The Science Behind the Sacral Tilt Forward Bend

Last year in the Blog Blog (the Bending Habit You Want to Cultivate) we outlined the proper method for safe bending. Many times we are exposed to new information and wonder whether it applies to us. An explanatory basis can give us the confidence that what we are doing is safe, effective, and healing. for us. In this Blog Blog we explore just that scientific and anatomical basis for the sacral tilt.

Quick summary of the last Blog Blog :

a) Why forward fold this way? Strong back core, safety in bending

b) Rules for the forward fold:

  • Be aware of your strength and flexibility
  • Stick your butt out!
  • Keep the thigh bones back in the hip socket
  • Begin to exhale and hinge from the hips
  • Engage the back core before rising
  • Test the weight of the object slowly (it may be your torso)
  • Lift on inhale or exhale, your choice

Now for the science behind the rules:

The spine, as we all know, is composed of vertebrae and connective tissue fascia (disks, ligaments, muscles). We think of the disks as nebulous things that function without our conscious effort, and many times that is just fine. Problems occur when we do not respect their shape and move them out of their proper function. OK – the shape? They are all jelly-like cushions, round and cylindrical. Except for one! That disk is between the sacrum (hip bone attachment) and L5 (the lowest vertebra in the spine), which is wedge-shaped, with an angle of 7 to 26 degrees. This means that the sacrum tilts backward in relation to the upright spine. You’ll notice in my classes that I always refer to this tilt and even set it up in savasana. Poor posture can decrease the angle even down to 0 degrees, resulting in disk stress and lower back pain.

Keeping the thigh bones back enhances the tilt and provides proper strength for the hip movement. Now let’s consider the spinal muscular engagement. In general, the longer a myofascial area is before contraction, the more force (stress) is required to effect the contraction. Two examples illustrate the point: shallow vs. deep Utkatasana and shallow vs. deep Caturanga:


1. Pretty easy to stand up


2. More difficult to stand as quads are extended


3. Pretty easy to lift to plank


4. More difficult to lift to plank as triceps are extended

Similarly with the back muscles which run along either side of the spine and lift us from bending over.


5. Pretty easy to stand with engaged (shorter) spinal muscles


6. More stress on (extended) spinal muscles to stand

Want to learn proper, anatomical weight bearing for other areas of the body: feet, ankles, knees, wrists, shoulders? How about how to place your hands in down dog, middle or index finger forward or wrist crease horizontal, or what? Is each hand different? Or feet in triangle? Measure your own body and find out. Then use awareness to stay safe. Develop your habit, and burn it in to your being with scientific meditation.

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