If your pelvis is a bowl filled with cereal let’s say, and some of it is spilling out the front when you stand normally, then it's pretty safe to say that you have an anterior pelvic tilt (APT). Another way to tell is if your waist band or belt is tipped forward more than 10%.
OK, so what’s the big deal?
We don’t exist in a vacuum. Humans evolved to walk upright on Earth, which happens to be a planet with gravity. The human body is designed to function optimally when the skeleton is stacked in a way that allows gravity to ground it, not strain it. The value of good postural alignment becomes really evident when we run which adds 3 times our own body weight in pressure. Running or not, any deviation from a properly stacked skeleton will be felt by the recipient. The greater the deviation, the more uncomfortable you will feel in your body as gravity works a number on your muscles, fascia, and joints. Over time, muscle imbalances set in and leave you prone to injuries, both chronic (due to wear and tear) and acute (your weakest links have grown weaker, so a fall or car accident will impact you even more).
“Your’e going to the moon, Alice!” Geez, Ralph, with all this talk of gravity and wear and tear maybe I’ll take you up on it!
OK, so back to us anterior pelvic tilters.
An APT leads to an overarched low back. I’m emphasizing over-arched because the low back or lumbar spine is designed to have a lordotic curve that should not be flattened out. But problems arise when that curve is excessive. This can range from mildly excessive to greatly excessive. Either way, the muscle imbalances that ensue are the same, just more or less extreme. There will be a degree of strain or dis-ease in your body no matter what. Ideally, our skeleton should be stacked in the following way:
- Ear over
- Shoulder over
- Hip (greater trochanter bone) over
- Knee over
- Ankle (lateral malleolus)
Specific imbalances with an Anterior Pelvic Tilt:
- Over active Ilio-Psoas muscles
- Over active Tensor Fascia Latea (TFL)
- Over active Quadracep (the one that crosses the hip joint)
- Over active Quadratus Lumboram (QL)
- Over active Erector Spinae (the muscles that run the length of your spine)
- Under active Rectus Abdominis (particularly the lower section of the 6-pack)
- Often an under active Transversus Abdominis
- Under-active Glutes (Maximus, especially the lower fibers, and Medius)
- Under-active Hamstrings
- Under-active Pelvic Floor, especially the posterior section
How did I get this way?
My clients ask me this question all the time! While ultimately each of us can only answer that question for ourselves, I can tell you this: whatever is most consistently repeated/reinforced will dominate the field. That goes for everything about you, but I’ll stick to posture!
The way you have consistently chosen to inhabit your body results in the body you have today. So the question you might want to ask yourself is not only how, but why. Why did you make the choices you made and were they conscious or unconscious? As children we certainly model the behaviors and postures of our parents and siblings. Those choices are unconscious. Later in life more emotional reasons come into play whether we know it or not. Certain postures may feel inherently feminine, masculine, sexy, outgoing, protective, etc. We may want to show the world we don’t care or we do care or we’re smart or we’re carefree. The list goes on and on. Then there are physical reasons, like compensation for pain or restriction, or heavy breasts or beer bellies, how much time we spend sitting or driving and how we choose to sit and drive. Smart phones and computers effect our posture. I’ve noticed my posture beginning to change for the worse the more time I spend on my smart phone, so I’ve started to change my postural habits in relation to my phone. As you can see there are a myriad of choices we make in every moment as to how to inhabit our bodies.
The human body is incredibly versatile. If you want to become a competitive body builder, you can. If you want to become a gymnast, you can. If you want to become a ballet dancer, you can. If you want to have an anterior pelvic tilt, you can. And if you don’t want to have an anterior pelvic tilt, you can! The point is, your body will adapt to whatever you train it to do, for better and for worse!
The Power of Habit
I am holding a workshop called How To Fix Your Anterior Pelvis Tilt on September 12 where you will learn what exercises and stretches to do to correct your posture. It’s imperative to reinforce a new posture consistently with exercises.
…but it takes more than just exercises and stretches
This means that you can’t rely solely on the exercises to make the necessary changes. You also need to make sure you’re not slipping back into your old patterns while doing anything else: other exercises, sports (running, hiking, swimming, tennis, etc.), walking, buying groceries, brushing your teeth, and maybe even sleeping! Remember, your body will respond to whatever is reinforced most. Of course you won’t be perfect, but if you keep at it, it will change.
You may need to be prepared for an emotional component as well. Or you may just be interested: observe the emotional difference between having the tilt and not having it. Emotional component or not, it will undoubtedly feel “weird” at first and not normal. This is to be expected. But eventually you will establish a new normal.
Sleeping: If your APT is excessive, you may want to begin sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees to continue reinforcing your improved posture even while you sleep. We spend a lot of time in bed, so take advantage of it!
A Yogic note
Yogic philosophy includes the concepts of Pranic and Apanic energy. Pranic energy is our life-force energy flowing upward while Apanic energy is downward energy (gravity, elimination, bones). Ideally, these two forces are balanced in the body and working synergistically. Incidentally, the ways the body must be adjusted to correct an APT are also adjustments that strengthen the Apanic force. So improving your APT will also leave you feeling more grounded and balanced and will also certainly improve your digestion and elimination experiences. Bonus!
Tips for Runners with an APT
My default posture inclines toward a slight anterior pelvic tilt if I’m not doing exercises to correct it. When I am, my running feels smooth and efficient. When I’m not, it feels comparatively laden and effortful. So I’ve discovered how I can correct in the moment.
Something you can do while running:
Tuck your pelvis and drive it forward with a little more power from your glutes and hamstrings while letting your ribs hang back a bit. In other words, let your lower body “catch up” with your upper body and allow your upper body to hang back and stack over your lower body, Remember this effort is in service of finding your efficient plumb line.
Once you feel more aligned: ear over shoulder over hip over knee over ankle, you can allow the entire plumb line to tilt forward slightly. Running, like walking, is a controlled fall. Does anyone remember the Lauri Anderson song from her album Big Science, Walking and Falling?
And you don't always realize it, but you're always falling.
With each step you fall forward slightly.
And then catch yourself from falling.
Over and over, you're falling.
And then catching yourself from falling.
And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.
...or running. I love that album!
Try it and let me know if it works!