Some years ago, when I was testing the ground as far as my hands on work was concerned, I met a man called Tom Myers. After attending one of his London workshops, I wanted to know more about his ideas and theories and travelled to New York to attend another Anatomy Trains seminar.
Tom from the outset struck me as an incredible teacher, thinker and leader. His ability to hold a class, his brilliant analytical mind and his well proven presentation skills were and still are second to none. There are some who seem to think that in some way I don’t like Tom Myers and whilst Tom’s acerbic tone and sometimes dismissive nature have also managed to direct themselves towards me, I still remain a great admirer both him and his work. If you’re looking for a but then this is not the place to be and my admiration is unequivocal. Whether I agree with him or not is another matter. The person who says, “I disagree with you,” is generally more trustworthy as a truth teller than the one who says how much he loves and admires your work. Ask anyone in Hollywood!
The principle of Anatomy Trains was something that caught my imagination from the start. Imaginary (note the use of the word) lines of strain that ran in various planes from top to bottom and in spirals around the human form. Not to mention arm lines. It allowed for the whole body to be immediately seen and felt and provided any bodyworker to incorporate it immediately into their own principles and applications.
As a principle of body reading and taking functional movement as a whole, this was about as good a starting point as it was possible to get. The problem started much later, when the lines moved from being imaginary to being things that were claimed to exist in a literal sense. The reference to imaginary lines of strain had gone and people started to believe that there were actual lines that existed in the human form.
Once Tom started to get people to dissect the lines out of the body, the fantasy started to become a ‘reality’ and this is where it stopped being as interesting and instead just got a bit silly. It goes without saying that there are of course no real lines of anatomical strain running up, down, through or around the body. Being able to dissect something in one continuous line, doesn’t mean that this line exists, just that you have a dead enough body and a sharp enough knife to make whatever lines you decide you want to bring into the world. The pattern book is a volume of Anatomy Trains and from there you can let confirmation bias run wild as much as you like.
There was a thing I used to do as a youngster, which was to peel an apple carefully, keeping the peel in one long strand. It was said that if you then threw this long bit of peel over your shoulder, it would form the initial of the person you’re going to marry. Cutting something out of a dead body such as superficial back line is a bit like that. It’s a neat trick and takes some skill and practice but is it meaningful? Apart from the ability to skilfully wield a scalpel around a dead body, it’s hard to extract much in the way of significance from a dissection like this.
From here the belief has grown to the extent of Anatomy Trains now being a given truth for some people in the field of fascial study and bodywork. I was challenged some years ago in Berlin by someone from the Anatomy Trains organisation as being the, “The one who doesn’t believe in Anatomy Trains.” My counter was that wherever belief is required for the acceptance of a principle or idea, it is taking the place of evidence.
The obvious argument put to counter my doubt, is that we can feel lines of strain in our arm/leg/back when we stretch or load. Stretching is a response from the receptors of the body and load is the result however of holding something down at one end, then pulling the other end. There will naturally be a line of tension running between the pulled bit and the static bit. Stop pulling and the tensional line fades. You can repeat this in any direction you like but the key element is that tension in this instance only arises from someone being alive. The capacity to resist load comes from the firing of motor neurons, not from some inherent tension within a specific line of connective tissue.
If you keep pulling or loading any one direction, you’re likely to have more connective tissue laid along that line of strain, but as a generic line, it’s just not there by itself. The human form is anything and everything except straight lines and any straight line is always going to be weak. Horizontally load a joint and it will dislocate pretty quickly. Additionally force in the human needs to be transferred, distributed and absorbed, not just just transmitted along lines like a yoghurt pot telephone. The load placed on the body during even normal activity is immense and the fibres we use for absorption are never straight.
Iinstead we look to spiralled and spring like tissues to transmit force and create stability and tension during normal function. Collagen, the most common protein in the body and the key ingredient in fascia, is formed by a triple helix. As well as making it incredibly strong and tensile, it also makes it ideally suited to force transmission. It’s also very adaptable and can change its shape, tone, fluidity and function according to where it gets laid down in the body.
In conclusion, don’t hesitate to take the chance of attending any event or workshop that its being run by Tom Myers. You will learn an immense amount from him and have an excellent experience. Get hold of Anatomy Trains and read it if you haven’t already. It’s a good book and a great idea. But good ideas are sometimes like religions. Take them too seriously and you’ll have to start killing people!