Talk by Chua Shengwei Terence at ‘Be the Change’ Voice Talk, 29 June 2014 organized by Vocalogy*.
Transcribed by Grace Ng EeWern
Good afternoon everyone, my name is Terence Chua and I’m a movement specialist. Unlike personal trainers who work on fitness and aesthetic body building, my work tends more towards general movement patterns. I trained with Ido Portal. He’s a movement specialist in the world of fitness. I refer to the book ‘Anatomy Trains’ by Thomas Myers in my work. In the ‘Anatomy Trains’ concept of the body, if we have pain in our shoulder, it doesn’t mean that the problem area is the shoulder or the muscles around the shoulder. The problem area can be somewhere further away from the shoulder.
In the ‘Anatomy Trains’ concept of anatomy, the whole body itself doesn’t consist of just muscles. It’s just one single muscle that is being sectioned out into different segments so it’s all linked up.
There are many different lines or meridians in the body. The bottom of the foot actually links up to the head and the top of the eyebrow. There is the superficial back line, superficial front line, deep front line, spiral line, lateral line and arm line. In just the arm line itself, you have the superficial front arm line, the superficial back arm line, the deep front arm line, the deep back arm line and spiral line. To clarify, these meridian lines are not the same as those referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Of all these lines, I’m just going to pick one line that’s relevant to opening up the voice. That one line is the deep front line. It starts from the bottom of the foot, coming from the inside of the leg, up to the pubic symphysis and going up into the psoas. From there it goes into the thoraco-lumbar junction, into the diaphragm, by the front of the spine and also from the ribcage going up to the neck. It ends at the tongue. If I pull your tongue, I will get a reaction from the bottom of your foot because these parts of the body are linked together by the deep front line.
To arrive at his conclusions about the body, Thomas Myers’ dissected cadavers himself. Instead of cutting the muscles the usual way, he turned the scalpel and sliced off from the tendon.It linked up to another part of muscle. He followed that and found that they all linked up in one continuous sheath all the way to the tongue. ‘Anatomy Trains’ contains photos of the cadavers and dissection. In ‘Anatomy Trains’, you can actually see a photos of a cadaveric dissection of a sheet of muscle from the bottom of the foot going all the way up to the tongue.
How do all these meridians or lines help us in understanding posture, for example hunched posture (kyphosis) or sway back posture (lordosis); or hips that go into anterior tilt (buttocks sticking out) or posterior tilt (tailbone between legs)? In the case of an anterior pelvic tilt, the psoas and the hip flexors may be tight, pulling the hips down. There are many other reasons why the hips go into anterior pelvic tilt. I will just be dealing with the psoas region in this talk.
The psoas is a hip flexor. It pulls the femur bone up. The psoas is also attached to spine at vertebrae T12 all the way to L5. A tight psoas gives you an anterior pelvic tilt which causes resultant compensatory tensions in the body as the body tries to balance itself. Amongst these compensatory tensions is tension in your diaphragm. If that tension is not being released, your diaphragm cannot function normally. It cannot expand or contract optimally when it is full of tension. In other words, the way that you stand affects the way that you breathe.
In my practice, I release the psoas and the hip flexors to affect the diaphragm. The diaphragm as you know is hard to reach. That being said, I can reach in for the diaphragm but I don’t do it because most of the time, it’s too uncomfortable. I’ll work with the psoas instead. That affects the diaphragm which in turn improves the breath.
If you move up further, working with the arm line can open the chest to create a posture that is more upright instead of more hunched. The arm line and the functional line plays a part in terms of opening up the chest. Both of these lines have functions that are crossed because everything is linked up together.
Thomas Myers, the author of ‘Anatomy Trains’ was a student of Ida Rolf. His method comes from Rolfing. He’s also a manual therapist. Rolfing is a form of massage. He uses manual therapy to ease out the tension from the body itself. You can use your own strategy to open up the lines. For me, I use my hands to administer trigger point therapy to open up the body. I also use movement mobilizers, simple techniques like pushing the hips forward and lifting up the hands. The subtle movement of the hips is enough to create the movement that the hips need to open up and free up the tension. I use mobilizer movements a lot instead of stretching and holding a pose for several seconds. I think there’s still value in stretching but I prefer mobilizers because mobilizers work a little bit more in terms of fascia.
Fascia is the connective tissue between muscles. It’s the wrapping of muscles rather like wrapping paper around a Christmas present. Towards the end, you have your tendons or your ligaments depending on what’s connected and where it is connected. That is also called the fascia. Fascia contains water and collagen. I use mobilizers as a form of movement to target fascia because fascia works best if your whole movement is rhythmic, in regular timing and is subtle and slow. This will actually help the fascia to release out all the tension within it and just slowly give it more length.
There’s research going on that seems to suggest that there are actually more nerve endings in the fascia than in the muscles themselves. I can’t remember the exact figure but it’s something like 30 percent of nerve endings going to the muscles with 70 percent of nerve endings going to the fascia.
