Mind, Body & Soul: Spinal Engine Part II – Myofascial Meridians

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[section label=”Webinar” anchor=”webinar”]

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[section label=”Core Concept” anchor=”concept”]

Core Concepts of The Spinal Engine

Coupled Motion

bendable rod
bendable rod

Energy Cycle

Kinetic impulse travels up the leg and spine
Kinetic impulse travels up the leg and spine

Summary of The Spinal Engine theory:

The central piece of the spinal engine theory is that evolution leveraged the coupled motion property of the spine to convert side bending of the spine into axial rotation which drives the pelvis which then drives both, standing and moving leg.

Also fundamental to the spinal engine theory is that there is an inherent energy cycle: Upon the foot striking the floor and weight being delivered to the newly establishing standing leg a portion of the energy from the previous weight shift is being recovered via a compressive impulse traveling upwards in the body (foot, leg, pelvis, spine), which results in the beginning of the reversal of the previous spinal oscillation and ultimately stores that recovered energy in the myofascial system, ready to be “withdrawn” to energize yet again a new weight shift. Fundamentally there are two phases within on complete energy cycle: Recovery and Propulsion.

[section label=”Myofascial Meridians” anchor=”myofascial-meridians”]

Myofascial Meridians (Lines)

myofascialcontinuity-2The word “myofascia” denotes the bundled together, inseparable nature of muscle (myo) and its accompanying web of connective tissue (fascia).
The term “myofascial continuity” describes the longitudinally adjacent and aligned structures within the structural webbing.

Example: serratus anterior and external oblique.

“Myofascial Meridians (lines)” describes an interlinked series of these connected tracts.
A myofascial continuity is in other words a local part of a myofascial meridian or line.
The serratus anterior and external oblique are both part of the larger overall sling of the upper Spiral Line which wraps around the torso.

[section label=”Tensegrity” anchor=”tensegrity”]

Tensegrity – Tension & Integrity

In a Philadelphia office, R. Buckminster Fuller holds up a tensegrity sphere – one of his inventions that’s inspired a space project April 18, 1979. Dr. Enrest Okress of the Franklin Center envisions the structure, made of rods and cables, as the basis for a Spherical Tensegrity Atmospheric Research Station – Stars. A giant tensegrity sphere could be light and strong enough to support a floating space station a mile in diameter. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham
In a Philadelphia office, R. Buckminster Fuller holds up a tensegrity sphere – one of his inventions that’s inspired a space project April 18, 1979. Dr. Enrest Okress of the Franklin Center envisions the structure, made of rods and cables, as the basis for a Spherical Tensegrity Atmospheric Research Station – Stars. A giant tensegrity sphere could be light and strong enough to support a floating space station a mile in diameter. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

This term was originally coined by designer Buckminster Fuller from the phrase “tension integrity”. It refers to structures that maintain their integrity primarily due to a balance of woven tensile forces continual through the structure as opposed to relying on continuous compressive forces like a common wall or column.
According to Fuller tensegrity structures are characterized by continuous tension around localized compression.

In the human body the harder tissues and pressurized bags can be seen to “float” within the tensile network, which leads to the approach in Rolfing and similar soft tissue manipulation methods to the strategy of adjusting the tension members of the structure to reliably change any misalignment and strain within the bones.
Tensegrity structures are strain distributors.

Load a tensegrity structure with too much stress, and it will ultimately break, but not necessarily anywhere near where the load was placed. Because tensegrity structures distribute strain throughout the structure along the lines of tension, the structure may ultimately fail under stress at some weak point far removed from the area of applied strain.
Within this tensegrity vision the myofascial meridians or “lines” are continual bands along which tensile strain runs along the myofascia.

Global versus Local Stabilization & Energy Storage for Efficiency

[section label=”Superficial Back Line” anchor=”sbl”]

Superficial Back Line (SBL)

superficial backline
plantar fascia

The SBL connects and protects the entire posterior surface of the body from the bottom of the foot to the top of the head.

The overall postural function of the SBL is to support the body in full upright extension, to prevent the body from curling over into flexion (I.e. fetal position).  The constant postural demand requires extra heavy sheets and bands such as the Achilles tendon, hamstrings, thoracolumbar fascia, erector spinae, and the occipital ridge.

