Front Anchors FAQ
Frequently asked questions & my best advice for you.
General Difficulty/Struggling With This
My Advice: First, it's okay. It takes everyone a different amount to time for this to "click" but once it does, the benefits are very noticeable.
It's not uncommon for this to take a few sessions, and sometimes students need time just to get comfortable lying prone before they can even start working on the push away. I encourage you to be patient, and maybe just practice breathing in this position first. There is a huge amount of benefit to be gained from building this foundational connection. If you stick with it, eventually you'll have a breakthrough and will feel that sense of pubic bone to rib cage connection that can be applied to all movement.
Q: Any one else feeling lost on what they’re supposed to feel with the front anchor exercises. I feel like I understood the back anchor lessons but am having a hard time with the understanding the front anchors and how to push off.
Should I be actively trying to raise my legs/ back or should this naturally happen when my core is properly engaged. If it’s the latter, that’s definitely not happening for me 😅
A: My Response
Q: Had a hard time understanding how far to push off on the upper front anchor but when I realized I was compensating in my neck I reset and tried again with less intensity. Surprised how little my muscles can handle pushing up but reflecting on day 2 really helped me understand I was trying to do too much. Can feel a huge difference between the intention of pushing off with the pelvis and lifting up the legs. My knees don't come as far off the ground as I thought they would but I'm sure they will more once I gain core strength.
A: My Response
Q: I don't think I've ever gotten my legs to go up on their own just by pushing the pubic bone into the floor and the other things advised. They just won't float up unless I try to force them up, I guess with back muscles and that hurts my low back.
A: My Response
Q: I will continue to work on this but laying face down in this position for an extended time made it extremely difficult for me to get back up.
Im not 100% sure but I think my pelvis pushes back “naturally” so shifting it forward towards the ground and engaging the front anchors really puts it out of its comfort zone. Could that be? I might not have been engaging my core as much as I needed to.
I just found one of your videos that walks through the front anchor work and talks about pain- I’m checking it out!! Thanks for all the resources!
A: I want to clarify that we are only shifting a specific part of the pelvis (pubic bone) to the floor and not the entire pelvis, which could result in discomfort if you are pressing the top of your pelvis into the floor. I'm not sure if that is a possible reason why you have difficulty getting up after this exercise. After differentiating this, my recommendation is to start at a significantly lower intensity than what you might feel is 'effective'. Sometimes just breathing is enough, and later adding a light abdominal engagement to pull the pubic bone into the floor.
When students have difficulty with the Front Anchors Awareness at first, it's often the case that the body is uncomfortable in this position simply because it is unaccustomed to being in the position. It may have been years since the body was prone on a firm surface like the floor, and the spinal curves/posture have become so accentuated that a flat surface is too extreme at the time.
In this case, I recommend just exposing your body to the position, breathing and allowing it to relax safely. Letting the body feel comfortable on a flat surface is a highly beneficial first priority, and the push away portion of the exercise can only lead to benefits if the body feels safe/comfortable. Many students who have discomfort at first will find that it dissipates simply through repetition over time, as their body gets more familiar with the new position.
I'm glad you found that video where I walk through the exercise. Hoping it was this one and that you found it helpful.
Q: Hard not to use my back to lift my legs. Hard to tell the difference between using legs or pubic bone
A: This is okay. We are trying to break out of some long-standing habits, or firing patterns. As long as you have the right intention, you will get the benefits.
In reality, the back muscles WILL be involved in this movement to some degree (leg muscles too), and the goal is just to minimize their involvement by maximizing the involvement of the glutes and abdominals.
If you can connect your pubic bone to the floor, you've already accomplished Step 1. The next step is to try and increase the connection (or pressure) of the pubic bone to the floor. The easy way to do this is by squeezing your glutes. Try to ALSO use the abdominals (they work together with the glutes - and have the same action on the pelvis) to "pull" the pubic bone forward, into the floor.
This takes a lot of concentration in the beginning, and definitely gets easier as we form these connections. That's why this exercise is more like a meditation, or "deep focus" on the core.
Again, the benefits come from the intention. So don't worry about whether you legs lift or not. Even if you feel them "unweight" a little bit when you increase the pubic bone connection, that is the right intention. (The pubic bone acts kind of like a fulcrum). Eventually, this will get easier and the legs will kind of float up off the ground.
How Far Up? How Long of Hold?
Q: I am realizing that you're not really lifting your head much. As far as height is concerned, what is recommended?
A: I'm actually not "lifting" my head, but "pushing away" from my front anchor points. This distinction is very important, and critical to grasping the concepts of the program. As far as height, an inch or two is plenty, and I'm not concerned with how much. This is definitely not a maximum effort type thing. It's very subtle (10% effort), and the focus is on "tuning-in" and feeling what's happening in your core when you push away from your anchors and incorporate breathing. The goal is to implement these connections into movement later in the program, and we have to become familiar with these foundations.
Q: What about the legs? I couldn't tell if your knees were slightly lifted off the floor.
A: Yes the legs are elevating off the floor, knees too (because the movement is happening at the hips - aka hip extension). And the way this is happening is by "pushing away" from the pubic bone, NOT by "lifting" the legs. The pubic bone acts as a fulcrum and the legs gently float up. This is an important distinction because it incorporates different muscle groups. This is the same concept as the upper front anchor.
Q: Is the goal to hold these positions for 5 minutes? Or 5 sets of 10, for example?
