The Helical Matrix
My approach to anatomy for yoga is based on fascial continuities that follow a spiral format. You can feel this yourself in the foundational asanas, such as downward dog, where the arches of the feet are drawn upwards by an external rotation of the tibia. This rotation is actually a continuation of spiralling activity that originates in the body core and rebounds through the limbs from the closed chain connection between your feet and the ground. The way your limbs attenuate ground reaction forces in spiral patterns is a feature of the closed-chain kinematics that defines our body architecture.
We never simply flex or extend our limbs. In asana, there are distinctive rotational patterns that arise out of our naturally helical anatomical architecture.
For example, in backbending, we will always be internally rotating our femurs. As we elevate the humerus to deepen the back extension, we will always be externally rotating the humerus.
In postures involving flexion of the torso, the pattern follows in external rotation of the femurs. The legs are like tubes, each composed of intertwining myofascial tubules, all of which follow a continuous pattern of external rotation as we move deeper into flexion. For example, in Baddhakonasana. Flexing at the hips, the torso bends forward as the lower limbs externally rotate from the hips distally. The spiral radiates down both legs through the ankles and feet, which engage with one another and can capitalise on ground reaction force to deepen the external rotation further.
It doesn’t matter what style of yoga you practice, these rotational patterns are part of what I call the Helical Matrix and they’re archetypal for all human anatomy. Different styles of yoga will call for different alignment principles, and there are plenty of variations on how to adjust asanas, just like the are many ways to skin a cat. But the cat remains a cat. In this case, the Helical Matrix is always the same, but our different proportions and learning journeys will inform our various ways of working within it.
My anatomical research both on and off the mat revolves around these rotational patterns and forms the substance of the book I’m writing for Handspring Publishing: Spiral Bound. Check out my Events page for my upcoming workshops and trainings all based on anatomy for yoga and the Helical Matrix!