December 17, 2014

Whether You Should Give a Tuck in Yoga.



There’s a yoga fight happening over whether to tuck or not to tuck (the tailbone). That is the question.

If you are the kind of yoga teacher that does not give a tuck about the tailbone or pelvis, then by all means, flow on and find another story to read. But if this issue is of importance to you, then read on. But I warn you, it’s not too late to get a latte, call it a day, and practice yoga instead.

Whether or not to tuck the tailbone has long been a “bone” of contention in yoga. However the latest yoga kerfuffle began with an article on how to “soften the front ribs.” By the way, I have practiced yoga for 15 years and not once have I ever heard this cue, but apparently, it’s used wherever people have hard ribs.

I just felt my own ribs, and actually, they feel quite hard to me too.

Part of the writer’s answer “to soften the ribs” in standing poses was to suggest tucking the tailbone, or shortening the length of the pubic bone to the belly button. In anatomy speak, this is creating a posterior tilt to the pelvic bowl, which is just like screaming “Fire” in a crowded yoga studio. Yogis get very agitated when you start to mention the pelvis, along with anything related to gluten, vegan or vodka.

(There are just some things you do not talk about socially in yoga.)

Almost immediately came a response came from another teacher with a lengthy and intelligent assessment of pelvic anatomy kind of coming down on the side of not to tuck. From there, the raging inferno continued with a blast from the director of the American School of Yoga, with a vehement justification of the tuck.

Are you confused? If you ask 15 different yoga teachers whether you should tuck the tailbone in a yoga pose, you will get 15 different answers.

Why should we give a tuck? Well, first off, I want to make clear that the action of the pelvis is uber important in the practice of yoga. It can heal one’s back, strengthen the core and make your life so much better.

However: moving the pelvis in the wrong direction can totally screw you up.

So naturally yoga teachers want to know what do we tell our students? To tuck? Or not to tuck? The problem is, in my humble opinion, there is not one answer that works for all students.

You see, every person is different and some may need to move the tailbone forward to lengthen the spine and protect from injury in the low back, piriformis or hamstrings.

On the other hand, some people may need to move their tailbone toward the back, to create a “neutral” pelvic position and support the natural curve of the lumbar. This will also engage the deeper core muscles and theoretically lessen strain on the back. That was honestly as much anatomy as I can handle.

There is also the question of whether adjusting a student’s pelvic tilt is violating their boundaries. This is the opinion of the yoga teachers who also want to be psychologists. Their point is that an adjustment may be an imposition of one’s worldview onto a student.

So if a student asks you whether or not they should give a tuck, here is a safe answer: “What do you think?” Or here is another, “How did that make you feel?” See, I’ve had therapy too.

The bottom line (OMG I kill myself), is what the tuck?

The best advice I can offer is this: do it both ways, see how it feels. Ask your teacher, but if she answers with “How did it make you feel,” don’t say you hadn’t been warned.



(Note: This was meant to be a humorous look at a serious issue. If you didn’t think it was amusing, please let someone know that it wasn’t tucking funny to make fun of tucking, at all.)


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Author: Michelle Marchildon

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Piotr loop at Flickr 


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