A: My Response
This question was actually from the next lesson, the Front Anchors Progression, but the answer is a similar idea. I don't assign #s of reps and sets for a couple reasons: First, I want your focus to be on breathing and feeling your deep core connection rather than counting reps. Second, everyone is coming from a different baseline fitness level, so there's no number that is appropriate for everyone. Five minutes is the total time to spend in this 'meditation', but you are not expected to be holding anything for that long. Think of it as a flow - in and out of the push away - while tuning into your body.
Once we get into more of the strength building exercises, the guideline for 'how much' will be to challenge yourself. If you are not challenging yourself, or reaching fatigue, then the body has no reason to improve. So listening to your body and challenging yourself is the key indicator later on. But for now this is just for building connection and familiarity.
Q: Is there a recommended number of reps or length of time for staying in this "pushed away" position for maximum benefit to these deep, intrinsic muscles?
Note: I have had a slight but deep pain in my psoas area for years (10+) but when I just do a few minutes of this exercise, the pain disappears. The way I test myself is in the position illustrated in your video (face down, etc) and then by gently rocking my lower half from left to right.
A: I like to spend about 5 minutes in this position, and treat it like a meditation. I'm not pushing away the whole time, but alternating between pushing away and relaxing, while focusing on the breath the entire time. You should be sending your breath into your lower back to relax your lower back muscles while pushing away. Really listen to your body with this one, and the amount of time spent "pushing away" will depend on your ability to maintain your breathing and quality of form - anywhere from 10 - 30 seconds or longer is adequate - and I will even alternate lifting one leg at a time to mimic walking.
Q: How long should I be able to do the front anchors together for (Day 3 - Front Anchors II)? I know you can do this for quite a bit of time. I'm not sure when I'm ready to move to the next lesson.
A: My Response
Q: Is it normal to feel like there's a bit of a bridge / arch in the stomach area as I connect the rib anchor and the pubic bone anchor together (with intention / focus)? It feels like a little arch / gap is there when I exhale and visualize connecting the two anchors. But, when inhale and focus on breathing into the low back and 'getting fat', then I feel my stomach then connect with the floor. Is this normal?
A: This sounds like a bit of abdominal hollowing, which we don't want. There is actually a slight 'get fat' effect that happens in the process of gently pulling your pubic bone into the ground - because all the deep abdominals will be involved with the lower intensity - and this is on both the inhale and the exhale. Start in full relaxation (no intention) and gradually ramp up the intensity of pubic bone connection 1% at a time. Once you've got this down, you can add in the glutes as another layer (while maintaining the abdominal connection) to press away further, causing the elevation of the legs.
Q: In this exercise I can't feel my inhale going in the lower back... It's like in my chest. I can do the exhale.
A: It's okay that you can't feel your breath going into the lower back yet. This is a new and complex body position, and you will get better at sending your breath low over time. Right now the breath is shallow (in the chest) which is a very common pattern. It takes more core connection and control to be able to send the breath low. You will get better at this, over time, with practice. I promise :)
Lower Back Muscle Tension
Q: When trying to anchor my pubic bone, it seems like my lower back can arch a little if i don’t also think about the upper rib anchor. Is this accurate, or am I misunderstanding something?
A: Yes it's accurate. This is why it's necessary to have both anchors connected simultaneously - because it prevents compensations like arching your back that can happen if you're only connecting one anchor. It sounds like you have a great understanding!
Q: I think I may have over activated the lower back on this exercise since I felt a bit stiff/sore the next day in that area, or is this expected even if the exercise is done correctly?
A: The soreness in your lower back muscles does indicate that you should lower your intensity next time. It's not necessarily a bad thing to get sore muscles from exercise, but with this particular exercise we would prefer to keep the lower back muscles more quiet.
Lower Back Pain
Q: Laying on my stomach causes a lot of pain in my lower back. Is this normal? I'm having a hard time doing today's lesson because as soon as I lay on my stomach, I feel pain, making it hard to concentrate on finding my front anchors.
A: My Response
Q: This exercise wasn't comfortable for the first few minutes. I felt some kind of little pains pulling, but as I was staying longer and by the time I finished it I felt better. I stated my daily activities and after an hour or so I felt my back stronger and no pains so I when back to this exercise again and was no pain at all. I'm loving to learn how to connect with my core.
A: This is GREAT insight for other students, and an excellent example of embracing a slight discomfort for the sake of positive change. Thank you for sharing!
"New" positions may feel strange or uncomfortable at first as the body is adapting to something it hasn't done (possibly in decades!). But the body is extraordinary at adapting... and sometimes embracing slight discomfort such as:
pulling, slight tenderness, and dull aches or pains (I call it "good pain") is the only way for the body to make positive changes!
*Note* Never push through "bad pain" which can be described as: sharp, shooting, severe, or anything of the sort. Your intuition has a pretty good idea when pain is "bad" vs. "maybe something to explore"
Q: A little discomfort when I try to lift my legs.
A: It's important that you listen to your body in this process. Also, instead of thinking about 'lifting' your legs, try to switch your intention to 'pushing away' from your anchors and let physics do the rest. If the force is strong enough, your pubic bone will become a fulcrum and the legs will elevate or float up. Also, we will dive deeper into this important awareness in Day 3 of this module. Make sure to read the description below the video in that lesson for some helpful info. You have plenty of time... just stick with it!
