Pilates is still one of most popular forms of classes around currently (it has been for a while). Many of us do and recommend Pilates for a range of different benefits: help with back pain, posture, improve performance, and help with recurring injuries.
However over time I’ve noticed that not everyone is getting the full benefit or the full understanding of what Pilates can offer.
Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be looking at some of the key areas, which we could work on to get the most benefit from out classes.
Today we are looking the Pilates principle: Alignment. Understanding neutral and why it’s important.
A lot of us attend Pilates to help with some sort of back pain and/or to improve posture. Understanding neutral will be integral to this. Without it we are unlucky to get the results we went. Neutral means the body to be in its correct position, where everything will be aligned correctly and working evenly (unless there’s an underlying issue).
Previously I have seen either neutral spine or neutral pelvis taught in classes. However I believe we need to be able to do both. Sometimes when we first try neutral pelvis in can feel like the spine is over arched. It can be tempting at this point to tilt the pelvis backwards. Whilst this will reduce the curve of the spine, it will take us out of neutral and therefore we will lose most benefit from Pilates (especially if we are looking to improve ‘core strength’).
There are many of us who attend Pilates to help strengthen our ‘core’; however here lays a potential problem. If the pelvis & spine aren’t in a neutral position then it’s unlikely we are going to work the ‘core’ muscles in their correct position. When out of neutral, we will be overloading some whilst under working others. This could lead to compensation, which leads to dysfunction which almost always leads to pain. Some back pain we get could already be down to this, so in some cases we may actually make it worse!
With regards to this excessive curve, chances are it is coming from the mid-back area, so a good alternative would be to do some mobilisation exercises and over time this could help. If it doesn’t it may need a little bit more in the form of some soft tissue massage therapy or something similar to help reduce the tension/shortness in the mid back.
If you do feel like you have an excessive curve in neutral it is vital you speak to your instructor. Likewise if you feel neutral gives you pain then it is again vital you inform your instructor immediately. If pain is felt in finding neutral or during the class, it is difficult to know whether to stop or work through. You should stop straight away and seek further advice from your instructor. If this is the case it could indicate there is an underlying cause of the pain (pelvis rotation for example). An example of this is recently someone attended a Therapy session with me after suffering a similar situation. We carried out a biomechanics assessment with them and I could see the pelvis didn’t seem to function correctly. It appeared “stuck”. With a mixture of a few sessions of Massage treatment and homework exercises, we saw an improvement in just a few sessions with the pelvis now appearing to function correctly. Since then they have reported that they have had no further pain during their Pilates sessions and are now getting a lot more benefit from them.
So to recap...
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Pilates Instructor & Therapist, helping you understand why we do what we do!