Have you ever caught a glimpse of your backside in the mirror and cursed the dreaded “saddle bags” hanging just below and to the side of your buttocks and subsequently been plagued with negative self-talk?
Did you suddenly feel totally out of shape, fat, and flabby?
First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Saddle bags or not, you are beautiful. And your yoga practice is here to support you in a world of body positivity.
That said, I am not writing this to address body image, but rather the physiological and therapeutic aspects of the saddle bag phenomenon.
Here’s the thing: Your saddle bags may may not actually be a sign of fat or excess weight!
For the last century, there’s been a big trend toward flattening the lumbar spine to help engage the core, create length, and prevent “sway back”.
This action had consequences. In the 1930’s they invented suspenders. Why? Because from tucking under so much, no one had butts anymore to hold their pants up.
The epidemic lasted long into the 70’s and 80’s. Especially in the height of the Jane Fonda Workout era. Can you just see it and hear it? You on your back with your tush in the air squeezing your glutes rhythmically up to the sky in a bridge pose with the Jackson 5 crooning, “Can you feel it?”
But you were born with a natural lumbar curve! All that flattening is not only causing chronic and acute lower back problems all over the world, but….wait for it….it may be the cause of saddle bags!
When you go through life with your butt tucked under, your glutes and buttocks literally begin to atrophy and that atrophied flesh has nowhere to go but down and out. Saddle bags are not caused by fat (though they may contain adipose tissue, of course). Saddle bags are a sign of atrophied buttocks settling on your outer thighs!
Sure, a higher percentage of body fat is going to create larger saddle bags, but before you start unnecessarily worrying about your weight, realize that gravity and atrophy are at play here and it may take some time to regain strength in the glutes and lower back so this flesh can rearrange itself more optimally.
In other words, we can stop obsessing about how we look and start focusing on getting your lumbar curve back so that your lower back will be healthy, and your glutes will be strong, long into your older years!
This isn’t a question of body fat, it’s a question of optimal health!
So what can you do specifically to get your lumbar curve back, regain the muscle tone of your glutes, and lose the saddle bags? Practice yoga with good alignment!
Follow these steps in every yoga pose:
- Get Grounded
Stand in tadasana (mountain pose) with your feet parallel. Settle the four corners of your feet into the ground beneath you and feel your connection to the earth.
- Be Strong
Tone your legs from feet to hips and squeeze your thighs toward one another.
- Move your Thighs Back
Keeping the legs toned, pick your right foot, turn your whole leg in and place the foot back down on the ground parallel - do the same for your left. Then move your thighs into the back plane of your body and your chest slightly forward to counter balance. Feel your natural lumbar curve deepen and your sit bones widen. In addition, feel the tone in your glutes and lower back muscles.
- Draw Your Tailbone Down
So that you don’t look like a duck, keep your thighs in the back plane, but draw your buttock flesh downward, lifting your pubic bone up toward your navel to lengthen your natural lumbar curve subtly, but not overly flatten it.
- Extend out
From your hips, extend down through the bones of your legs like you’re getting taller and expand up through your spine, crown and arms energetically, creating space in all the joints.
Give it a try and tell me what you think in the comments below!