Q: I was feeling good the first week, but my pain/discomfort came back after doing the front. Not sure why. I did it separately, and my ribs and knees are floating up just a bit. So I stopped the front and went back to do just the bridge. I have to do the front at some point, right? You need to work on both sides. When I do the front, my lower back is engaged and stiff, is that right? Thanks again.
A: I'm glad you listened to your body and went back to do more of what was working. I also like how you phrased it: "floating up just a bit", which is a much more accurate intention than thinking about 'lifting' from this position. You always want to 'push away' and the result is a type of floating type of elevation.
However, one thing I would like to change is that you mention your ribs floating up. The ribs are anchored to the floor and we are pushing away from them. In other words, they are pushing into the floor, not floating up. What floats up as a result of this 'push away' is your upper torso (head/shoulders) region. If your ribs are floating up, then you are putting too much force into your lower back and this may be causing the stiffness/pain/discomfort.
You do need to gain the ability to do the Front Anchors Awareness without pain and discomfort. This movement is important for healthy, open posture and hip mobility for healthy functional movement in your daily life. You don't want your lower back strongly engaged or stiff in this awareness exercises. Try to imaging your lower back muscles remaining quiet during this exercise. The focus of your muscle engagement should be in your abdominals/upper back muscles for the upper anchor and your abdominals/glutes for the lower anchor, and your lower back muscles (between those two areas) might be slightly engaged, but the goal is to use them as little as possible. As a theme for this entire program, we are trying to reduce the hyperactive engagement of the lower back muscles, and replace it with increased activity of the abdominals.
Q: Triggering nerve pain down right leg
A: If you feel you're doing this right - with abdominals pulling the pubic bone towards the floor, glutes pushing from behind (low intensity), and no intention of 'lifting' the legs - then it may be that you need to wait on doing this position until your hip flexors become more lengthened. This is likely what is pulling on the spine in this position. You do want to get you're body to the point that it can perform this movement, as it is important for healthy function, but all this comes in time. I would recommend focusing on the bridge and winning that tug of war with the hip flexors for a while. Breathe into them and feel them lengthen. When it comes time to try this Front Anchors position again, make sure it's right after a nice warm up with the bridge (and maybe even a walk too). Spend time just breathing in the starting position and let your body relax into it first before any push away intentions. You'll get there... all of this takes time for the adaptations to occur in your body.
Q: Increased pain in left buttocks
A: Try turning your intensity down to one percent, and focus primarily on your breathing. This exercise is very much for awareness only, and the goal is not to strengthen the glutes or any other muscle. Tuning in to your deep core muscles as you use them to anchor your pubic bone, forming the connections, and developing a sense of familiarity with the feeling of increasing the connection are the goals. If there is a strong muscle contraction or pain, that's a sign to turn down the intensity significantly.
Pubic Bone or Rib Pain
Q: This has really helped me. I feel that I am progressing and the back pain is lessening. The only problem I have is the pressure on my pelvic bone is quite intense. I even have tried putting a pad under my pelvic bone but it didn't help. I have tried rocking forward with more pressure on my front upper anchors and that is helpful. Does that take away from the integrity of the pose?
A: I remember another student had this same issue, and was able to overcome it by using multiple thick yoga mats to soften the pressure. I know you already tried a pad, but it may be that you already have increased tenderness in that area from previous sessions, so you may want to wait a few days before trying it again on a softer surface.
Your solution to rock forward with more pressure on your upper anchor should be fine. As long as it doesn't alter your ability to maintain a pure 'push away' intention, then I am okay with any modification that allows you to perform the exercise. Way to be creative, and keep doing what's been working for you!
Questions about Pushing Away
Q: How do I get the pubic bone down enough to push away from it? It’s hard to get my feet off the ground at the same time, and I definitely can’t get the knees off the ground.
A: One thing you can do to help increase the pubic bone connection is squeeze your glutes tightly (aka. crack the walnut). A lot of people will need to do this in the beginning to get accomplish the goal of pushing away. Don't worry about getting your knees or feet off the ground. This is just result of the intention, but the ONLY intention is to connect the pubic bone to the floor and learn to push away by increasing that connection. Again, the intention is the only thing that matters and that's where the benefits come from. Stay consistent, and you'll find that it gets easier over time as your body gets back into balance.
Q: Is it normal for legs not to lift off floor when pressing pubic bone?
A: My Response
Q: I’m feeling lost with pushing away from my top front anchor (bottom of rib cage). It’s hard for me to connect the feeling to pushing away from my lower back anchor although you seem to imply that it’s the same movement. Is there another way to understand this concept so I can tell I’m doing it correctly? When I tighten my core I actually feel the bottom of my rib cage moving away from the floor… is that what is supposed to happen?
Also, I notice that when I tighten my glutes to push my pubic bone down, when my thighs elevate, I’m feeling a pinch on my right side just above the buttocks. Any way to relieve that? Thanks!
A: You're right about my implication about the Back Anchor, but this is more foreshadowing of what's coming later when we connect the anchors together. For now, you can forget about the Back Anchor in this lesson and simply focus on connecting and pushing away from the Front Anchors.
Instead of thinking about tightening your core with the upper Front Anchor, simply feel the bottom of the rib cage on the floor, and push away from it. This will not be the same as the Back Anchor yet. The bottom of your rib cage will actually press into the floor, creating a fulcrum to elevate your head and shoulders. Do not 'lift' them, and only 'push away' from your anchor - the result happens automatically.
