The Pelvic Lift – Pilates for the accomplished and amateur

Serving as a wonderful warm up/cool down or for area-specific training, the Pelvic Lift brings with it a sense of complete concentration, awakening the mind and body to be in the ‘here and now’.  Whether you are a beginner or proficient in the Pilates Method, the Pelvic Lift will be utilised at some point within your routine. The beauty about the Pelvic Lift is it enables the spine to gloriously stretch and open up the spaces between each vertebra because of the upward and downward motion of articulating through the spine. Excluding injured individuals, the Pelvic Lift is for all those willing and able to learn. For all those who seek to find it. Power to the people! Power to the Pelvic Lift!

Here’s how to get started

Begin lying stretched out supine (on your back) and completely relaxed on your mat. Focus your attention to correct the alignment of all major joints of your body. Be mindful of the natural curves of your spine as well as the current position of your pelvis. In this position you will be in neutral spine. Neutral spine means all three curves of your spine are in natural alignment. These curves are termed cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back) and lumbar (lower back).

Ensuring your spine is in neutral goes hand in hand with having your pelvis in neutral (this means your pelvis is not tilting up or down but rather parallel to the sky and in line with your hip bones. This allows a little space between the mat and your lower back. As the body is now in proper alignment, feel free to take two or three deep breaths at this point enticing your mind into a deeper state of connection with your body and spirit, merging into a heightened awareness of self, hence true mind-body connection.

You are now ready to begin

  • With great awareness of alignment and feeling relaxed draw your shoulder blades away from your ears and imagine you are trying to sink your shoulder blades/wing bones down towards your hips.
  • Next, slowly bend one knee at a time, keeping your knees fist-width apart in distance as well as your ankles.  Make sure to anchor your feet firmly to the ground beneath you.
  • Gently place your hands at your sides with your palms facing downwards, sending energy through to the tips of your fingers.
  • Draw in your abdominal muscles, in a scooping in and upwards movement, as if you were trying to get your belly button to touch your spine.  This concept can be simply phrased as ‘naval to spine’.

Breathing sequence for the pelvic lift

Inhale: Prepare.

Exhale: Tilt your pubic bone up to the sky (this takes you out of neutral spine and neutral pelvis). Squeeze your bum (glutes) as you push your weight evenly onto the heels of your feet.  Slowly lift your tail bone up and off the mat, continuing to peel your torso off the mat vertebra by vertebra, until all your body weight is evenly on your shoulder blades. At his point, your hamstrings are fully engaged as your glutes are squeezing tightly to keep you elevated in this position.

Inhale: Hold position.

Exhale: As you feel the back of your ribs opening up against the mat, keep your belly button drawn into your spine engaging your abdominals tightly as you roll back down, vertebra by vertebra, ending off with your tail bone down and your pelvis returning back down to neutral.

Body benefits and muscles targeted:

  • Strengthening of hamstrings (large group of muscles located at the back of the thigh),
  • Strengthening of abdominals ( large group of muscles located in the front of the abdomen between the ribs and the pelvis, consisting of the rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques and tranverse abdominis),
  • Strengthening of gluteal muscles  (group of three muscles that make up the buttocks, gluteus minimus, medius and maximus),
  • Strengthening of back stabilisers (stabilisers are muscles that keep certain body parts steady),
  • Strengthening of hips, and
  • Stretching of the quadriceps (large muscle located in front of the thigh) and hip flexor muscles (muscle group located at the front of the hip).

Important information and points to ponder:

  • When mastering the Pelvic Lift, avoid the overly eager urge to hyperextend (over arch) the lumbar spine (lower back) which will furthermore send you rolling too far into your neck.
  • Remember to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed throughout the exercise.
  • Pay special attention to your feet. They must not roll inwards (pronate) or outwards (supernate). They must be kept in a constant parallel position, with your weight evenly distributed across both heels.
  • The Pelvic Lift can be duplicated on Pilates equipment such as the reformer and Cadillac. One could also incorporate an aid such as the foam roller, or a BOSU into the Pelvic Lift increasing intensity especially into the hamstring area. I would advise you to first perfect this exercise on the mat before progressing onto any equipment.

Lastly, as always I leave you with an inspirational quote from the founder and father of the Pilates Method, Joseph Hubertus Pilates: “A man is as young as his spinal column”. May his words join you and linger by your side on your ever-evolving Pilates journey.