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Guest post: Pilates online with Rachel

Today's blog post comes from Pilates online with Rachel, we've been talking about posture and how it can not only help with aches and pains but also mindset. A question that's often asked is: Why do Pilates Instructors ask you to find a neutral spine? And what is it? Rachel's answer: Neutral Spine is one of the most subtle, yet powerful principles in the Pilates. When the spine is neutral you have three spinal curves—cervical, thoracic, and lumbar—which function to absorb shock when running, jumping, or simply walking. Ultimately, if you stay in Neutral Spine, you will be putting the least amount of stress on the muscles and bones. That is the beauty of perfect posture: it actually feels better. We want to maintain and reinforce these natural curves and that is why we often work in Neutral Spine when performing stability exercises in Pilates. It is a lot easier to find that neutral spine standing up than lying down on our back. lying down we are trying to find a neutral spine and neutral pelvis. Because everyone’s spine is naturally a different shape it will all depend how it connects with the mat. However, there are simple ways to work with this and get it right for you. Standing, you just need to imagine your pelvis is holding a bowl of water. You are going to tilt it forwards and backwards until you find somewhere in the centre that means your water will not spill out of the front or the back of your bowl and it feels comfortable. Lying down is harder to find but you can practice. You need to create a triangle with your hands across your pelvis, thumbs connected at the top, fingers connected at the bottom. Then gently tilt your pelvis forwards and backwards. Neutral spine and pelvis will mean that your pelvis is parallel to the floor, if you placed a delicate wine glass on your pelvis, it wouldn’t tip in neutral. Because each spine is different you may want to try and place a towel anywhere under your back down your spine or under your neck. This is a way of supporting neutral spine. What we are aiming for is the back muscles to feel relaxed, core able to engage easily and you feel comfortable, waist even and not forced in any direction. You should feel a gap under your neck(cervical spine) and your lower back(lumbar spine). The more you recognise the position of a neutral spine and pelvis, if you start to work your core too hard and you cannot hold that position, you will know to take your Pilates down a level. This will prevent your lower back from pulling off the mat and the potential to cause injury. Do you need to be in Neutral Spine and pelvis through every move? Answer, definitely not! I use Neutral Spine in stabilization exercises, meaning when the spine is staying still and limbs are moving (tiny steps, footwork, planks, kneeling series, etc.) When doing articulation exercises (roll downs, roll over, mermaid, snake, twist, etc.) you will not maintain a neutral spine, but will be stretching the back muscles and moving through flexion and extension, rotation, and side-bending. The spine needs to be stable when necessary and mobile. Joseph Pilates famously said, “You are only as old as your spine.” Old people seem old because their spines are often stiff. I hope this has helped demystify and let’s practice it more in class. R X Find more about Pilates with Rachel and her free trial at Sarah 💖

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