For the lower Front Anchor, if you are feeling a pinch, turn down the intensity considerably. Start in a fully relaxed position. The initiation of the movement starts with the abdominals (no glutes yet) - similar to Back Anchor/Bridge - think about pulling the pubic bone into the floor from the front with the abdominals. Once it's connected to the floor, you can then increase the connection by pushing away from it (by gently adding in the glutes). Remember to keep things extremely subtle/low intensity (more on that in the Module 2, Day 2 lesson).
Q: What do you mean by push away from the upper front anchor? This is painful in my traps & neck. I am told I am "stuck in extension". Could this be why this is hurting me? Do you have a different suggestion for flat back or stuck in extension kind of people?
A: We've had other students in a similar situation, and you'll want to approach this exercise differently because of your extended thoracic posture.
Normally I want students to push through the upper front anchor in order to open up the thoracic spine and reverse the natural tendency for most people to curl forward. You may have been doing it right, but since your thoracic spine does not curl forward, this specific approach does not help you and that's why your body communicated pain.
For your particular pattern, you'll want to train your body to stabilize down low WITHOUT extending through the upper thoracic as a postural compensation. To do this, the starting position is the same but you will not 'push away' from the upper front anchor. Your goal is to remain relaxed in this area while focusing your energy (and tension) to go lower into your core and into pushing away from the pubic bone.
This may be a challenge, and that's where the benefits will come from: the ability to remain relaxed up high while generating movement/power/stability from down low. Pull the pubic bone forward towards the floor with the abdominals, and with the abdominals still engaged (and breathing) bring in the glutes to assist in pushing away. If you find yourself tensing the traps/neck etc., focus on heavy head, heavy shoulders falling towards the ground. Feel the weight of the forehead on the ground, and use your breath to help the head and shoulders relax into the ground.
This will apply to the Front Anchors Awareness Part II and the Front Anchors Progression as well (all Module 2).
Q: I’m having trouble understanding pushing the pelvis from the floor. It seem as a I use the glutes I’m creating more posterior tilt in the hips. I’m not getting any lift from any other body parts.
A: If possible, try not to think about the pelvis, glutes, or hips. The focus of this Day 1 skill is on bringing the rib cage down, connecting it with the floor, and pressing it into the floor further. On Day 3, you'll have a lesson focused on elevating the pelvis by pushing away from the back of the rib cage (Back Anchor). Until then it's okay to just focus on making this core connection, feeling your abdominal engagement, and breathing. As these muscles get stronger, the lift will come more naturally.
Q: When pressing away are we to press away from the floor? At first I thought it was trying to elongate my body, but now I am not sure.
A: Yes, you are pressing away from the floor. That is the only intention. Don't try to do anything else with your body. Just imagine the only two elements you're working with are gravity and the floor. The only thing you can do is push away with your support points (anchors). Let your body figure out how it's going to do that, which muscles to use, and all the rest.
Q: Right away I noticed when pushing off my pubic bone and tightening core, the anchor points at my ribs also became disengaged with ground. But I was not lifting my arms at all.
This exercise seems to come much more naturally to me than the bridge. I have more awareness of my diaphragm expansion (Breath) while focusing on front anchor points and their relation to the ground. I’m wondering if I’m not creating independent movement of the rib anchor points and pelvis point however.
A: The goal IS for the pubic bone and rib cage to be connected, both to the ground AND to each other. If you are pushing away with your pubic bone and this results in your losing connection with your upper anchor, this likely means that your lower back is arching. This is a common problem in people with lower back issues (too much movement going into the lower back).
I think you'll really want to focus on this exercise, and spend time in it each day. Room for improvement in this is a positive sign of good potential. Specifically, you'll want to learn to push away from your upper anchor (rib cage) and start getting some motion in your upper back, rather than the motion going into your lower back. Along the same line, when you push away from your lower anchor (pubic bone), you'll want the motion going into your hips as your will tend to float up.
Ideally there is no motion going into the lower back, and no separation of the pubic bone and rib cage during this exercise.
Front Anchors II (Day 3) Questions
Q: When I attempt to connect "BOTH" front anchors at the same time, very subtly, and lift my head AND quads off the ground by "pushing away" from each front anchor, I want to make sure the low back muscles (I think it's the erector spinae muscles on the sides of the spine right along the belt line) are NOT supposed to fire, correct? To get these muscles NOT to fire I can't go up very high with either my back or quads, and I really have to focus on a posterior titled pelvis (feels like i really have to press my pubic bone into the ground ... but if I press to hard the low back fires ... so it's like this delicate balance). Is this normal?
A: It's okay for these muscles to fire a little bit. We do ultimately want the body to work synergistically, and for these muscles along the spine (paraspinal muscles as a general name) to work together with the glutes, etc. However, we don't want to fall into the pattern where they dominate all our movements. So initially, it may offer the most benefit to learn these movements the way you're doing it - super low intensity - and then gradually turn it up with the new pattern in place. You're right that this is a delicate balance.
Q: I'm struggling to get both anchors at the same time. I catch myself holding my breath.,..and that seems to defeat the purpose.
A: That's okay. This process takes time for all students to learn, and is just a matter of practice. I'm glad you are aware of your breath, and encourage you to prioritize continuous breathing. Stick with one anchor at a time for a while, and build up to both anchors simultaneously. This may take days or weeks, but there is no rush as this awareness exercise will be a staple in your Daily Routine throughout the program.
Q: Can you give a few simple cues on the push away when lifting head and then lifting legs?
