Anatomy Trains in training
Each of these sectors contributes to the health of the populace. Given the impoverished state of movement education worldwide, each arena has pressing needs where improvement is vitally important to active longevity. Across the world, body usage, movement integration, and postural faults are widely ignored, yet change could be easily effected within existing institutions. Most educational systems focus on visual and auditory learning, with few resources left over to expand a curriculum of ‘Kinesthetic Literacy’.
Meanwhile, within our own house there is often ‘bad blood’ and ignorance between and even within sincere professions. Too many practitioners rely blindly on oral lore at one end, or value ‘evidence based’ over clinical experience at the other. Differing professions use the same word for different events, or different terms for the same event – ask different professional groups to define the word ‘stretch’.1 A ‘unified field’ in the movement therapies would do much to advance all the modalities within it.
A few dollars per child given toward better physical education could yield a large benefit in terms of reduced medical costs and higher levels of health and performance. A few dollars per patient could improve integration of rehabilitation and prevent relapses for all manner of physical injury or post-surgical recovery. Where the dollars are being spent – in athletics – insights are being gained that could be applied more widely in education and rehabilitation if there were improved cross-pollination and means of dissemination.
Although Anatomy Trains was developed out of the author’s experience of mapping global patterns of postural compensation (see Ch. 11 and the appendices which follow, aimed more at structurally-oriented manual therapy), many movement-based therapies and training methods such as physiotherapy, rehabilitative exercise, Pilates, yoga, and performance-based personal and team training have found real value in using the Anatomy Trains map. Additionally, recent research has uncovered surprising fascial properties directly relevant to movement training.
Accordingly, here we first add to the concepts offered in Ch. 1 with a brief summary of findings relevant to what Dr Robert Schleip2 has termed ‘Fascial Fitness’3–6, before exploring some simple applications of Anatomy Trains to common foundational movement patterns. This chapter also includes a section on walking from our colleague James Earls.7 Additional material from earlier editions and supplementary videos are available via the accompanying website and www.anatomytrains.com.
With all the recent attention paid to fascia in training circles, it is important to emphasize that training fascia is not new.8 Our connective tissue web has always been with us; we cannot avoid training it, stretching it, and allowing (or hindering) its job of repairing itself and providing a substrate for the muscle tissue to work on the skeletal and articular framework. Of course trainers and physiotherapists have been considering it all along – as individual tendons, ligaments, and attachments considered as separate parts. The fascia as a whole body system – the thesis of this book – has been less considered by the rehabilitation and performance field.
All methods – dance, martial arts, yoga, Alexander Technique, strength conditioning, or any of their modern offshoots – train our fascia one way or another. (In fact, the ubiquitous sitting we do in the Western world is also a form of ‘fascial training’ or ‘stretching’ that can occupy many hours of an office-worker’s week, with some deleterious effects – see the section on sitting later in this chapter.) The emerging picture from the research suggests that we can do a better job if we are conscious of the fascial properties and responses in addition to nutritional support, neurological coordination, and muscle strength and balance.
The other side of this coin is that ‘fascia’ is not a miracle or the answer to all training problems; it is a down-to-earth event, a versatile and variable tissue that handles a variety of movement demands within the generous but not unlimited confines of what a biological fabric is able to do. As always with a newly minted concept, the less informed enthusiast may make exaggerated claims. Nevertheless, the developing research picture, like that referenced for the rest of this section, suggests a fairly radical re-thinking of our Newtonian biomechanics and even our base concepts of anatomy are in the offing, worthy of the overused ‘paradigm shift’. Fascial study is ushering Einstein’s relativity – only a century late – into the world of movement training and rehabilitative medicine.
