The Bodywork Perspective – How the Body Tilts

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Tilt, viewed from front or back

In order for there to be a “sideways” tilt when the body is viewed from front or back, (barring one leg being physically shorter than the other) there has to be a tilted part.

So, you’ll have to look at two zones, and identify the source of the tilt.

Here’s a short video describ­ing this: 


Tilt­ed pelvis,front view

First of all, let’s have a look at the pelvis. From the front, locate the bony pro­tru­sions at the top out­side cor­ner of the pelvis. Imag­ine a line con­nect­ing the two points. If the line is par­al­lel to the ground, move on. If the line is not par­al­lel, make note of which side is higher.

  • tilted pelvisTilt­ed Pelvis
  • straight pelvisStraight Pelvis

Tilt­ed shoulders,front view

Now, do the same with the shoul­ders. Same test. Par­al­lel? Ok. Tilt­ed? Which side is higher?

  • tilted shouldersTilt­ed Shoulders

  • straight shouldersStraight Shoul­ders

Exper­i­ment — Play­ing with Tilt

If I am tilt­ed at my pelvis, my nat­ur­al ten­den­cy would be for my shoul­ders to tilt the same way. To get a bet­ter sense of this, stand in front of a mirror.

Begin by tilt­ing your pelvis so the right side is high­er. Notice how your shoul­ders follow.

Now, using your shoul­der mus­cles alone, raise your low­er shoul­der so that your shoul­ders are par­al­lel to the ground. This lev­els the tilt for the upper body. Of course, it does­n’t deal with the cause — your tipped pelvis.

Now, push your for­mer­ly low­er, now par­al­lel, shoul­der even high­er. You should now have your pelvis tipped in one direc­tion, your shoul­ders in anoth­er. If you look at the space between your armpit and your waist, you’ll see that one side is “short­er” than the oth­er. (see the pho­tos below.)

Impor­tant concept

Here’s how this might esca­late: Imag­ine a teenag­er with tipped shoul­ders. Her par­ents see the kid from the front, look at her shoul­ders, and say, “Straight­en up!”, maybe reach­ing over and rais­ing the low­er shoulder.

Because we don’t often stare at the pelvis, the par­ents may miss the fact that it is the pelvis that is tilt­ed, caus­ing the shoul­ders to tip. Thus, the “cor­rec­tion” makes the prob­lem worse.

As to “mean­ing,” in Chi­nese Med­i­cine, the right side of the body is the mas­cu­line (yang) side, and the left side (yin) the feminine.

From this per­spec­tive, a tilt­ed pelvis might be about an imbal­ance of sex­u­al ener­gy, the imbal­ance being expressed in an over-abun­dance of the ener­gy of the high side.

Sim­i­lar­ly, tilt­ed shoul­ders express a more gen­er­al, yin/yang approach to life. Some busi­ness­men, for exam­ple, are quite “high on the right” and per­haps more so going into a meeting.

Tilt, person walking.

Oppo­site dou­ble tilt
  • double tilt
  • double tilt

Here’s a story about the “opposite double tilt” 

I worked with a client who was the divorced moth­er of two pre-teens.

Her pos­ture was sim­i­lar to the woman to the left.

Her expe­ri­ence with sex, pri­or to her divorce, was only with her hus­band, and she described it as “lousy.”

After the divorce, she dis­cov­ered her sex­u­al­i­ty. She dis­cov­ered it by pick­ing up men in bars, and in her words, “screw­ing them senseless.” 

All of that was well and good, but then she “took them on as projects,” and tried to turn them into hus­band material.

Wasn’t too successful, I might add.

When I looked at her body from the front, her pelvis was up on the right, and her shoul­der was up on the left. You can also say that she was “short” (or “crunched”) on her right side. 

Now, what might this mean? Well, 
  • aggres­sive sex­u­al­i­ty was com­ing to the fore for her — so her pelvis was up on the right — there was an excess of yang ener­gy in her pelvis 
  • her belief was that she was unable to look after her­self long-term — so she was des­per­ate­ly look­ing for “Mr. Right” to take care of her and her kids. This shows as an excess of yin (raised left side) in in her shoul­ders.

She used a sex­u­al­ly aggres­sive approach to snare men, and then “hoped” she could some­how con­vert her “pick-ups” into suit­able and wor­thy “dads.”

Need­less to say, none of the men “con­vert­ed.” Their expec­ta­tion, giv­en her “bar” behav­iour, was more and more sex — with­out oblig­a­tion; she’d real­ize what was hap­pen­ing, kick him out of her bed, and go seduce another.

This is the clas­sic def­i­n­i­tion of “stuck and rigid.”

This was an incred­i­bly stress­ful posi­tion (and lifestyle) to main­tain, yet the metaphor became her “nor­mal” posture.

The pho­to on the right, above,
shows the oth­er dou­ble tilt

Here we see aggres­sive yang at shoul­ders (pow­er stance “in life”) while yin is repressed at the pelvis.

She seems “crunched” on the yin side, per­haps hold­ing her­self back from her feel­ings, while attempt­ing to con­quer the world with her head.

Tilt from the side.

Body Tilt From the Side

OK, so let’s now have a look at neutral as compared with a tilt.

neutral from side Neu­tral from side

As a reminder, neu­tral pos­ture is exact­ly as we just described it on the last page. This stance, with every­thing in align­ment and in bal­ance, is the pos­ture we strive to attain through Body­work and through the bal­anc­ing of all aspects of life.

