Yogis of the world, please forgive us teachers when we ask you to do things that sound genuinely impossible to do to seemingly inanimate parts of your body. We’re not crazy, ethereal, unrealistic hippies; we might just have to work on our method of communication.
You may have been told in class to tuck/scoop/lengthen your tailbone. Let’s start from the beginning, or, well, the end because that’s where your tailbone is: it's at the very base of your spine and is also known as the coccyx. Maybe you’ve heard your teacher tell you to “lengthen your tailbone down to the ground” when you're standing at the top of your mat in tadasana, mountain pose. Maybe you've also had no idea what that meant.
That’s OK! Here’s what we mean: the purpose of scooping, tucking, or doing anything of that nature to your tailbone is to create space and length between the vertebrae of the spine and restore its natural curves so it can bear the weight of your body like it was meant to. During our daily routines we hunch, we crunch, we get tight, and our spine can become misshapen and all sorts of painful things may follow. Working with the tailbone to lengthen the spine in your yoga practice and while you stand can be extremely beneficial to your overall sense of well-being.
We could just tell you to stand up straight, but that movement isn’t as precise and as subtle as tucking the tailbone. To move the tailbone, there are a few steps. I can’t take all the credit for this great sequence; I have to thank my teacher, Donna Scro, but I’ll be the messenger.
1. Press the feet down.
2. Squeeze the shins in.
3. Move the tops of the thigh bones back (until you feel space in your hips by your groin or your butt sticks out a bit).
4. Scoop the tailbone.
5. Lift the belly.
6. Stand tall.
Practice tucking your tailbone to lengthen the spine while you stand on your mat and in your life. Practice it on the train, while you wait in line, and wherever you go and start to notice how that feels in your body, because your body ain’t nobody else’s!
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