I have a lumbar lordosis and so focus on dropping my sacrum toward my heels. But perhaps I've been overdoing the tail tuck. When should I allow the natural curve of the lumbar and when should I employ the pelvic loop? — Julie Shaw, Basking Ridge, New Jersey
Drop the sacrum and tuck the tailbone are oft-heard instructions. But we are complex beings; our work in yoga is to integrate body and mind. When you move one body part, your body will move another part on its own unless you consciously intervene. When the tailbone is tucked, the abdomen contracts, and the natural curvature of the lumbar region may be compromised. In other words, the lower back is pulled out and down. While this could initially relieve excessive lumbar curvature, it has a destabilizing, weakening effect on the lower back and supportive musculature. If you drop the sacrum or tuck the tailbone, the sacrum rolls contrary to its natural position.
To correct lordosis when standing, be firm and even on your feet. Shift the upper buttocks downward, away from the waist, and draw your tailbone in. Press your heels down and stretch the back of the thighs up to your buttocks. Stand upright, with thighs and abdomen pulled back, and draw the waist and chest upward, away from the hips. These combined actions bring the sacrum, hips, and low back to a correct position and elongate the lumbar region while maintaining its natural curve. Drawing the buttocks down while lifting the torso upward results in a natural, stable posture. When seated, center yourself on your sitting bones. Move the lower abdomen gently in and upward. Lift the chest and the sides of the waist, and see that the lumbar region is lifted and spread. These actions provide low back relief. In your asana practice, include abdomen-toning poses. Toned abs play a critical role in stabilizing the low back.With alert and vigilant practice, integration and sensitivity will improve, and correct posture will become more natural.
Dean Lerner is codirector of the Center for Well Being in Lemont, Pennsylvania. A longtime student of B.K.S. Iyengar, he served a four-year term as president of the Iyengar National Association of the United States.