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Neutral pelvis: What is it and why is it so important anyways?

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Our bodies do not come with one-size-fits-all instructions and that is a great thing because within our unique body lies the magic of learning the incredible things this physical vessel can do and that is a rewarding process. Not a common consideration outside the world of conscious movement and rehab, but since our pelvis is our center of gravity, the way the pelvis is positioned has major effects on how the rest of your body is aligned and how you will experience movement (with or without pain) when moving throughout your day.

When the bones are misaligned, meaning not stacking appropriately, the weight in which they are suppose to be bearing are transferred to your muscles and soft tissues. This causes the soft tissue to overwork and overcompensation and what follows from those small misalignments are muscle imbalances, poor muscle recruitment, difficulty balancing, strained breathing due to the compromised positioning of the diaphragm, a heightened central nervous system, pelvic floor issues, and low back pain just to name a few of the top of my head! The good news? Knowing how to find and stay in our neutral pelvis contributes to freer movement, less pain, a stronger core, easier breathing, and a healthy back.

What exactly is a ‘neutral pelvis?’

In a nutshell, ‘neutral’ is the optimal positioning of the pelvis, where the natural curve of your lower back is supported and as little stress as possible is placed on all muscles, tendons, and ligaments joined to the pelvis. Becoming aware of the position of your pelvis takes practice, but rushing or forcing yourself into a given posture just for the sake of the pose can be frustrating and even cause injury. It is important to understand that it looks different for everyone because we have all learned to hold ourselves in different ways for different reasons. Rewiring yourself can take time, but it is so worth it.

How to find your neutral pelvis

If you have a long mirror go and stand in front of it. If not, you can go by feel. There are five ‘landmarks’ to keep aligned while standing in an optimal neutral pelvis position, they are the earlobes, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Your anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS), often referred to as the “hip bones” should point directly forward—in other words, if you had laser beams on each hip point they would be pointing straight ahead. You may find they point a little downward when you stand normally, if so you have what’s known as an anterior pelvic tilt, and if they point upward, you’ve got a posterior pelvic tilt. Once you find this optimal position you may feel out of alignment and unnatural-totally normal! Trust me we are all tilted some way and finding that optimal position can be awkward but rewarding!

For many people, regardless of any wayward tilting going on, it can be a lot easier to achieve a neutral pelvis while horizontal. While lying down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat hip width distance apart, place your index fingers on your pubic bone and form a triangle with your thumb joint on your ASIS and thumb tips pointing towards one another. Envision a cup of tea (or something that rolls, like a pearl) directly at the center of your pelvis.

Now, tilt your pubic bone forward towards your heels increasing the arch of the low spine.

Next, draw your pubic bone towards your sternum, decreasing the arch and bringing the lower back flush with the floor.

Too much in either direction and your tea will spill. If you keep continue exploring this movement, you will pass through neutral along the way—that sweet spot where the natural curve of your lower back is sustained without being forced, and your cup of tea is undisturbed.

Neutral Pelvis vs Neutral Spine

It’s worth noting here that for some people, when you are lying supine of the floor and working with the neutral pelvis that this puts the lumbar or thoracic spine into too much extension and this can become uncomfortable. Wait what?! Because the pelvis is neutral, your spine may not be in neutral, you may experience to much curvature of the lumbar or thoracic spine that over fire the back extensor muscles-this can be uncomfortable! Our spine can not be measured objectivily like the pelvis since we all have different spinal curvatures, skeletal structures, and musculature. These put the spine into different positions while lying down, even the size of our bum can shift how we configure the spine while lying down. When we are supine the object is to fine the optimal position for the pelvis and spine that will give freedom to the back muscles to remain relaxed while maintaining some curvature.

When you do the subtle work of moving your pelvis toward a neutral position, you create a stable environment for the lower back, and by extension ALL your body’s systems. Want to learn how to have your own back, literally? Check out my weekly class offering, join me for a private session at Inner Spiral Wellness, or join for an upcoming workshop.

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