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.
This was done primarily by going to New York and sitting in one of his Anatomy Trains classes, having firstly attended a London class.
He subsequently came to the UK and ran some workshops with me for my Bowen people. I have to say that Tom from the outset was someone I admired and thought of as an incredible teacher, thinker and leader. I still think that, so let’s not get any ideas that somehow I don’t like Tom. I do. Immensely.
The principle of Anatomy Trains too was something that caught my imagination. 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 a whole body concept to be immediately seen and indeed felt and allowed any system of bodywork to fit their own principles in to these imaginary (there it is again) lines of ‘myofascial strain.’
Tom explained them well, created good visuals and had a reasoned and well laid out book. What could possibly go wrong?
Well I haven’t personally spoken to Tom about this so I don’t know if it came from him, but it seems that it started to get taken literally. People started to believe that there were actual lines that existed in the human form.
When Tom started to dissect them, the fantasy started to become a reality and this is where it stopped being funny, cute or interesting and just became wrong.
So let’s be absolutely clear here. There are NO actual 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. It just means you have a dead body and a sharp knife.
Ever peeled an apple in one hit, then thrown the peel over your shoulder to find the initial of the person you’re going to marry? Well cutting a superficial back line is a bit like that. It’s a neat party trick and not that hard to do, but what does it mean? Well apart from the ability to wield a scalpel, not much.
“But we can feel a line of strain in our arm/leg/back.” Yes of course you can. Pin one end of something down and then pull the other end and there is a line of tension running between the pulled bit and the static bit. Stop pulling and the line goes away. You can repeat this in any direction you like.
Keep pulling it and 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. Load any structure on a human in a straight line, especially skeletal muscle and it will simply break almost immediately.
The force and load we place upon our bodies when we stand, run or walk, requires enormous distribution and off loading. We can’t do this in straight lines, but instead we look to spiralled and spring like tissues to absorb and off-load these forces. Collagen for example, the basis for much of our connective tissues, is formed by a triple helix. As well as making it incredibly strong and tensile, it also makes it ideally suited to force transmission.
Nowhere in nature do we find straight lines: they just don’t exist. My advice is this. If you get a chance, attend a Tom Myers workshop and learn from him. He’s a legend, a great teacher and you’ll have a brilliant time. Get hold of Anatomy Trains and read it. 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!