When working with someone, the first thing we look at is the person’s “whole body” posture

The body can “tilt” off of neutral; it does so by moving off centre, either front to back or side to side.

Lean­ing Forward
  • tilt forward
  • tilt forward 2

From the side, it looks as if the per­son is falling for­ward. In order to do this:

  • the knees have to be locked.
  • The weight is borne by the ankle joints, which are also tipped slight­ly forward.
  • Were the per­son to walk into a wall, they would hit first with their fore­head.

Lean­ing for­ward is an aggres­sive pos­ture. This per­son lives life “full speed ahead and damn the tor­pe­does.” They use their heads, a lot. They are used to bat­ter­ing their way, like a ram, through their issues.

It’s also a posi­tion of cau­tious vig­i­lance. Typ­i­cal­ly, for­ward lean­ers have been hurt, and aren’t about to let this hap­pen again. So they tough­en up, act aggres­sive and bul­ly their way along.

Because of the con­stant (and most­ly unfelt) strain on their low­er bod­ies, they have lit­tle sense of ground­ed­ness (con­nect­ed­ness to sta­ble ground,) to feel­ing, to deep strength. This is also due to the fact that their heels are only light­ly attached to the ground. It’s as if they are hang­ing onto the ground with their toe­nails. They fear that if they relax, they’ll fly away.

They are thus tenacious in their holding on while pushing ahead.

Their strength is in their heads. If attacked from behind, (their con­tin­u­al fear is betray­al, or “being stabbed in the back”) they are can­di­dates for falling flat on their faces. Thus the guard­ed look on their faces, which lies behind their mask of aggression.


Try the pos­ture. Stand. Then lean for­ward from the ankles, keep­ing the rest of the body fair­ly rigid. There’s no break at the waist here.

Notice the strain on your legs, knees and ankles. And notice how your heels want to leave the ground.

Impor­tant concept

If you just tried this pos­ture, you like­ly felt dis­com­fort, because it’s your first try at it, and is there­fore unfa­mil­iar. You may be won­der­ing how any­one could stand this way.

Remem­ber: this pos­ture does not feel uncom­fort­able to the per­son who stands this way all the time.

Some­one who always stands tilt­ed for­ward, for exam­ple, thinks that this lean­ing for­ward is nor­mal. They do not know, or can­not sense, that they are leaning.

If you study yoga, you know that one of the main tasks of the teacher is to cor­rect pos­ture. Most are unaware that they are not stand­ing “straight.”

For some­one in a “non-neu­tral” pos­ture, there is no longer any pain felt as they stand in the “non-neu­tral” pos­ture, until a Body­work­er push­es on the per­son­’s release points.

The per­son has dead­ened their sense of pain over this non-neu­tral posi­tion, as is always the case with “non-neu­tral,” non-bal­anced positions.

Lean­ing Back
  • tipped back
  • tipped back

keep on truckin© R. Crumb

This pos­ture looks “laid back.” This pos­ture reminds me of the car­toon “Keep on Truckin’,” by R. Crumb.

The leaning back is “whole body” leaning. It’s often most apparent when the person is walking.

“Laid back,” describes the pos­ture, and in our cul­ture, the expres­sion “laid back” sug­gests that “all’s right with the world.”

How­ev­er, when the expres­sion was cre­at­ed, most laid back peo­ple were “laid back” by drugs.

And they were “laid back” as an escape from the harsh real­i­ty of the world.

Lean­ing back is a way to resist tak­ing con­scious respon­si­bil­i­ty for one’s life. The head is what is “laid back”; think­ing is just not impor­tant for such peo­ple. They’re “let­ting it all hang out.”

The ori­en­ta­tion of this pos­ture, then, is to bod­i­ly experience.

As we said above, regard­ing “Lean­ing For­ward,” one way to look at a pos­ture is to imag­ine which part of the body will hit a wall first. The laid back per­son will hit the wall with their bel­ly, then their crotch. (See the video, above.)

It is no coin­ci­dence that many laid back folk 
think with their gen­i­tals.

It’s almost as if this “crotch con­tact” with the world keeps their head and heart reserved, pulled back, safe. Their chest and their head are a cou­ple of min­utes behind, and they like it that way.

Same woman as above right in this sec­tion, she leans back nor­mal­ly. Note her pos­ture here.

To hug such a person is to come into contact with their pelvis first.

If you want true con­tact as opposed to gen­i­tal con­tact, you have to to lean into them to reach their heart.

This forces the hug­ger to also be the aggres­sor. “Laid back,” then, can be seen is a pas­sive / aggres­sive stance.

Pushed from the front, the per­son is a pushover. And again, because of the mus­cle ten­sion nec­es­sary to main­tain the posi­tion, the per­son lacks ground­ing and a true sense of their feel­ings. Their nor­mal facial expres­sion is “blissed out” or tuned out.

Exper­i­ment # 2

Try this pos­ture. You’ll dis­cov­er that locked knees and pelvis are required to main­tain even a sem­blance of balance.

Keep­ing the body stiff, lean back a bit, then try walk­ing. Seems dif­fi­cult. Unless you’ve made it your approach to life. Then, it’s just a bad habit, and a way to avoid responsibility.

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