Neutral Spine

neu•tral spine: all 3 curves of the spine - (cervical, thoracic, lumbar) are present and in good alignment; the strongest alignment of the spine

As discussed in THIS POST on alignment, we’ve come a ways since Joseph Pilates well-intentioned but erroneous understanding of the spine. As opposed to the long, flat line of the spine of a young child, an adult spine should *actually* have some curves. If we want to get all technical, let's break down the sections of the spine:

Spine Outline.png
  • cervical: the neck or cervical spine is made up of 7 vertebrae - for all the work we may do in flexion, here’s where it all originates. Similar to the lumbar, the cervical spine has a concave curve.
  • thoracic: 12 vertebrae make up the thoracic spine, curving convexly toward the back (the curve swoops away from your chest). An exaggerated curve is often referred to as “kyphosis.”

  • lumbar: the lumbar spine is composed of 5 vertebrae that provide mobility to the low-back and stability to your person. The precise curvature can vary somewhat person to person, but no matter what a neutral lumbar is concave toward the back (the curve swoops in, toward your belly).

 

Whether or not you remember the anatomical terms, having awareness of the different parts of your spine and where they are in space is key to proper form in Pilates. Sometimes everything is one continuous line, as with Rolling like a Ball, sometimes there are varying degrees of flexion or extension, as with Swan Dive Prep.

 Rolling like a ball; full flexion from tail to head

Rolling like a ball; full flexion from tail to head

 Swan Dive Prep; minor Lumbar Extension, Thoracic extension, Minor Cervical Extension

Swan Dive Prep; minor Lumbar Extension, Thoracic extension, Minor Cervical Extension

Ultimately, working towards a strong, neutral spine means working towards greater ease of movement in your body, and that should be something we can all get behind.

 
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