What exactly is neutral spine? With so many of us in the Pilates community teaching neutral spine alignment to clients and trying to master it ourselves, it’s surprising to learn that most of us don’t really know what it means. And yet, it seems to be engrained in Pilates culture. Today we’re debunking the myth of neutral spine and giving you evidence-based tools to help empower your clients to move fearlessly through all spinal movements.
What You Will Learn:
What neutral spine really means, and why you shouldn’t worry about it
Is neutral spine a position that can be measured or palpated via postural analysis or visual assessment?
What Joseph Pilates taught (or didn’t) about neutral spine
The origins of neutral spine as it applies to Pilates
Does evidence indicate that lifting with a neutral spine is really safer than lifting with a flexed spine?
What is Neutral Spine?
Neutral spine is widely understood in the fitness profession as a “safe” spinal position associated with injury prevention. But according to biomechanics, neutral spine is a zone (rather than a specific position) in which all the ligaments around the spine are loose. Simply put, neutral spine is about a 10 degree range in which muscles provide the only restraining force on the spine. It isn’t something that can be evaluated via spinal palpation or visual assessment, since everyone has natural variation in their bone structure.
Where Did Neutral Spine Come From?
Joseph Pilates himself didn’t teach neutral spine. His successors (including Romana Kryzanowska) and their students were influenced by physiotherapists who promoted neutral spine. Fast forward to the 1990s, and neutral spine was widely taught as a basic element of Pilates. To this day, many people who cue neutral spine believe that it has always been a part of Pilates, although the most Joseph ever taught in this area was to press the spine firmly to the mat.
Does Neutral Spine Prevent Lower Back Injuries?
Raph and Cloe look at a fascinating study on pig spines from 20 years ago which suggests that the greatest risk for spinal injury was the amount of compression on the spine, rather than the degree of spinal flexion. They also discuss more recent biomechanical studies which show that force applied to the spine is the same whether the spine is flexed or in neutral during lifting exercises like deadlifting or squatting. Interestingly, studies show that when lifting maximally, a flexed spine is actually associated with greater strength and more efficient use of energy. Looking at the world’s most elite powerlifters, it’s easy to see that when they lift four to five times their body weight, their spines are definitely flexed. This begs the question of what Pilates instructors should be cueing instead of neutral spine. Raph and Cloe offer teaching tools to help you confidently teach without relying on neutral spine and to prioritise fearless movement.
We can’t palpate bony landmarks reliably (plus guidelines recommend against ithere
And anyway pelvises are not all the same shapehere
Experienced physical therapists can’t detect lumbar flexion of less than 34 degrees in a squathere
Plus, standing posture is highly individual and poorly reproduciblehere
Pig spines are injured by LOAD not by flexion here and here
Spinal flexion during lifting is not associated with back pain here
The vast majority of disc bulges are not related to lifting and those that are, do not have more pain or disability here
People with back pain actually lift with their backs more straight than pain free people here
Flexed lumbar spine during a maximal lift is associated with greater strength in pain-free people here
Because spinal ligaments are MUCH stronger than spinal muscles here
Lifting with your back straight imposes higher forces on the spine than lifting with your back rounded here
Retraining people to lift with their back straight does not prevent back pain here
About Raphael Bender:
Raph believes everyone deserves the opportunity to transform into a better version of themselves. His main strength as a teacher and movement professional is the ability to distill complex research findings into a simple, science-based approach to help people move fearlessly, thoughtlessly, and painlessly. He LOVES running, weights, cycling, and Contrology.
Raph holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology (Rehabilitation), a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science, Diploma of Pilates Movement Therapy, and STOTT PILATES full certification.
With 10+ years in the industry, both teaching Pilates and nurturing new instructors, Cloe is passionate about empowering new and seasoned instructors to think critically and move fearlessly. Empowered instructors empower their clients, and in turn, change lives.
