With our next monthly focus we move toward an examination of the sides of the body in side bends.
Let's jump right in and explore the anatomy, postural function and movement of the myofascial tissues of the side of the body. The connective tissue and muscular chain of the sides of the body is called the Lateral Line (LL).
After spending some time examining the relationship between the Superficial Front Line and the Superficial Back line, let's take a look at the structure that connects the two together: the Lateral Line.
A look at the anatomy of the Lateral Line:
- The Lateral Line starts at the bottom of the foot in the attachment of the Fibularis Longus muscle. This muscle )helps to create the transverse arch of the foot. Muscles involved here are the fibularis longus and fibularis brevis
- Traveling up the outside of the leg, the LL continues from the side of the knee up toward your hip via the Illiotibial Tract/abductor muscles, the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and the gluteus maximus
- From the Gluteus Maximus the LL threads its way up the side of the body via the lateral abdominal oblique muscles and the external and internal intercostal muscles (muscles between your rib cage)
- From here the LL winds up toward the side of your neck into two muscles of your neck, the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and the Spenius capitis.
The Postural Function of the Lateral Line of the body:
- Functions posturally to balance between front and back
- Balances between left and right
- Acts as a connector between all of the other facial lines: the Superficial Front Line, the Superficial Back Line, the Arm Lines and the Spiral Line
- Stabilizes the trunk and the legs in a coordinated manner
What does movement (shortening the muscles) of the Lateral Line look like?
- Side bends
- Abduction at the hip (bringing your leg out to the side)
- Eversion of the foot (collapsing in at the arch)
- Helps to support and create a brake for side bends and twists
Side Bends and Discernment
If we look at the opening the Superficial Front Line (opening the SFL leads to backbends) as a way to open yourself into the world and say yes, and the lengthening of the Superficial Back Line (which leads to a forward bend) as a way to explore your own inner world, contract in and say no to outside influence. One function of the Lateral Line of the body could be perceived as a connection between the two. A connection between the “yes” energy of opening the front of the body and the “no” energy of closing off the front of the body into a forward fold into the “maybe” of the lateral line.
Let’s take the example of a skittish cat. We have a new cat at home that we brought in during one of the recent spring storms. She’d been outside for awhile, and because of the food we’d been feeding her, we were able to talk her into the house during a particularly nasty day on the coast. She’s been hiding out in our home office for the last couple of weeks, trying to decide if it’s safe for her to explore the rest of our house.
When she is trying to decide whether a situation is safe, she’ll sidle into the room rather than walk straight in with confidence. She feels safe enough to test the waters, but not safe enough to charge in to the room. She’s using the energy of the side body to toe dip, to test the waters, to say, “maybe this is ok, but maybe not”. It’s not a complete opening to the situation, nor is it a complete rejection. It’s a maybe.
The connection between the SBL and the SFL is a way for us to find some discernment in the body, but also in life.
The “maybe” that can be presented posturally by turning to the side can be examined in the connections between understanding the difference between things that seem to be pretty closely related. For example, a few things that need a process of discernment and can seem to be the same thing are: happiness/money, wisdom/knowledge, need/greed, love/lust, choice/habit, freedom/power. The blurred lines between each of these examples can be helped with careful and thoughtful discernment.
What do these poses look like in the body? We've put together a few examples of side bends that you can do at home. Give them a try on your own, or come to any class during May to explore these poses as well as others in your body.
Happy Spring! Although the weather outside might not always seem very spring-like this time of year, we can feel the changes in the air.
In March we focused on opening up the Superficial Back Line of our bodies in deep forward folds. We worked to cultivate our inner awareness by diving deep and settling in to the more inward focus offered to us by these deep forward folds.
This month, we’re going to be utilizing that deep focus to spring forth into some heart opening through backbends.
Backbends inspire courage and action, and ask for trust and intuition. The very act of opening our hearts can be scary. We do a lot of hard work to protect this vulnerable part of our bodies. Backbends call for deeper levels of awareness that can be hidden from normal view.
They help us to be awake and strong even as we release held patterns in our bodies. A sense of mental clarity can be attained with well-structured backbends. They can increase our capacity for breathing not only in the moment, but long after we finish our practices.
