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In this next series of articles, I will be looking at the Pilates principles. As you have probably seen me mention before, I believe the principles are the most important part of any Pilates class. Without them we really aren't going to get the benefit of Pilates.
The first principle we will look at is Alignment.
Alignment is the real foundation to build any success in Pilates. When we refer to alignment, we are looking at the position of the body when we are static and moving. When we are in good alignment, our joints are set in their correct positions and muscles are at their correct lengths. When we are out of alignment, we are overloading some areas, whilst under-loading the others.
This quote from 'the Pilates bible' will help us understand what happens when we go out of alignment. "If your body is habitually out of good alignment, it places an enormous strain on your joints, ligaments and muscles and has a detrimental impact on how you move".
Could the pain that we put down to wear & tear be a build up of a number of years spent out of alignment and overloading joints/muscles in the process?
Something to think about next time we are in Pilates class
You may have heard the term neutral spine or neutral pelvis in your Pilates class. Usually I see one or the other referred to, but I believe that we need to have both to have any chance of success. Something I see a lot of in classes is people not wanting to go to a neutral pelvis because of the excessive curve that one feels in their back when they get into a neutral pelvis.
Before we go any further, just so you know I would refer to neutral pelvis as a level surface between our pubic bone and the two bony parts at the front of the hips.
Something I see a lot of in classes is people not wanting to go to a neutral pelvis because of the excessive curve that one feels in their back when they get into a neutral pelvis. What happens then is, to feel more comfortable we tend to tilt our pelvis backwards (out of neutral) to reduce the curve. The problem now is we are out of alignment and a lot of the exercises (especially the stability ones) will not be very effective. It’s worth remembering we should have a natural curve in our lower back anyway.
So why does my back feel like it has a huge curve when I’m in a neutral pelvis then?
What I see a lot of the time, whether it be in my small group classes or therapy setting, is that the shortness of the muscles in the thoracic spine can cause the spine to be excessively curve. I have found usually after a couple of sessions of massage treatment the shortness in the thoracic spine is released, and the excessive curve felt in the spine is reduced with the pelvis still kept in neutral. To keep it simple, we want to have a neutral pelvis & a neutral spine. A neutral spine would consist of our lower back (between pelvis & lower rib) having a neutral curve whilst the thoracic spine (bottom rib to top rib at the back) should not have a curve. This way we achieve a neutral spine and a neutral pelvis.
Understanding and achieving neutral is an essential part at the start of the Pilates journey.
Are you achieving neutral alignment in our Pilates classes?
Do you know how to correct our alignment in other positions such as sitting, standing, front laying etc?
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Thanks for reading.
Robinson, L, Bradshaw, L, Gardner, N. 2011. The Pilates Bible, 8
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Pilates Instructor & Therapist, helping you understand why we do what we do!