Correct alignment is key to ensure you are working safely and effectively so it’s very important that you understand what they are, why they are important and how to find them.
What is neutral spine?
Neutral Spine refers to the natural anatomical state of the spine when all three curves are present and in correct alignment. The three curves are the cervical (neck), thoracic (ribcage) and lumbar (lower back).
Neutral spine can be found standing, seated, lying on your back, stomach and side and it is when the spine is strongest and most supported to move from.
What is neutral pelvis?
Neutral Pelvis refers to the anatomical position of the pelvis when your hips bones (ASIS) are in the same plane as your pubic bone.
You can find neutral pelvis by placing the heel of your hands on your hip bones so that your thumbs are reaching toward your midline and then create a triangle with your pointer fingers – the connection of the two pointers will rest on your pubic bone. You can find this standing, seated, lying on your back, side or stomach.
Why are they important?
It is a crucial first challenge to find and maintain neutral pelvis and spine before you progress an exercise to ensure your body is in correct alignment. Correct pelvic and spinal alignment will fire the muscles you are targeting for better results and no pain.
How do you find neutral spine and pelvis?
1. Sitting on a bolster or pillows up against a wall/flat supportive surface behind you.
The bolster/pillows are important to ensure you are able to comfortably achieve the seated position in neutral. Be sure to sit right on your SITS bones.
Your SITS bones are exactly as they sound - to sit on. When you find these - your pelvis will be in the correct neutral position to begin the exercise - you want to be evenly weighted on each side.
If you have it available I like to place a half roller against the wall to place my spine on so I am sure I am working to keep the back of my head, ribcage and sacrum connecting to the roller.
The crossed legged position is helpful if you find yourself squeezing your butt together when attempting to find the PFM.
2. Seated on the Pilates/Physioball
Your feet are firmly and evenly on the ground, hip distance apart, you’re sitting with your SITS bones (correct position mention above) evenly weighted on the ball.
3. Seated on your knees with a yoga block and small ball under your SITS bones
I really like this position to find neutral spine in - the ball underneath me gives my body feed back to ensure I am right on my SITS bones and I have the sensation of my pelvic floor resting on something.
Be sure that you are not arched forward but that your sacrum (tailbone) is pointing straight down to the mat/ground below you.
4. All Fours
In All Fours your shoulders are directly above and inline with your wrists, knees are bent, below and in line with your pelvis.
All Fours can be challenging as the position requires you to use other muscles to stabilize your neutral spine and pelvis, and are therefore more challenging and should be included once you feel like you have mastered the exercises in the seated positions.
On you back - your head is heavy and your sacrum is flat on the mat - your hip bones (ASIS) are in the same horizontal plane as your pubic bone. You will have a small curve in your low back (lumbar).
When you are pregnant - particularly in the later stages of pregancy - be sure to not stay in this position too long. No longer than 2-3 mins and never if you are feeling dizzy or sick.
On your stomach - you should feel both your hip bones (ASIS) evenly on the mat as well as your pubic bone. This position is only for postnatal women and pregnant women in their first trimester and only then if it feels ok.