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The Importance of a Neutral Spine

Achieve a Neutral Spine

Many of us work jobs or do activities in our daily lives that have a negative impact on our posture. Whether it’s sitting in front of a computer, constant bending over and lifting or simply being on your feet all day; these simple things can really upset our spines. Maintaining a neutral spine is easier than you think, and it will drastically improve your quality of life in the long run! All it takes is a little bit of awareness…

The first step is to understand the correct spine posture. Our spines have 3 natural curves. The lumbar spine (lower back) curves inward, the thoracic spine (mid-back) is curved outward, and the cervical spine (upper back and neck) has a slight forward curve. Hence why we refer to a pain-free, healthy posture as a ‘neutral spine’ rather than a straight spine.

I’m sure you recall all those years of teachers shouting, “Sit up straight!” We now know they should have been shouting, “Sit neutral!”

Achieving a neutral spine posture is pretty simple. Most of the work stems from mind power, with a little helping hand from our pelvis and shoulders.

neutral spine diagram

Finding Neutral Spine Alignment

This is a basic exercise that you can apply to the body anytime, anywhere. Even sitting down!

  1. Bring your feet together so that the big toes are touching and the outsides of the feet are parallel.
  2. From here, you’re going to inhale and begin to visualise what a neutral spine should look like.
  3. As you exhale, you’ll tilt the front of your pelvis back, pushing your belly button towards your spine.
  4. On your next exhalation, drop your shoulders away from your ears and roll them back (you’ve suddenly realised how much you were slouching!)
  5. Finally, tuck the chin very slightly.

Voilà! It’s almost as if your spine is smiling at you!

The pelvic tilt and shoulder alignment are enough to keep your spine in a neutral position. The work from your pelvic floor creates a stable base for your spine and by consciously engaging your core muscles; you’re creating strength with minimal effort. It’s important to incorporate this movement into all parts of your day to prevent stiffness or injuries, especially during your workout.

Eventually it will become a habit, and you’ll be standing or sitting with a neutral spine without even realising. For the meantime, it can help to set yourself reminders on your smartphone, or leave a sticky note above your computer screen reminding yourself to- ‘sit neutral!’

Your workout, yoga practice and everyday life will suddenly seem a lot more comfortable!