Here our focus is once again on the function of healthy fascia. Fascial dysfunction, pathology, and the intricacies of body pain are beyond the scope of this volume. The following is only a partial and truncated set of bullet points; a more complete picture of the relevant research can be gathered elsewhere.2, 3–6, 8
Perhaps the most significant clinical finding for trainers is that regular loading (read: exercise) within the healthy limits of the tissue induces a regular spiral lattice pattern through the myofascia, while a lack of regular loading produces a felt-like irregular architecture (Fig. 10.1).9–12 Lack of fascial loading also reduces the molecular ‘crimp’ in the fascia, which not only provides a healthy first ‘bounce’ of elasticity to the tissue, but also is the method by which the Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs) read the load on the tissue.12,13 Reduce the crimp through inactivity and the perception of load will be less accurate (Fig. 10.2). Thus the sedentary person leaving the couch or the hospital bed to return to exercise faces two fascial challenges in addition to his muscle weakness: remodeling the spiral lattice and building the crimp back in.
Fig. 10.1 Healthy loading induces a regular spiral lattice in the myofascia. A sedentary life leaves the fascia without directing forces, and it orients randomly, like felt. Redrawn from Schleip and Müller6; reproduced courtesy of Robert Schleip and fascialnet.com.
Fig. 10.2 Healthy crimp provides a first response of elasticity, and also is the means whereby the Golgi Tendon Organs can assess load. Reproduced with kind permission of Dr Robert Schleip and fascialnet.com.
Both of these require longer time scales than building muscle, as collagen turnover in the less-vascular fascia is far slower than protein turnover in the well-served muscle, so that early in any new training program is a more likely time for injury, when the muscles are outdistancing their supporting fascia.14
Training isolated to individual muscle groups may train that muscle well, but can leave out fascial tissues necessary to the body’s health in functional movement.15 For instance, training the quadriceps in a seated position by weighting the ankle and extending the knee will not build the necessary strength in the contralateral SI joint ligaments and piriformis (for force closure), leading to the likelihood of pelvic dysfunction and pain.16 Training the myofascial meridians as open or closed kinetic chains builds the fascial strength between and around the muscles, and allows for the greater coordination of proximal initiation and distal delay (Fig. 10.3).15
Varying the load and the vectors of pull or stretch while training – as in club or rope work, kettlebells or parkour – insures an even development of the supporting fascia in and around the muscles. Conversely, the suggestion is that repeating the same exercises, katas, or yoga asanas in the same way day after day will train only the certain pathways of fascia that are loaded, leaving nearby fascia unloaded and untrained and unbalanced – and thus subject to injury when life comes at you from a different angle.
We have assumed that ligaments are passive structures until we reach the end-range of motion, at which point they come into play to save the joints.17 Van der Waal’s careful dissections show that ligaments are not the parallel system we thought them to be: most ligaments are in dynamic series with the surrounding muscles.18 Our common dissection method only made them appear separate (Fig. 10.4).
The implications for joint strengthening of this simple but radical finding are vast and will take time to assess and apply. Just the realization that ligaments are being trained at every angle of movement is revelatory. Again, multi-vector exercise and sufficient time investment to build ligaments recommends itself.
We often talk about ‘feeling the stretch in our muscles’, but we have perhaps six times the number of receptors in the fascia around any given muscle than we do in the muscle itself.19 Even the muscle spindles inside the muscles are reading the change in length of the connective tissue to infer the change of length in the muscle. Muscle itself (the neurally rich muscles like the suboccipitals, eye muscles, and plantaris are exceptions) is comparatively fairly numb. Outside the muscle tissue are the well-distributed and clever endings of receptors in the fascial net: the GTOs that measure load, the Paciniform corpuscles for measuring pressure, and the Ruffini endings for measuring shear, along with a host of free nerve terminals that measure a bit of everything and also connect to the nociceptic (pain) tracts (Fig. 10.5).20
The brain is clearly vitally interested in what’s going on interstitially in the fascia. Along with the vestibular system and the many skin sensors, we absolutely need all the fascial sensors to know what is going on with our body in space.21 The suggestion here is that bulldozing through our sense data (‘no pain, no gain’) is a great way toward short-term or long-term fascial injury, and that cultivation of a refined sense of proprioception, interoception, and kinaesthesia will serve us well in extending our skills into older age.