Cloe is fascinated by movement in general, and its ability to enhance our lives at any age. Her own movement practice includes Contrology/Pilates, running, weights, and kettlebells. Cloe has a Diploma of Clinical Pilates, Cert IV in Pilates, and Cert IV in Training and Assessing.
Here are four ways we can help you really know your stuff.
1) Subscribe to our Pilates Elephants podcast and learn why most Pilates education is decades out of date at best, and at worst, just plain pseudoscientific. This inconvenient disconnect means there are many topics in Pilates that are “Elephants in the Room” – things we don’t question because it’s a bit heretical to do so. We’re here to change that.
2) Download our free report: “3 Myths about Posture in Pilates“. Ditch the myths and get the facts on posture. For Pilates instructors and movement enthusiasts alike.
3) Join us in our FREE live, open-mic Community Sessions. We start each session by sharing one of our latest insights that you can take and apply with your clients. And then we’ll go open-mic for the remaining 45-minutes — ask whatever questions you have so you can leave the session equipped to really know your stuff.Details here.
4) Or — our next intake for our Diploma in Clinical Pilates is open NOW. We have limited places for this in-depth, world-leading course. For a limited time — get a free 20-minute Discovery Call with one of our Pilates Trainers. This is not a high-pressure sales call – you’ll be talking with a Pilates instructor, and we’ll answer all your questions to find out if the course is a perfect fit for you. Go here to schedule
I am currently a week away from graduating from the Breathe Pilates training program. This has been an amazing 20 weeks - so excited and sad it's almost over. It is a great program that really prepares their students to confidently go out and teach. I've seen so much growth in myself from understanding the original repertoire, how to cue to facilitate movement success, and how to competently work with a variety of clients. The trainers and staff go above and beyond to help you, answer your questions, give you constructive feedback and keep you motivated and encouraged every step of the way. I've loved meeting fellow students from all over the world, collaborating and studying together! I really feel like I have found "my voice" over these last few months. I'm so excited to share all that I've learned and my love for pilates with my future clients.
"The Pilates Launchpad" through Breathe Education- the perfect way to fix what's NOT working for your Pilates business and what WILL work! A privilege to have the CEO of the company- Raphael Bender do the Zoom check-in calls himself every day for the entire launchpad crew where feedback is given 👍 👏
I am at the end of completing my certificate with breathe and it has been the most supportive, confidence and knowledge building experience. The team treat you like a genuine, interesting and valuable person. Always having time for any question and supporting me at many moments when things felt tough and encouraging celebrating every success with me as well. Completing this course has allowed me to shake up my work life balance, increased my resilience navigating new situations and only increased my love and obsession with pilates. Thank you.
I am so glad I found this program! They offered amazing service from beginning to end. Each week built on the last and I feel like I went from knowing nothing to complete confidence in my ability to teach pilates, create fun programs, and pursue a passion that doesn't feel like work at all. Thank you Breathe Education Team for an amazing 20 weeks!
Breathe Education is a wonderful community filled with passionate Pilates people. If you're thinking about signing up, I highly recommend this course, you won't regret it. You'll only regret that you didn't complete it sooner!The support you receive from your trainers, other students & the support team is next to none. They will have you feeling like you're ready to conquer the world at the end of your course! Honestly, the best decision I ever made.
Being new to the Pilates scene this course enabled me to open my eyes into what Pilates can give others. It's more than just another type of exercise format! Not only have I majorly increased my knowledge of the background, repertoire and benefits of Pilates; but it has certainly increased my confidence to be able to deliver mat and reformer classes based on the structure of this course. The support given was amazing with positive, welcoming and knowledgeable teaching staff. The structure and also the layout allowed me to know exactly what was expected of me and I was able to complete the tasks with support. Having you to practice teach to a small group of peers straight away was beneficial to the end result! Trainers were always there to answer questions promptly and feedback allowed for continued success. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and the people I have meet on the journey. Get on board ..... you won't regret it!!