In traditional anatomy, fascia is almost passive but in Thomas Myers’ analysis, fascia is integral to the way you move because it transfers the energy out of the system. Say that you have tension in one part of the body, the fascia can transmit tension from that part of the body into another part of the body. Previously, very few people mentioned fascia coming into play a part in transfer of energy or stress within the body itself . Fascia plays an important role in the concept of tensegrity. Tensegrity in the body refers to a structure of parts such as bones and tendons that are wrapped up in connective tissue. Structural instability in one part travels through the connective tissue so that the instability is the greatest at the weakest part of the structure. In the body, this is where you might find the pain or discomfort.
What’s interesting is that traditional Chinese martial arts does talk about fascia, with the training of the fascia being as important as the training of the muscles. So if you go back to some of the internal arts, they train the fascia as much as the muscles. In that sense, the ‘Anatomy Trains’ system is like a re-invention of an age-old system.
Aileron Wellness is one of the few gyms, if not the only gym in Singapore that deals with ‘Anatomy Trains’ concepts and fascial work. We find that we get results almost instantaneously because we work with fascia and not muscles.
Fascia is very interesting. Fascia is not being stretched when it is pulled to it’s extreme. Static stretches aim to stretch to extreme lengths. When you talk about mobilizers and mobilizing while working with fascia, we don’t stretch to extreme lengths. What we want is slow and subtle movement with rhythm and timing that actually helps to work on the fascia, getting all the fluid in to help with the hydration of not only the muscles but the fascia themselves.
A lot of tightness occurs because the fascia enveloping the muscle and muscle fibers is stuck together. In my practice I release the tightness by lessening the stickiness between the fascia and muscle and between muscle fibers through manual massage. I use Trigger Point massage on the muscles and Fascial Release on the fascia.
If someone comes in feeling tight all over, I evaluate and assess a client’s problem areas through a series of movements and through posture. From there I’ll look at movement again to assess and see where the issue lies using the Anatomy Trains analysis. The Fascial lines will tell me whether the tension is coming from the foot or whether it’s the posture that you’re holding. There are 2 approaches that I take- the bottom-up approach or the top-down approach. Sometimes I use 2 of them together because the human body works in many different ways. You can have a gait issue; you can have a posture issue due to prolonged sitting in front of a computer which gives rise to kyphotic posture. We can use different methods to resolve the issues. If the range of movement is too restricted, I use trigger point to get some of the range first then I use mobilizers to further enhance it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go into fascial release because fascia release is my secret weapon. I’m more a movement guy I try to expose my clients to different kinds of movements such as rolling round, hanging, squatting- Ido Portal stuff.
You need to load the human body to see changes. The system will only get stronger after you stress it. That’s how you prevent injuries and get yourself to better posture.
In my understanding of Ido Portal work and my own experience; my interviews and education with great teachers like Chuck Wolf and Thomas Myers, it is my opinion that the whole direction of the fitness industry is going towards how the brain and the nervous system works in terms of getting the body to move and how emotion actually affects movement. In my own practice, I get people to move in a way that helps them explore their range, movement that challenges them and makes them think and explore how they move. Sometimes I come up with what I call ‘movement play’ to open up the whole view on fitness and body. The more I work with people’s bodies, the more I have come to appreciate that the body and movement are so intrinsically connected and that free movement is truly the key to fully enjoying life. Thank you.
* transcript incorporates answers to questions by the audience
Anatomy Trains http://www.anatomytrains.com/
Ido Portal http://idoportal.com
Chua Shengwei Terence (Fitness Trainer/ Movement Therapist)
Terence is a certified fitness trainer with over 20 professional certifications from various sports institutions. He specializes in injury rehabilitation, play-based, and movement-based training.
Terence believes that fun can go along with health and fitness. “Play-out” is what Terence calls his workout as he incorporates a series of games into his training methodology.
◦ PTA Global Advanced Trainer
◦ Rehab Masterclass Certified
◦ Rehab Trainer Certified
◦ NASM Certified Personal Trainer
◦ NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist
◦ Twist Conditioning ‘Gold’ Level Coach
◦ Master Trainer Twist Conditioning Program
◦ Master Trainer Trigger Point Performance Ultimate 6
◦ Trigger Point Performance Therapy SMRT
◦ Movement Specialist ( Ido Portal )
◦ Anatomy Trains for Movement Specialist
◦ Anatomy Trains Fascial Fitness
◦ Power Plate Level 1: Health & Fitness
◦ ViPR Certified Instructor
◦ TRX Certified Instructor
◦ NTU Minor in Sports Biomechanics
◦ CPR & AED
◦ Sports & Athletic Performance
◦ Injury Rehabilitation
◦ Functional Training
◦ Play-based and Movement-based Programs
Grace Ng EeWern is a voice teacher based in Singapore. Her interests include Mind-Body connection, integrative teaching strategies for singing and speech and body, health and lifestyle. Visit her website at www.singaporesingingteacher.com