Have you ever taken a minute to check if your pelvis is well balanced, for the upper body to transfer its weight appropriately onto the lower body? In simple terms, the weight transfer of the upper body through head, neck, shoulders and the lower body through hip sockets, legs, knees and feet, if not done correctly, will result in pelvic imbalance. This, in turn, will cause the other parts of your body to take on the extra pressure so as to compensate for that imbalance.
We have upper and lower extremities and their main job is movement. The mid part of the body, given its structure, is stable and firm in nature and comparatively less limber than the extremities. However, the firmness of the mid part of the body is intricately linked to the firmness and alignment of the upper and the lower part of the body combined. These together create one single unit which is a must for postural alignment.
Runners who continuously do an in-depth analysis of their running form and run injury-free will comprehend, relate and agree to the statement. It would be a great idea for other runners to explore this concept in detail to ensure injury free running.
A quick look into the imbalance
Some of the causes are structural:
- Spinal deviation called scoliosis
- Flat foot
- Short leg syndrome
However, most of these occur due to postural misalignment and weaknesses in your extremities: A quick check to confirm your habitual imbalance:
- Are your shoes worn out in one side?
- Does your head tilt to a side most of the time?
- Is one of your shoulders tilted to one side?
- Is your pelvis leaning out more towards one side when you stand?
If any one of these conditions is noticed, then you do suffer from muscular imbalance. And, running with this imbalance will be like adding fuel to the fire with regards to injuries.
As a runner, you are carrying your body weight, which turns approximately 2-3 times your normal weight, during a run. Further, if there is uneven weight distribution and imbalance weight bearing on the pelvis (which is obvious if you say ‘Yes’ to any of the above), there would be a constant stress on your spine spine, joints, bones, ligaments, tendon, disc etc. during your run. You begin to use other muscles to compensate for the misaligned ones. The results – hip pain, knee pain, back pain & neck pain, muscle spasm, heel spur, repetitive ankle sprains, runner’s knee, Illiotibial band syndrome, shin splints, plantar fasciitis which translates into overall decreased athletic performance.
Learning to perform Ardha Navasana correctly and then working on this posture regularly can help deal with the understanding of pelvis engagement.
- Lie down on your back with your spine glued to the floor, especially the lower back; absolutely no gap between the lower back and the floor
- Keep your legs together; arms resting by the side of your body
- Keep lower part of your body fixed in position by sliding the heels out (heels are pressed on the floor while sliding) and flexing the toes in; the calves & the thighs should be fixed on the floor too(heels may slightly get off the floor now)
- Make firm fists of your hands and start sliding your hands down on the floor while keeping the shoulders pressed against the floor
- Maintain the firmness of your arms; with inhalation, raise it up towards the ceiling (push shoulders blades against the floor during this movement); in the process of raising your arms, tuck your tummy into your spine. It is crucial to engage your abs to be able to raise your arms up towards the ceiling. In other words, your abdominal pressure is pushing your arms off the floor.
- Now stretch your arms above your head on the floor; by this time, you should feel your ribs stretching apart and lower abdomen getting sucked into the spine
- Now stretching the arms firmly behind your head (feel the involvement of the sides of the mid-section along with complete involvement of your shoulder blades and armpits), raise your arms above your head and your shoulders off the floor (approx. 30 degrees). Make sure to get into this position by forcefully tucking your tummy into the ground
- Hold your tummy tight, raise your legs 30 degrees off the floor
- Look at the ceiling, your chest should be parallel to the floor and facing the ceiling
- Holding the stretch in your arms, gradually bring them in front of you ,shoulder width apart and parallel to the floor, toes are stretched out too
- Breathing will be tiresome but do not hold your breath
- Release the posture in reverse order as slowly as possible (releasing slowly will be the real test)
If you are able to engage your body in the way explained, your whole body will begin to quiver in just 10 seconds and you will end the posture with loud ‘Ahhh’ sound. If at all, you feel any kind of stress on your neck or lower / middle back, you have failed to involve your pelvis in full.
A simple way to check your pelvis engagement
If at all your body is not ready for performing Ardhanavasana, you can use other simple movements
- Walk for 5 minutes and concentrate on your movement from your pelvis rather than your legs. Focus as if the legs are coming out of your tummy to propel the movement. It might sound weird but such five minute’s walk will really make your feel your pelvis like never before.
- Lie down on the floor, bend your knees, heels are close to your hips and arms are by the side of your body. Inhale, as you begin to exhale, start tucking your tummy into the spine as much as possible as if you are trying to touch the floor with your tummy, then slide and lift the locked tummy into the chest. This will raise your chest up and throw your ribs apart. Try to get your hips together by squeezing it. During the whole process, your whole spine is in firm contact with the floor. Hold this posture for few seconds and release with inhalation. This is called Tadagi Mudra in which you are working with Bandhas by holding your breath. Repeat for five times.
Thorough engagement of your pelvis keeps the upper and the lower part of your body in balance by controlling the aimless movement of your extremities and as an athlete, you optimize on your performance by making less effort.
“A balanced body is one of the prerequisites for a balanced mind.”