The subject of stretch is a fraught one we have attempted to deal with elsewhere and will not repeat here.22 Fascia has a combination of viscoelastic and elastic properties, and the elastic properties can be increased in response to specific training (Fig. 10.6).23,24 Since elastic bounce is an observable characteristic of healthy young people and the storage and recoil of fascial elasticity is implicated in efficient running and fast exercise,25 the suggestion is that cultivating fascial elasticity may contribute to maintaining such capacity into our older years.
Fig. 10.6 (A) Fascia combines both elastic (spring) and visco-elastic (damper, plastic, or shock absorber) properties. (B) These properties can be trained. Illustration modified after Reeves et al., 2006.23 Redrawn from Schleip and Müller6 with kind permission of Dr Robert Schleip and fascialnet.com.
A common use of fascial elasticity is seen in the ubiquitous stretch–shortening cycle, where fascia (and muscle) is ‘pre-stressed’ by a preparatory counter movement.26 Going down to jump, bringing a racquet back before a stroke, or swinging a kettlebell back before lifting it forward would all be examples of this common strategy. Use of this preparatory counter movement makes the subsequent effort smoother and less prone to injury.
We all know the immune system (which is largely connective tissue in origin) has genetic differences in blood types and immune reactions, so it is unsurprising that our fascial net shows genetic variation. The tightness of the fascial net varies along a spectrum from ‘Viking’ (probably developed in more Arctic climates: dense and quickly repaired, creating a lot of friction and thus heat in movement) vs ‘Temple dancer’ (probably developed in more tropical climates, highly elastic and bendy, low friction sliding). 27, 28
The Vikings, well-suited to heavy tasks, tend to be over in the weight room clanking metal while the naturally limber Temple dancers are across the hall in the studio doing yoga. It might be better for both groups if they switched places a couple of times per week. In any case, as this and other genetic differences in fascia are discovered, training programs will need to accommodate differences, instead of ‘one-size fits all’.
Most common body injuries involve fascia.29 Gentle perseverance works on three time scales. Firstly, muscles develop faster than fascia, due to slow collagen turnover, so a program to build fascial resilience should be undertaken with a long-term view, such as that promoted by yoga and the martial arts. Since the half-life of collagen is about one year, a period of 6–24 months (depending on age, exercise, and nutrition) is required to make a thorough change in the fascial system.30 The ‘gotta get back in shape fast for summer’ attitude of pushing the muscles to ‘pop’ in a few-weeks is a recipe for myotendinous junction or antithesis injury (based on nearly 40 years of anecdotal experience).
Secondly, research confirms the fascial portion of the idea of staggering heavy workouts. After a heavy stimulus (stretching or muscle work) fibroblasts are stimulated to produce more fascia (in Vikings especially) and the fascia-busting enzymes like collagenase and metallurase begin breaking down other fascia.31 By 24 hours after the workout, there is a net loss of collagen, implying that the system might be a bit weaker, and thus not ready for another heavy stimulus, but by 48 hours there is a net gain, and by 72 hours the system has settled again (Fig. 10.7).
Fig. 10.7 Heavy workouts perturb the fibroblasts, which in turn both dissolve old collagen and create new fibers. This process results in a net degeneration after 24 hours, but a net synthesis after 72 hours. Illustration modified after Magnusson et al., 2010.31 Redrawn from Schleip and Müller6 with kind permission of Dr Robert Schleip and fascialnet.com.
Thirdly, most injuries occur when local fascia tissue is loaded and required to move too quickly. A rough parallel lies in the common plastic carrier bag: stretch it slowly and it will plastically deform for quite a distance; stretch it quickly and it will tear. In our experience, a movement or exercise that can be performed slowly can then be done quickly in a safer manner than starting out trying to learn it quickly – a strategy that can lead to local tissue failure and the necessity for long-term recovery.
In the main, the standard model implied by the fascia-dissing term ‘musculo-skeletal’, in which the muscles are seen to attach to bones at their proximal and distal ends, ignores three elements with a strong effect on the real biomechanics, as opposed to the notional ‘single muscle’ Newtonian biomechanics we have used for the last 400 years.
• The latitudinal connections of areolar tissue (‘fuzz’) and intermuscular septa from one muscle to its neighbors,35 as well as to the ligaments of the joint the muscle crosses,36 and to the outer unitard layer of the fascia profundis.