A: I'm not sure if you're asking about lifting them separately or simultaneously, so I'll answer for both:
When pushing away from the upper front anchor, instead of thinking about "lifting" the head, the simplest cue would be to make your sole focus to "push away" from the bottom of your rib cage. The result will be that the head will rise. I know I say "lift your head" in the lesson, but this is a bit misleading and the pure intention should be to push away. The idea of "lift" might prompt more of a pulling intention, while we want to do the opposite - push away from the floor.
The same concept goes for the legs: You will push away from your pubic bone, and the legs will kind of float up. Don't think about lifting them, just have the pure intention of pushing away from the floor at your lower anchor, and what's supposed to happen will happen automatically.
When doing them simultaneously, you will want to make sure not to let the extension or "backward bending" go into the lower back. This will be a greater challenge to prevent, than when doing them separately, and will require you to have increased connection - or tension - between the rib cage and pubic bone anchors.
Q: I notice that when I engage my glutes (which lifts my thighs up) my main body “fulcrum” is my pubic bone anchor and my top rib cage anchor doesn’t have the same connection and weight applied to the ground. It’s still touching the floor but not with the same amount of gravity to allow me to really push away. Does that seem natural or normal? I am just trying to have the intention and feel the sensation of pushing away from my top anchor once I engage the glutes. Is there something I can be doing better to be able to have the sensation of both anchors feeling like fulcrums?
A: My Response
Head and Neck Position
Q: While faced down on the floor, am I supposed to keep my neck straight so that my head does not “tilt” forward? My head tends to “tilt” forward when I’m in an upright position (the bad posture) and I noticed myself doing the same thing while I’m lying faced down. I tried putting a folded towel for my forehead to rest on and for my head to be elevated a little, but my chin moves forward touching my mat, and my neck bends in a way similar to bad neck posture when I sit upright.
A: My Response
Q: I am experiencing a lot of pinching/pain/tightness in my neck, even when I'm just lying there while tuning in to the anchors. This upper back area especially hurts when I put my arms out to the side. I'm wondering why that is. Note: I don't think it's a flow in the exercise, but rather in my method/posture. Thanks!
A: I have two recommendations, depending on what might be the source of this pain.
- If the source is joint hyper/hypo mobility - meaning the joint is moving too much, and is surrounded by stiff joints. Consider using the foam roll (Module 3, Day 2) to get some movement in the commonly stiff joints below C7/T1 (think T4 area). This will help take some of the load off by spreading the movement more evenly through the spine.
- The most common cause of this type of pain is having the intention of "lifting" your head. This will recruit a different pattern of muscles to generate the movement than if your intention is to "push away" from the ground. The same outcome occurs, but the 'how' that the body achieves the outcome is different, and can cause pain. Next time you try the exercise, consider having the 100% pure intention of pushing away, without any care or desire for your head to lift.
And as always, I recommend turning the intensity down - way lower than you think is even beneficial - and tuning deeply into your body. Feel the subtleties. With no pain, you can gradually turn up the intensity to find your threshold, and work there, at that edge.
Q: This was interesting in that my neck and head were the most uncomfortable. Any tips? I could feel my front anchor points and could feel the push away for both points of contact. Will keep working with intentions for both back and front anchors. Thank you.
A: My Response
Response: Today, I used a small rolled sweatshirt sleeve and that seemed to reduced some of the uncomfortable feeling on my head and nose. Thanks for today's session. The 10% rule is fitting -- less is more :)
Good to know it's the intrinsic muscles that need time to wake up and be useful stabilizers again. Thanks again for sharing. Much appreciation for your guidance and help with many of us with back issues. So again, many thanks!
Q: What muscles are we using to connect the pubic bone to the ground before the glutes fire?
A: The abdominals - all the muscles in the front and sides of your abdomen. I'll name them, but the reality is that the names don't matter (rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques, transverse abdominis). We are not trying to isolate any specific muscle because they work best as a group.
Wow. I have a lot to learn. So glad for the CBT course b/c to think I can lay on my stomach and use those front muscles, the abs, to "push" the pubic bone down to the ground with a slight posterior pelvis tilt is a totally new concept for me but I can faintly see how that could work ... It just must be those muscles are weak and/or I've not used them that way before so I don't have that mind-body neural connection.
In the past, the normal way for me to do that would be to use the back muscles, the LOW back muscles, to do that by arching my low back.
Q: What can I mentally envision, or what 'intention' can I use in order to use my abs to connect my pubic bone to the ground while lying on my stomach? Is there a certain sensation or body trigger that I can use to hack my brain and start this new neural connection?
And thx for all your help. I'm very grateful for this course.
A: You're welcome Troy, thanks for the gratitude and for staying committed. Personally, the initial pubic bone connection was the hardest one for me to grasp, and it took weeks before I developed the ability to connect with my abdominals in this way. With that said, it also ended up being the most beneficial of the 3 anchors for by body. So it may take time, but that may just mean it's a worthy cause.
As far as a visualization/intension hack, I've had one student (recently) suggest that it's like 'scooping' the floor with your pubic bone. Here are some more ideas:
1) Squeeze glutes to connect pubic bone, gradually let off glutes while maintaining pubic bone connection (abs are the only other muscle that can do it)
2) Use your breathe. Inhale for full belly and pubic bone contact, maintain contact on the exhale. Inhale into the pubic bone to strengthen connection.
3) Long term: it's much easier and more natural once the hip flexors have been lengthened. Bridge to lengthen them first.
