Strength, Length and Stretch

I've just come from teaching an Anatomy Trains course in Chicago with a group of movement practitioners. This is my second time this year adapting my teaching to work with a group of professionals with a divergent view of the body – and it's absolutely fascinating! As a manual practitioner, there is so much about the fascial anatomy of the body that fascinates me, and I forget the box I'm living in until I'm asked to step outside it.

Working with a group of Pilates instructors, athletic trainers and yoga teachers is a wonderful challenge. I have to rethink my assumptions about why the body has the shape it does. They have focus and insight into muscle strength (or weakness, as the case may be), and see length and shortness in the body as reflective of muscle tone. I get to introduce them to the fascial bed — which also creates shortness (or allows for length) in the body. And together we get to explore the idea of lasting change in the body.


I get to talk with a movement professional who believes that any and all structural change that a body requires can be accomplished through movement alone. Needless to say, as a manual practitioner, I can't quite accept that — even while I see the huge advantages and overlapping of our realms. I believe that much of the lengthening that I can achieve with my hands can be accomplished through directed movement. And still, there are structures (the fascial septa, the viscera, the nerves, fascial membranes, etc.) that are best accessed with our hands… And, people move in habitual ways — with ease in some cases and with forgetfulness in others. Once we have an area that is restricted, it often goes off our radar; our kinesthetic map is effected. It's difficult to move what we are no longer feeling. So just as it takes a skilled manual practitioner to open tissues that have become restrictive, I believe a skilled movement educator can help us recover our  map and highlight the ways our movement patterns can be improved.

And there is a lot to be said about the efficiency of manual therapy as a precursor to skilled movement education. If I can help my clients can freedom of movement and better alignment (from fascial restriction), then they will be better position, literally, to take full advantage of whichever physical activity they choose.

Being out of my box for a bit helps me gain perspective on what it is I offer clients and how I can best advocate for their health. Because whether it's yoga or Pilates or walking or free running, barefoot running, stairs or swimming, moving our bodies everyday is a fundamental part of well-being.