Although applications for both movement and manual therapy have been interspersed throughout the preceding chapters, the specific sequencing of soft-tissue releases or movement education strategies is left to in-person training.38 This book is primarily designed to aid the reader in observing these body-wide myofascial patterns, so that currently held skills and treatment protocols can be applied globally in novel ways.
None of the forays that follow is intended to be in any way exhaustive, but merely to guide the reader a little way down the road toward the variety of possible uses for the scheme, both as self-help and in the healing/performance/rehabilitation professions.
Still photographs are a frustrating way to go about assessing movement, but are necessitated by the form of a book. Assessing clients in standing is explored more deeply in the next chapter, and in-person classes. (DVD courses in motion assessment are available: www.anatomytrains.com, www.astonenterprises.com) (DVD ref: BodyReading, 101).
Anatomy Trains is not primarily a theory of movement, but simply one map of how stability is maintained and strain distributed across the body during movement. Few movements are made with a myofascial meridian as a whole, but many movements require stabilization throughout an entire line. For instance, put one foot on top of the other as you sit, and attempt to lift the lower foot against the upper by lifting the knee. Although the rectus femoris and psoas major may be the muscles primarily responsible for attempting to move the leg, the entire Superficial Front and Deep Front Lines, of which these muscles are part, will tense and ‘pre-stress’ from toes to hip and can be felt by the discerning into the belly, sternum, and neck. This kind of stabilizing isometry and strain distribution goes on mostly under the radar of our awareness, but is vitally necessary for the effective ‘anchoring’ in one part that forms the basis of successful movement for another.
Similarly in standing, let your weight shift forward into your forefoot to feel the Superficial Back Line stiffen fascially as a whole, no matter which muscles are actually involved in the movement. Put your weight fully onto a single foot to feel the interplay between the Lateral Line and the Deep Front Line – both of which will be immediately ‘denser’ to the touch – as they manage the inside–outside balance of the leg as the weight shifts second-by-second on the medial and lateral arches of the foot.
• Each line should be able to stabilize segmental arrangement in a neutral position while the action is being performed, e.g. in a lateral kick in football (soccer), the abdominals in the Lateral Line should have sufficient tone on both sides to keep the rib cage in place so that the force of the kick is not robbed by rotation or side-shift of the ribs.
Aside from the modern and extraordinarily functional example of Fred Astaire, this pre-classical sculpture represents, to this author’s eye, the most compelling example of poise and balance among the Anatomy Trains lines – better even than the Albinus figure that serves as the Anatomy Trains ‘brand’. This Kouros (lad) – one of many such sculptures from the pre-classical period – presents a balanced tensegrity between the skeletal and myofascial structure rarely seen today; in fact rarely seen in art after this period. The muscles and bones are represented a bit massively for modern taste, but the whole neuromyofascial web ‘hangs together’ with a calm ease that nevertheless manages to convey a total readiness for action – in other words, ideal balance in the autonomic nervous system expressed in the shape of the neuromyofascial web.
Fig. 10.8 Kouros. The pre-classical Kouroi series of sculptures shows close to ideal ‘coordinated fascial tensegrity’ – balance and proper placement for the Anatomy Trains lines. (Reproduced with kind permission from Hirmer Fotoarkiv.)
Notice the length and support through the core Deep Front Line (DFL) that imparts support up the inner line of the leg and throughout the trunk. Notice the balance of soft-tissues between the inside and outside of the knee. See the ease with which the head sits on the neck, and the shoulders drape over the upright rib cage. There is distinct muscle definition, but the connection along the lines is not lost or overcome. We could do worse, as a culture, than to work toward a physical education system that would generate bodies approaching this functional ideal.
This sculpture shows the body beautifully poised for martial action. Though it is probably blasphemous to reduce Zeus to a lines analysis, we will risk the thunderbolt he looks ready to hurl to note how he stabilizes his body for maximum effect. The improbably long left arm is held out along the line of his sight, suspended by the Superficial Back Arm Line, counterbalancing the weight of the right arm held behind. The right arm grips the bolt or spear with both thumb and fingers, engaging both the Superficial and Deep Front Arm Lines, thus linking into both the pectoralis major and minor across the front of the chest to the opposite side. This connection allows the front of the outstretched arm to counterbalance and provide a base for the throw; they will reverse their position but stay connected during the throw itself.
