Engaging the Back Line in Inversions
Disclaimer: The exercises/movements in this post may or may not be appropriate for your body at this time. Please consult your health care provider before beginning any exercise program.
With so much talk about inversion technique, it's worth mentioning one powerful force in the body - the back line. The back line is a line of fascia (connective tissue) running from the heels all the way up the back body and over the skull to the eyebrows. Fascial lines of connective tissue allows muscles to fire in a chain of succession, or “link system.” When muscles fire in succession from one end to the other, the body is more supported and can move more efficiently.
In many bodies, the back line of fascia is stretched out and underutilized because our society is forward flexion-focused. Repetitive sitting, driving, or using technology (computers and cell phones) reinforces a hunched posture that prevents us from moving in a balanced way.
But what is balanced movement anyway? Entire books have been written about this topic, but this post will focus on how the front and back lines of fascia should be working together to support inversions.
Here is our balance focus today: When one line shortens, the other lengthens, so the tissues adjust on BOTH sides of the body to create support. For example, when you do abdominal work from a supine (lying) position, it’s not all about the front line shortening - the back line lengthens also to support your movement. This lengthening is a process of toning eccentrically (while elongating). Try this:
1. AB CURL
A. Lie supine (on your back, feet on the floor, knees to the ceiling). Do a small abdominal curl. Take a moment to notice how this movement feels. (I know...I have a little rib flare in this version).
B. Now, try the ab curl again, but this time imagining you have a hammock holding your back. Press your head back into your hands for the entire movement. Lengthen through the spine BEFORE curling. What do you notice? (In the video I am using a deep exhale to fire the transverse abdominals to further support the movement. I am also working in neutral pelvis/spine, not posterior pelvic tilt).
Of course, there are a lot of other cues one could offer to create a more supported abdominal curl. But this post is targeting the back line, so we will stay on topic.
2. TEASER TO JACK KNIFE.
A. Begin in teaser (V shape). Begin to roll onto your back, then lift the legs and hips into a Jack Knife position. Then roll down back to your start position. What did you feel?
B. Now, try the exercise again. This time, press your arms firmly into the ground, and lift the thigh bones away from your center. What does this feel like? (Note - The backs of my shoulders don't touch the ground yet - I'm still working on it! But your shoulders should touch the ground.)
The Back Line in Movement
You can access your back line as a source of support in both of these exercises. The cues in Part B of each exercise hopefully made your back line more accessible, or more apt to engage. When we use both the front and back lines of our bodies, we can access more challenging aerial movement (like inversions) with full support and power.
What did you experience in these exercises? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Want to know more? Try a mentor hour, or get the scoop in one of our live teacher trainings.
Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers
The Classical Pilates Method - The Pilates Center, Boulder, CO
Our authors include our Master Teacher Trainers as well as Born to Fly™ Certified Teachers.