This is a super low intensity exercise, so tension in the protective muscles will work against you. Relaxing into the floor is always a great way to start, no matter which strategy you use.
Q: I'm struggling with front anchor concept. Are we still contacting the core to push away from the front anchors? This causes me some pain in the lumbar region, as I feel as though I'm extending there. Could I be misunderstanding "push away"? Thanks.
Upper Back Muscle Engagement?
Q: When I push away from my rib cage should I feel my upper back muscles engaged? It’s been hard for me to understand how to push away from that anchor point. Is there a movement that will focus this feeling?
A: Yes, you will feel your upper back muscles engage when you push away from the front of your rib cage. This is the primary muscle group that will open your shoulder/upper spine posture (reversing the rounded shoulders, forward head posture). The muscle groups that we don't want to use primarily for this action are the muscles in the back of the neck, and the lower back muscles (this can happen when we intend to 'lift' the head and shoulders off the floor). The right muscle engagement happens naturally when 'pushing away' from the upper Front Anchor (by pushing down - into the floor). Let's dive even a little deeper...
In the Front Anchor position, your rib cage is fixed to the floor and does not actually move. It is simply your support point, or connection, to the ground, which you will push away from. Think about a push up (or squat): Your hands (or feet) are your support points that are fixed to the ground and do not move, yet there is an action you can take by pushing away from them. Here's a link to a Live Q&A where I demonstrated the 'push away' in sitting, and explained the 'downward' intention a little more.
Another thing that helps is to do the opposite thing first, which in this case would be to lift the bottom of your rib cage off the floor (as you wrote in your earlier post). Then bring the rib cage back down to reconnect it with the floor, and continue in that same direction by further increasing the pressure into the floor. At a certain point, the bottom of the rib cage becomes a fulcrum causing something to elevate (head and shoulders).
Remember that this is very subtle and should not be perceived as a strengthening exercise. The value in this exercise is that it allows you to perform this posture opening motion without flaring your rib cage, because the ground is blocking it. So we develop awareness of a healthy muscle engagement, which we will use later when we learn to do this without the ground. One of the best things you can do is turn down the intensity significantly, and just focus on tuning in to what you feel happening. The goal for now is to build familiarity with your ability to perform this healthy motion.
Q: When I focus on pushing away from the ribs only, my head does begin to lift a little, and I begin to feel my upper back muscles along the spine, in between my shoulder blades, get a little bit of a 'pump', or 'burn' in them. Is that good?
A: Nailed it.
Students Sharing Insights
on Sep 7, 2020
This is incredible!! My low back always hurt whenever I used to do the leg raises. Using the hips made a complete difference in the movement
My Response: The moment we learn to distinguish between the "feeling" of extending through the hips vs. the lower back is a major breakthrough. This can be applied so extensively and across so many aspects in life... Great job!!
on Oct 25, 2022
I am 60 and practiced the, 'less is more' and a meditative state. And for the first time was able to imagine myself as an infant. This must have been what I did then, finding ways to move with the only thing I had in the beginning, my core. Very enlightening to connect with that infant! Thanks much.
on Sep 13, 2022
I tried this 3 or 4 times throughout today to get the intention which by the 3rd time I felt it. I noticed that while pushing my pubic bones into the ground using my glutes that my left side found the ground, my right side slightly off the ground. Not surprised as my right side has been a source of far more tightness in the hips, IT band, psoas, etc., etc. In fact, I have a lot of right side issues -- cranky IT band, sore knee, tight hamstrings. Yet, my back flare-ups generally are left side. Sometimes it takes writing down the observation, even if perceived, to come to a conclusion or hypothesis. The hypothesis is my right side issues & tightness are partially to mostly to blame for my flare-ups. Even have noticed weaker side core and glutes on this side. Of course, both sides I need to focus on, but identifying weaknesses is a benefit I've received so far from this program. Understanding and re-learning will yield to corrective behaviors which I feel great about. This has to lead to reduced, and possibly no more, back flare-ups. Excited to keep going (even though I've got a nagging flare-up going on now). Thanks so far.
edit: I misspoke on the pubic bone. just meant to say, the feeling when my pubic bone is connected to the floor, my right side feels slightly disconnected. in order to connect it to the floor I have to really fire up the glutes and even then I feel not 100% connected on right side. could be my feeling is somewhat perceived.
on Sep 9, 2022
I'm enjoying the program so far. My progress has been amazing for just 3 weeks of work. I am however going very slowly now. my issues are:
1. Difficulty with front anchor progressions, even the most basic like pushing off from my anchors.
2. I've got no bridge to speak of. My core starts solid, but gets fatigued very quickly.
I'm not sure if I'm trying too hard (10% rule is foreign to me as a former athlete. but I'm trying to embrace it.). or perhaps I just need far more time to strengthen my core. Thoughts are appreciated. And thanks again for this program; very helpful.
Also, here is a link to the Front Anchors Awareness lesson video referenced in the stream: "How to Make Progress While in Back Pain"
on Aug 26, 2022
Thought I was doing it right. Felt the natural lift of head & legs, but really tried to just ease into it. When the “lift” would start, I’d relax and just try to feel the lessening pressure where my body touches the floor.
After a few minutes though my lower back started to engage again. So, now I’m on my back again just trying to breathe into it & release the pressure. Two steps forward, one step back… (no pun intended.)