The right leg is contracting along the Superficial Back Line, pushing onto the ball of the foot and extending the hip to start the body on its forward path, pushing the weight onto the stable left leg. The left leg is planted firmly, the knee slightly bent, with stabilizing tension along all four leg lines, so that the left Spiral Line and right Front Functional Line, which are both anchored to the left leg, can assist the two front Arm Lines in imparting forward momentum to the right shoulder and arm.
Because the bolt is clearly to be thrown along the horizontal plane, the two Lateral Lines are quite balanced with each other. By this we can infer that it is being thrown for accuracy over a short distance (compare to the ‘Hail Mary’ throw in Fig. 8.3 where the Arm Lines are also strongly assisted by the Spiral and Functional Lines). Were it to be thrown earthward from heaven, the left Lateral Line would necessarily shorten and the other lines adjust to angle the throw downward.
Here we see a weary Hercules, leaning on his club and resting from his labors, so it may be unfair to subject him to a critical lines analysis. This representation, however, is typical of classical art, and it provides a clear contrast with the pre-classical Kouros and Zeus.
Blessed with fabled strength though he may be, notice that Heracles’ body shows the characteristic hip-hiked, off-center pose that can be found in most classical art. This involves a commonly seen pattern: shortness in the lower left Lateral Line (LL), and the upper right Lateral Line. This is accompanied by a retraction or collapse in the core or Deep Front Line, demonstrated in several ways. There is a twist in the core supporting the lower thoracic spine, i.e. in the psoas complex with both sides shortening to accommodate it. The chest, though massive, seems slightly collapsed toward an exhalation pattern. The lack of inner length can also be seen in the ‘girdle of Adonis’ spilling over the edge of the pelvis (that is not fat, but rather a result of core shortening). It extends to the legs, where the shortness of the DFL in the adductor group and deep posterior compartment of the lower leg pulls up on the inner arch and helps to shift the weight onto the outside of the foot. The collapse can be read in the tissues of the knee, where the tissues on the inner knee (DFL) are lower than the tissues on the outer knee (LL). Contrast this with the core support found in any of these examples, even the asymmetrical and unathletic Venus.
We are, of course, unable to comment on Venus’s Arm Lines, but the charm of her seductive pose is surely enhanced by shortening the left Spiral Line (SL) and the right Front Functional Line (FFL). Someone standing straight is not nearly as inviting (compare this pose to most of the statues of Athena – i.e. ‘Justice’ or the Statue of Liberty – who generally stands foursquare, inviting respect but not familiarity). The straight pose calls for maximum stability in the cardinal lines: front, back, sides, and core (Deep Front) lines. Any sinuous pose such as seen here or in the fashion magazines will involve an asymmetry in the helical lines: the Lateral, Spiral, and Functional Lines.
Notice how the shortening of the left SL shifts her head to the right, protracts the right shoulder, and gives a left rotation to the rib cage relative to the pelvis. The shortness in the right FFL further contributes to all of these and also to her modesty, as the adductor longus on the left side, the lower track of the right FFL adducts the left hip across the body.
Additional shortening in the right LL is necessary to bring sufficient weight back onto the right leg. Even so, we are left with the impression of impending movement, in that she seems not quite securely balanced on her right leg. Some have surmised that in the original she was holding the baby Eros in her right arm, which would help counterbalance her weight, or perhaps she is about to take a step into the pool that will once again render her virginal.
The discus thrower of Praxiteles is the consummate representation of the lines in service of an athletic skill. The trim young fellow holds the discus with the Superficial Front Arm Line (SFAL) of his right arm from the flexed fingers to the pectoralis major, stabilizing his hold with the pressure from his thumb, which connects up the Deep Front Arm Line through the biceps to the pectoralis minor. This tension is balanced by a similar engagement in the two front Arm Lines on the left side, and the two are connected across the pectoral muscles in the chest down the arm to his left hand, which is clearly fully involved in the throw.
