What the heck is a neutral pelvis and why do I need to have one? This is a question I often get from my students and private clients. In Pilates reformer classes, teachers are constantly reminding students to bring their pelvis to “neutral”. Understanding and embodying a neutral pelvis is imperative not just for your Pilates or yoga practice, but for everything you do in life. This is because neutral is the most stable and shock absorbing position.
There are many ways to help students find a neutral pelvis with verbal cues. I have found that facilitating an embodied understanding of this concept happens best by palpating some crucial bony landmarks.
So go ahead and touch yourself! Palpate these bony landmarks and you will be on your way to finding a neutral pelvis whether you are sitting, lying down, or standing up:
Seated: You are sitting on your ischium (sits) bones and your sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of your spine) is in a vertical plane. Palpate: First touch your sits bones and feel them in contact with the ground. Then place the palm of your hand on your sacrum.
Lying down: The ASIS’s (frontal hip points) and the pubic symphysis (pubic bone) are in the same horizontal plane and parallel to the floor. Palpate: Place the heel s of your hands on the ASIS’s and your middle fingers on pubic symphysis)
Standing: The xiphoid process (bottom point of the sternum) and pubic symphysis (pubic bone) are in the same vertical plane. Palpate: Place one palm or finger on each bony landmark.
The sad tail situation:
Many of my students sit at a desk all day BEHIND their ischial tuberosities (sometimes called sits bones) in a posterior pelvic tilt (which I frequently call “sad tail”). As a result, their low back muscles often become weak and locked long. After work, they “work-out” by doing “core” exercises. During these “core” exercises done in spinal flexion with a posterior pelvic tilt, they utilize the superficial hip and neck flexors (the same muscles used to sit and look at their computer) in an attempt to lift their head, neck, and shoulders and legs off of the ground.
The result: Bypassing the engagement of the TA, pelvic floor, multifidii, and internal and external obliques , and solidifying the dysfunctional postural position they live in all day, causing pain in their sit bones.
The happy tail situation:
The reverse happens when you have too much of an anterior pelvic tilt or “happy tail”. I was in this category as a former gymnast and super flexible yogi who loved her backbends but had no concept of the importance of strengthening and resourcing the local stabilizer muscles that support a neutral pelvis. Until I learned about the importance of maintaining a neutral pelvis, I would perform all of my daily activities in “happy tail” and then head off to yoga class and practice in the same pelvic tilt position.
The result: Bypassing the engagement of the TA, pelvic floor, multifidii, and internal and external obliques, and creating a myriad of repetitive stress injuries, overuse, and joint instability.
As an embodied mover, make it your goal to enjoy the pleasures of all types of pelvic positions: Happy, Sad and Neutral. Just like our human emotions and our furry friends with tails, there is a time, a place, and a purpose for all types of tilts.
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