During pilates, it helps to know what your pelvis actually looks like when you're trying to find that neutral pelvis position that is so important during pilates exercises.
Notice that the pelvis is not a solid block of bone, there are spaces and joints.
Looking straight on at the pelvis like this, you can see at the bottom, on either side of the pubic arch, are your sitz bones. They are the two rounded bumps, not as pointy as you might imagine them to be. Those are the bones we try to sit up on during exercises like Saw in mat class and Hug a Tree on the Reformer.
As you look upwards on the pelvis, you can see the two large round parts on either side. The base of each crest is where we think of the hip bones in front of our bodies. Sometimes we put our fingers on those bones in class, when we're measuring the distance between the hips and the low ribs.
In your mind, you might think of these boney points being the highest part of the pelvis, but if you look at the picture, that's not true, the pelvis continues upward. You can feel the highest points of the pelvis with your fingers if you stand up and put your pointer finger on your "front hip bones" and then your thumbs about 2 inches out to the sides and up diagonally from those points. These new points that your thumbs are on are actually your hips!
Turns out your hips are higher up than you thought they were.
Through the center hole in the pelvis you can see your sacrum, which is at your lower back. When you are born and as a child, your sacrum and ilium (the two sides of the pelvis) don't actually form into one boney mass until you are about age 18-20. If you have an injury to your pelvis or lower back as a young child, it increases your chances of having problems with your sacrum later in life, because it might interfere with the development of the sacroiliac joints. This is one reason why many pilates instructors, myself included, don't like to teach pilates to young children. When their bones are still growing and forming, its not usually a good idea to regularly give them resistance training.
Even as an adult, the formed joints of the pelvis can shift, due to a variety of stresses, and cause pain in the low back and hips. Examples are childbirth, a car accident, a hard fall, even faulty posture can gradually damage the strength of the sacroiliac joints. If you feel as though any of these occurances have hurt your lower back, its important to see a doctor and find out what is going on, so you can effectively heal yourself and prevent any further injury. Chronic sacral pain left untreated can lead to much worse injuries, such as sciatica, that take a very long time to recover from (usually more than 1 year) and usually require most exercise routines to cease in order for the body to rest.
Pilates is usually a great exercise program for anyone with sacroiliac issues- the equipment and the expert eye of the instructor can help bring your body back into alignment.
If you are lucky enough to be injury free, pilates can help you stay that way by building strength around the joints of the pelvis, and teaching you how to move properly! Read more!