How are you reading this article? I don’t mean are you using your phone or your laptop. What I mean is, observe the position of your body as you read. Are you sitting or standing? Are you lying down? Are you holding whatever device you’re using? Where are your arms? What are your neck and head doing?
When we pay attention to how we spend our days, we start to notice that we’re often leaning, reaching, bending, and otherwise moving forward in space. We reach our arms forward to text, to drive, to cook, to shake hands (when we still do that!). We move our legs forward when we walk, run, climb stairs, even as we sit in a chair.
Here’s the problem with that: The human body is designed to be mobile in various directions. You might recall that saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” It’s true when it comes to our bodies, which become flexible in the places where they are used the most and resist movement where they are used the least. This can lead to the stiffening of some joints and the overuse of others. Or muscles overdeveloping on one side and remaining underdeveloped on the other. Quite simply, we need to move in an array of ways each day to keep our bodies moving as they were designed.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The three anatomical planes of movement
The predominant place of contemporary living, which takes us into forward motion, is actually just one of three primary planes in which our body is able to—and needs to—move each day: the sagittal (front and back motion), coronal (side-to-side movement), and transverse (twisting action) planes. It’s not just the body in its entirety that moves in these planes. Individual body parts—arms, legs, neck, back, knees—move in these manners as well.
As you go about your everyday movement and your yoga practice, observe what plane you spend the most time in, and which you spend the least. The latter is where your work lies. Following are several ways we move our bodies in our everyday lives, including in our yoga practice. Notice any that you tend to not engage in regularly? You know what you need to do about that.
(Photo: Andrew Clark)
The sagittal plane comprises forward and backward movements. This can take the shape of either flexion—decreasing the angle of a joint, as in bending your front hip and knee in High Lunge—or extension, which is increasing the angle of a joint, as in the straightening of the back leg in both hip and knee.