The lower spine is supposed to have a small curve (lordosis). This curve in the lower back, referred to as lordosis, is what allows the spine to be held upright over the pelvis and legs. The lumbar spine also bears and transfers weight from the upper body to the lower body. If the lower spine is flat or rounded in the wrong direction, the upper body will have a great deal of trouble coexisting with the lower body.
If someone has a curve that is too big, known as hyperlordosis or excessive lordosis, weight transfer and support will be limited as well. The curve is designed to be tiny and maintained with muscular support from the abdominal muscles and a few others. The key is that there is a curve and in my opinion, the smaller the curve the more successful the weight transfer will be.
I have found two common perceptions in the clients and students that I work with.
- Most people don’t think that they tuck their pelvis.
- Many people think they have too much lordosis.
Any reader of this blog knows that I think everyone tucks their pelvis under to the detriment of our movement patterns, our standing posture and core tone. And it is my take that many people who perceive themselves to be hyperlordotic tuck their pelvis in order to correct a problem I don’t think they have.
I’m not saying here that people don’t have issues to deal with regarding the lower back and pelvis; it is that I think most people take an upside down approach to dealing with these problems. It doesn’t help that conventional wisdom tells people to do exactly what I warn against—tucking the pelvis under to bring length to the lower back is recommended by yoga teachers, physical therapists and others. I just can’t fathom why.
Please stop and answer a simple question—if you have an excessively curved lower spine, why not fix and lengthen the excessive lordosis from above the pelvis instead of by tucking the pelvis?
An untucked pelvis allows your gluteus maximus to be completely relaxed when standing and the big butt muscle is lifted off of the back of the thigh where it habitually resides. Once you have found this placement of the pelvis try to engage your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis without engaging your butt or tucking your pelvis.
This action should bring extension to the lower spine as you bring balance to the front and back of the body between the pelvis and the ribcage. If the length of your belly matches the length of your back and your pelvis is untucked, your lower back should be extended in a proper curve.
This often begs the question: “Do I have to walk around with my stomach engaged all the time?” The answer is a resounding no but if you happen to be very weak, working this way for a little while can help you get the ball rolling. The danger of living with engaged abdominal muscles is that they can easily interfere with natural breathing processes.
This is where core work comes into play. Your body will not become balanced by osmosis. You have to figure out the muscles that need shortening (the front of the body) and the muscles that need lengthening (the back of the body) and do specific exercises to make that happen. Only then can you start to figure out the correct curvature of the spine. But I can promise that you won’t figure it out by tucking your pelvis.