He has ‘coiled the spring’ of his body by shortening the right Spiral Line, which is clearly pulled in from the right side of the head (the splenii muscles) around the left shoulder (rhomboid and serratus anterior) across the belly (left external and right internal oblique) to the right hip. This tension carries beyond the hip to the tensor fasciae latae, iliotibial band, and down the front of the shin via the tibialis anterior to the inner arch of his supporting right foot. The Front Functional Line from his left shoulder to his right femur is likewise short. The left Lateral Line is shorter than the right, which is extended.
He has been like this for over 2000 years, but any moment now he will ‘rise and cast’ the discus. The obvious power will come from the right SFAL bringing the discus forward across his body, but the coordination with the other lines will really make the difference in the distance the discus goes. Shortening the right SL in preparation stretches and potentiates the left, which he will now shorten strongly, bringing his eyes and head to the left and the right shoulder forward working off the left hip. As he turns this will bring his weight onto the left leg and foot, which will become the fulcrum for the remainder of the movement. At the same time, he will shorten the Back Functional Line from the left shoulder to the right femur, pulling the left shoulder back and rotating the whole trunk to the left. Shortening the right LL will help stabilize the platform of the shoulder and add a little more impetus to the throw. Finally, the erectors of the Superficial Back Line will straighten the flexion in his body, leaving his back extended and his head lifted to follow the flight of the discus. The right Back Functional Line, from right shoulder to left femur, will contract at the end of the movement to save his right rotator cuff from overstrain, allowing him to stay healthy for future contests.
Space allows for only a few examples of the exertion and stability required across the world of sport. The first two photos show airborne use of the lines, mostly in sagittal movement, the second two show differing rotational movements.
We can imagine our tennis server is short, so she leaps to get the highest advantage on the ball. Spiking into a serve or a short return when up in the air involves shortening the front lines from end to end against each other to get the force in the right direction. The obvious lines for the power of the stroke are provided by both the Superficial and Deep Front Arm Lines that grip and power the racket, arrayed along the visible surface of the right arm in this picture. Notice how the left Front Arm Lines have contracted in against the body to provide stability for more height and stretch to the right side.
In the torso, the power is passed to three lines in the trunk. Firstly, the Front Functional Line continues the power in a straight line from the pectoralis major and the rectus abdominis through the pubic symphysis to the left adductor longus, which is pulling the left thigh forward to counterbalance the right arm. Secondly, the right Spiral Line is shortened, turning the head to the right, pulling the left shoulder around the rib cage, and shortening the distance from the left ribs to the right hip. The left Spiral Line is conversely stretched or lengthened – a pre-stretch prior to forceful closing of this line in the stroke. Thirdly, these two are assisted by the Lateral Lines, where the left is shortened for stability, and the right is fully lengthened for reach. During the shot and follow through, the right Lateral Line and left Spiral Line will shorten along with the right Front Functional Line to provide more power.
When one is airborne, the only counterbalance to the weight of the racket and ball is the inertia of the body itself. We have seen how the weight of the arm is playing against the inertia of the left leg, but it is also working against the inertia of the core – the weight of the pelvis and legs themselves. This drawing on the stability of the core, represented in our scheme by the Deep Front Line, can be seen here in the supination of the feet and the pulling of the DFL structures up the inner line of the leg into the underside of the pelvis. This ‘gathering’ in the core is essential to the power and precision of the shot.
In the service of ‘nothin’ but net’, we are once again airborne, though here the desire to get the ball up to the hoop, rather than down, means that the front lines are open and the back lines are tensed, leaving the body in a bit of a bow that keeps his eyes on the goal. At the same time, notice how active the leading leg is – muscles bulging, foot dorsiflexed – the left leg is as important as the right arm in ‘aiming’ and guiding the body toward the hoop.
The right Superficial Front Arm Line from pectoral to splayed fingers is coming down, like a wing lifting the body to counterbalance the throw with the left. The left Superficial Front Arm Line is providing the power, while the Deep Front Arm Line (see that thumb?) is doing the fine guiding of the ball for precision delivery.