Even if you are already a fitness teacher, this program will improve your game!!! I learned so much from this program and it has enhanced all my classes and I've grown as a teacher and human. This program is well worth the cost. And I met fabulous people.
As a member of the Nov 22 Breathe Education intake I feel much more confident in my teaching and programming skills. Moving forward I feel very positive about my Pilates career. It's a Thumbs up from me!
I have just finished my Pilates certification through Breathe Education and am excited to say that I have already been hired by a studio and started my new journey as a Pilates teacher. I loved the course and was surprised (and delighted) that any online course could achieve such a level of personal attention/feedback and realistic practice teaching opportunities.
Where do I start.... Breathe Education have been fantastic. I am so glad that I picked them as my education provider. The trainers have all been fantastic (special shout out to Hailey, Phoebe and Natalie), the staff are all so supportive and encouraging and the course content is mind-blowing. I love that Breathe are evidence-based and empower fearless movement. They really make the course content easy to understand and break it down in such a simple way. You will also finish the course being a confident and skilled pilates instructor! I am also so excited to start the Diploma once I am in a financial position to do so. I highly recommend Breathe and if you haven't already enrolled, or are thinking of enrolling, then I suggest you do so asap! It's 5 stars from me.
Breathe education is THE place to learn for all Pilates courses!!The depth of knowledge and confidence I have gained in myself as an instructor has rocketed me into the next dimension of another Pilates stratosphere!!!My personal growth as an instructor since i have started with Breathe means not only am i a more capable, qualified and confident instructor but all my clients benefit as does my business and all the instructors I work with!!!
I highly recommend the Diploma of Clinical Pilates with Breathe Education. This course has far exceeded my expectations, it is an amazing learning environment that has equipped me to work confidently with clients in the area of rehabilitation, all the content is up to date and relevant to life in the pilates studio, and the team of trainers are experienced and passionate about equipping you to be the best instructor you can be.
Breathe owners and employees truly care about educating instructors to treat the whole person. The content that they deliver is effective and the community that they create is worth the time and money!
I cannot compliment enough the professionalism, authenticity and integrity of the education I’ve received from Breathe. They have proven time again how committed they are to supporting all aspects of the learning from timely tech support, easy and enjoyable course structure and content, to just fantastic professors who really give of themselves and their experiential wisdom. I have learned how to give the best of myself for the best of my client and enjoyed every moment. Best money I ever spent on an education course.
I have just completed my first module of the Diploma in Clinical Pilates. I found the standard of teaching at Breathe Education is very high. All the lecturers are very highly trained, passionate, knowledgeable, and humble. The course is structured in such a way that promotes fast learning. Difficult, big, and potentially boring topics were broken into digestible clusters, making them less scary and more interesting. Furthermore, the lectures/reviews/tutorials were conducted in ways that were highly engaging. Finally, what they taught are all evidence based, giving me the confidence that applying what I learnt will give my clients the best possible care as we know it today.
The best course. I'm so glad I invested in myself. I now have the confidence to go out and help my clients. I can work alongside the clinical team and coaches and truly understand how to help our clients.
Have just completed my first module of the Diploma in Clinical Pilates and it has truly been a huge eye opener. Have thoroughly enjoyed learning how to build a therapeutic alliance with my clients and understanding how there is so much more relating to pain than an injury. I look forward to continuing on my studies with the next two modules.
This was my 3rd and finial Module. I have learnt so much over the last 12 months from anatomy to bio psychosocial aspects, how it contributes to pain in so many ways. How to work with people/clients as a whole person and not just their injury and/or pain.The instructors/lecturers are amazing and will help in any way they can to make sure you succeed.I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wishes to become a Clinical Pilates instructor. Karen J
I just finished my second module for Diploma in Clinical Pilates Certificate and I have gained so much skill, skills that is beyond just learning about the anatomy of the human body. Learning about Pain , Understanding Pain through different aspects is just mind blowing.
