When we engage in natural movement forms such as rock climbing and bodysurfing we connect directly with our environment, through our body in a somatic and visceral way. So what gives our body form? More importantly, what aspects of our form are receptive and adaptable, giving us proprioceptive feedback along with the means to respond and shift our course through space?
The Fascial network is the largest sensory organ in the body, and it also gives our body it's shape and form. All movement and bodywork engages with the myofascial system, whether we realize it or not. To say we are working with the fascia or myo-fascia (muscle fascia) is to specify an intention; to engage with this vast, body-wide web, with an emphasis on the connections and continuities, as opposed to the reductionist approach of isolated muscles, joints and bones.
The individual names of the muscles and boney landmarks are still important to learn and use as an 'area code' to get to the correct region. The difference is that we understand each part to be interconnected with the rest of the body through tensegrity, or the distribution of tension and compression throughout the fascial network.
These fascial continuities are in direct connection with our movement patterns and posture.
Take for instance, the crux sequence of this route at Mokule'ia which involves standing up onto a small and high left foot, then reaching up to an awkward left hand side-pull. The tendency is to look to the fingers and the toes as the only body parts doing the work.
In reality, what actually make these holds usable is our ability to drive energy and engagement through the long lines of fascia, from a strong, centered inner core.
The Deep Front Line of fascia (as named and described by Tom Myers' Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians) maintains engagement deep in the Psoas, connecting the lumbar spine and breathing through the pelvis, into the adductor muscles along the inner thigh, across the medial ligaments of the knee on into the deep Tibialis Posterior muscle of the lower leg, which connects into the medial arch of the foot, giving the big toe strength, support and sensory feedback to keep the toe securely pressed into the dime-sized edge in the rock.
^Deep Front Line. Image Credit: Tom Myers, Anatomy Trains
^Photo Credit: Ryan Moss
Bodysurfing is another example of how we connect with our environment directly through our Myofascial Meridians. Bodysurfing is the most adaptable form of wave-riding, and it offers us a more visceral connection with the energy of the wave. To 'hold' a steep, fast highline on a barreling wave we can extend the inside arm out overhead (in front of us on the wave), while the inside leg extends out with strong engagement behind us, all the out through pointed toes in our surf fins, giving a 6' tall human an 8'+ rail to hold a steep line on the face of the wave.
The Superficial Front Line of myofascia provides engagement, awareness, feedback and adaptability from our toes to our occiput. The Deep Front Line allows us to feel centered and present through the inner core, modulating subtle flexion/ extension in the pelvis and lower back.
Following the Superficial Front line from the pelvis out through the toes, we start at the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine), or the "headlights of the hips." The Rectus Femoris muscle connects directly into the ASIS, but also with the fascia of the knee, so this segment flexes the hips and extends the knee, giving it importance also with kicking to catch a wave. From the patellar ligament in the knee we connect into the Tibialis Anterior, which we follow down along this thick and dense muscle into the fascia of the extensor retinaculum on top of the foot, and the extensor tendons leading out to the toes. This implies that as you extend your foot and toes out straight to drive with your fins and accelerate the release of water off the tip of your fin, you're also connecting up through the knee into the hip, and deep into the front of the spine, or inner core.
As stated before, hip flexion/ extension and lumbopelvic stability is connected with the Deep Front Line on the inner core level, and the Superficial Front Line builds on the stability (or lack-there-of) in the inner core.
The correct amount of hip flexion will vary depending on the wave, and its best if we can subconsciously adapt our level of hip flexion as we move along the wave face. Generally more hip FLEXION gives more hold; too much and we stall out. Too much hip EXTENSION and we slide out to the bottom of the wave, and put undue strain and compression on our lumbar spine. But just the right amount of hip EXTENSION in the right part of a wave can allow us to glide through a soft section with less hang-up.
^Superficial Front Line, Anatomy Trains
Moving up the myofascial meridians from the inner core into the shoulders, and out the arms, we connect the inner core through the spine into the Deep Front Arm Line (DFAL), and the Superficial Front Line binds with the Superficial Front Arm Line (SFAL) through the Sternal and Pectoral Fascia, all the way out through the fingers.
The Deep Lines fine tune our posture and articulation in response to the wave's constant movement, and generally have more involvement when using a small hand-plane, which can be felt as increased force in the lower back. We are also shortening or engaging the Deep Front Line and the DFAL when the arm is swept back along side the body, while rolling the shoulder slightly in to direct the flowing water down through the venturi made by the subtle flexion at the inner core. On a side note, this is the same body position used to track away from a cliff when BASE jumping, so these myofascial meridians also connect us to the air (which is just another form of liquid).
The Superficial Lines build on top of our Deep Lines, and help support us through extension and length, and they help propel the bigger movements of swimming, paddling, and rolls or spins.
Rolling onto the side to stall out and hang in the hook of the wave engages more of the Lateral Line, activating the Quadratus Lumborum, Hip Abductors in the Trochanteric Fan, and the Intercostals in the rib cage.
^Lateral Line, Anatomy Trains
These analytical and cerebral concepts are great to study and slowly digest, but attempting to hold this kind of mental chatter while actually climbing or bodysurfing is NOT recommended! While I'm isolating out one myofascial meridian over another, its important to remember that the body is much more subtle and complex than even the intricate connections of these meridians, and the amount of antagonist engagement or supporting tension, compression and extension happening from head to toe during any given movement is unfathomable. These meridians I'm describing are just the most likely to be used the most heavily during these movement forms, and can help us visualize or feel these connections.
One of the main points of Myofascial Release bodywork and movement work is to gradually cultivate an awareness of the myofascial continuities in your body in a safe and controlled space, and then bring this awareness to our outdoor playgrounds.
Locating active Myofascial Trigger Points which are often far away from the localized pain or tension, then calling for subtle movement and activation as the tension releases gradually reprograms our bodily awareness. Instead of feeling isolated clumps of pain and compartmentalized movements, we start to feel an almost subconscious presence in our body, or a somatic awareness which transcends analytical, conscious thought. We learn to move effectively with less force, using longer lines of myofascia, and generating movement without impingement or undue tension.
In my experience, this somatic presence allows another level of connection nature; our proprioception (awareness in space) is enhanced, so we can directly engage with the stone, water, air and earth without over-analyzing our experience. This brings us into a more immediate, present state where we can step our ego mind out of the way for a while and learn from our environment directly through our body.