Understanding the three anatomical planes of motion (sagittal, coronal, and transverse) might help you acknowledge patterns and imbalances in your physique, permitting you to maneuver with extra intention—in your yoga follow and past.
As yogis, most of us need to perceive how we transfer—and as we develop into extra conscious, we head down a path towards much more curiosity and self-awareness. I see this evolution in my college students all the time. The first spark—perhaps somebody realizes she’s tighter in her left hip than in her proper—is usually revelatory. Soon after, this scholar might discover that as a result of of the tightness, she favors her proper aspect. Then she might uncover it’s inflicting her again ache. With every discovery this scholar makes about her motion, she turns into extra acutely aware, inquisitive, and, finally, extra educated about herself.
Understanding how you progress your physique is vital to getting stronger, staying damage free, and feeling extra balanced, grounded, and (I might argue) pleased. And an awesome device that will help you do all of that is to take a look at motion by means of the lens of the three anatomical planes.
Once you understand how to work with these planes, you’ll start to acknowledge the ones in which you are feeling most (and least) snug shifting your physique. Then you might uncover you’re lacking entire segments of motion in sure planes—information that may then encourage you to start out shifting in the instructions the place you must get up. In doing this, you’ll finally discover ways to get up in your life too, serving to you navigate this world extra absolutely. Here’s what it’s worthwhile to know to know the sagittal, coronal, and transverse planes, and why it’s so essential that you simply do.
The Sagittal Plane
This aircraft dissects the proper and left sides of the physique, as if the edge of a pane of glass have been dropped down the middle of your crown via your midline. Sagittal aircraft actions happen the place this imaginary pane of glass sits—or parallel to it—which means any time you’re in flexion (for instance, forward folds) or extension (resembling backbends), you’re shifting in the sagittal aircraft.
It might be the most acquainted, and most used, aircraft for all of us: When we drive, hunch our heads over our smartphones, sit on the sofa holding the distant management, journey a motorcycle, and stroll down the road, we’re shifting in the sagittal aircraft. In yoga, any time you’re taking your arms ahead and attain them overhead—whether or not you’re doing Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute) or Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)—you’re shifting in the sagittal aircraft.
Poses that transfer in the sagittal aircraft
Where’s the distortion?
If you’re a instructor and see one thing’s off when a scholar practices a pose however you’re unsure in which aircraft the drawback is happening, speaking the way to right what’s off could also be difficult. Recognizing a distortion in a selected aircraft is the secret to shortly and clearly serving to your college students get into their fullest expression of a posture. To follow seeing our bodies this manner, let’s take a look at Vrksasana (Tree Pose) with a distortion in every of the three planes. Here are two distortions in the sagittal aircraft:
<<SEE HOW her pelvis is tipped anteriorly and her backbone is overarched?
THE FIX She’ll need to convey her pelvis and backbone to impartial, lengthen her tailbone, and draw her sternum towards her navel.
<<SEE HOW her pelvis is tucked and her backbone is flexed (rounded)?
THE FIX She’ll need to press the prime of her standing thigh again and press her shoulder blades into her chest.
See additionally The Truth of Tree Pose
The Coronal Plane
This aircraft dissects the entrance of the physique from the again. This time, think about a pane of glass dropping by way of your midline and dissecting your entrance physique (anterior) and again physique (posterior). Coronal aircraft actions happen the place this imaginary pane of glass sits, which means any time you abduct (transfer away from the midline) and adduct (transfer towards the midline). You’re shifting in the coronal aircraft once you the first step leg to the aspect, flip a cartwheel, or bust out your greatest “Stayin’ Alive” dance strikes, John Travolta type. In yoga, assume of shifting into Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) or Parighasana (Gate Pose).
Poses that transfer in the coronal aircraft
Where’s the distortion?
Here’s Vrksasana (Tree Pose) with distortions in the coronal aircraft:
<<SEE HOW she is sitting in her standing-leg hip?
She must hug her standing-leg thigh in towards her midline.
<<SEE HOW one hip is greater than the different?
She must press her lifted thigh down (adduction) to degree her pelvis aspect to aspect.
See additionally 8 Steps to Master and Refine Tree Pose
The Transverse Plane
This aircraft divides the physique into higher and decrease parts—as if the similar imaginary pane of glass cuts via your stomach button. All actions in this aircraft contain rotation, both inward (inner rotation) or outward (exterior rotation). You’re shifting in the transverse aircraft once you flip your head to look out your rearview mirror earlier than merging into one other visitors lane, or if you do “The Twist,” à la Chubby Checker. In yoga, spinal twists resembling Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) and Parsva Sirsasana (Side Headstand)—and even rotating one leg out at its hip socket to organize for Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)—are actions that occur in the transverse aircraft.
