Today’s scintillating topic is the back of your thighs and what they do to your pelvis. Those three muscles, collectively called your hamstrings, are what we spend a lot of time sitting on. Very often when we exercise we shorten them as well. When they get shorter they pull on your pelvis, and in consort with some other muscles and ANY SHOE WITH ANY KIND OF HEEL, move your pelvis into a ‘tuck’ position.
Please see my lovely pictorial below that shows a more sway-backed position a tucked position and a more neutral position. (All of these are my body’s version of each given my own alignment limitations and by no means the definitive way to be duck, tuck or neutral.)
As you can see with my exaggerated tuck position, my upper spine also rounds. For many people a tucked pelvis also comes with a forward thrusting lower ribcage (sorry I wasn’t able to contort myself into that position, but if I get a willing student I’ll take a pic later and add it in to the post).
If you have a tucked pelvis, a thrust forward ribcage and then a rounded upper spine, is there any chance your voice box is going to be optimally aligned in your throat? Nope, nope and nope. While the feet are the foundation in many ways, what is happening in the pelvis when it is viewed as a foundation, is equally important. So, start by taking your shoes off when you sing, are in your house and any other time that you can!
Now, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it will take time for you to even begin to assess whether you have a tucked pelvis that needs addressing and then you’ll need to spend time adjusting your alignment to find the mobility to un-tuck it.
This is where yoga can help. For many people with tight hamstrings and a tucked pelvis an aching low back is also in play. So, we need a pose everyone can do, but especially those with achy backs.
Reclining Big Toe Pose is the answer! Really, yoga is always the answer, right? This pose is in my top 10 of favorite yoga poses.
In this version look at the leg that is on the floor. There is no space between the hamstring and the mat; the back of my leg is touching the floor.
Here are some key elements of the pose:
Begin lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
Hug your knees into your chest and wrap a strap around the balls of the toes of one leg.
Extend the opposite leg out on the floor. Be sure the hamstring area is on the ground.
As you extend the strapped leg into the air pay attention to the leg on the floor. Move the leg in the air to where it is straight AND you have the leg on the floor touching the ground at the hamstrings. Walk your arms up the strap until they are straight. Don’t yank on the strap, just let the action of the arms falling back into the shoulder be what gives you the stretch.
When the leg on the ground is touching the mat, your pelvis is un-tucked and you are really stretching your hamstrings. That may mean that the leg that is in the air is actually only a few inches off the ground. Start where you are and work from there.
When your ego says, ‘no way, I can totally get my toes close to my nose!’ This is what you get:
My leg is wayyyy closer to my nose, but my leg on the ground popped up. So much so that I drove a little lego car underneath it to show you the space. (What you can’t see is the pile of legos and matchbox cars and allll the other toys just behind my head because I shoved them all out of the way to be able to take these pictures).
This pose is a great place to start to begin to find some release and relief for your legs and pelvis. Try to hold the pose for 3-5 cycles of slow inhales and exhales. Then get up and walk around and notice how you feel!