Body Alignment and Balance

"Body alignment" and "a balanced body" are common phrases in many disciplines - but what do they mean?

Definitions.

Alignment has multiple definitions, including:

  1. Arrangement in a straight line.
  2. Arranged in the correct relative positions.

Three (of the many) definitions for balanced:

  1. Different parts of something that exist in equal or correct amounts.
  2. A state of equilibrium, being in harmonious arrangement.
  3. Mental or emotional stability.

Using Our Midline Anatomy as the Reference for Body Alignment and Balance.

Body alignment and balance what do they mean?  Human figure viewed from the front. Showing a line straight down the middle, splitting the body into left and right halves from head to pelvis. This is the reference line for body alignment and balance. The midline anatomy is at full extension and in alignment, creating the median plane. Left and right sides of the body are balanced either side of midline. This line should be used for the assessment of body alignment.

When our midline anatomy can be arranged in a straight line, creating the median plane, this should be used as the reference line for body alignment.

the median plane

Left and right sides of the body are balanced when our midline anatomy aligns on the median plane.

Our midline anatomy that should align on the median plane includes the linea alba and the nuchal & supraspinous ligaments.

linea albanuchal & supraspinous ligaments

Side view of the midline slice of a human figure which is known as the median plane. Showing some midline anatomical structures: The midline slice of the pelvic floor muscles forms a cup/crescent-shape at the base of the torso. The linea alba at the front of the body extends from the pubic symphysis of the pelvis to the xiphoid process of the sternum. The nuchal ligament and supraspinous ligament are a continuous structure at the back of the body that attach to the vertebrae of the spine. The nuchal ligament extends from the midline bump on back of skull, known as the external occipital protuberance, and forms a leaf of connective tissue in the back of the neck, turning into the suprapinous ligament that follows the spine to the lower lumbar area of the back. The nuchal ligament and supraspinous ligaments are curved down the neck to mid back and then another curve towards the lower spine. The linea alba and nuchal and supraspinous ligaments should be fully extendable and flexible through a full range of natural movement for the body to be dynamically balanced and in alignment.

To increase awareness of your midline anatomy, use the 5 midline markers for alignment. These are 5, easy to find, points on our midline. Touch them to help focus your attention on their location and feel for their relative positioning as you breathe.

5 midline markers

From bottom to top:

1. pubic symphysis, 2. navel, 3. xiphoid process, 4. jugular notch, 5. external occipital protuberance.

Outline of a human figure seen from the front. 5 spots are marked on midline, evenly spaced. These 5 anatomical markers are part of our midline anatomy that should align on the median plane. From bottom to top: 1. is the pubic symphysis of the pelvis between the top of the legs. 2. is the navel/belly button. The bottom and top of the breastbone/sternum are markers 3 and 4. The xiphoid process at the bottom of the sternum and the jugular notch at the top of the sternum.  5. is the midline bump on the back of the head, the external occipital protuberance. Find these 5 markers on your body and feel for their state of alignment.

Body alignment and balance:

When our midline anatomy can align on the median plane and the body is balanced either side of midline.

For our midline anatomy to align on the median plane it needs to be free to fully extend. This is possible when the body has a full range of natural movement and no physical restrictions which cause tension and pain.

full range of natural movementphysical restrictions

The 5 Main Muscles for Body Alignment.

The 5 (paired) main muscles of movement are responsible for the body's state of balance and alignment, correctly positioning our midline anatomy and head, shoulders, hips and knees.

5 main muscles of movement

Focusing on using the 5 main muscles is the way to balance the body - maintaining a good posture and enjoying pain-free movement.

good posture

Skeleton and main muscles of movement seen from the front. Highlighting the positioning of the hip, shoulder and knee joints when the body is balanced. The pelvic floor the solid base of the torso. The rectus abdominis muscles up the front of the abdomen from pelvis to chest aligning the lower body. The trapezius muscles aligning the upper body. The rectus femoris muscles from pelvis to shin aligning the hip and knee joints. The gluteus maximus muscles are mostly hidden by the pelvic bones in this view. Good posture comes with midline alignment. When the main muscles of movement are fully utilised the rest of the body is correctly positioned.

Increasing Awareness of Your State of Alignment and Balance.

Consciously focusing on the relevant anatomy will increase your awareness of the sensory feedback from your body so you can feel your state of alignment and balance for yourself. This sensory feedback is part of the sense of proprioception (your sense of position, motion and balance).

conscious proprioception

Conscious proprioception allows you to feel the relative positioning of your body and develops your instincts of how to move to improve your posture, working towards balance and alignment.

Working with the 5 main muscles of movement, starting from your Base-Line muscles, will build this connection between body and mind.

Base-Line muscles

Skeleton within an outline of a human figure seen from the front. Midline is marked with a thick line from head to pelvis. Showing the rectus abdominis and pelvic floor which are the body's Base-Line muscles. Focusing on activating our Base-Line increases awareness of the relative positioning of our midline anatomy so that we can work towards true body alignment and balance.

Every night, lying in bed trying to position my hips and shoulders and 'align my spine'. Trying to ease the pain. But I had no inner reference to guide me. No connection to my Base-Line.

I learned to feel how to heal. Releasing the pain and regaining a full range of natural movement.

Everything starts from Base-Line.

Think of the linea alba and nuchal supraspinous ligaments as an imaginary thread from pubic symphysis of the pelvis to the back of the head. A strong and flexible band from head to tail that should be fully extendable, smooth through a full range of movement without tension or restriction. Like a fishing line being cast/ a ribbon in the wind / a powerful snake, extending and twisting, supporting the rest of the body.

2 images of a human figure, one from the front and one from the back, angled. Showing the base-line muscles of the pelvic floor and rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis muscles are like two parallel ribbons up the front of the abdomen from pubic symphysis of the pelvis (the bone between the legs) to the front of the chest, attaching to the cartilage of rib cage i.e. the rectus abdominis muscles extend quite high up the chest. Each rectus abdominis is made up of sections of muscle, panels of muscular tissue separated by bands of horizontal connective tissue within each 'ribbon'.  The linea alba, a strip of tough connective tissue, lies between the rectus abdominis muscles on the body's midline. Think pelvic floor base, rectus abdominis line. Our core pillar of strength that should be active and extended.

Imbalance and misalignment.

Having a body that is imbalanced and misaligned means experiencing stiffness, tension and pain.

Two human outlines seen from the front.  One is balanced and aligned with the midline anatomical structures forming a straight line on the median plane with left and right sides of the body balanced either side of this line. The other figure is crooked, twisted and misaligned. Physical restrictions in connective tissue, stored trauma, are causing bad posture and creating body-wide tensions.

What if I don't use my main muscles of movement?

An explanation for fibromyalgia

 Optimising the use of your muscles = Better health.

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