Pelvic Tilting and your Health.

What is a pelvic tilt?
Stage 1:
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.

Stage 2:
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.

Sedentary lives.
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).

Lumbar flexibility.
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


2 thoughts on “Pelvic Tilting and your Health.

  1. th3gr33nman

    Hi James.

    Thanks for the very clear and precise instructions, and the explanation of the benefits, of this essential action.

    We have been working on some very similar pelvic tilt activities in the yoga classes, albeit with slightly different emphases on the muscle groups used.

    As you say, activating the abdominal/core muscles provides a firm, central foundation for movement.

    Without it, the energy for the movement cannot flow from the centre and transfer out into the rest of the body.

    Like dancers, we need to initiate movement from that firm centre.

    I encourage my fellow yoga seekers to initiate their movements from that central area – dantien in Taichi, kanda in Yoga, power centre in PIlates, etc. – after engaging it.

    Firstly, we draw in the lower abdomen, imagining that we are creating space to do up a belt buckle.

    Then we squeeze the navel back towards the spine and up under the ribcage.

    The nett result is that the abdominal muscles move diagonally back and upwards.

    (In Yoga this is called Uddiyana Bandha – the Flying Upwards Lock).

    This draws the pubic bone closer to the navel.

    Recently, lying on our backs, we have intensified this by drawing both knees onto the abdomen and towards the shoulders.

    Then, holding the resulting pelvic tilt, we have extended away one leg at a time at an angle of about 30 – 40 degrees.

    However, it is our experience that tilting the pelvis – by doing up our ‘belt buckle’ and drawing in the knees – does not activate the whole of the abdominal muscle group.

    We feel that it really only activates the lower section of the abdomen – across the front of the pelvis, below the navel.

    To remedy this we have included an additional practice – pulling the ribs down towards the navel as we exhale.

    To do this we lie on our backs, with our knees bent and our feet flat on the floor.

    We lengthen the back of the head and neck along the floor, tucking the chin towards the throat – as if holding a small orange under the chin.

    Then we exhale, suck in the upper abdomen, draw the ribs towards the navel and reach the hands past the shins.

    This curves the upper body off the floor – like a banana – using JUST the upper abdominals.

    It is a bit like an pelvic tilt but, instead of drawing the pubis towards the navel, we are drawing the sternum towards the navel.

    The two movements can be combined – lengthening alternate legs whilst holding a pelvic and thoracic tilts simultaneously.

    Translated into other movements, this develops that strong abdominal foundation for the initiation of any functional movements and/or yoga postures.



    Are the glutes and hamstrings included in the Taiji pelvic tilt when standing? If not, then I wonder why?

    I ask because they perform the same function at the back of the pelvis as the abdominals perform at the front.

    In other words, the abs pull the pelvis up at the front, and the glutes & hamstrings pull the pelvis down at the back.

    Doing both, with a deliberately conscious effort, harnesses the energy of both these muscular activities – which are both happening anyway, albeit perhaps unconsciously.

    (If the front of the pelvis is pulled up, then the the back of the pelvis will move down, and the glutes and hamstrings will have to contract to ‘take up the slack’, so why not use it?)


  2. Pingback: Tucking Under… Don’t FORCE it. | Taiji & Qigong (classes with James Drewe)

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