I'm currently enrolled in the diploma course, and I'm loving it. It's great to have the confidence to work with any client who walks through the door, and to know that my work is backed by evidence. The online platform is seamless, and I feel like part of a community. This group of people are knowledgeable, curious, supportive, and very skilled educators. It's been a great experience!
I finished my Certificate IV of Reformer and Mat pilates on 2021 and keep learning the diploma of Clinical pilates since last August. what a fantastic learning system that all the knowledges are based on science evidences and you won't feel boring on any of the learning parts. Great tutors always guide you on the right track and amazing study buddies come from different counties with full of teaching experiences and you won't feel lonely at all. Highly recommended if you are look forward the best Pilates institute in Australia!!!
I am currently doing the Clinical Pilates Diploma which is the Breathe Education 1-year course for already trained Pilates Instructors. I am four months in at the time of writing this review and I can already say that signing up to this diploma was THE BEST INVESTMENT I've done for my career so far. I wish I knew about Breathe Education at the very start of my Pilates Instructor journey because it's the bomb!The diploma take a year and is structured in 3 modules. To that, I would add a couple of months to go over the optional anatomy pre-course and reading the book "Strengthen the Person not the Body". Again, it's optional but I highly recommend it to get yourself up to speed in anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. It helped me to turn the list of muscles, origins and insertion I had to learn for my initial Pilates Training into ACTUAL UNDERSTANDING of biomechanics and how the body works.Let me warn you, it is a hefty time and money investment but I'd say the money is secondary really, because you get that investment 10x back in terms of added value to your career and it's the time investment that is the real challenge. So, make sure you are READY TO ACTIVELY INVEST YOURSELF in this diploma before signing up. This is not a passive learning course where you can just log on zoom, listen to a presentation, memorise a list of things and pass the exam. This course is beyond learning, it's about learning to learn and it will challenge a lot of what you think you know.I'm only one-module down and I can already answer questions like: What are the current best practices to manage a specific condition/pathology? How can I set my client up for success during and outside sessions? How do I measure outcomes so I can keep pushing my clients in a safe and effective way? Also, now, I can make the difference between pseudo-scientific beliefs and evidence-based guidelines. And most importantly, now I FEEL CONFIDENT that I can keep my knowledge up to date without the need to enrol for yet another $$$ weekender course on the management of X or Y condition. Now, when I don't know about a condition, a syndrome, a pathology, I feel comfortable to go and search directly within scientific literature on any topic, understand what I'm reading and apply those guidelines with my clients.Aside from doing the anatomy pre-course, the main advice I would give to prospective students if you want to succeed in this course is to read about GROWTH MINDSET VS FIXED MINDSET and train yourself to see and deal with new situations as much as possible from a growth mindset perspective as those skills will benefit you immensely for the duration of the course and beyond.I can't wait to go through the next two modules. It's brilliant!
The past few months completing my Certification in Pilates has been the most wonderful experience. Not only have I developed my own knowledge and practice within the Pilates industry, I've also become part of a supportive and passionate community. It was hard to imagine that I would feel this confident and excited after 20 weeks of study but here I am ready to go and words can't express how thankful I am for Breathe Education and their wonderful staff.
I had thought about doing my breathe training for two years before signing up and I’m so glad I did. The course is more than worth the financial output. The support from all of the teachers is incredible, I have felt their support in helping every student succeed and believe in themselves. The approach to teaching, helping people and Pilates practice is positive and practical. I am so happy I invested in this training as I have finished a confident and prepared instructor understanding so much more than the movements. The ongoing support from Breathe after completing the course shows their desire to build an informed Pilates community. Loved every minute.
Breathe has such a positive and informative approach to learning. There is also a great environment of support from trainers and peers. Highly recommend training for Pilates instructing through this organisation.
Accessible from anywhere in the world, the most up to date and science backed Pilates course available. Brilliant tutors, support staff and a safe learning environment. Wouldn't want to train with anyone else! Amazing value and you will come out of it a skilled movement teacher.
