As a collective, we are responsible for elevating each other to the next level as yoga instructors. One of the ways we can do this is by raising the standards that we use for verbally cuing poses. We tend to fall into patterns of using cues simply because we've always used them.
The most commonly overused, and generally worst, cue is "tuck your tailbone." Let's dig a little deeper.
When we use the phrase "tuck your tailbone" we are attempting to have students flatten their low back, engage their lower abdominal muscles, and remove any extra lordosis (or arching) from their lumbar spine. In and of itself, there is nothing incorrect about this. For the majority of yoga postures we want a neutral spine, neutral pelvis, engaged core, and engaged pelvic floor.
The problem arises because we aren't cuing specifically to our population. Many of our students arrive to class already lacking lumbar lordosis. Because of our culture of sitting, students tend to have a posteriorly tilted pelvis, a lack of normal curvature in their spine, and underused deep core muscles (like the transverse abdominis). Therefore when we cue these students to "tuck their tailbone" they are actually exaggerating their current posture and moving even further away from a neutral spine. In addition, the act of tucking the tailbone and overemphasizing a posterior pelvic tilt changes the length-tension relationship in the pelvic floor and can exacerbate already existing pelvic floor issues.
So where do we go from here? We still want to encourage a neutral spine in all of our students, whether they come in with an overarched low back or the opposite. The best way to do this is to teach your students how to find spinal neutral.
I find that the easiest position to do this in is tabletop, on all fours. By guiding your students through cat and cow, you take them to the end ranges of pelvic and lumbar motion in both directions. From there you can teach them to find a neutral spine (a flat tabletop), to engage their transverse abdominis, and to begin to connect with what that feels like. When you bring them to a standing posture later on, you can cue them to find that same neutral spine they had in tabletop.
Looking for other ideas on how to refine that alignment using verbal cues? Check out the blog entitled "5 Cues We Can Use In Place of Tuck Your Tailbone."
Namaste - and happy teaching!.