The left Front Functional Line is stretched prior to contracting for the dunk, while the right FFL stabilizes from the flexed left hip to outstretched right arm. The left Back Functional Line is contracted right now, but will have to relent in a second or two. The right BFL is stretched around the trunk from right shoulder to left hip. The left Spiral Line is more contracted, locating the head on the torso, and the right SL is more stretched.
Finally, we note the difference between the left and right Deep Front Line in the legs, where the right DFL is fully stretched and open, but the definition in the adductors on the left side shows how essential this line is, as for the tennis player, in providing core support for the balance of the trunk, even when the foot is not on the ground.
This golfer, caught at the final moment of follow-through from a fairway shot, demonstrates a pleasing integration of the helical lines in motion. Golf engages the entire Spiral and Functional Line complex evenly, but for the head that counter-rotates to follow the path of the ball. The right SL is fully engaged; the left is conversely contracted, right down to the supinating left foot. These lines were in opposite states of length at the beginning of the swing.
The only quarrel we might pick is with the height of the right shoulder, which is being restricted by the (out of sight) rotator cuff of the Deep Back Arm Line, causing the shoulder to lift slightly at this phase of the swing.
In the swing, the Superficial Front Line is for the most part opened and stretched, especially on the right side, with the Superficial Back Line shortened, creating a bow upon which the spirals are laid. Again, the swing starts with the SFL short and the SBL long, so this contraction lifts the head and rib cage during the latter part of the swing.
The weight on the legs has shifted to the inner part of the right foot (and right on past, at the moment of this picture) and onto the outside of the left foot. This involves a contraction of the Deep Front Line on the left leg (in addition to the contraction in the SPL already noted) and a stretch in the Lateral Line on the outside of the left leg. This balance between the Deep Front Line on the inner line of the leg and the Lateral Line on the outer aspect of the leg is crucial to remain centered on the legs while the Spiral Lines roll the weight through to the inside of the following foot and the outside of the leading foot. If these lines do not maintain a coordinated tension through the myofascia, the upper lines cannot easily coordinate the precision swing.
The right Front Functional Line, from right shoulder to left hip, is fully contracted; its complement from right hip to left humerus is fully stretched. The left Back Functional Line is contracted, pulling the left shoulder back, and its complement, running from the right shoulder across the back and around the outside of the left thigh to the knee, is fully stretched. These have likewise traded roles from the moment of greatest backswing to this moment that the picture was taken.
In this photo of school athletics, we see rotation with reaching, in contrast to the pulling in on closed chains seen in a golf stroke. Here we can comment on both number 23 and number 9, seemingly successful in stealing the ball from her competitor even as she falls. Our girl in blue shows a very even-toned stretch along the left Lateral Line coupled with a beautiful reciprocal motion: the closing twist from the right Spiral Line, and concomitant stretch of the left Spiral Line.
The Functional Lines, as above and as in most sportive moves, are likewise fully engaged, though here the movements of the arms are in the service of the coordination of the legs, not vice versa. The left Front Functional Line and right Back Functional Line are participating with the Spiral Line in generating the torso twist, while the two complementary lines are stretched into stabilizing straps. Notice how her arms attempt to stabilize the leg, with the left arm up and out in front, and the right arm back, wrist and elbow flexed to connect the arm to the chest.
The defender has her (left) wrist extended, helping to tighten the back as her right leg works off her own body’s inertia to hook the ball with her right foot, even in mid-fall. While we need not repeat the litany of helices in the Spiral and Functional Lines, we do note the interplay between the Lateral Lines and the Deep Front Lines in her legs: the LL on the outside of her right leg must relent and stretch to allow the DFL on the inside to pull the ball toward her. Conversely, the DFL on the left leg is lengthening, allowing the foot to stay on the ground until the last possible moment. Such interplay can be seen in skiing, skateboarding, or any sport where side-to-side motion necessitates that these normally stabilizing lines become part of the movement and work reciprocally.