Backbends are supported by the musculature of the front of the body, specifically a group of muscles and connective tissue called the Superficial Front Line (SFL).
These muscles work hard when we move into a backbend so that we don’t fall backwards. The muscles of the back of the body (The Superficial Back Line – read about the SBL here) help by contracting and shortening to support the back of the body, while the muscles in the SFL contract and lengthen at the same time to support movement into the posterior plane (behind you).
Let’s take a look at the function and anatomy of the front line of the body: The Superficial Front Line (SFL)
The function of the SFL :
- Balance the actions of the Superficial Back Line (SBL – you can find out more about it in last month’s blog post here)
- Provide support for the front parts of the body that extend forward – your hips, rib cage and face.
- Defend the soft and sensitive parts that are on the front of the body
- Protect the viscera
Anatomy of the SFL :
- The SFL originates at the top of the toes
- It travels up the shin and includes the muscles that extend the toes and the tibialis anterior
- From the front of the shin it feeds into the tendon that surrounds the kneecap and feeds into the quadriceps
- From the quadriceps it travels up the rectus abdominis muscles of the belly and feeds into the connective tissue around the sternum
- From the sternum it articulates with the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) on the front of the neck
- And, finally, the SFL ends at the connective tissue of the scalp
How do the SFL and the SBL work together?
The Superficial Front Line and the Superficial Back Line (SBL) have a reciprocal relationship. The SBL is designed to support our back – from bottom to top, while the SFL is designed to pull us up from neck to pelvis, helping us to stand upright. To get a sense of this reciprocal relationship, try contracting the muscles of your back starting with your lower back and moving up the muscles of your back to your neck.
You naturally come into a backbend, right? The muscles on the front of your body help to support in a way that helps you to not fall backward. You can also feel this naturally with an inhale and an exhale: an inhale will lift us up and open through the front line of our body, while an exhale draws us into slight flexion of the spine.
It is very common for the Superficial Back Line to be pulling up the back and the Superficial Front Line to be pulling down (anyone sit hunched over at a desk all day?). This can create a host of problems for the neck and the lower back, as well as create restrictions in the breath.
With this in mind, we can start to see how the front of the body and the back of the body can work together to flex and extend the spine.
We can see how these two lines of muscles and connective tissue work together to create deep forward folds, or, our monthly focus, backbends. When engaged properly and when the two lines are used to support one another, backbends can not only free up the front of the body but help to engage the back of the body in a way that is supportive and not painful.
Let’s look at this motion in a few yoga poses that work to specifically open up the Superficial Front Line with the helpful support of the muscles of the back.
Come in to any yoga class this April, with any of our teachers, to engage with this important part of our anatomy in various ways. And if you have any questions about anything I've discussed here, please do not hesitate to reach out.
This month, at the Watershed Wellness Astoria yoga studio, we’re going to be trying out a new focus for our yoga classes. Throughout the month the teachers at Watershed Wellness are going to be focusing on a unified theme. Each teacher will incorporate the theme into their classes in a unique way including discussing anatomy, yoga philosophy and utilizing gentle breath work.
We’ll also be providing some at-home materials for you to deepen your practice and understanding of of our monthly focus that will include:
- Blog posts and resources that help to explain the monthly focus
- A fundamentals level video practice that you can do at home
- A intermediate level flow practice that you can do at home
- On occasion, monthly workshops and classes to deepen your practice
So, what's on tap this month?
March Astoria yoga studio focus: forward folds
Forward folds are a great way to get to know the back of your body better. We spend much of our day in a forward folded position. Are you sitting while reading this? You’re in a forward fold! Creasing forward at the hips and rounding through the spine while sitting lengthens out the muscles of your back and hips, while shortening the hamstrings and psoas muscles.
We all spend much of our days in this position, but what if we were able to find some balance between the front and the back of the body in a way that feels supportive and sustainable for the health of our lower backs and hamstrings? Let’s look at the anatomy of the soft tissues along the back of the body
One of the technical terms for this part of our bodies is : The Superficial Back Line (SBL)
The Superficial Back Line connects the posterior body from the base of the foot to the top of the brow line. The SBL connects in two pieces: from foot to knee, and from knee to head. When standing the SBL acts as a continuous line of supported muscles and connective tissue.
