Neutral is the most optimal position for our spine. In neutral spine alignment we maintain all 4 natural curvatures of the spine and allow for the greatest range of motion and capacity to absorb impact. Neutral spine creates balanced space between each vertebra so that discs are in their most stable position.
Years of bad posture and learned habits have taken most people out of their ideal alignment. I believe NS is an incredibly important part of our health; therefore, there is a strong emphasis throughout all Dailey Method classes to help people find and maintain their own optimal expression of a neutral spine.
My teacher Maritza calls the spine ‘your queen’. I love that! If you truly take care of your spine and it’s alignment, oftentimes everything else falls into line on it’s own accord. It takes much more muscular energy to hold your body out of alignment.
People often think about “neutral” pertaining mostly to the lumbar spine curves but it’s really important for shoulder and neck health that we maintain and stabilize the curves in our thoracic and cervical spines too.
Here are two great ways to work on optimizing your own NS positioning. It’s great to do them in profile in a mirror so that you can see the 4 distinct curves (sacrum, lumber, thoracic and cervical). Plumb line is what you’re striving for – ears, shoulders, rib cage and hips all in the same plane.
Seated Neutral Spine:Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you and knees bent slightly. If you have tight hamstrings you may need to sit up on a blanket or folded mat.
Widen your sitz bones (or internally rotate your thigh bones in the socket) to help give you the greatest base of support and enable you to find curvature in your lumbar spine. With your hands behind your hamstrings lift up out of your hips and try to reach the crown of your head to the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades wide on your back and ears drawn back over your shoulders. We call this position a “meditation on alignment”.
Close your eyes and with each inhalation try to foundation sitz bones into the earth and in opposition try to touch the crown of your head to the ceiling. Envision space being created between each vertebra. With each exhalation hug muscle to bone inward and upward to support your new lengthened alignment. Hold this for 8 breaths.
Neutral Spine Plank: Start in a position on your hands and knees with hands and arms in a plank position and your knees bent directly underneath your hips. Roll through cat and cow a couple times and then let you body settle in the middle. It should be a position of ease. Curl your toes under, engage your abdominals upward and inward to support your spine positioning and lift your knees up off the ground bringing hips up to shoulder height. The back of your head should be energized towards the ceiling and your shoulder blades wide on your back.
Focus on breathing in length from your tailbone to the crown of your head and then hug your abdominal wall up to stabilize the length. Hold this for 30 seconds, reset and then hold again for 30 seconds.
Best wishes in finding neutral for ‘your queen’!