In Pilates, we promote neutral pelvis and neutral spine, because when the body is aligned in this way, it relieves pressure on the joints, and it encourages the muscles to be balanced throughout. Therefore, when we perform exercises we are working the muscles appropriately and safely without putting undue strain on the joints and tendons
How to find neutral pelvis lying down:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle, feet flat on the mat. Arms down by your sides, palms facing down.
- Find your hip bones (these are protruding bones on each side below your waist). Place the heels of your hands on those hip bones.
- Bring your fingers to meet and rest on your pubic bone.
- These three bony landmarks form the outer edges of your pelvis and for the pelvis to be in neutral those landmarks need to be level on all planes ( so North to South, but also East to West). Essentially you should be able to balance a tray on these three bones and not spill a single drink! Another helpful visualisation is that you could think of your pelvis as a bowl full of water which must not be spilt.
If you lift the pubic bone into the air and flatten your back into the mat, then you are tilting your pelvis backwards into a posterior tilt. This is not neutral.
If you push your tailbone into the mat and tip your pelvis forwards to create a larger arch in your back, you are tilting your pelvis anteriorly. This is not neutral either.
Neutral will be where you are somewhere in the middle of those two tilts, with a small arch in your lower back – big enough to slide your hand under, say to post a letter.
Neutral spine is where your pelvis is in neutral, your upper back and ribs are on the mat, there is a nice natural curve in your neck and the back of your head is resting on the mat with your chin and forehead level (a small cushion or book under your head may help).
All bodies are different and it can take time for you to become aware of your body and where it is positioned, so practice finding neutral pelvis as often as you can. You can do this standing, sitting, kneeling, on all 4s and lying down.
It may even be difficult to achieve neutral pelvis initially if your back is tight, your deep stabilising muscles are weak, or movement of the pelvis is restricted for any reason. Not many of us walk around in neutral pelvis anymore so it is likely that you will be tilting your pelvis anteriorly or posteriorly every day. This is why neutral can be hard to find and may not feel wholly natural to you.
Like most things in Pilates, “Practice makes Perfect”. Well almost perfect!