Every movement we perform in our lives, since we are born, when it becomes a habit in repetition, can greatly influence our posture, especially when happening in an asymmetrical pattern.
We see this more clearly in people who are engaged in sports or sedentary work, in which one portion of the body is overdeveloped or underdeveloped. Yoga can teach us to observe the link in between our actions and their results.
We see how becoming stronger or weaker on one side throws off balance the posture by the constant pulling forces of the muscles applied on our bones and joints. In a sedentary lifestyle one portion of the body may become underdeveloped, weak and tight, causing all sorts of dysfunction in posture and causing physiological imbalance.
The objective of this article is to address how fascial lines and kinetic chains can be balanced by yoga Asana practice. I will try to do so by two different approaches and understanding on the fascial lines.
Whenever we look at the body we try to find what is physiological,in terms of health and balance to create functional posture and movement. One part of the yoga sutras 2.47 says “When the effort to maintain posture becomes effortless, posture is mastered”. We can refer to it also as an “effortless effort”.
When the body loses the capacity to auto-regulate itself in terms of returning to a functional posture, due to poor approach to movement or lifestyle habits, we assist to one or more fascial lines and the kinetic chains becoming hyperactive or hypoactive. According to the classification of the osteopath Leopold Busquet the fascial lines are divided into 3 static and 4 dynamic lines. The static lines are composed mostly by connective tissues and have the function of maintaining posture.
• The musculoskeletal static chain
• The neurovascular static chain
• The static visceral chain
The dynamic lines are made mostly of muscle tissue and they are concerned mostly with locomotion. These are:
• Flexion muscular chains
• Extensor muscular chains
• Open crossed muscle chains
• Closed crossed muscle chains
Dysfunctions and pain appear when the physiological balance, which is usually self regulating, is disturbed by tensions in the fascial lines. Tensions may appear in one or several chains and disrupt harmonious movement.
The purpose of Yoga asana is to hydrate the joints and create fluidity in the fascial lines in a symmetrical way to release the tensions within the different chains to facilitate the organism’s recovery of its natural functioning.
The flexion muscular chains and the extensor muscular chain work together in the way that when we strengthen or stretch one, the other will respond by doing the opposite.
The same happens in the open crossed muscle chain and the closed cross muscle chain.
The latter connects the right shoulder to the opposite ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine) and it is strengthened by actively moving these two points towards each other, and in return the open cross muscle chain will do the opposite by lengthening, and vice versa.
These 4 chains can be balanced through a mindful flow which includes movement in these specific directions. The heat created by the movements loosen up the muscle fibers allowing for dilation and space.
The assistance of the breath through gentle prolonged exhalation assist the nervous system by activating the PSNS and inviting muscles relaxation.
By understanding all these points we can greatly influence the body during movement, incorporating locomotion, nervous system activity and breath.
This process is also assisted by the proprioceptive organs in the muscles and tendons (muscle spindle and golgi tendon organ) by reciprocal inhibition, PNF or post isometric relaxation.
Through these methods we can find active release or we can rely on movement alone to create balance and harmony.
My teacher once said in class “tadasana does not necessarily give you a lot to do, but it gives you a lot to feel”.
We find in clinical environment how postural assessment is crucial to help someone return to postural physiological balance.
Tadasana, which is the static standing upright Asana, can be used as an introspective tool to sense and observe the body from within to become aware of our own dysfunction.
The second method that I would like to share is more of a generic one in which we observe several different muscular fascial lines and kinetic chains.
We have the superficial back line, connecting the plantar fascia to the back of the skull. A great way to find release in this portion is to massage the sole of the foot with a tennis ball, and the release is felt throughout this chain.
If just by doing this we can assist to release in fascial tension, we can imagine this release multiplied manifold during a compound movement of yoga Asana with the aim of creating space as a whole. Strengthening this superficial back line helps towards opening the front of the body and maintaining functional posture.
The superficial front line connects the entire front of the body from the feet to around the SCM. This line creates flexion of the torso and when becoming too strong due to improper posture, sport or trauma it causes dysfunction.
The body’s reflex to huddle together and “protect itself” is strong, traumas can cause lock ups in the superficial front line. This is often the cause of the forward tilted and rotated pelvis. It is important to also notice that chronic inflammation of the small intestine and colon can cause a forward tilted pelvis (nutation of the pelvis).
I have had the chance to work with a 23 years old student affected by chronic Ulcerative colitis to reestablish postural balance through yoga asana movements, since his pelvis was out of balance due to this long time chronic condition.
By addressing these fascial lines with gentle movement we have been able to reestablish a more balanced posture in his pelvic area.
The lateral line frames both sides of the body. It is active during side bending and passes the torso in a zigzag pattern.
We find the ITB to be part of this connection. Tension in this area affects hip external rotation and it is often the cause of valgus pressure in the knee. It is crucial to maintain mobility here to prevent knee injuries and hip mobility.
The spiral line has a similar role of the previously discussed open crossed muscle chain and the closed cross muscle chain of the Busquet method.
The fascia arm lines are named after their location where they cross the shoulder. They performs pushing, pulling, rotations and all the advanced movements of our hands in collaboration with the eyes.
The deep front line includes the body’s Myofascial “core”. We can find it between the lateral lines in the front plane and between the superficial front line and superficial back line in the sagittal plane. It includes the diaphragm muscle which is a fundamental structure in our yoga practice. This double dome shaped muscles can be used to help release the outer layers of fascial lines through the act of conscious pulmonary ventilation.
Yoga presents the possibility to consciously link movement with the breath (what is more commercially known as vinyasa). We can use what we could call “targeted breathing”. As the chest moves, the lungs change shape according to the thoracic area engagement.We can consciously move in patterns that allow us to expose specific areas in the body around the lungs and the vertebral column, and then through the lungs and diaphragm create space from inside with the assistance of the breath. This is another powerful tool for fascial lines release that is presented by yoga.
I wish to conclude by making a distinction between isometric versus dynamic movement. Yoga is an experiential practice which shows the connection in between the whole of the body. We can address movement in a static way through static stretching or isometric contraction to develop strength, or we can find fluidity and relaxation in dynamic movements.
Every movement has a purpose in the body, the body isn’t designed to stay still, it is not an inanimate object, hence we can experience a greater degree of relaxation when introducing dynamic yoga asana over the tension of a stagnant isometric posture in muscles and joints.
We are often taught to stand up straight with our chest out, inviting a conquering, forceful attitude towards the body, when instead we can find a greater degree of freedom in relaxation and balance, becoming masters of the effortless effort.
By Federico Blardone (remedial and myofascial therapist, sport therapist and yoga teacher)