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(c) 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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