Finding “center”, or the balance, equilibrium and stability in our body that enables us to live and move in a more graceful way, is of paramount importance in our yoga practice, fitness routines, and movement through everyday life. To connect with our center, it is essential to master the midline. Simply put, the midline is the imaginary line that separates the right half and the left half of the body.
Mastering the midline might be considered as occurring both literally and figuratively, in your “core”. While your core, the musculature that mobilizes and stabilizes your spine as you sit, stand, and move about, is key to completing the puzzle, it is just one piece.
The muscles that comprise the core as we typically think of it include the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and internal and external obliques. These key muscles, as well as all the muscles in your body, are intricately interconnected through fascia. In fact, everything in your body, from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head, is literally woven together by this continuous, viscous, gelatinous connective tissue that behaves like the body’s own version of “knitting fabric”. Fascia permeates every organ, bone, muscle, and nerve right down to their cellular structures.
Additionally, fascia maintains spatial relationships between anatomical structures and serves as a mechanism to allocate the tension, pull, and force experienced by the body. In his book, “Anatomy Trains”, Tom Myers presents a compelling model of this interconnectivity through specific fascial “trains” or “lines” that link one area to another. He considers these lines to be a map of how stability is maintained and strain is distributed across the body.(1) In essence, all parts of the body are interrelated and action taken or force applied in one area will affect the whole.
Of all the Anatomy Trains Maps presented, of particular importance to cultivating balance and core stability is the Deep Front Line (DFL). The DFL is the fascial train that begins at the base of the foot and works its way up through inner calf, inner thigh, the pelvic floor and then splits into two branches. One branch continues up the front of the abdomen toward the ribs and the other weaves its way up the back side of the body to conclude at the base of the skull. It’s important to note that at the abdomen, the DFL “knitting” is literally woven into other fascial sheaths that play a crucial role in encasing and supporting the structures of the body integral to the midline. For all the anatomy lovers out there, at the end of this post under footnote (2), check out the detailed anatomical version of the DFL.
Because fascia is viscous and gelatinous, our tissues respond and perform best when we provide them with ample movement and hydration. Without regular movement and manipulation (such as massage or Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball rolling), fascia will become dry, brittle and loaded with adhesions that do not allow the body to move as nature intended. The body then compensates by engaging in detrimental movement and structural holding patterns. If left unchecked, the risk of pain, injury, and musculoskeletal degeneration is inversely and more severely amplified.
If we view the body with this deeper understanding of how every stitch of fascia affects the entire knitted web, and prioritize the development of our ability to propriocept and proactively connect with the muscles along this key fascial line through movement and massage, we can improve our balance and move from our core with greater precision and awareness. Ultimately, we will master the midline and find our “center”……from the ground up.
Come back Friday for some fantastic YTU techniques to get started!
- Anatomy Trains, second edition 2009, churchill lovingstone elsevier,Tom Myers (pp 1-3, 181-204)
- The DFL starts at the inner arch of the foot with the flexor hallicus longus and flexor digitorum longus, continues up through the tibialis posterior of the inner calf, proceeds through the adductor magnus of the inner leg, and then works its way through the pelvic floor. At this point, the DFL branches into two lines, one leading up the anterior of the body and the other up the posterior side. The anterior side of this line travels through the pelvic floor connecting with the rectus abdominus at its deepest attachment site at the pubic symphysis and continues up through the posterior abdominal fascia towards the ribs. Included in the posterior abdominal fascia is the umbilicus, enabling the DFL to connect with several additional myofascial tissues and critical organs. The posterior side of this line travels up the anterior surface of the coccyx and sacrum to the psoas and diaphragm and continues up the anterior surface of the thoracic spine. It then proceeds to the deeper anterior neck muscles including the scalenes, longus capitis, longus colli, rectus capitis, and concludes at the occiput, the base of the skull.
Enjoyed this article? Read The Center Can Hold: Defining and Refining Balance
Get weekly poses to improve balance.
This is very interesting and helpful to me as I have so far not come across the DFL and its importance for cultivating balance and core stability. Your description of the anatomy of the DFL also amazed me, as its way through the body is a little “unusual” when splitting up from the pelvic floor to a posterior and an anterior branch. I will certainly try to find out more about its importance in Yoga practice, especially in Tubular Core and Uddyana Bandha. Your description made me think that we already cue our Yoga students to the DFL with sentences such as “activate your inner thighs”or “lift the pelvic floor”. And probably Uddyana Bandha most notably addresses and needs support from the DFL, when drawing the naval in an up on the exhale. So thanks for this!
