Kierstin Elliott, Pilates Rehab Instructor at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy
Our spines are comprised of three natural curves that resemble an “S” shape. The first curve presenting itself in the neck, the second in the middle back, and the third in the lower back.
1. Cervical spine (lordosis)
2. Thoracic spine (kyphosis)
3. Lumbar spine (lordosis)
The “S” pattern allows our spine to act as a shock absorber whenever we stand, walk, jump, or sit. It also provides our bodies with a posture that is most ideal for everyday movement and function.
The main support our spine receives to maintain this position comes from our core. Our core is comprised of various layered muscles. The deeper muscles include the Transverses Abdominis (TA), the Diaphragm, the Pelvic Floor, and the *Multifidus. The more superficial muscles include the Internal and External Obliques and the Rectus Abdominis (aka your “6 pack”). A strong core leads to good posture, stability, efficient breathe, and a proper functioning pelvic floor.
The easiest way to find neutral pelvis is to lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, legs hip distance apart, and arms resting my your sides. Imagine the back of the pelvis, specifically your sacrum (the broad bone in your lower back), flat on the mat. Let your tailbone drop slightly away from you. You should notice that the lumbar curve in your lower back is present and that there’s a small space between your lower back and the mat. In the front, your hip bones should be completely level creating a flat surface between your ASIS (hip bones) and pubic bone. This is neutral pelvis!
A couple key factors to note:
1. The TA should be engaged and can be felt as a slight hug wrapped around your waist.
2. You should not feel any strain in your back while in neutral spine.
Establishing a neutral pelvis allows us to lay the foundation to build core strength properly. Only with a stable base and correct alignment are we able to move from a functional position. We can go about our active daily lives and withstand minor accidents without injury simply because our spines are operating from the most optimal alignment. Similar to the structure of a house. If there’s no solid foundation, how can we expect an entire house to support its’ frame and be functional on a daily basis, let alone during a thunderstorm or an earthquake?
Feel free to navigate this position on your own. Explore how your pelvis can rock back and forth and side to side while noticing its’ effect on the curvature of your spine.
If you’d like to find your neutral pelvis and learn more about the correct alignment for a functional spine, please book a pilates session with me at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy!
*Fun fact about the Multifidus: it defies the rules most muscles follow. Usually when a muscle stretches or lengthens, it loses strength. The Multifidus, however, gets stronger as it stretches. This property allows these little intrinsic muscles to bend and move with the spine while at the same time provide strength and support.