The forgotten truth about Pilates techniques: The Pelvic tilt
Pilates is an amazing form of exercise but requires a certain amount of good, applied knowledge of how the body should move and what happens to the muscles during movement and movement function.
There are so many types of courses offered to students around the world to learn the “art” of being a Pilates instructor. Like in all industries there are great courses and well…. not so great courses, but this is a little beside the topic of conversation. I find that the person who is giving the course is of more value than the content itself.
Today I would like to broach the topic of the elusive “Pelvic tilt”. Depending on the type of course your instructor has done this Pelvic tilt has many different names; imprint, tilt, tummy to mat (back flat on mat), scoop into mat, C curve and so the list goes on. BUT what does it actually mean and what is the purpose of it in Pilates? And in our everyday lives?
If we have a look at the 3 natural curves of the spine (cervical, thoracic and lumbar), in layman's (neck, upper back and lower back) there is NO posterior pelvic tilt which we are reinforcing when doing pilates lying on our backs on the mat. (view video A). So why are we doing it?
The idea is that when lying on our backs we are able to use the assistance of gravity to pull the tummy muscles in and build our basic “core” strength without overloading the back muscles. This is great news! Especially when it comes to decreasing back pain because of a weak “core” (my interpretation of core is for another day, hence the italics of core). The problem I’m finding is that many clients have been told to keep this “tilted” position of the pelvis to engage their “core” while standing, running and doing general activities.
This is wrong, wrong, and wrong on so many levels! When standing, gravity (a force), acts completely differently on the body and spine as opposed to when you are lying on your back. If you maintain a pelvic tilt while standing this increases lower back pressure, deactivates lower back stabilisers and extensors and overloads the quadriceps. IE increasing lower back pain and not reducing it. So, how do we fix it?
Once clients have a basic understanding of how forces act on the spine in different positions (lying, vs, standing, side lying etc) and they have a fairly good foundation of “core” and pelvic floor muscle strength, they should be encouraged to work less in pelvic tilt and slowly move more to a neutral position of the pelvis. Thereby developing strength in the position where the muscles and attachments are at their optimal biomechanically, this mimics the 3 natural cures of the spine.
I think this part is often forgotten about when teaching Pilates to our clients. We focus so much on them being able to “engage” and hold it stable that we forget to educate them on the importance of moving back to their neutral/natural positions and develop the strength there as well.