Tuck your tailbone, a phrase that I think almost every fitness professional uses, and I use to too- a lot. Having taught now for over a decade the phrase tuck your tail bone can and does result in a lot of unique after math.
How so? Have you ever asked yourself how your tailbone tucks in the first place? What actually makes that action happen, or maybe what should make that structural action happen?
After many years of loosely using that cue I began to ask myself just that question. Many of us have probably done an exercise like pelvic tilts or even Cat-Cow, an action that requires us to move our pelvis from front to back or from an anterior to posterior position. When I finally begin to understand that the physical body needs to be understood if you are going to teach people how to move it, I started to question this supposedly simple move and wonder how exactly it happens, or how it should happen.
To get you involved and up and moving (which in this day and age we need all the help we can get-right?). Either stand up, sit up or lie down,and inhale and arch the back tipping the pelvis forward (ASIS moves forward or up), and then exhale and tip the pelvis back or what some say as tuck the tail bone. So, how did you make that action happen? What triggered that to occur? What muscles? What body parts?
Structure does not move on its own, structure does not move muscle, tissue/muscle moves structure. Now don’t get me wrong, if I move my bones muscle is then placed in a different way, but in order to move that, my muscles/tissues must act to take the bone there, so how did it happen?
Let’s take a lying down pelvic tilt, when you tip your pelvis back towards the floor what muscles do you feel contract? If you said the glutes, guess what, that’s the wrong answer, well not entirely, but there is more to it than that. When we do a pelvic tilt or to tip our pelvis in any position we must think to the core of our body, specifically, the pelvic floor, watch your students next time and see how many of them death squeeze the glutes and thrust the back into the floor or lift the hips to make this action happen. The glutes instructor (get it the teacher of the glutes) should be the pelvic floor, yet many compensate for lack of true understanding of these mighty muscles and then overuse the glutes to try to get the job done.
To back pedal a bit, right where you are try to only contract your pelvic floor muscles (that means without death squeezing the glutes or hip flexors), is it possible? For many it’s not, we’ve been taught the buzz word “core” or maybe even “pelvic floor”, but beyond that typically is where it stops.
Using your core is not for advanced students, it’s not for only the boot camps, Pilates style classes, using your core is for anyone that has a body and has any desire to move, sit up, get up, go poop, have a baby, and basically function in any way shape or form throughout the day; yet so few of us really understand this mighty area.
So, tuck your tail bone, something we all can do, but to do it with purpose and effectiveness we need to understand that in order to tuck, you must contract-the pelvic floor. Because even if you move structure the muscle is what supports you, so once you realign the body by tilting the pelvis you have to ask yourself, how will my body now stay there? What will keep it from moving back to where it was before? Muscle. Muscle/tissue needs to be present and active and a part of the process to make any right action a new and permanent one.
Now I want you to practice, practice contracting (in brief) the bathroom muscles of the body, from tailbone to pubis bone, from sit bone to sit bone (looks like a diamond), practice contracting those vital muscle, the bottom of your core, the inner surface of the pelvis, the director to those important glute muscles, the team leader to the muscles of the core (muscles in the torso). Once you begin to awaken this (for many)very dormant area, practice tucking your tailbone, but this time initiate the movement by contracting your pelvic floor and limiting how much your glutes have to say about it. Imagine your anal sphincter muscle drawing the tailbone forward as though it was to latch to the pubis bone. How does that feel?
Don’t be frustrated for many the pelvic floor is dormant and to rewire the proprioceptors (basically the feelers in that area) back with the brain telling that area to fire, takes time and effort. But I know you can do it!
So the next time someone asks you to tuck your tail bone, know that what they really mean (they just might not know it yet) is to contract your pelvic floor to move the tailbone down and slightly forward.