Pretty yoga poses that wreck pelvic stability (and one simple change that will help)

Warrior one, pigeon, deep backbends, deep lunges. They’re all so beautiful to look at, aren’t they? Thing is, people often make the shape of the pose from their habitual movement patterns.

One simple way to stabilise your pelvis in yoga

The more anatomy I study, the more I believe that no movement is inherently bad, but we run into trouble when we overuse movements. Especially when we do so unconsciously. One such habit that a lot of people have is overusing the sacroiliac joints and lower back to give the appearance of more movement in the hip joint that we actually have.

Over time, this can seriously destabilise the pelvis and low back - you can see me doing just that in the picture below:

Pretty to look at, but very unfortunate for pelvic stability.

Pretty to look at, but very unfortunate for pelvic stability.

What we need, then, is to practice and teach these lovely looking poses carefully, to build the motor skills that protect pelvic stability. 

If you are unstable in your pelvis (as I can tell you from experience) everything else is unstable too.

Warrior one, triangle and pigeon pose are the top three poses that cause or aggravate pelvic instability (most notably sacroiliac joint) problems.

Warrior two deserves a mention too: it’s a hard pose to get right and although it doesn’t seem to CAUSE as many issues in the pelvis, it shows them up starkly. Also, the transition from Warrior one to two and back is tricky and can hurt people.

These have a number of risk factors in common:

  • They are assymetrical, with one leg forward and one leg back. This requires nutation (nodding the sacrum forward into the pelvis) in one sacroiliac joint (SIJ) and counternutation (nodding it in the opposite direction) in the other.

  • They both involve having one leg in external rotation (turned out from the midline). External rotation is hard for lots of people, partly because our hips are tight from sitting in chairs: having only one leg doing it is even tougher.

  • They are frequently taught wrong because they are complex poses.

What can you do to make these poses safer and stronger?

One really simple thing is to take a broader, shorter stance. That way, there is space for your legs to move in your hip sockets (even with tight-ish muscles) and you won't need to jam into your low back or pelvis.

How to line your feet up in standing poses

So your poses may end up looking like this (thanks to Pauline for modelling):

Warrior One

Notice how her butt isn't sticking waaay out in her Warrior 2? That's great for her pelvis.

Reverse Warrior - safe alignment

For Pauline's body, this Reverse Warrior is wonderful alignment. Some people might go further backwards, but a lot of people shouldn't, because instead of moving evenly through the pelvis and spine, they'll just be jamming up in one area, often the SI joints.

Hope this was useful! Have fun experimenting with your own alignment, and I'd love to know what you find.

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