What is a pelvic tilt?
If you put your fingertips on the upper border of your symphysis pubis (pubic bone), and your thumb on your navel, there will be a gap of maybe 4-5 inches (11-12 cms).
If you then try to lift the pubic bone up towards your navel (leaving your navel in the same position), without bending your knees, so that the gap begins to close, you are starting to do a pelvic tilt.
Without bending the knees, you will reach a point where you can no longer do the pubic bone lift. By this stage the gap might have narrowed to about 2.5″.
In order to continue to narrow the gap, your knees must now begin to bend, but the most important thing is to continue to lift the pubic bone to narrow the gap between fingertips and thumb (you might be able to narrow it to about 1″), so that the knees are forced to increasingly bend.
In this way it can be seen that in both tai chi and in qigong, the knees bend as a result of the pelvic tilt, and not because you bend the knees as a separate activity.
How does it affect you?
Amongst other things:
- More flexibility in the lower (lumbar) spine. Ultimately, less discomfort, as well as less risk of injury.
- Improved abdominal activity; the intestines get an internal massage and function more efficiently.
- Strengthened abdominal muscles; less risk of hernias.
- Has a knock-on effect on the neck. Because the lower back starts to free up, over time the neck also changes.
- When you start to strengthen and operate from your pelvis, other groups of muscles that you were using unnecessarily for specific tasks, in particular your lower back muscles) are freed up.
- Improved balance due to the centre of the body becoming more mobile and flexible.
As most people lead fairly sedentary lives, the abdominal muscles don’t work for long periods of time. The result of this is that we start using our lower backs more for jobs for which the abdominals should be responsible.
You tilt the pelvis without realising it.
Every time that you sit down, you do a pelvic tilt; it might not be conscious, but nevertheless it happens. Most people sit down by first of all bending their knees, and then secondly by adjusting their pelvis as a secondary activity.
Some people sit down by doing a posterior pelvic tilt (see ‘2’), others with an anterior tilt. Briefly to define the terms (there is some confusion as to which is which), I am using the term ‘posterior’ and ‘anterior’ as in the diagrams.
Sitting down with an anterior tilt (see ‘3’) is not to be recommended as you can jar the spine.
In tai chi & qigong.
In tai chi the posterior tilt and the neutral spinal posture are used all the time; in qigong, both anterior and posterior tilts are used as well as the neutral posture.
Without using a pelvic tilt, however small, your movements are not being initiated by your core; you might refer to this as external tai chi or qigong – it might be moderately good exercise, but it lacks body cohesion or integration (a little like replacing the flour in a cake with sawdust; by the time you’ve iced it, it might look like a beautiful cake, but that’s about all).
I have found that most people are not very flexible in the lumbar region, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot become so. In fact, with practise, it will quickly start to become natural, bringing many benefits to the digestive organs as well as to the spine, your posture, and your balance.
There may be initial discomfort as you start to change things, but it will be worth it.
James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan on one Saturday a month.
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308