The myofascial tissues involved in the SBL are:
- Plantar fascia
- Calf muscles:
- Hamstring muscles
- Biceps Femoris
- Sacrotuberous ligament
- Erector Spinae muscles of the back
- Epicranial fascia
The myofascial tissues of the body follow the law of tensegrity.
Tensegrity (a combination of the words tension and integrity) is a the interplay between balance and tension in the body. For example, if you constantly stand on your left foot and lean your weight over into your left hip, the myofascial tissues of your body are going to start to adapt to this imbalance and create patterns in the body that will reinforce this weight transfer. Some tissues will get longer, and some shorter, to try to maintain this pull toward the left side of your body.
Another easy example to understand is someone who often wears high heels. The plantar fascia and the calf muscles are chronically being shortened, and the pelvis has to do a balancing act to keep you upright. The lower back sways out, shortening the musculature here because your upper back is trying to maintain balance by leaning back. The body has amazing compensatory reactions, but at a cost that might implicate long term lower back pain or knee pain in this instance.
Back to our WW Astoria yoga studio monthly focus: Forward folds
Learning about the musculature of the Superficial Back Line as well as learning how to lengthen and strengthen this connective tissue chain in a balanced and intentful way can help you understand why your lower back always hurts, or why the shoes you are wearing might not be great for your posture. Is it hard for you to reach down and touch your toes? Does this exacerbate your lower back pain? Do you have foot pain or neck pain? The myofascial tissues of the SBL might be part of the problem!
We’ve put together a few examples of forward folds that can help to lengthen out the back of your body. Give them a try at home or come to any class during March to explore these poses in your body.
These poses are also very helpful for finding a gentle inward focus
As we move toward the busy-ness of spring and summer it's nice to cultivate our inner seeds before they come forth into their spring blossoms. This is a chance for you to deepen your understanding of your inner self in a way that feels very grounded as we move toward the Spring Equinox.
We appreciate any comments or feedback about how these poses work for you, or any questions you may have about how to do these poses safely. We'll see you in class at the WW Astoria yoga studio!
We're up to episode 13 in our podcast – if you've missed any of the previous episodes just click this link to be taken to the archive.
We decided to do this episode after talking about the upcoming schedule change for the movement studio. In particular, we had been discussing the way the classes are actually named, and what those names convey. So many people have difficulty knowing where to start with yoga, and we wondered if changing the way we refer to the courses might help that process.
This led Amanda to create a whole new type of yoga class at Watershed Wellness – centered on the investigation of “peak poses,” which we discuss extensively on this episode. That led us to discuss the whole matter of yoga, especially for people new to it, and how we hope to help people establish a practice with integrity that helps them avoid injury.
As always with podcast episodes, never hesitate to reach out and let us know what's working and what's not. We're aware that the audio on this episode wasn't great – and will be seeking to fix that in future episodes. Thanks so much for listening!
To listen to the episode:
- You can listen to it in your browser by clicking this link
- You can download it to listen wherever you like by right-clicking this link
- You can use a podcast app on your smartphone, we enjoy Overcast, but there are many others. Just search in the app directory for “Watershed Wellness” and you should find us
“Oh! I want to try yoga, but I can barely touch my toes!”
Just yesterday I was talking to someone about yoga in Astoria, and what we do at Watershed Wellness. When he learned that we teach yoga and pilates classes, he was interested – and uttered the phrase above almost immediately.
Does this sound familiar? In my experience, many people don’t think that they are ready to take a yoga class because they:
- Aren't flexible enough
- Don't know enough to attend a class without making a fool of themselvces
- Believe they aren't the right type of person to go to a yoga class (isn’t it weird that most folks in yoga advertisements are super fit 20-somethings?)
I told my friend that he’s exactly the kind of person who will benefit greatly from yoga practice.
- He's over 50
- He has been working a desk job for 20+ years
- For one reason or another, he doesn’t move his body very much
- He HURTS! He hurts from sitting, from injuries, from living life. He hurts in ways that yoga could help. But not necessarily the kind of yoga that you see on the cover of magazines, or on social media.
