WE ARE NOT STUPID
Why should we all know and care to maintain a neutral spine everyday? Well, think of the last time you stubbed your toe. You screamed from the immediate pain, but deep inside you likely accused yourself of being stupid for not watching where you were going. We are not stupid. Our lives and environment rush us around, and our bodies suffer the painful consequences. Learning to maintain a neutral spine daily, consciously keeping the spine in a healthy position, will help us take better control of this situation. If we watch where our spine is going everyday we will avoid painful consequences, way worse than that stubbed toe. It’s easy. Just start practicing this…
NEUTRAL SPINE PLACEMENT
1. Imagine your trying to show someone the top button on your pretend buttoned down shirt. If you picture where that button would be and gently push it forward your neck will relax in its natural curve, slightly tuck your chin, as if to hold a tangerine there. Your shoulders will relax back and down the back. Picture it like the above diagram.
2. Picture your rib cage. The whole thing. Try to lift it and float it as far from your hips as you can. Engage the abdomen. You don’t have to squeeze like crazy. Just moderately. The goal is to do this OFTEN, not aggressively.
3. Picture your tailbone in its rightful position, pictured above. Not too tucked in. Not too pushed out. Most people suffer from one of those tendencies. Just make yourself aware and remind yourself to correct it.
4. Relax your joints. My relaxation technique of T.H.A.N.K.S. works great here. Mainly relax knees, and even out the energy in the bottom of the foot. (Correct if part of your foot takes over when you place it on the floor.)
That’s it. Try these 4 things whenever you remember them. Standing, sitting, and walking. It will start to come naturally.
Here’s a very challenging Pilates sequence that promotes strong hips, thighs, glutes, and a healthy back, if you work hard to maintain neutral spine during it. It will effectively balance these secondary muscles. I consider it a perfect complement to squats and lunges. It’s an essential routine in my book:
CHALLENGING WORKOUT: MAINTAIN NEUTRAL SPINE IN KNEELING SIDEKICK
Get in the above position. Don’t let the spine be pushed out of neutral as you…
1. Slowly kick forward and back 1 count of 8
2. Slowly draw a large circle 1 count of 8 both directions
3. Small, quick circles, no upper body movement 4 counts of 8 each direction
4. Lift leg up and down slowly 6 counts of 8
Repeat on other side. Breathe slowly and deeply during the moves, and stretch after.
It will be painful. You don’t usually use your legs like this. But you can, and you should. This is what makes the muscle group balanced. It’s also a shaper move. Work your way up to this amount of reps. The stabilizing leg often works harder than the moving leg. You’ll feel this get easier, as you keep practicing this. You’ll get the awareness that your balancing out your hips, and on your way to a healthier spine! Also, practice neutral spine awareness often, and talk about it. Everyone should have a healthy back, and balanced hips. A little thought goes a long way.