Hips Level & Square

facebook size stuff (2)We’re in week 4 of Spring term right now, which means everyone has gotten used to the idea that the devil is in the details. This week, we’re working on the habit of Hips Level & Square.

Take a peek at that photo above — can you see what happens when Level & Square flies out the window? That man’s entire spine is out of whack!

Odd but true: when one part of your body is out of alignment, your brain will work to get your skull floating upright, like a balloon. If that means your spine goes wonky, so be it.

Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014

This man’s discs are shifting right and left, pushing on his spinal nerves. The longer he stays in that position, the more his soft tissue will remodel in that awkward shape. His body and brain will start to think that this is the new normal. Stay there long enough and parts of his discs will break off or he’ll experience pain somewhere along the path of his spinal nerves. Yikes! Check out this dermatome map of where pain travels when a spinal nerve becomes compressed.


Your Pilates session is the perfect place to work on habits that will make you feel better all the time. In class, when you’re lying down, your mat will generally keep both hips the same distance from the ceiling. So, you’ll only need to bring some awareness to whether or not one hip is to closer to your head than the other.  No worries, I’ll remind you when to check and what to check.

As soon as you get up to sitting, kneeling or planking, that’s when things get complicated. I’m asking you to control your pelvis in 3 dimensions…and move at the same time!

Like I always say in class:

There are 2 kinds of work in Pilates: the body part that I ask you to move and the body part that I ask you to control. Control is the secret sauce; it’s the game changer.

4 Things to Check in Class

Whether you’re checking yourself in Front Splits, Long Stretch Series or Arm Springs, take it one step at a time:

  • Do both sides of your waist feel like they’re the same length?
  • If not, can you lengthen your waist to feel more similar on each side? You might need to drop a hip and that can feel like a strange sensation.
  • Does it feel like your hips are both the same distance from the wall in front of you?
  • If not, can you square them off? That can mean swiveling one hip slightly back or swiveling one hip slightly forward.

As soon as we start working on things like this in class, a common question pops up: why do my hips do this?  

6 Innocuous Habits that cause Wonky Hips:

  • Sitting on a wallet. Please, show that photo to every man in your life and get them a front pocket wallet or money clip at the next gift-giving opportunity.
  • Sitting on your foot. When you get the urge to sit on your foot, try adjusting your chair instead. Make it so that you can sit upright with your feet on the floor and your tall spine against the chair back.
  • Sitting with your ankle propped on a knee. This one shifts your hips considerably as well. Try it, and notice if you shift in your mid-back. Do you look like the guy in the photo?
  • Sitting with your feet tucked to one side. I recently caught myself doing this while binge-watching Netflix Lost in Space. Doh! This is why you’re supposed to get up between episodes.
  • Sitting in the driver’s seat of your car with one foot further forward than the other. Don’t slide your left foot close to you — try placing your left foot on that little fake pedal on the left. It’s there to help you keep your hips balanced.
  • Standing on one foot. I often see this habit in my students who have a standing desk, or with people who have jobs that require standing. It’s ok to use a box to place one foot upon, but make sure you keep those hips level. No schlumping.

What to do? every once in a while during your day, go back to my “4 Things to Check” list, they work during your daily life too!


Hips Level & Square INSTA (1)


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