etc. The inability for the pelvic floor muscles to work optimally can lead to incontinence, pain, and constipation.

9. You have Breathing and abdominal pressure problems

10. You have Sacroiliac joint pain. As the pelvis tips back, the sacrum moves away from the ilium decreasing the bony stability. The hip muscles have to work harder, but as felt in the Tailfeather Test, the glut muscles aren’t in a good place to work.

Is there a better fix than butt implants?

Bodies have and love variability for posterior, anterior and “neutral” pelvic positioning. The brain likes positions where muscles and nerves work with ease and stability—life shouldn’t be so difficult—but it needs the chance to choose and learn it. Folks working with bodies have traditionally “corrected” spinal curves by changing pelvic position. From what has already been discussed, spinal and pelvic position can be altered many different ways—from the changing weight-bearing area in the feet, to position of ribs and range of breath, and even head angles with visual and vestibular input. Consider these hacks into pelvic stability until the brain learns how to access this stability in many situations and positions.

1. Standing. Bring your chin down to your neck and keep looking down until you see the front of your ankles. You’ve just untucked your pelvis and brought your ribs over your pelvis. This one is courtesy of my colleague, Stephanie Stamas. Or check in to feel where the weight is going through your feet. The front to middle of the foot is a good place to start and then do the Tailfeather Test. You might have to toggle other parts of the body because of how the body will compensate in the chain.

2. Sitting. Get your hips as far back as possible. Or put a pillow in the back of the chair so that your hips can find the pillow and you are sitting on top of your sit bones. Then, relax the trunk into the seat back/pillow. Again, you’ve untucked your pelvis and brought your ribs over the pelvis.

3. Better squats/lunges/burpees/stairs/ab work. You can do 5 sets of 20 squats, but still no junk? Take care to see if your pelvis is tucking under in the movement. If so, use an inhale to keep the pelvic floor lengthening as your hips bend in movement. Later, the movement should be dissociated with breath pattern (as long as you are breathing.)

4. See a physical therapist. Often times, the habits of pelvic tucking are a little more complicated because it is a protective and compensatory mechanism for stability. A physical therapist can help with seeing the bigger picture and how different parts of the body relate to each other. They can also help facilitate better movement through manual therapy and specialized movement.

Good luck with the joy sparking!

Pilates with Kierstin! Skater

Kierstin Elliot, Pilates Instructor

Exercise: Skater

Set Up: Stand with one foot on the platform and one foot on the carriage, keeping your feet parallel. Find a squat position with knees over ankles, extended, neutral spine, and core engaged.

Execution: Transfer weight to the platform leg and press carriage away with the carriage leg. Maintain the squat position while extending and bending the carriage leg keeping the pelvis level.

Focus: Stabilize standing leg. Do not let the pelvis or the knee on the standing leg move. Standing glute and hamstring should be the main focus here.

Importance: Form is huge in executing this one properly. Keep your hips back, knee over ankle, level pelvis, neutral spine.

Modifications: For less intensity use lighter springs. For more of a challenge and abductor strengthening, use heavier springs. This can also be done with the stabilizing leg on the carriage opposed to the platform.

Pilates

Check out Julia’s experiencing Pilates to help her weight lifting program here

Pilates Versus Yoga

Pilates vs. Yoga Kierstin Elliott, Certified in Stott Pilates

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As a pilates instructor, I am often asked the question, “How is pilates different from yoga?” Although there are many similarities between the two practices, such as developing strength and flexibility, the differences are quite substantial.

Yoga is an ancient practice that has long been established throughout Indian culture. One major factor that sets yoga apart from pilates is the spiritual element. For many, yoga promotes an environment of self awareness in mind, body, and spirit. Although there are various styles of yoga, ranging from the lively flow of Vinyasa to the meditative holds of Yin, you have the freedom to explore and evolve the limitations of your body and mind within the practice.

Pilates is a more recent method of movement created by Joseph Pilates as a form of rehabilitation and was introduced to the States in 1920. Pilates wanted to create a practice in which injured soldiers could quickly rehab with bio-mechanics. Therefore, the apparatus’ used in the practice such as the Cadillac and Reformer, closely resemble hospital beds with springs, pulleys, and slings. Pilates is focused primarily on restoring the natural curves of the spine using these 8 founding principles: breath, concentration, control, centering, flow, alignment, precision and relaxation.

Both pilates and yoga offer numerous health benefits for the mind and body in addition to complimenting each other quite well. If you are looking for a more spiritual or meditative connection through movement, yoga is the choice for you. If you are looking to strengthen your core and improve posture, pilates will be right up your alley. Give them both a try and see what makes the most sense for your body. Finding a practice that not only feels good, but one that you also enjoy, is important for maintaining consistency and progress. Only with commitment and dedication to your practice will you discover the stronger, healthier, and happier version of you!

 

kierstinbbpt_smKierstin Elliot currently teaches Pilates at Beyond Basics Physical, Flex, Kinespirit, and offers in home training. Call the office at Beyond Basics at 212-354-2622 for more information on Kierstin!

Pilates Blog: Centering

Denise Small, PT, DPT

In today’s Pilates blog, we are going to discuss the basic principle of Centering.  Pilates used the word centering to refer to the “core” musculature.  He believed that all movements should radiate out of the core for maximum stability.  There is a lot of use of the word “core” in exercise literature. However, no one ever discusses what that actual means. In the Pilates method, the “core” refers to the diaphragm, the pelvic floor, the deep spinal muscles, and the transverse abdominus.  The transverse abdominus is a deep abdominal muscle that is attached to our pelvic bones in a horizontal fashion, from one hip bone to the other. One way to find these muscles is by breathing, as all the core muscles are attached to the diaphragm and ribs via fascial connections.

Try this exercise to find your “core.”  Lie on your back with your knees bent. If you need, you can have a small pillow under your head for support.  Now, imagine that you have a small, helium filled balloon in your abdomen behind your navel.  As you inhale see the balloon expand. As you exhale, imagine the balloon being hugged by your navel and your spine, simultaneously.  On your next exhale keep that image of hugging the balloon as it floats up into your ribcage.   This image incorporates the three dimensions of our torso, aka the “core” of our body.

ballon

There is no need to think of contracting individual muscles. Just keep this vision in mind and you will have a wonderfully functional core.  Go over this exercise with your PT in your next session, or come see me for a private session at Beyond Basics. Your body, and your core, will thank you!