"Tuck your tailbone." Ah, the most dreaded of all verbal cues. By now, most educated yoga instructors can agree that this cue is lazy, at best, and needs to go. But what can we use in it's place? Below are 5 verbal cues to add to your repertoire.
1. Draw your navel towards your spine: when we say "tuck your tailbone" we are often trying to encourage our students to engage their transverse abdominis, the deep corset-like abdominal muscle. Utilizing a phrase like "draw your navel towards your spine" encourages the contraction of these deep abdominal stabilizers without compromising the integrity of the spine.
2. Draw your front ribs down and in - or knit your front ribs together: these cues encourage the engagement of the deep abdominal musculature as well as removing any excess lordosis or extension of the lumbar spine, helping stabilize the spine and maintain a natural curvature.
3. Gently pull your pubic bone towards your nose and your front ribs towards your toes: again, this cue encourages engagement of the abdominals as well as lengthening the spine while maintaining it's natural curve.
4. Draw your sit bones towards your heels: this cue prompts a lengthening of the lumbar spine without encouraging an excessive posterior pelvic tilt (like the tailbone tucking cue does).
5. Find a neutral spine, like you experienced in ________ posture: my favorite way to cue this is by teaching neutral spine and pelvis in a posture like tabletop. By cycling through cat/cow, you teach students what a full spinal extension and anterior pelvic tilt feel like as well as a full reversal of the spinal curve and posterior pelvic tilt. You can then teach spinal and pelvic neutral. When you bring students into another posture, reference the neutral feeling they felt in tabletop to encourage finding neutral again.