This is the eighth and final post in a series called Principles of Asana, looking at how to skillfully apply discernment and wisdom in our poses and in our practice. Catch the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Do you remember a few years ago when you could walk into any vinyasa yoga class in any studio in any city and hear the same instruction repeatedly: “Tuck your tailbone under and...”?
It was said in nearly every pose. Downward dog. Tuck your tailbone. Tadasana. Tuck your tailbone. Warrior Two. Tuck your tailbone. And so we tucked, on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
It seems that the “Tuck your tailbone” bubble has burst, but still other pernicious instructions persist, commands to soften the glutes in backbends, or to pull the shoulder blades away from the ears in well, basically every pose.
These blanket instructions are thankfully going out of style, but how did they become so popular in the first place?
Something that may have been a useful thing to say to one particular student, in order to adjust for their particular imbalance, became what we said to every student (sometimes in every pose!). We lost the nuance.
We mistook a correction for an instruction.
Let’s go back to tucking the tailbone, shall we? This instruction is potentially helpful for a student with too much anterior pelvic tilt or an exaggerated lumbar curve, ie with too much sway in the lower back. Tucking the tailbone might bring this student’s pelvis to a neutral tilt and even out the curve of the spine.
But for a student with a tucked pelvis or flat lower back, the instruction to tuck the tailbone backfires. It takes an already out of balance area and makes it worse.
For the curvy-spined student, tucking the tailbone is an appropriate correction for their imbalance. When tucking the tailbone becomes a universally applied instruction, however, things go awry.
So as teachers, let’s ask ourselves: is this a correction for one student or an instruction that everyone needs?
And as students, we can ask ourselves the same question: is this instruction for me? Does what the teacher is saying help to bring my body into balance? Or does it exacerbate an existing misalignment?
We can become smarter yogis! I believe in us.