Poses that transfer in the transverse aircraft
Where’s the distortion?
Here’s Vrksasana (Tree Pose) with distortions in the transverse aircraft:
<<SEE HOW the lifted knee and pelvis are rolling ahead?
She must work her lifted leg extra right here, rotating the thigh out at the hip socket so she will press it farther open.
<<SEE HOW one knee is just too far again, pulling the pelvis and her backbone with it?
If she will press the prime of her standing thigh backward, she’ll be capable of deliver her proper knee (and that aspect of the pelvis) ahead.
See additionally Make It About the Midline: Tree Pose
Why Should We Understand the Planes?
In a phrase: proprioception. This refers to the physique’s means to sense joint place and motion, enabling you to know the place your physique is in area with out having to look—and to understand how a lot drive is required to create motion. It helps us really feel grounded and balanced, and it permits us to maneuver in and out of yoga poses safely. Proprioception could be enhanced over time with aware, repetitive actions, resembling asana.
One of the obstacles to healthy proprioception is continual, unconscious, ordinary patterns in the physique. Whether these patterns come up from damage or overuse doesn’t matter; they have an effect on your posture and maintain you shifting in ordinary methods. To wit: Take a second to consider your extremely cellular shoulder joint, which is constructed to maneuver in many various instructions. If you begin to favor shifting it only one approach—say, reaching your arms ahead and up in the sagittal aircraft and avoiding reaching them out to the sides in the coronal aircraft—that sample can create an imbalance in the joint, resulting in persistent ache and even damage.
One method to get up from these unconscious patterns is to attempt much less acquainted actions and shapes in the planes you are likely to keep away from, which can assist convey flexibility to caught areas and power to weak ones. Exploring easy actions in all three planes, particularly your nondominant one(s), with an open, playful angle—frustration and disgrace aren’t useful right here!—may help you develop new neuromuscular pathways and extra balanced motion patterns. Over time, there’s a very good probability you’ll discover this results in extra environment friendly posture, improved stability, and more healthy joints.
If you’re a yoga instructor, together with poses and cues that take your college students by means of all three planes (whether or not you identify them or not) will help them develop healthy and balanced our bodies. What’s extra, utilizing the framework of the planes to see distortions and imbalances in a yoga practitioner’s physique might help you employ simpler cues.
As you attempt to perceive and analyze how you progress individually in every of the planes, hold in thoughts that the objective isn’t to dissect the physique. After all, the physique exists in all three planes at the similar time. The level of this work is to attempt to convey the physique into stability in all three planes, always, to create a sense of wholeness. This, I consider, is one of the keys to feeling extra embodied, each on and off the mat.
See additionally Basic Anatomy for Yoga Teachers: Flexion vs. Extension
Put the planes into follow
Want to get snug with these anatomical planes and broaden your motion vary (or educating expertise)? Start right here:
STEP 1 Make lists of your 10 favourite, and 10 least favourite, poses. Consider which poses you are likely to apply at house and which of them you keep away from.
STEP 2 Determine the main aircraft for every of the poses in your lists.
STEP three Name the planes in which you appear to be most and least snug.
STEP four Create an inventory of poses out of your least favourite aircraft, and plan to follow these poses a number of occasions every week. Are these poses difficult for you? Are they straightforward? How do you are feeling once you follow extra from the aircraft in which you’re least snug? Get curious.
STEP 5 After a pair weeks of training your least favourite poses, go deeper together with your line of questioning: What has training actions you’d been avoiding revealed? (Yes, I’m speaking poses—and anything you are likely to keep away from in life.)
If you’re a instructor, take these similar steps in relation to assessing your go-to sequences: Look at the poses you train typically, in addition to the themes that you simply select on your courses. Which aircraft is over-represented? Which one(s), if any, are under-represented? Do you have a tendency to show the aircraft that’s your private favourite and keep away from the one which’s your least favourite?
Finally, whether or not you’re educating or just shifting by way of your personal house practices, decide to creating sequences that embrace poses that spotlight your least utilized aircraft. How do you are feeling whenever you apply (or train) them? How does your physique really feel after a couple of weeks of shifting in your much less utilized aircraft? Do you are feeling extra embodied? Are your actions extra balanced in all three planes? See if these easy inquiries allow you to really feel extra awake and entire.
About Our Expert
Teacher Annie Carpenter is a yoga instructor and instructor coach in San Francisco. She’s additionally the creator of the SmartFLOW technique, which she teaches in courses, workshops, and her 200- and 500-hour instructor trainings throughout the globe. Learn extra at anniecarpenter.com.