There’s no doubt you’ve had a least one yoga teacher tell you to “tuck your tailbone” during practice. My response? Tuck it? Tuck it where?
This cue is one I never quite understood. My initial thought was, “OK, I’m arching my spine here—maybe it has something to do with that.” So, as a result, I would tilt my pelvis forward. (Of course, I had to hear this cue around 10 times before I actually listened to it and adjusted accordingly — and it still wasn’t anatomically safe.)
This action was simple in mountain pose. But hearing it in chair pose still seemed confusing. Perhaps, when I started practicing, I wasn’t fully aware of my anatomy. Either way, as I’ve grown as a practitioner, and a current 200-hour RYT trainee, I’ve learned that I’m not the only person who found this cue to be a confusing one — not to mention, it can be counterproductive to achieving proper alignment.
So you have a tail…
I know, news to you. This “tail” that your teacher keeps referring to is your coccyx, which is the very bottom portion of the spine. When you’re told to “tuck” your tail, the intention is to lengthen and create space. This action reestablishes your spine’s natural shape so it can continue to support the weight of your body as you evolve.
For those sentenced to hunching over a desk during the work week, this is especially important.
The cue to “tuck,” can be misinterpreted and can actually cause one’s spine to lose its natural curves!
Here’s what you can do, and say, instead
“Tailbone down.” These two, simple words are easy to connect with. What this asks for is a subtle forward tilt of the pelvic girdle while lengthening the torso. Now, if you’re a teacher and you feel comfortable talking anatomy, go ahead and use that as your cue: “slightly tilt your pelvic girdle forward.”
To achieve a neutral pelvis, which is what all this really means anyway, bring your awareness to your backside. Is your booty poppin’? (Note that a little bit is OK.)
If there is excessive curvature in the lumbar spine, instead of “tucking your tailbone,” draw your naval in toward your spine to engage your core, lengthen the front of your body, allowing everything to stack, and gaze forward. This way, you’ll be able to maintain your spine’s neutral curve and still have your muscles working to hold you up.
Practice in front of a mirror if you’re unsure of what this looks like. Experience how the cues feel in your body. Try sticking out your backside and then play around with an exaggerated pelvic tilt forward—notice how the latter action shortens your front side. Then, neutralize. That’s what you’re looking for.
If this information has helped you, and you feel your friends and teachers who use this cue could use some feedback, share! They’ll be happy that you did.
Remember, you tuck in your kids — not your tailbone!