  • Plantar Fascia and short toe flexors
  • Gastrocnemius and Achilles tendon
  • Hamstrings
  • Sacrotuberous ligament
  • Sacrolumbar fascia and erctor spinae
  • Galea aponeurotica and ephicranial fascia
Common postural compensations:
  • Limited ankle dorsiflexion
  • Knee hyperextension
  • Hamstring shortness
  • Anterior pelvic shift
  • Sacral nutation
  • Lumbar spine lordosis hyperextension
  • Upper cervical hyperextension
  • Eye-spine movement disconnection

[section label=”Superficial Front Lines” anchor=”sfl”]

Superficial Front Line (SFL)

superficial frontlineThe SFL connects the entire anterior surface of the body from the top of the feet to the side of the skull in two pieces.  From toes to pelvis and pelvis to head.

The overall postural function of the SFL is to balance the SFB, and to provide tensile support from the top.

Sagittal or anterior – posterior balance is primarily maintained throughout the body by either an easy or tense relationship between these two lines.

  • Short and long toe extensores
  • Tibialis anterior, anterior crural compartment
  • Subpatellar tendon
  • Rectus femoris, quadriceps
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Sternalis, sternochondral fascia
  • Sternocleiodomastoid
  • Scalp fascia
Common postural compensations:
  • Ankle plantar flexion limitation
  • Anterior pelvic tilt and or shift
  • Breathing limitations in the anterior ribs
  • Forward head posture

[section label=”Lateral Line” anchor=”ll”]

Lateral Line (LL)

lateral lineThe LL brackets the each side of the body from the medial and lateral mid point of the foot around the outside of the ankle and up the lateral aspect of the lower leg and thigh, passing along the trunk in a basket weave pattern under shoulder to the skull in the region of the ear.

The LL posturally balances front and back and side to side and mediates forces among all the other superficial lines.

  • Fibulari muscles, lateral crural compartment
  • Anterior ligament of head of fibula
  • Iliotibial tract and abductor muscles
  • Tensor fascia latae
  • Glutes maximus
  • Lateral abdominal obliques
  • External and internal intercostales
  • Splenius capitis and sternocleidomastoid
Common postural compensations:
  • Ankle pronation and supination
  • Bowed or xed legs
  • Lumbar compression
  • Side shift of the ribcage relative to pelvis
  • Shoulder restriction due to over involvement with head stability, especially in head forward posture

[section label=”Spiral Line” anchor=”spl”]

The Spiral Line (SPL)


The SPL loops around the body in two opposing helices (right and left), joining each side of the skull across the upper back to the opposite shoulder, and then around the ribs to the front to cross again at the level of the navel to the iliac crest.  From there it passes like a jump rope down the anterolateral thigh and across the the lower leg to the medial longitudinal arch , passing under the foot and running up the posterolateral side of the leg to the ischium and into the erector spinae of either side to end very close to where it started in the skull.

The SPL functions posturally to wrap the body in a double spiral that helps maintain balance all planes.  In imbalance patterns the SFL participates in creating, compensating for and maintaining twists, rotations and lateral shifts in the body.

  • Splenius capitis and cervivicis
  • Rhomboids major and minor
  • Serratus anterior
  • External Oblique
  • Abdominalaponeurosis, linea alba
  • Internal Oblique
  • Tensor fascia latae, iliotibila tract
  • Tibialis anterior
  • Fibularis longus
  • Biceps femoris
  • Sacrotuberous ligament
  • Scrolumbar fascia, erector spinae
Common postural compensations:
  • Ankle pronation supination
  • Knee rotation
  • Pelvic rotation on feet
  • Rib rotation on pelvis
  • One shoulder lifted or interiorly shifted
  • Head tilt, shift or rotation

[section label=”Arm Lines” anchor=”sarms”]

The Arm Lines

The Arm Lines run from the axial skeleton through four layers of the shoulder to the four quadrants of the arms and four sides of the hand.

The Arm Lines display more of a crossover linkage between the lines than its corresponding leg lines.

Because the human shoulders and arms have specialized towards mobility (compared to stability in the legs), these multiple degrees of freedom  require more variable lines of control and stabilization  and therefore more interlinkage between the lines.

The arms are arranged with a deep and superficial line, both, in the front and back.

Despite the somewhat “separate” nature of the arm and shoulder girdle from the cardinal lines and structure of the human body they do have a significant impact in postural organization.

Strain from the elbow affects the mid back, and shoulder miss-positioning can create significant drag on the ribs, neck, breathing function and beyond.