Distributed Practise in Breathe Education is an amazing tool to achieve automatic recall of exercises for success as a Pilates Instructor. Outstanding trainers and course at Breathe Education and I will miss it when it's over.
I started my Clinical Diploma with Breathe in May. The experience is truly life changing, in my teaching and my own personal growth. I am already a more confident, happier teacher with a clear focus and the tools to change my client's life's and get them results. It is so empowering to know the knowledge you have is up to date and accurate. I love the anatomy, but that is a small part of the course. More importantly you learn practical tools that you can put into place straight away. The style of teaching and delivery of content is like nothing I've experienced before. Raph, Heath and Adam have a knack of making the content clear, fun and easy to understand. There is as much support available as you want or need from the Tutors, support staff and other students. I love connecting with other teachers from all over the World and everyone has been lovely.
I first became aware of Breathe Education in lock down and listening to Pilates Elephants pod casts became compulsory! A lot of things made complete sense and I began to change my thinking to a more clear, logical way of looking at the human body, (as opposed to what I had been told and what I had taken for granted).As a soft tissue therapist and a mat based Pilates teacher, my understanding of movement and how the body works has been greatly expanded!The visualised anatomy course I have recently joined, gives a fresh dimension to learning about the body with clear lecture slides and explanations.
I am still working my way through the course with one module to complete but have found it very helpful in advancing my underrstanding of the human body as a whole and how to use exercise to improve peoples lives phychologically as well as physically
Just 4 weeks into my first 14 week module of the Diploma and I am already feeling more confident with my teaching and more knowledgeable as I work with clients. I'm meeting like-minded Pilates instructors from around the world who are also interested in evidence-based practices. I'm learning from the incredible BE instructors and also from my fellow students. It's an amazing experience so far.
To say that my experience with Breathe Education has been transformative would be an understatement. I first discovered Breathe through their excellent podcast, Pilates Elephants. I learned more about anatomy and pilates from listening to their podcast than I ever had in any of my previous training experiences over the last six years of my pilates career. I am currently enrolled in their 6-week anatomy and movement course as well as their pilates mat and reformer certification and have loved every minute of all of it. Hands down, the team at Breathe has figured out how to deliver the the most engaging, effective, and high quality pilates education that I'm aware of. I never thought I would like or even be successful at remote learning, but Breathe has totally proven me wrong. I am so grateful and proud to be a part of their growing community.
I am currently enrolled in the Diploma of Clinical Pilates. This course has transformed the way I teach, I am far more confident. My clients appreciate the knowledge and variety I am bringing to my classes and private training sessions. I am so grateful I signed up and I'm excited for what's to come.
This is the most comprehensive program I have seen in over a decade of taking pilates classes. The instructors are so knowledgeable and encouraging. They really empower me to be creative and have fun with teaching people.
I am loving the Pilates training with BE. The structure of BE training is easy to follow and easy to access. All trainers are super helpful, present the coursework so well and also empower you to be the best instructor you can be.
I loved this course, I have been a Pilates Instructor for over 10 years and a studio owner for 6 years. This course has exponentially increased my knowledge and confidence. I feel confident working with all clients, individuals who require rehab after injury or surgery as well as clients who have issues with pain.The format of the course allowed me to fit it around work and family life. The tutors are excellent, always going the extra distance to help you succeed. A big thank you to Adam and Heath for the way the content is presented and reinforced in the tutorials and to Raph for the always up to date content in the lectures.
I got so much out of this course, more than just learning to become a Pilates instructor. The confidence I have gained and the excitement I feel about starting a new career that I know I will love is the best feeling.
