How to Know if Your Spine is in a "Neutral" Position?

3D model of healthy spine

3D model of healthy spine

If you've taken Pilates before (either on the mat or on the reformer) then you have most likely heard the teacher refer to "maintaining a neutral spine" or "placing your pelvis in a neutral position." We will examine what this means and learn how to self-check your alignment.

 The spine consists of three natural curves. It's easiest to see laying in a supine position with bent knees.

In this position ideally there is space under the back of the neck (cervical curve) and an even smaller space under the lower back (lumbar curve.) The three points that remain anchored into the mat are the back of the head, the back of the ribs, and the sacrum/coccyx (tail-bone.)

An easy way to check if you are in good alignment is to position yourself so that you can see your side line in a mirror. This way you will see immediately if there is light coming through where the natural curves lift away from the floor.

A neutral pelvis is perfectly flat across the top while laying in the same supine position. To quickly check, place your hands in a small "V"  encompassing both the prominent hip bones on each side of the pelvis (ASIS) and the pubic bone. Your hands should be flat as if you are balancing a full bowl of water on them.

Another test for a neutral pelvis is to lay supine and place the legs in a "table-top" position. In table-top the knees are aligned over the hips and the shins are parallel to the floor forming a 90 degree angle.

Keeping these anatomically correct postures in mind while practicing Pilates will make you appear taller, and help keep you free of back and shoulder pain. One of the many benefits of incorporating the Pilates reformer into your regimen is that the machine itself guides the body into these correct postures.

Come visit us at Brickell Pilates where you can refine your Pilates practice on the mat and on the reformer. We are conveniently located in the heart of Brickell at 175 SW 7th Street. 2201 Miami, FL 33130.