Knowing how to find neutral spine is crucial for doing many Pilates exercises correctly. So whether you’re new to Pilates or even if you’ve been practicing for a while, it’s worth checking thatyou’re getting it right.
Simply explained, neutral spin is the position in which the spinal vertebrae and the pelvis are aligned and maintained with the least amount of stress placed on the supportive tissues (i.e., discs, ligaments, joint surfaces and other tissues). When neutral spine is attained, the natural curves of the spine are aligned so that the line of gravity passes between the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles when in a standing position.
To find your neutral spine in a standing position, place your hands on the top of your hips. Actively, but gently, rock your pelvis forwards and backwards. Visualise your pelvis as a bowl of water. As you tip your pelvis backwards the water tips out the back. As you tip your pelvis forward the water will trickle over the front rim. Gradually make this movement smaller and smaller until you come to a position where the bowl (the pelvis) is level. The natural curve of the spine is present.
To find neutral spine in a lying position, lie on the floor with your knees bent and in line with your hips. Your feet should be flat on the floor, heels in line with your sit bones. Your arms should be down by your sides, palms facing the floor. Gently rock your pelvis forwards and backwards as in the standing position, flattening your back towards the floor one way and then arching the back, exaggerating the curve in the lumbar spine as your move in the opposite direction. Halfway between these two points should be close to your neutral position.
The cervical spine (top of the spine) should also hold its natural curve. Lengthen the back of the neck by rocking the chin gently towards the chest, as is someone has taken the back of your head in both hands and gently stretched the back of your neck away from your shoulders. If you have some muscular tightness in your neck or if you carry your head too far forward, you may need a small towel or cushion under your head to help you maintain neutral.
Now the challenge is to be to maintain this position as you begin your moves.
Start by slowly lifting your right leg up to a table top position and then placing it back down without letting your hips move. Then repeat this with the left leg. Keep the abdominal muscles engaged to help stabilise the pelvis making sure it doesn’t move.
If you can maintain a neutral spine with ease whilst lifting the legs one at a time you can test yourself by lifting both legs. Start by bringing one leg up to table top position, then slowly lift the other leg while keeping your core and pelvis stable. Then lower them slowly back down, one leg at a time. You may find that you want to release the abs and let the pelvis tilt so practice until you can do this with a stable pelvis.