Deciding to get my pilates certification through Breathe Education was the best decision I could have made. I am wrapping up my undergraduate degree currently, so doing a completely remote certification at the same time was the best option for me. I have ADHD and have always struggled with remote learning, so I was nervous / apprehensive about realistically staying on top of the workload.B.E. has structured this whole program in an organized and efficient manner that makes it hard NOT to succeed. There are weekly practice teaching sessions and tutorials that are required (which is a wonderful thing because of the accountability aspect to stay on top of it)...All the different learning styles were implemented throughout the e-learning material to cater to everyone -- there were podcasts to listen to, video demonstrations, articles to read, written assessments, verbal teaching assessments, and then of course, physical assessments of us actually performing the repertoire. The material within the course has expanded my knowledge greatly, and it was taught in a way that simplified things so that I never felt overwhelmed. Because of this approach, I was able to feel more confident in my abilities throughout the courseAll of the instructors truly care about the success of their students and are very thorough in all of the lectures and master classes. I am considering doing the clinical diploma a little further down the line, and I would absolutely recommend this program to a friend. <3
When I was looking into Pilates training programs, I was torn between a couple of popular ones. I went with Breathe Education because it felt more achievable since it's 100% online, and I'm so glad I did! The structure of the course content is very well-organized, and the instructors are incredibly knowledgeable, accessible, and welcoming. It's been a pleasure meeting all of my other course mates from around the world, as well! Highly recommend!
I cannot recommend Breathe Education highly enough!After having done a previous certificate 100% online with a different company, I said I'd never study online again.The Trainers at Breathe have changed my mind. The support from the trainers is second to none. Their knowledge and love has soaked through from week to week. Giving me the tools to move fearlessly, learn with passion and teach with confidence.If you're sitting on the fence... don't, just do it. you won't regret a thing.A special thanks to Belinda and Hailey and a huge thankyou to Raph who was my main tutor throughout the 20 weeks.Christine Sharman
I love this certification course. It is taught in a very well thought out way to make the learning digestible and memorable.All instructors are supportive and well experienced, and the online course platform and masterclass library is excellent!Thank you so much for this training.Highly recommended!
I have loved my time with Breathe and I’m sad that my course will be coming to an end shortly! I’ve learned not only how to teach pilates, but I’m also learning about movement in my own body and the Breathe community is such a safe and positive environment to learn it in. The trainers are the best and the community is so supportive and uplifting. I’m excited about the progress and growth that I’ve accomplished since the start of the course and I can’t wait to get started with my own teaching experience! So grateful for this program!!!
From the very first day I started my training with Breathe, right up until the end, I received constant support, guidance and reassurance throughout the entire course. I'd like to personally thank my trainer Hailey Hawkins, whom I had every week for my tutorials, you are such an inspiration that I can only hope to become one day! The whole course is structured in a way where it is actually achievable and suitable to any lifestyle. I was a little concerned about the course being 100% online, but Breathe made it highly interactive which I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and completing practice teaching hours with my peers. My favourite module was module 3 learning about prenatal clients, being a new mum myself this was most inspiring to me! One of my main goals in becoming a Pilates Instructor is to help empower other fellow mothers to feel safe and supported in working out. Thank you Breathe for this journey, I hope I can have the opportunity to study with you again soon.
I can't put in to words how amazing this course is. I was initially worried about it being online, however there was nothing at all to worry about. I've learnt so much, and had so much support the whole way. I cannot wait to get teaching. You will not regret choosing Breathe.
This course has made me feel amazing both physically and mentally. I suffer chronic pain from a neck injury. The Breathe course has helped me manage my pain better than I ever have before. My trainer was Hayley who is fabulous. I have made some great new friends and we will continue to support each other now that we are qualified Pilates instructors. Fantastic course highly recommend.
If you are looking to really dive in and learn how to not only teach, but set up your Pilates business then Breathe Education is the right choice for you.The instructors are extremely helpful and positive. Haley is fabulous and she gives excellent feedback that helps you understand and learn.10 out of 10 would recommend!
I love the sincerity for the individual that reached out to me to let me know of the scholarship that was happening 🙌 even though we haven't been intouch for a while. That was big to do that, to remember me, when there is so many individuals in the world.