When you reach down to touch your toes from a standing position, you may feel a stretch radiating from your lower back down to your buttocks, hamstrings and calves. This sensation is caused by the network of connective tissues that share many nerves with each other. Stretching based on meridians -- or lines that indicate where muscles and tissues are being pulled and transmit energy and movement throughout the body -- can help you cut down your time to stretch while improving movement awareness and balance, according to massage therapist Thomas Myers, author of "Anatomy Trains."
Superficial Back Line
The superficial back line refers to muscles and tissues that extend from the bottom of your feet -- the plantar fascia -- through your calves, hamstrings, back, neck and into the back of your head. The most common exercise that addresses this long meridian is the toe touch, whether you're standing or sitting, such as in a sit-and-reach test. Other stretches include Downward Dog and Plow position.
Superficial Front Line
The superficial front line works with the back line to provide full-body flexion and extension. It runs from the top of your feet, through the front of your legs and abs and into the front of your neck. Stretches that address the front line include Warrior pose with your arms raised, Cobra pose and Camel pose. For a full front line stretch, do the back bend -- if you are able to support your body and have that level of flexibility. Beginners should do the back bend by lying on your back on top of a stability ball, feet on the floor, to get the full benefit of the stretch.
The lateral line refers to the meridians that run from the sides of your feet, through your peroneals, outer thighs and hips, intercostal muscles of your ribs, the sides of your neck and into the base of your skull. Stretches that affect the lateral line include Half Moon pose and Triangle pose.
The spiral line, which can be more difficult to feel compared to the other lines, refers to the meridian that creates diagonal and rotational patterns, such as swinging a golf club or throwing a baseball. The meridian runs from the base of your neck, down the spine and the back of your legs and loops beneath your feet like a small noose. It then runs up your shins, through your outer thighs and wraps around your torso diagonally like a Miss America sash. Stretches that address the spiral line include the seated torso twist, Tree pose and Triangle pose.
- Anatomy Trains; Thomas Myers