The Importance of a Neutral Spine in Pilates

You'll often hear me repeat "maintain a neutral spine" in our classes and workouts and I wanted to dive deeper into the subject to give us all a greater understanding of why, how and the importance of our spinal positioning in our classes. 

A neutral spine and pelvis is throughout our life the most optimum position to maintain. If you live in a neutral spine, you will be putting the least amount of stress of your muscles, ligaments and bones. In a neutral spine you have three natural curves of the spine that helps absorb shock when running, jumping or just walking around - cervical, thoracic and lumbar. We want to maintain and reinforce this spinal positioning and that's why it makes most sense to strengthen our core in a neutral position. This will help encourage a healthy spine, improve your posture and you'll feel much lighter this way. 

Some of us may not have a strong enough core to maintain a neutral position in our ab work. In this case it might be beneficial to revisit beginners option or take an easier variation of the exercise in question. 

Other may tell you to flatten your back to make it easier to engage your abs, however, research has confirmed that a neutral spine is more effective, as when the back is "flattened" the back muscles are stretches and will not provide support for the spine. In addition to this, our deeper abdonimal muscles (Transvers abdonimis) and our pelvic floor are more easily recruited when our spine is held in neutral. 

How do I find my neutral spine?

Let's use a mirror from the side, in a standing position. We want to ensure that our pelvis is "stacked" and neither tipped backwards or forwards. See picture below for reference. 

Using the mirror, we also want to check that we have a straight line over our pelvis, knee and ankle joint, and that we are not shifting our pelvis forward and over our knees. 

Understanding the positioning of our spine can help us build awareness and perform exercises the correct way to benefit longevity, strength and overall health in our body. It all comes back to the body-awareness that we build when we are moving our bodies with intention. 

Let me know if you have any other questions,