Planes, Trains & Vectors?

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I love Steve Martin movies, but today’s article is not about his stressful travel adventures.  “Planes, trains and vectors” are, indeed, words that explain locomotion, but also apply in the world of human anatomy.  These words convey direction of movement and the connectedness of body segments.  Our musculoskeletal linkages are a hot topic among researchers from around the globe who are suddenly making exciting discoveries about the human body’s key ingredient, fascia; our connective tissue. With musculoskeletal pain recorded as the fastest growing disease statistic in the world, new information about fascia is extremely important. In a manner of speaking, this tissue is the “glue” holding us together. Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide and many folks have high hopes that ongoing fascia research may provide the missing pieces in solving the puzzles of body pain.


Body planes create a universal way to describe movement in the body.

“Plane,” has been standard terminology for years signifying the general direction of movement in space (Forward and back is sagittal plane, side to side is coronal plane, and rotation is the transverse plane).  “Vectors” or “force vectors” are a more complicated measurement technique borrowed from mechanical engineering, but are used in human biomechanics to quantify how forces act on joints when transferred from one body part to another to create movement (imagine the foot to arm force in a baseball pitch). These 3-dimensional concepts are customary techniques already used in science to describe movement or measure stress on our tissues.

Enter:  “Train.”  This new-er concept was coined by Tom Myers in his “Anatomy Trains” text to depict the linkage of the human body’s myofascial tissue in ‘lines’ of natural force production across body segments.  Myers’ book is helping create a long overdue shift in how experts explain movement mechanics by letting go of the old textbook focus on isolated movements of individual muscles within their end-to end attachments.

For anyone who has taken a traditional human anatomy course, you probably emphasized (and painfully memorized) individual muscles and bones by name, but never discussed fascia.  Fascia or myofascia (muscle + fascia = myofascia) is our internal scaffolding; an uninterrupted, adaptable, three-dimensional framework of gelatinous connective tissue that extends from interior to exterior, front to back and head to toe, linking muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures inside of us.  While lessons we learned about individual muscles are still true, there is much more to comprehend about how the same muscles work within this continuous web of connective tissue.   It is hard to comprehend that scientists at medical laboratories used great efforts to clean the abundance of fascia off of cadavers, and then discarded it without analysis until the past decade or so.  Ironically, in about 1900, Andrew Taylor Still MD the ‘father of osteopathic medicine,’ wrote a tremendous amount of accurate theory about fascia, but it was not truly recognized until 2012. Amazing what he was able to discern with so little equipment!

Come back on Friday to learn more about how research science can be applied to your teaching and movement practice!


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Diane Marra

Diane Marra is an Exercise Physiologist and Biomechanics specialist with more than 20 years’ experience teaching in universities, hospitals, corporate and community settings. Diane holds a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology from California State University and numerous fitness certifications. Her scientific research, conducted for the US Army Medical Department and California State University, has been presented at international conferences and published in clinical journals. Today, Diane is creating new programs as the corporate Wellness Manager for a global manufacturing company and still teaches part-time for SUNY Buffalo State College. Since personally overcoming multiple injuries and chronic pain, Diane has a passion for helping ‘regular folks’ who sit too much, manage pain conditions, seek post-injury recovery, and/or simply want to be stronger. Current credentials include: National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA™-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine/ ExeRxcise is Medicine® ​Level 1, Yoga Tune Up® and TRX™ Diane is currently developing a new course for her SUNY Graduate students about Workplace Ergonomics and Selfcare, offers private training sessions and occasional workshops in the Buffalo-Niagara area while continuing to do free-lance research/ writing for Medical and Fitness publications.

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I feel that I am beginning to understand better the information about fascia in the yoga tune up certification with Laurel, and it is amazing to unveil so much new information about the body and brain! And also, the way she explains make it more accessible to understand and integrate. I am so fascinated by this topic. Thank you


Que fascinante , tanto por descubrir. Completamente distinto a la antigua manera de enseñar y de entender el cuerpo humano y sus procesos fisiológicos, este viaje hacia el conocimiento con tantos descubrimientos científicos que amplían nuestros horizontes.
Nuevos lenguajes, nuevos entendimientos.

Leanne W.

The whole topic of fascia fascinates me. Our continued understanding of this body-wide web, or scaffolding, allows us to realize that bodily actions don’t occur in isolation. Just as we are all interconnected, our internal body is that way, too! Thank you, too, for the review of the planes.

Donna Burch

Thank you Diane! You are definitely still a research scientist! No question. No former about it. And, yes,
the memorization of muscles and bones way back when I took anatomy was somewhat painful. Oy.
Now, in this context, in the Yoga Tune Up training, I am finding it amazing again. Just like when I first took Exercise Physiology. How did you find out about Andrew Taylor Still? 1900, wow.

Diane M

Hi Georgia Lowe, Thank you for your note. Working with our military and veterans were some of my best life experiences- especially because I was there during 9-11. Life changing experiences working with such selfless and dedicated people! I have not written blogs on my Military experiences, but perhaps I should….. I was fortunate to publish about a dozen articles with researchers there, but only list a few at bottom of my Linked IN page here: My amazing research boss – Valerie Rice is still there- is a PhD Occupational therapist who is currently testing use of Mindfulness-based Stress… Read more »

Georgia Lowe

The imagery of the baseball pitcher (here on the heels of the World Series) really locked in the fascia trains concept for me, thank you for that. I’m also reading your posts on veterans day, so I was extra glad to learn of your work with the Army medical department. Do you touch on that in any of your other posts or write about it elsewhere?

Debra Forselius

I love that you went into the directional terms of the body, Personally I forgot most of this! I studied it in collage, but when we do not use terms we will forget some. When I was in s cool we briefly went over fashion and what it is. Science has come a long way in the understanding of our bodies! Thanks


Thank you for your eloquent description of facia. It is amazing it took this long for scientists to realize that everything in the body is there for a reason!

sarah soggs

This article indeed is a creatively expressed snippet of the vast and integrative network that holds much of our body together… for better and for worse… Many dysfunctions diagnosed as musculosketletal dysfunctions can be shifted addressing the fascia in areas well outside the site of where the pain is expressed. Tricky!!

Diane M

Thank you for the feedback! Natalie – congrats on finishing the YTU-IEA course! While it may seem like a stretch if you are a yoga teacher, a lot of my training on planes and vectors (other than ‘heady science’ books) came from texts for Personal Trainers. My go to text is from the National Strength and Conditioning Assn is written by Earle & Baechle. However it is a bit complex and not all chapters deal with this topic, but I would bet ACE and some others Personal Training textbooks might be worth perusing… maybe at the bookstore first… Good luck!


That was a great breakdown for me. I just took Integrated Anatomy, I don’t come from an anatomy background, I only took science until I could drop it and I had never heard of planes before! Thanks for breaking it down here, Diane. Do you know any other resources that get into planes, vectors, etc, without getting ‘too’ heady?


Such a creative writing approach here. Thanks for making this interesting anatomy material fun to read as well. I love how you called fascia the glue that holds us together. So cool.