Does one of your legs appear to be shorter than the other? Or, is your pelvis tilted, so one hip bone appears higher than the other? Or is one of your hip bones rotated slightly forward compared to the other?
These could be signs of pelvic asymmetry. Structural asymmetries in the pelvis have long been linked to low back pain or joint problems. Asymmetry of the pelvis can set up a kinetic chain of compensations in the body, creating a negative effect on your hip joints, knees and feet, and in the upper body, affecting the vertebral discs and trunk balance.
In this free download, certified yoga therapist and back care specialist Lillah Schwartz explains why asymmetry in the pelvis can be the hidden source of chronic pain and structural imbalance throughout the body.
Understanding the mechanics of pelvic asymmetry is particularly important for yoga practitioners, Lillah notes. Yoga practitioners with a tilted or rotated pelvis may be unknowingly stretching too deeply into asymmetrical poses in Power Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga classes, and this could result in pain and even long-term damage.
It’s easy to misunderstand the signals our bodies are sending.
Lillah explains that when one side of the body is more stable and the other side feels like it’s more “stretchy” it’s easy to interpret the signal that the looser side has more flexibility and capacity to lengthen, when in fact the muscles are actually weaker.
“You may be thinking that being looser on one side means you can stretch much further,” she explains. “So you take a pattern that is already out of balance and make it even more out of balance by taking the stretch too far. When there’s pain involved you may think stretching more is the answer, but in fact the painful muscle is always the weaker muscle. Rather than stretching, addressing that foundational imbalance is where you should begin. You may actually need to ease back on that side and stretch the other side.”
The first step in achieving balance, says LIllah, is to study the “map” of the pelvis, observing balance in simple movements and even looking at the wear pattern of your shoes. She offers some simple assessment tools, including using the imagery of a clock face to study the position of the hip points. That way you can begin to understand where misalignment lies, which muscles are actually tight and which may be overstretched.
Once imbalances have been identified, the job is to cultivate fluidity and ease, connect to breath, and open and release restricted connective tissue. Only then does Lillah advise beginning to work on toning what’s weak. Weakness can come from a variety of sources, including the deep hip flexors, the core or gluteal muscles, or the pelvic floor.
You may also be interested in Lillah’s course, Yoga for a Healthy Back: Addressing Pelvic Asymmetry.