Musicians the world over are among those who manifest intense concentration around an object which cannot change shape. The tendency for the body to shape itself around the solid instrument is very strong in all types of music. So strong in fact, that, during a time when I enjoyed a vogue with London’s orchestral musicians in my practice, I could often accurately anticipate the player’s instrument before being told, just on the basis of body posture. The accommodation to the flute, or violin (or guitar or saxophone) was so clear that the instrument could almost be ‘seen’ still shaping the body, even when it was still in its case. So let this section serve for anyone who builds themselves around an unmalleable piece of their environment – potters, jewellers, postmen among them.
Through cross-fertilization from the world of dance concerning body use, and the proliferation of the Alexander Technique and other forms of re-patterning the use of the self, musicians and their teachers as a class have become more aware of postural and movement issues. Paying attention to self-use can certainly affect both the quality of playing and the longevity of the professional player.
Here are a few examples from the classical repertoire, though the same problems and the same principles would apply to rock, jazz, and traditional musicians. In the following examples, we presume right-handed players, as the pictures show. Many of the assessments would obviously switch sides with a left-handed player and instrument.
Although this player demonstrates fairly good body use, we can see that the Superficial Front Line is significantly shortened, pulling the head down toward the pubic bone. This will negatively affect breathing during playing, as well as putting long-term strain into the lower back.
Secondly, the left Lateral Line is shortened, pulling the head to the left, and shortening the distance between the left armpit and the side of the left hip. This pattern is likely, over time, to pull on the core line, the Deep Front Line, and require compensations there that could have negative long-term structural and even physiological effects, as in a fascial shortening of the quadratus lumborum right behind the kidney.
The sets of Arm Lines are used differently, of course, between fingering and bowing. In both cases, the arm is held abducted by the coordination of the Superficial and Deep Back Arm Line, and the playing depends on the opposition of the thumb and fingers – the Superficial and Deep Front Arm Lines. The fact that the bowing arm is held further away from the body, both to the front and out to the side, contributes toward the tendency to counterbalance by shortening the left LL. Slightly dropping the right elbow and lifting the left while playing can help to counterbalance this tendency. Pressing into the left foot a bit more than this fellow is could also help center his body relative to the chair and the cello.
The tendencies of the cellist are magnified in the violist or violinist, owing to the necessity to clamp the instrument between the left shoulder and the left side of the jaw. Although the photograph shows trained good use, the shortening of the left Lateral Line is still clear, and it extends into, and is often sharply present in, the neck. This chronic shortness can sometimes lead to impingement problems through soft-tissue tightening around the brachial plexus or actual stenosis at the cervicals, either of which can adversely affect the ability of the left hand to finger properly. This problem can be ameliorated, if not solved, by adding an extension to the chin rest to make the two sides of the neck more equal in length.
In addition, the player of the smaller stringed instruments adds a rotational component, bringing the right shoulder across the body with the right Front Functional Line, while, counter-intuitively, the right Spiral Line brings the left shoulder and ribs closer to the right hip. This combination often leads to shortening of the Superficial Front Line along the front of the torso, along with a widening or weakening of the tissues of the Superficial Back Line.
The siren beauty of the violin’s sound have lured many a musician to a host of structural problems because of the ability of the body to bend around the instrument, while the instrument is unable to return the favor. The shortness in this player’s SFL causes his pelvis to be posteriorly tilted on the chair, putting the tailbone perilously near the seat. Note how this particular player has broadened his base of support by tucking his right foot back, thus ensuring more movement through his pelvis, despite its bad position. Good sitting will support both better playing and a longer career. Though it is hard to see with the bulky trousers, the anterior lower Spiral Line of the right leg will be strained in this posture, leading sometimes to medial collateral or iliolumbar ligament problems for the tucked-back leg.
The flute, like the violin family, requires serious asymmetrical accommodation, but to the opposite side. The right Lateral Line, the right Front Functional Line, and the left Spiral Line are all commonly shortened in flute playing. The Superficial Front Line also commonly shortens, but interestingly, because the head is turned to the left, the right Superficial Front Line, running from the pubic bone up through the sternocleidomastoid, is often more affected than the left part of that line.