The Arm Lines connect seamlessly into the all the other “main” lines.  And since their functionality could be summarized in bringing things towards us, pushing things away, and most importantly (for highly skilled movers) holding an aspect of the outside world still, the Arm Lines therefore play a major role in creating opposition or are the “final energy storage battery” of the spinal engine upward or recovery portion of its energy cycle. And in turn they are the first initiators of the propulsion phase or downward portion of the spinal engine energy cycle

Deep Front Arm Line

  • Pectoralis minor
  • Clavipectoral fascia
  • Biceps brachii
  • Radial periosteum, anterior border
  • Thenar muscles

Superficial Front Arm Line

  • Pectoralis major
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Medial intramuscular septum
  • Flexor group
  • Carpal tunnel

Deep Back Arm Line

  • Rhomboids and levator scapulae
  • Rotator cuff muscles
  • Triceps brachii
  • Fascia along ulnar periosteum
  • Ulnar collateral ligaments
  • Hypothenar muscles

Superficial Back Arm Line

  • Trapezius
  • Deltoid
  • Lateral intramuscular septum
  • Extensor group

[section label=”Functional Lines” anchor=”functional”]

The Functional Lines

The Functional Lines extend the Arm Lines across the surface of the trunk to the contra lateral pelvis and leg, or up from the leg and pelvis across the ribcage to the opposite shoulder and arm.

One of those lines runs in the front of the body another in the back, therefore the right and left line forming an X across the torso.

The lines are call “Functional Lines” because they rarely are employed in modulating posture, but when it comes to athletic movement as drivers of the spinal engine.


Back Functional Line

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Lumbodorsal fascia
  • Sacral fascia
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Vastus lateralis
  • Subpatellar tendon

Front Functional Line

  • Lower edge of pectoralis major
  • Lateral sheath of rectus abdominis
  • Adductor longus

Ipsilateral Functional Line

  • Latissimus dorsi outer edge
  • External oblique
  • Sartorius

[section label=”Deep Front Line” anchor=”dfl”]

The Deep Front Line (DFL)

The DFL comprises the body’s myofascial core.  Beginning from the bottom the DFL has roots deep in the underside of the foot, passes upwards just behind the bones of the lower leg and behind the knee to the inside of the thigh.  From there we see a split of tracks, anterior and posterior.  The anterior aspect passes in front of the hip joint through pelvis and along the lumbar spine.  Whereas the posterior track passes up more the back of the thigh to the pelvic floor and rejoins the anterior track at the lumbar spine, both joining the diaphragm.

From there the DFL continues upward through the ribcage, conceptually speaking in three major pathways, however practically speaking all three are completely interconnected in on plane from front to back of the body.

The DFL very clearly occupies space and should be viewed more as a three dimensional space rather than a two-dimensional line.

In the leg the DFL includes many of the deeper and more obscured muscles. In the pelvis the DFL lies in intimate relation to the hip joint, and also relates breathing with walking.

In the trunk the DFL runs along the all the organs and our neuro-motor frame.

In the neck it provides a counterbalancing lift to the pulls of the SFL and SBL

The DFL plays a major role in the body’s support, and from the perspective of a highly skilled mover is probably the most important to get a handle on.

It lifts the inner arch of the foot, stabilizes each segment of the leg including the hit joint, support the lumbar spine from the front, it surrounds and shapes the abdomino-pelvic balloon, stabilizes the chest while allowing expansion and relaxation of the breathing movements, and it stabilizes and balances the fragile neck and heavy head atop it all.

The DFL has no major movement function, yet it guides and directs all movement – there is no movement outside of its influence.  The DFL provides stability and subtle position changes to the core structure to enable the superficial lines to work easily and efficiently with the skeleton.

Thus failure of the DFL to work properly does not involve immediate or obvious loss of function to the untrained eye or the less than exquisitely sensitive observer.

Often function can be transferred to the outer lines, but with slight less elegance and grace, and more stress and strain on the joints, which can set up the conditions over time for degeneration and injury.  Thus many difficult to fix injuries are pre-disposed by an earlier failure within the DFL, which is the revealed when the already “instigated” injury event takes place.

  • Deep Front Line
  • Tibilais posterior, long toe flexors
  • Fascia of popliteus, knee capsule


  • Posterior intramuscular spetum, adductor magnus and minimus
  • Pelvic floor fascia, levator ani
  • Anterior sacral fascia and anterior longitudinal ligament
  • Quadratus lumborum


  • Medial intramuscular spetum, adductur brevis and longus
  • Psoas, iliacus, pectineus


  • Diaphragm


  • Anterior longitudinal ligament
  • Longus colli and capitis


  • Posterior diaphragm, central tendon
  • Pericardium


  • Fascia endothoracica transversus thoracis
  • Infrahyoid muscles
  • Suprahyoid muscles

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2 Responses

  1. Great summary.
    What’s missing from this picture is muscle memory and loss of proprioceptive sensation due to habituation.

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