When you go online, or use a yoga video, you often see nothing but younger, fitter people bending themselves in impossible ways on distant mountaintops. If that’s what my friend thinks that yoga has to look like, I understand why he's not coming to yoga classes!
The truth is he needs the kind of yoga that may not look like much from the outside.
- His kind of yoga is going to look simple, but will be deceptively hard. Re-patterning and reeducating the body can look subtle, but feel earth-shaking. The strides that he will make are few and far between, but the long arc of the way that he moves his body will change. The results will be more energy & less pain.
- He hurts in a way that touching your toes isn’t going to help. Back bends, hand balancing and even downward dog are poses that must be worked towards – not assumed. His pain is going to get better with slow, conscious movement.
In other words – the pretzel twist poses aren't the only thing to yoga, and may not be best for everyone.
Simply by bringing awareness to postural habits, learning how to make simple movements with intention, and loosening up gently, you can find freedom and strength in your body!
This is why we teach beginners yoga classes at Watershed Wellness. This class is great for those who think that they “should” be doing yoga in Astoria, but are not quite sure how to get started.
Maybe you're not 20 years old anymore! Maybe you're one of the many 20 year olds who is “just not flexible!” You want to enter a relationship with yoga that is focused on help you gently, safely and permanently relax and unwind your body. By learning things step by step, you will build foundations that may get you into those pretzel poses one day – you never know!
We all start somewhere, and the Yoga Beginners classes at Watershed Wellness Astoria starts… at the beginning!
In our Level 1 coursess, you'll learn:
- How to sit comfortably
- Basic yoga poses that focus on bringing awareness to, opening and creating more mobility in your body
- How your breathing can affect your whole body
- How to be more comfortable in your own body
- How to prepare for more advanced postures, if that's where you are interested in taking your practice
- A great way to consistently check in with your body through gentle movements
- How to make the most out of opportunities to do yoga in Astoria, including at home
If you've ever thought or said, “I want to try yoga!” we hope that you'll give it a go and sign up for your first class in yoga in Astoria
If you are feeling nervous about your first yoga class, this article might be helpful. If you would like to see the full yoga and pilates schedule – you can do so online. And, as always, we love your questions! Just head over to our contact page – or call (503) 974-0914 to let us know how we can help.
Believe us – we understand that entering into a yoga studio as a student for the first time can be overwhelming!
Far from feeling relaxed and de-stressed, you might have a hundred questions swirling around in your mind:
- What if you don’t have the right equipment?
- What will everyone else be wearing?
- What if you mess up and everybody sees?
- What if you don’t know what you’re doing?
- What if you're worried about how your body will look as you move around?
- What if you can’t keep up, or if you don’t understand what’s happening?
- What if you have this injury, and that might keep you from doing what everyone else is doing?
That's just the beginning, of course, our personal insecurities and past experience with yoga will both influence the anxieties that crop up.
What it takes for you to get to your first class is a willingness to be vulnerable. To put aside the “what ifs” and have the courage to try something new. One of our hopes in offering yoga in Astoria is to help you
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
Whatever your reasons for wanting give yoga a try, if you can approach your first yoga class in Astoria without trying to be perfect, chances are the class will go a lot better for you than anticipated. You see, we all start somewhere. And not knowing how to do something doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or that something is wrong with you.
What it means is that you don’t know how to do something. And it’s our job to teach you!
Our beginning level class happens weekly so you can come on a consistent basis, for as long as you like, and learn the ropes of what it’s like to move your body in the context of yoga. You WON’T know what you are doing at first, and that’s GREAT! We hope to teach you in a manner that is safe for your body, informative and that allows for lots of questions and self exploration along the way.
Our beginning level classes all include:
- Help on how to sit comfortably – more difficult than it sounds!
- Some introduction to breath work and linking movement with breath – one of the foundations to healthy, lifelong yoga practice.
- Basic yoga postures (called asanas) that will help you gain strength, balance and flexibility – all with plenty of instructions to help you adapt each exercise to your particular body state.
- A solid introduction to yoga movement for those who want to continue on to more advanced classes. We want you will grow as a yoga student for many years with Watershed Wellness!
