Going deep with the Deep Front Line
So here we go! Let me start off by saying I have my own method and (of course) I use my own method in my work. You would assume so, right? It’s my preferred way of working! I’m saying this because I want you to know I’m fully aware of my bias. I also know that my success hinges on my constant questioning of not just my work but everything I encounter. There’s no harsher critic of my work than me. I learned to be critical from some fantastic teachers.
This being said, I’m writing this to educate practitioners (and clients) on a concept called the Deep Front Line (DFL). This was created by Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains.
In it he attempted to, “describe common pathways of functional force transmission”.
This is an interesting thought exercise and experimenting with it could yield a unique and great insight into the body. I believe that thinking of the human body in terms of lines and ‘trains’ can yield some interesting approaches to the body and I’m all for thinking of things differently.
What follows is not necessarily a criticism of the Deep Front Line because I think it’s pretty cool and worthy of study. What I do want to discuss is how it is interpreted and extrapolated.
To reiterate, Mr. Myers himself called it a way to describe “functional force transmission”, he did not call it an actual structure in the body. And then I recently read an article where the DFL was described as a “track of soft tissue”. So, who cares right?
Here’s where we can go down a slippery slope. If you start to see a territory in the body as a delineated “track of soft tissue” then you might stop being open to other possibilities of relationships in the body and accept a “track” as the only ‘thing’. You have now created your dogma and that can be a dangerous thing in bodywork. Let me explain.
Let’s say that the DFL is in fact an actual delineated track of tissue and not a concept. Let’s say it exists in the body as one muscle or group of muscles.
Let’s couple this supposition with another fact. All tissue in the body is inter-connected (via fascia, tendon, ligament, et al) to other areas of the body. This we know.
Now let’s ask ourselves, is it possible for an area or a point of the DFL to have a relationship to some other area in the body that’s not DFL? Anything’s possible, right. Let’s say for the sake of argument, that it is possible and it is currently happening.
If so, then this possibility can occur from many areas/points in the DFL to points in NON-DFL territory. If that’s true, then what truly is the DFL? Where and how are we going to decide where a relationship begins and where one ends? Do we do this on the cellular, molecular, or atomic level?
With every iteration of this experiment we end up creating relationships and ties/connections between DFL territory and what was probably thought of as NON-DFL territory. Everything becomes connected with everything else. The NON-DFL becomes DFL and the DFL in essence, disappears.
Let me repeat in another way. The closer we look at the need to create a DFL territory the more we realize that the DFL disappears except as a construct of the mind.
Yes, you heard me, the DFL doesn’t exist except as a concept that can help to create a strategy.
If I seem harsh I’m happy to state/admit that The Order of Complexity and the Planes of Movement (tenets of the Morales Method®) don’t exist in the tissue either. They are concepts that help to create a strategy for work. The same argument I just made regarding the DFL I can make for my own method. In fact I stress it in my programs in order to eliminate the chance of falling into the dogma trap.
The big danger is when we start to believe that a concept is a thing we will (as it has been observed in other articles) start to tie causal relationships to it. I’ve seen too many times teachers teaching an “IF, THEN” approach to concepts and I’ve heard (and seen videos) of people using concepts as a way to say, “If this is happening here, then work (fill in the blank) territory there” without regard for palpation or assessment/analysis.
This is not the way to perform manual therapy but instead a way to perpetuate dogma.
Does that mean a practitioner who solely uses a concept as gospel is bound for disaster? Absolutely not. Tom Myers has done a great job in conceptualizing something he’s seen in his work. I’m sure practitioners get positive results. My issue is when practitioners think one way is the only way and start to accept a concept or idea as gospel.
My unsolicited advice to folks who believe a burning bush told them the DFL exists is to stop and think, “Could there be another way?” “Why didn’t my approach work?” “How are other people approaching this issue?”
In the Morales Method we are constantly questioning everything. We don’t assume we’re right but instead try an approach based on certain concepts and see what we learned from our approach. We aim to get better but understand we’re never done learning.
Is the Morales Method perfect? Goodness no, and it never will be. We are constantly tearing it apart in hopes that we build the skill of the practitioner and not necessarily the impregnability of the method. My students are notorious for ‘playing jazz’, taking concepts and a program I may teach and improvising when the time is right. They then come back to me with what they’ve learned. I then take that information in and share it with new students. This learning method was first introduced to me in my martial arts training and I feel it has positively affected my bodywork.
So, in conclusion treat each method you come across as A way and not THE way. You could possibly learn something fascinating you may not have learned otherwise.