A Pilates neutral spine position, is used to describe when your spine is in its most natural position. Pilates encourages students to target the muscles that protect and support their spine. Because Pilates involves stretches and exercises that work to strengthen all the essential parts of your core, when you perform exercises that target your core muscles, you’re also going to strengthen your back and gain spinal stability and mobility.
This means less back pain, especially in your lower back, which would typically prevent you from fully enjoying all kinds of activities, but with help from Pilates, you’ll gain more control over your ability to perform everyday movements. Pilates workouts can also improve your joint mobility and range of motion by moving your joints through their full range of motion from a stable base.
During a balanced Pilates class, you work through all planes of motion and allow the body’s joints to mobilize through their natural movement and natural function. The repetitive joint movements in Pilates help stimulate and promote the release of synovial fluid into the joint cavities, which helps protect joints and allows for smooth movement. Because Pilates is a low-impact and low-intensity type of workout, the movements are easy on the joints.
This will not necessarily be the position that feels most comfortable. It is quite likely that your “normal” posture has been created by poor habits and you have become accustomed to the way it feels.
Finding a position with a neutral spine can be a real challenge. It is essential, however, that you find your neutral position and sustain it before undertaking any Pilates moves. Once you have started the exercises that follow, you will need to learn to hold the neutral position as your body is moving.
Training Out Of Neutral
If your body loses the correct neutral position as you exercise the benefit to you is lost. In this scenario, you are simply making your body stronger in your preferred, non-neutral position, one that has been created by bad habits. Training in a non-neutral position also increases your chances of acquiring muscular imbalances, injuries, and increasing tension because your body is not adequately supported.
Pelvis And Spine
While it is important that all your joints are in neutral during the moves, this section focuses on the pelvis and spine. The position of the pelvis and the position of the lower spine always affect each other If your pelvis is rolled forward, for example, the curve in your lower spine will be exaggerated, and will not form a neutral position.
Finding Neutral Spine Position
You should always practice finding neutral either by lying down or by standing—the principle is the same—before starting any exercises. Most people find that lying down is the easier way to start because the floor provides some support. Follow the stages described below to find neutral.
Stage One Of Finding Neutral Spine Position
This stage shows the spine out of neutral with an increased lower spine curve. Start by lying on the floor in a relaxed position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Softly tilt the pelvis forward so that the space under your lower back increases. Be careful not to push this position too far because it may cause discomfort in your lower spine. See how each part of your body particularly your legs, chest, and arms—feels in this position. Then relax back out of the position.
Stage Two Of Finding Neutral Spine Position
The second picture shows the spine out of neutral with no lower spine curve. In the same lying position, softly tilt your pelvis back and visualize imprinting your lower spine into the mat. Don’t push this position too far, and stop if it feels uncomfortable. Notice how each part of your body particularly your legs, abdominal muscles, back, and waist—feels in this position. Then relax back out of the position.
Stage Three Of Finding Neutral Spine Position
The third picture shows the spine in neutral. To find this position, shift your body between stages one and two, and find a position halfway between the two points. This should leave a small space under your lower back. Notice how each part of your body feels in this position—there should be no tension in the legs, chest, or back.
Stage Four Of Finding Neutral Spine Position
The fourth stage shows the clock technique, another way to help find neutral. Place your hands on your lower abdominal muscles with your little fingers pointing down toward your pubic bone. Imagine that your hands are a clockface (with the fingers pointing to 12 o’clock and your thumbs pointing to 6 o’clock). Tilt the pelvis forward and backward, so that 12 o’clock is higher, then 6 o’clock is higher. Neutral is the position where 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock are level.