The Anatomy of Directing: Introduction

“If you send a message, make sure it goes to the right address.”

-F. Matthias Alexander

A key principle of neurodynamics is the recognition that the muscular system is dynamically organized according to the relation of body parts. Muscles contract, but in order for the system to work properly, the parts to which the muscles attach must oppose each other so that those muscles are lengthened and can contract in this broader context. If the muscles are working improperly, it is no use to simply try to release them; to restore proper function, we must restore the relations of the parts to which the muscles connect, which we accomplish through the process of directing. (If you’d like to read more about directing, check out this post.)

Even when we have some idea of how to direct, however, we will not be successful if we have a muddled idea of exactly what is being directed. If, for instance, we think of lengthening the back but assume the back ends at the waist, we will have little success; we cannot very well lengthen the back if we are leaving part of it out. To direct the back effectively, we must have a clear conception of where the back begins and ends, which is why it is useful to be clear on the anatomy: we have to know exactly what it is we’re directing. In this series, which was written as part of the Da Vinci Project and acts as an addendum to the book on neurodynamics, we will look at some of the key elements of our anatomy as it relates to directing and then apply this knowledge with some practical exercises, beginning with the back, spine, and head.

Here is a summary of the anatomical parts we’ll look at in this series:

1. The spine and back: the spine has not three but four curves, including the sacrum and pelvis, to which it is attached

2. The head and spine: the spine includes the cervical region, which goes much higher than we think

3. The hip joints: we bend not at the waist, where we typically locate the hips, but lower down; this means the pelvis functions as part of the back

4. Front length: we are designed with a lot of weight in front, which should not drag down but suspend from above so that we have our full front length

5. Forward and up: we pull the head back not just by shortening the neck and back muscles but by losing length in front; to go forward and up, the head must not only nod forward but we must come up in front; for this to happen, we have to know allow our full front length

6. The throat: the throat hangs from the base of the skull; if we think throat is part of the head, then we can’t send the head up but will shorten in stature; this requires that we be clear on where throat hangs from

7. The arm and shoulder: the arm hangs from the scapula, which is in back; but because we use flexors acting on scapula and arms in front, we shorten and narrow and need to widen the arms, which is the key to the shoulders

8. The knee directions and the leg spirals: the legs are designed to extend and release in a kind of spiraling motion, and the muscles that perform this action must release into spirals

In the next post, we’ll simply mention that this work is part of the Da Vinci Project and neurodynamic theory, and then dive right into a section.  We hope you’ll join us!