I have so far in these articles talked about the neutral posture sitting and standing (which you can read on my website blog if you have missed). Here I will talk about the neutral posture lying, and in particular what the pelvis is doing.
I often ask patients to lye down for either 20 minutes once a day (say after lunch), or just 5-10 minutes several time a day (as much as every hour if they are in acute pain). This not only gives your body a break from being in one posture for long periods of time, like when you are sitting at the computer or gardening, but it also allows the whole spine to decompress and lengthen and the muscles that support the spine to have a break and then go back to doing their job properly without tiring.
Lye flat on your back, ideally on a firm surface like the floor with a blanket or camping/exercise mat so you don’t get cold, but if you can’t get onto the floor then lying on your bed would be the next best thing. The main thing is that you are lying flat on a flat surface in order to take gravity completely off the spine and allow it to decompress and lengthen (so not on a reclining chair or the sofa).
Have a pillow under your head, or in Alexander Technique they suggest using some books to get the height just right (see my blog post on “How many pillows should I sleep with” for more details). Bend your knees up, but keep your feet on the floor. Don’t have your feet too far from your bottom so that they slip away, or too close so that you are on your tip toes, but just the right distance so that your feet stay there effortlessly and your lower back feels comfortable and happy. Like we did with the standing posture; point your toes slightly in towards the middle, so that as you relax into this lying posture your knees will tend to either stay where they are effortlessly or drop towards each other where they will be supported (and not out where they will flop around).
Now turning your attention to your pelvis; tilt your pelvis gently and slowly backwards and forwards in small rocking motions (see image below). There is only a degree or less of movement in each of the scaroiliac joints and two or three degrees in each of the joints between the lumbar vertebrae of the lower back, so the smaller the movement the better you will be able to enjoy each of these individual areas.
Once you have got a good feeling for the pelvis and lower back in the posterior and anterior tilt positions, find the point between the two where the lower back (the lumbar spine) smiles at you. The lower back will arch ever so slightly away from the floor but more importantly it will lengthen and feel at ease when you find this neutral point in the pelvis. You will also find that the upper back (the thoracic spine) and the neck (the cervical spine) will also smile and lengthen when you find the neutral pelvis; and so although you have started with the pelvis, you have ended up with the whole spine automatically and effortlessly falling into a neutral position too. Once you have found the neutral pelvis and spine, just rest there for a good few minutes, allowing your breathing to articulate and gently move your spine and pelvis as it goes in and out naturally, and enjoy.
Getting to know the neutral pelvis position and what it feels like throughout the whole body is great not only because you will get the best out of your lying down rests, but also because you will be able to find this neutral pelvis sitting and standing as well (see images below). And in so doing you can change your posture and the forces going through the whole body no matter what you are doing. Especially when you are exercising, doing pilates or otherwise, it is important to start with, maintain and end with the pelvis (and therefore the whole spine) in neutral. This will result in less strain, less irritation, less pain and fewer trips to see your osteopath 🙂