I get the FAQ; why do you focus so much on the hips and lower back position? The simple answer is, to help establish better posture and to improve the alignment of the whole body.
The Neutral Hip and Spine Placement (The hips come first)
Let me explain more…
The Pilates method uses the ‘Correct Hip Placement’ rule as the initial focus for good postural alignment. The hips are the weight-bearing center of the body. It provides the base support for the trunk (spine) and head above it, and helps the legs below hold better alignment and enables them to move more freely.
The position/alignment of the lower back and alignment of the lower limbs are in direct relation to the hips. Get the hips in the right place and then the rest of your postural will align itself better and more naturally. Working with a neutral hip and spine alignment will encourage the surrounding joints and muscle to engaged correctly, promoting correct muscle balance from both the back and abdominals.
Establishing Correct Neutral Hip and Lower Back Alignment
The Relaxation Position
The best way of teaching the hip and spine placement is to start by lying on floor, face up in the ‘Relaxation Position’. The relaxation position gives you chance to first; relax and release any held tension in the body, which will in turn help you gain the required body awareness you need to start.
- Lying face up, with the feet flat on the floor, in a parallel and hip width position. Relax the thighs, hips and lower back.
- Rest arms along the sides of the body and relax the neck, shoulders and upper back.
- Feel the three points of posture on the floor:
- Back on the head
- Back of the rib cage
- Base of the hips (the tailbone)
Bring attention to the two curves of the spine:
- Back of the neck
- Lower back
Finding Neutral Hip Placement – Hips Tilts
- In relaxation position, slowly tilt the pelvis backwards to lightly imprint the lower back into the floor (fig.1).
- Slowly tilt the pelvis forward to roll the weight back on to the tailbone and feel you lower back lift and re-lengthen back to a neural arch (fig 2).
It should not be done with any force or speed, to enable you to control the pace and range of movement throughout the exercise and help you bring full awareness to the position. It should not feel like a forced of fixed position.
Note; when tilting the pelvis back to the neutral position, be sure not to over arch the back into extension (Fig.3 &4), this will make your lower back work too hard and your abs over stretch and switch off. There is a subtle difference but it can make all the difference to get your core muscles to works properly! It will help you build up fantastic abdominal strength and pulls in the lower abs very nicely… Try it!
Fig 1. Flat Back/Imprinted Spine Fig 2. Neutral Spine
Fig 3. A Little Too Far Fig 4. Over Extending – Ribcage Lifts
Level Hips – Parallel Plane
Once you have found this placement the next thing to check for is that both the front right and left hipbones are on an even level to one another. Ideally both hipbones and the public bone should be on an even plane; a flat, parallel plane to the floor.
You can place your hands on top of your pelvis/lower abdomen, making a triangle with your hands, resting your fingertips on your public bone and heels of both hands on either hipbone. Check that your hands are on flat & parallel plane to the floor in this position. If you cannot tell, please feel free to lift your head off the floor and take a look at the hip position that way.