My Response: I love the meditation of easing into it and relaxing back down to really feel what's happening in your body. A few minutes is pretty good before the lower back muscles kick in... so I would consider this progress! Keep it up and keep breathing, you're doing this right.
on Jun 27, 2022
Wow, when standing or sitting applying those muscles you can definitely feel better vertebrae spacing
My Response: YES! This is a really important breakthrough which takes each student a different amount of time to achieve. You can continually strengthen this connection and expand the benefits. Thanks for sharing, great job and keep it up!
on Jun 1, 2022
This was easier for me. Kind of like a very subtle boa pose. I was surprised how my shoulders and head elevated without thinking about them.
on May 20, 2022
This concept I seemed to grasp and made a quicker connection. I did my homework this morning and another round this evening. Definitely felt some relief in the lower back.
My Response: This is a great sign. Some people have a harder time with the Front Anchors, and others have a harder time with the Back Anchor. Usually one comes more naturally and the other takes a bit of work. In the end we want to have both connections strong. Way to do your homework... and glad you're feeling the benefit!
on Jun 22, 2021
This one was a bit challenging more than the others. raising the pubic bone and having the legs come up naturally so so. But once getting up the floor I feel energized and a sense of release.
on Sep 12, 2020
I love this exercise. I almost used my lower back muscles for just a minute, but I caught myself years of doing this wrong in Bootcamp. This used to kill my lower back because I was using my lower back muscles and was in extreme pain. Thank you for clearing this up for me this is soooo much better.
My Response: So very glad to hear this. What a difference simply changing your "intention" can make!
on Sep 5, 2020
I completely tried to push away my legs with my pubic bone and felt improvement.
on Dec 2, 2022
I took my first yoga class in a long time. (I am a yoga instructor and hoping to heal and get back to it.) I was able to apply what you have taught us - using my back and front anchors during poses. It made a huge difference. Forward folds was still a problem that I moved through very carefully (with bent knees, using my legs to expand). I felt pretty good today. I'm so happy with the progress and grateful for your help. I look forward to continued progress.
My Response: It sounds like you're on the right track, Angela. I'm happy to hear you are already implementing the anchors into your yoga practice, which is in alignment with how the program ends. Forward folds might take some time, but I believe you'll get there as your body builds confidence over time. Happy to hear of your progress... Thanks for sharing!
on Nov 2, 2022
Subtle improvement but definitely there. More a sort of intermittent awareness.
My Response: Great to hear. I love "subtle" if you haven't already noticed. It is the most sustainable way to implement these practices as a lifelong posture strategy. Thanks for sharing!
on Nov 1, 2022
I think I Got it! It took till Assessment night, but finally, laying there in position, I thought of the anchors, as anchors! What a concept! I envisioned two anchors at the forward and aft of a ship with a straight line between them immovable, and the raising of head and heels like the waves, the breath like the motion of the waves.
My Response: I love it, David! You have a real talent for visualizations. They are amazing and I appreciate you sharing them so others can benefit as well!
on Oct 2, 2022
Loving this lesson! I enjoy the way you explain why we do each exercise and where it stems from. Thinking of a baby during tummy time is so helpful for me. I’ve paid and done 8 weeks of PT for my low back pain and I was told “your butt and gutt are weak and given high intensity exercises to practice. This is so much more informative in less than 2 weeks! And I’ve felt so much progress with such little movement. It’s about rewiring your subconscious movements not exercise!! Just want to say thank you for your teaching :) I knew my posture was my problem but I didn’t know how to fix my posture bc everytime I went to the gym I was in more pain. and so I started researching and IG brought me your add. The good thing that came from those creepy algorithms haha
on Aug 14, 2022
l have been working on my bridge & front anchors. I think i'm doing well and ready to move on. It has brought a great deal of comfort and removed pain amazingly well. Excited to move on.
on Jun 11, 2022
I completed this exercise and it went well. Was able to connect the rib cage and pelvic bone to the floor and felt the slight lift in the legs. It was when I exhaled that I really felt the connection to the floor. Breathing helps so much. Thank you Dr. Ryan.
My Response: Thank you for sharing, Mary. This is great insight that will help other students. I've found that the farther we are on this journey to healthy posture and movement, the more we realize how valuable healthy breathing really is... I'm proud that you are feeling this already!
on May 25, 2022
Hi Dr. Ryan, putting both front anchor points together will take some coordinating. But I think I feel it working. Remembering to do less and not more and to let things happen by awareness of observing my body. Thank you for being here.
My Response: You're right that this does take some coordination, and building these connections takes time. It sounds like you're really grasping these concepts... great job and keep it up!
on May 12, 2022
I am starting to feel some improvement. I feel like I'm noticing some lower back improvement but time will tell, never knew five minutes were so long.
I am really starting to feel like if I just stick with this and, do the daily five minutes routines: I will definitely be able to put back pain in my rear view mirror, if you know what I mean so again thanks a lot. I am looking forward to my next lesson tomorrow.
My Response: I'm proud of you for sticking with it every day. Many students start to feel the benefits in this second Module because of the Front Anchors. For some, this is the key connection they need to make.
on Nov 28, 2021
I noticed 2 improvements after this lesson:
- learning that the rib and pubic anchors should remain a constant distance from one another helped me connect with their ground contact and focus “pushing away”
- The reminder that this is low intensity - high focus/ intention exercise helped me realize how much I was trying to lift rather than push away. By lowering my intensity and bringing my awareness back to intention I was able push while allowing my lower back and shoulders to relax (in a relative way).