If you’d like this class to be offered at a different time, let us know what works for you! We’ll do our best to accommodate schedules as we figure out what works for most people in our new community.
Looking for a massage therapist in Astoria, OR?
Finding the right massage therapist can be a frustrating process. There are only so many to go around! Maybe you used to have someone that you really loved that you no longer are able to see. Yep – we know how it is – you feel that every massage therapist after her has paled in comparison!
…Or, maybe you haven’t ever had massage before. But, you thought you’d try it out for your lower back pain after your doctor recommended it. You don’t really know if it will work, and you don’t want to waste your time. How do you discover the right massage therapist for you?
…Or, maybe something has changed about your body and you are feeling nervous about coming in for a massage. Pregnancy, weight gain, age; all can change the way you feel about showing your body to a medical practitioner, or being touched for any reason.
…Or, perhaps you are a member of a group of people who have traditionally not been treated with respect or care by medical professionals, and you don't know how to find someone who can keep you safe while you're vulnerable on the massage table.
There's no question, even in wonderful places like Astoria, OR, it can be tough to find a massage therapist that is right for you. We hope our website – including this and future follow-up articles – can help you learn how to find a person that works for you. Whether you choose to go with Watershed Wellness, or find another perfect massage therapist, we're glad you're here to learn!
Here are 5 special things about our massage therapists that will help you decide if getting a massage at Watershed Wellness in Astoria Oregon is right for you.
We're non-judgmental and actively cultivate safe space
Our massage therapists have seen a lot of bodies. When we look at your body we are assessing for lots of things in a manner that is non-judgmental about how you look. We look for postural patterns, tension holding, breath patterns and lots of other things that help inform the work we do. Here’s what we don’t look at: wrinkles, fat, unshaven legs, or pedicures. If any of those things are holding you back from getting a massage, know that none of those things is a concern of ours during the massage.
We are also focused on continuing to educate ourselves about the full diversity of human experience so we can be of service to our whole community. We're listed on the the Resources PDX site for trans-informed practitioners (listing currently being updated), and consider ourselves strong allies of the LGBT community. We are consistently educating ourselves about the different economic, ethnic, religious and other facets the Astoria community has – and lending our time and money to causes that make sure that the most vulnerable in the North Coast area are taken care of.
In other words – the massage appointment is a safe space for all bodies, in all states, at all times. You can relax with us – all of you.
We like to know how the body works. If you're interested – let us know – we LOVE to share what we know with you. We’ll suggest stretches, show you the bones and musculature, and recommend things that you can do at home or at work that will help you feel better. Our knowledge – and our lifelong learning habits – mean that you're always getting the best of the science and art of massage therapy.
We’ve got a lot of experience under our belts. Our hands know where to find your tension, and we’ve been able to help lots of people with common concerns that massage can address. To name a few: headaches, neck pain, back pain, sciatica pain and stress. When you come in to see any of our practitioners, you will notice how we are able to find the source of your pain and take care of it. Knowledge is great – but it is experience that allows us to adapt what we know to your specific concerns.
We ask many questions before the massage that will help us provide the massage session that you are looking for – and needing. Along with details about what has worked for you in past massages, we'll work to understand your goals for treatment, and check in with you about any parallel health concerns you have – and anything else we need to know. We like to create an open, communicative environment for massage. Also, we want your feedback about your massage experience in Astoria. We will use that feedback to make sure everyone's experiences with Watershed Wellness are sublime.
One thing is certain – we've got the skill you need for what ails you. We've given thousands of massages of all different types. First timers as well as seasoned massage therapy veterans. We've seen people only once or twice and can adapt to whatever comes our way. Yet, we're also comfortable nurturing lifelong regular treatment relationships. We've seen all types of pathologies, and talked with countless different types of people with dramatically different goals for treatment. Many, many hours in a massage room have given us some great tools that help us to decide how to best approach your massage session.
Most of all, we work hard to make sure that you are getting the massage that you need in a comfortable, non-judgmental way.
We meet you where you are, and address your concerns as best we can. And, if you are open to it, we offer some education that might be helpful to you and your body. We love to answer your questions – if there's anything that you have specific questions about, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for more expansions on these aspects of Watershed in future articles.