What is Neutral and why is it important?
When I meet a new client and they are a beginner I always start by talking them through the basics and principles of Pilates. I then tell them that we often work in something called neutral and ask them if they have heard of this. The majority of people say no they haven’t heard of it and the ones that have generally don’t know what it means. None of them really seem to know what it is or why it is important to work in this position.
Neutral is when the spine and pelvis are in a natural position. For example – If you were lying on your back in your relaxation position (knees bent, feet hip width and arms by your sides) you would have a natural curve in your spine. This means not flattening your lower back into the floor and not overarching your back but allowing your spine to curve naturally. You should have a small gap between your lower back and your mat. The size of the gap depends on the shape of your spine. If you have a large curve in your back you are going to have more of a gap than someone with a flat back. In this neutral position your pelvis should be fairly flat, both your hip bones should be level and your pubic bone level with your hip bones too. To find this position of the pelvis imagine you have a cup of tea balancing in the centre of your pelvis and it shouldn’t spill!
The reason we want our clients (particularly at a beginners or remedial level) to work in this neutral position is to help target and strengthen the ‘deep cylinder’ (transverses abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm and pevic floor). Research has shown that in this neutral position the deeper muscles of the ‘deep cylinder’ can be effectively activated.
Lie on your back in a your relaxation position, knees bent, feet hip width and arms long by your sides. Keeping the movement slow and controlled, flatten your lower back into the floor so there is no gap between your lower back and the floor and then overarch your back the opposite way. Once you have done this a few times find a halfway position between these two movements. Now check your pelvis feels fairly flat. This is your neutral position. I hope this helps you to find your neutral position and has been helpful for you. It would be great to hear how you get on.