Looking forward to the next lesson, thank you Dr. Peebles!
Q: When doing the anchors, should I feel some pressure on my sternum?
A: You may feel some pressure on your sternum, but it shouldn't be excessive. The bottom of the rib cage in the front is a more common area to feel the most pressure.
Q: For the pelvis, are the points of contact the ASIS and the groin?
A: The points of contact may be the ASIS initially, but that is not where we want to end up. The lower front anchor is the pubic bone specifically, and when we connect this anchor, any pressure on the ASIS should be removed. Use your abdominals to pull the pubic bone towards the floor from the front, connect it, and breathe into it for a while. Later, when you are more confident with your connection and breathing, you can try increasing the connection/pressure of the pubic bone with the abdominals (and maybe help with the glutes - only 1% at a time) to begin to unweight the legs. They don't need to actually elevate off the floor to gain the benefits of this exercise.
One of the areas many students can improve in is decreasing the intensity. I know it seems counter-productive and counter-intuitive, but less is more when we are developing this awareness and these connections. In this case, the subtle unweighting of the legs with gentle pressure is extremely effective for the 'learning' that needs to take place (not strengthening).
Q: I do feel improvement. I recently ( May 15th ) had rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder and cannot extend my right arm in front of me while lying on the floor. I am still rehabbing although much of that has been suspended since early Sept when the current sciatica I am experiencing kicked in which drove me to find you.
It's only day 3 - between the bridge and breathing exercises I can at least find relief when needed. Thanks.
A: With the shoulder, it's okay to modify your positions for now. I am aware of the shoulder positions to avoid after this surgery, and this front anchor position is one of them. Keep up with the things you can do, that are working.
Q: Are these 2 separate exercises, upper and lower body float? Or do you do them together? It's great to feel the legs naturally go up. Thanks!
A: These are two separate movements in today's lesson. In Module 2, Day 3 we will put them together as one exercise. It's best to start practicing the movements separately to allow better focus, but you've got the right idea where we're going with this, Minami... Great job staying committed!
Q: Will there come a time where you just move freely with out the constant focus on breathing, anchors, pushing away etc…. I find myself thinking about moving the right way to avoid any back pain. I would like to just not think about it and just move .
A: Yes, although it does take time. You're doing the right thing applying the concepts to your daily life already... it's key to achieving the goal of fully integrating this stuff into your normal movement. In my opinion, it can take several (3 to 6) months to gradually break out of old movement patterns and re-groove new patterns, but the only way to start overriding the default is through conscious focus.
We haven't started the movement retraining portion of the program yet (which is the integration of the anchors into movement), but you will be ahead of the game when we start Phase 2. I admit that in the beginning, it's complicated and requires a lot of mental focus, but things do start to feel much more 'normal' as you develop familiarity. The 3 anchors eventually become one single connection, and the breathing fits in nicely, so that simplifies things quite a bit.
One quick tip is to try replacing 'avoidance' type movements with confident movement, and that alone can be a major shift. The confidence helps engage stability muscles and encourages healthy movement. Hope this helps, and don't hesitate to reach out with any more questions.
Q: Can you elaborate on this posture and its relation to standing?
A: In standing, you'll essentially be performing this same subtle "push away" intention from these anchor points, without the ground support. In Week 2 there will be a whole lesson applying these anchors with the back anchor zone to standing - called Anchor Triad.
All of this is a process, and over the course of the program you will be working your way towards applying these concepts to standing and functional movements. It's important not to skip ahead because while these concepts are simple, they take a lot of awareness to apply to all your movements. In the meantime, what I recommend to become very familiar with what it feels like to push away from these anchors - through repetition and focus each day - while incorporating breathing.
Q: I feel good after this but how does it differ from the superman pose? I've been doing that for a while too and for both, I feel the muscles in the lower back getting a workout. Why is that bad?
A: This exercise is MUCH more subtle than the superman, and the goal is kind of the opposite. In superman you are firing the lower back muscles, which are already overactive and part of the problem in someone with chronic back pain. In this exercise, by following these cues closely, we are activating deeper, smaller stabilizing muscles WITHOUT the overactive ones. This is a major part of the solution, developing awareness of the deep core.
Q: In this exercise I lift legs but not arms and the head just a little? That's what my body is trying to do.
A: In the Front Anchors exercises, the arms remain in contact with the floor. More specifically, the inside of the elbow is the connection. You are not lifting, or pushing away from these contact points. They are passively resting there as you push away from the rib cage.
With regards to the head, I wouldn't think about "lifting" it or even focusing on the head. The intention is to "push away" from the bottom of the rib cage, and the upper part of the torso (shoulders, neck, head) will elevate together (not just the head).
And it's the same thing with the legs: we are not "lifting" them, but pushing away from the pubic bone - using the core to connect, and the glutes to push away further. If the legs elevate, great. If not, that's fine too!
It's the "intention" that matters, and offers the benefit. So if the legs "unweight" a little bit, but don't actually elevate off the ground, that's just as good because the same muscle activity (intention) is happening. As you continue to practice, everything will get better - including mobility and control.
"It doesn't matter how many times you fall - it matters how many times you get back up." - Lilly Singh
Wherever you're at in your back pain journey, the goal is to make slow, gradual progress over time. Even 1% improvements are significant over a long enough time span.
The way to progress towards your goal is to challenge your current tolerance/ability. If you can learn to enjoy this process, you will have already met your goal.
Dr. Ryan Peebles, DPT