When I was in my contemporary training program I did a gyrokinesis movement class with Dana Gingras from Vancouver. She had developed a sequence of movements that worked our proprioception of the spin in all of its directions of movement. She talked about blockages, how you couldn’t feel the movement, like it hit a wall, and maybe picked up somewhere else. I was one of those people that had a blockage, I couldn’t perceive my upper thoracic spine. It was almost like when your driving and your thoughts wander and you park, but you don’t driving home. I could feel present in each movement of my spine, where it was coming from, where it was going, except it stopped at the tip of the scapula and started again at the cervical spine. The Therapy Balls helped me loosen up the tense tissues in my upper spine and intercostals so I could perceive each part of my spine.
I love hearing articles talk about the fascial lines. This way of looking at the body is a great way to understand how Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine works Orthapedically. Meridians or Channels have many different levels, and the this tissue layer is termed “Sinew Channels”. When taking a closer look at the direct translation of the characters used, we see that it comes out more directly as “Silk nets and rivers”, which to me, is quite a fabulous description!!
Love hearing blog posts talking about the fascial lines! I learned a new anatomical area name, the triangle of Petit, thank you! In Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture we are able to treat these lines with needles. In Fact, this level of Meridian or Channels are often reffered to as the “Sinew Channels”, which, when dissecting the character description for a more direct translation, comes out as “silk nets and rivers”. Very appropriate if you ask me.
Thank you for this article discussing the DFL. It is important to realize that the body recognizes movement versus individual muscles and how these fascial lines affect us over time. Taking care of the fascia is so important.
I’ve never heard of the DFL before. This helps bring the picture together that biomechanist, Katy Bowman, paints about the pelvic floor falling through the arches of your feet!
Never heard of the Deep Front Line before – thanks Ellisa for your clear, descriptive blog!
I didn’t know about the Deep Front Line until reading this blog, but it’s pretty fascinating. Until I took a Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball training, I had no idea that fascia existed or what it does for our bodies. It’s amazing how much more information about our bodies YTU leads us to. You don’t just learn what muscles perform what actions within the body, you learn that there’s so much more to the body than any anatomy book can ever show.
I found this article to be very interesting. It was the first time I had ever heard about DFL. It was easy to follow and visualize. I particularly love how you highlighted that everything is connected.
Thank you for this great article. I’ve been having difficulty maintaining my core stability due to years of improper posture and the explanation of the Deep Front Line is something I can focus on as I re-train my body into better alignment.
I just love learning how everything is connected. I need more anatomy trains in my life. Thanks for an interesting article.
Fascinating post! I think it is definitely time for me to purchase “Anatomy Trains.” I was completely sold on YTU Therapy Balls after rolling my feet and doing a check/recheck in a forward bend. I even shared this technique with my 14 year old yesterday, who can barely flex his hips and has especially tight hamstrings. He is sold on the ball now, too, after seeing what a difference rolling his feet for a few minutes made in his ability to do a forward bend. Thank you.
Now that Tom Myers Anatomy Trains has been referenced by more and more professionals in movement specialties I often hear conversation about the superficial lines especially when considering the benefits of myofascial release. Contemplating the deeper layers and how they interweave with the superficial layers brings continuity to the functions of the body as a unit. With deep awareness, we can since how tension or lack there of in the deep fascial line can pull us off kilter.
When I first heard about Tom Myers Anatomy Trains, it was like a lightbulb moment – anatomy of how all our moving parts are connected made perfect sense. It was something that I intuitively knew all along, but he put words and explanation on it. I love the idea of how our core begins in our feet. It’s something that I mention often and teach in my classes. Thanks for the post!
Help! We really need to re-educate the masses on understanding the truth of their CORE anatomy- Knowing the existence of the DFL as an integral part of the core, stability and integrated, balanced, movement, as well as how important it is to keep the fascia hydrated and healthy with self-treatment techniques such as Yoga Tune Up. Also, since the DFL travels up and connects with “the psoas and diaphragm and continues up the anterior surface of the thoracic spine and then proceeds to the deeper anterior neck muscles including the scalenes, longus capitis, longus colli, rectus capitis, and concludes at the occiput”, could an unhealthy, dehydrated DFL be a major contributing factor to stiffiness, tension, pain or issues in all these muscles it connects with?
This was the first time I’d heard the term “Deep Front Line” – very interesting. Core is so important to yoga (and life!) so thank you for helping us all understand it a bit better!
Thanks for the info on facia webs. I know there was large sheets of facia in the body but not to the extent you are describing. I will have to track that book down and learn a bit more.
I find it so amazing the concept of the deep front line. I just participated in a workshop with Jill yesterday Restorative hip immersion and we work ourself from the ground up!!!! We spend a lot of time on feet and ankles to start with, which at first felt ironic but after reading your blog now all make sense. that you for depening my understanding.
Thank you for your detail and resources. I really want to read anatomy trains. I love how you explain the anatomy trains map and illustrated the concept with knitting fabric. Well written and informative.