Alignment Tips For A Perkier Butt and A Flatter Midsection
You know the saying when someone has worked really hard at something and you say ‘she really worked her butt off!’ I joked about that after I had my first child as I remarked at my really flat butt! ‘I birthed my butt off!’ I would say… that is before I knew about why my butt ‘fell off’. In fact what had happened is my alignment had changed so much in my pregnancy that I was now a tailbone tucker and a chest gripper. Actually I am pretty sure I went into my pregnancy not well aligned with already weak glutes and then when I added pregnancy into the ‘messed up core’ mix I became even more un-aligned (not sure if that is a word or not but it is now!).
That was 10 years ago… I went on to have a second babe in 2007 and it was after he was born that I found out about diastasis recti. I was already immersed in the pelvic floor world and after reading about diastasis, I started piecing information together and seeing how closely tied they are. Then enter the awesome Katy Bowman – I can’t recall how I first found out about her but it only took one blog post to be hooked – her humour and smarts combined to make the most compelling stuff I had read in a long time! It was then that I looked more closely at my own alignment and posture and started to make some changes. Slowly, very slowly, I noticed subtle changes and can now proudly say that I have a booty again – more bootier than it was before pregnancy! I began playing around with release work and strength work and alignment work and slowly but surely my body responded. I then started incorporating this into my work with clients and they started to notice improvements too!
I also took a course with Julie Wiebe and that brought the breathing more clearly into the alignment picture for me and really opened my eyes to the role of the diaphragm in relation to the pelvic floor and diastasis. And for the diaphragm and pelvic floor to work optimally, guess what? They need to be aligned.
Of course there was a healthy dose of Diane Lee and Janet Hulme and Sue Dumais and many others in my meandering core education. I have and continue to be, inspired by so many and deliver a hodge podge of core goodness to as many people as I can!
Here are some of my alignment principles that I have learned along the way;
- It starts with the feet – feet that are well aligned and not confined to shoes with heels and pointy toes are better able to give us a good starting point – I have been wearing Vibram’s for about 4 years now and LOVE LOVE LOVE them! Disclaimer - (I am in no way affiliated with Vibram’s and will not make any money if you click and decide to buy)
- Lengthen your backside – calf and hamstring stretches are given to every one of my clients and are part of my personal routine
- Release the tense butt – one of my favourite releases to give people is the posterior pelvic floor release. I have my client sit on a hard surface chair and then I give them a ball – a tennis ball or a yoga tune up ball or sometimes a franklin ball if they are really tight. I have them lift up one butt cheek and find the sitz bone and then put the ball in between that sitz bone and their anus – not a huge space – then I have them leave the ball there and put that butt cheek back down. The result is usually a crooked client who ‘looks’ like they are sitting on something. They key is to be able to let go of the tension in the glutes and the posterior pelvic floor so that they can sit on the ball without me knowing they have a ball there. Rather than a rigid tense muscle that is on top of the ball, I get them to release and soften and let go so that the muscle wraps around the ball. Once you do one side (holding it for 30, 60, 90 seconds…) then take the ball out and feel the space and the soft, spread out goodness in that side of your bum. Then repeat on the other side.
- Release the tight obliques – a common strategy many women use for core stability is to overuse their obliques which results in a rigid rib cage that is not able to sit where it should or allow the breath to go where it needs to go. My favourite stretch/release to give is the crescent stretch or c-stretch as I call it – love this stretch for releasing the side body, the shoulders, the neck, the hips – it is awesome!
- Stack the pelvis – once the butt gripping and chest gripping are released then the pelvis and rib cage have an easier time aligning themselves. You can see in the image below a good example of the pelvis living ahead of the rib cage rather than under the rib cage. You can also see the tucked bum and the forward angled legs. Also notice the breast and belly – in the image on the left they appear to be touching the lamp in the background and when she is properly aligned you can see the space on the wall. She also has a perkier butt too! When the pelvis is stacked under the rib cage then the diaphragm and pelvic floor work in synergy and the deep abdominals are ‘on’ as they work to support the body.
- Sit less, move more - I switched to a stand-up workstation about 2 years ago and alternate between standing there, sitting on a chair and sitting on the floor (v-leg sit with my laptop on a small bench in front of me, straddling a bolster with the laptop on the bench) and sometimes I am on my tummy in sphinx pose while I type. I also try and limit the amount of time I am in either one of those positions – I work from home so am fortunate to be able to do a load of laundry or take a walk outside or clean the house as part of my movement breaks. There are a lot of amazing stand up workstations available now – why not try and get them into your workspace? And for movement I recommend The MuTu System – watching Wendy speak is like watching and listening to myself – we speak the same language and I know that her workouts are awesome!
- When you must sit, sit on your sitz bones – there are many times that we need and want to sit but unfortunately most of the chairs encourage a tucked under tailbone such as cars and theatre seats and waiting room chairs and desk chairs. Even tough the chair wants you to slouch, you can still make some adjustments so that you sit in a more neutral position. Put the front of your car seat down as low as it can go and put the back up nice and tall. Then add a rolled up towel or wedge of some sort under you butt so your pelvis tilts more anteriorly instead of posteriorly – sit on your sitz bones. You can do the same in a move theatre at home or at work – once you have the awareness of how you sit, you can take steps to sit better or not sit as much. We can encourage this in our kids too – I cringe when I see my kids slouching during their screen time and am constantly getting them to adjust and move.
- Slouching is ok – sometimes – there are times when we want to laze around on the couch or lounge back in a muskoka chair and that is ok! It is when we ‘live’ in that slouched position day in and day out that it becomes a problem. Allow yourself the freedom to slouch on occasion but choose to live well aligned for the majority of your day.
- Baby alignment steps – it took years to get out of proper alignment and it may take years to get back into it – take it easy on yourself and recognize the accomplishments you make. Choose one element to work on and dedicate a week or two just to that element rather than buying barefoot shoes, getting a stand up workstation, releasing your butt and chest, stacking your ribs and pelvis and never slouching all in one day…go slow, take baby alignment steps – it will happen.
When we are in optimal alignment our core is ‘free’ to do its job and we don’t have to think about it. The posture we live and move in along with pregnancy and childbirth and surgery and… and… and… all contribute to non-optimal alignment and when we are not optimally aligned then core function is hindered. Typical signs of a dysfunctional core are incontinence, a poochy tummy, back pain, pelvic pain, hip pain and organ prolapse. Once the core has become dysfunctional you need to retrain it (and that starts with alignment) before you train it. Once you are in the optimal alignment, you can then use my favourite go-to exercise The Core Breath. Then you can add it in to movement so your core is coordinated (or core-ordinated as I like to say) and life is good! It’s all about the ABC’s – Alignment, Breathing, Coordination.