Often in my training logs or through other discussions, I have referenced 3 1/2 month old breathing or Baby Breathing.
This is a developmental kinesiology progression that I have learned in the DNS methodology that usually begins the spinal stabilization process. The methodology suggests similarly to others that stabilization in the sagittal plane should precede stability in other planes.
As Baby develops int the first few months, and the Joint by Joint begins to govern, the first fixed point of stability that Baby uses to establish purposeful movement is the Thoraco-Lumbar junction. This is ideally T12-L1, but I would not be so presumptuous that there isn’t safe and successful variability among different folks’ anatomies.
Skipping some steps here, the T-L junction’s stability is probably easier to understand via the uprighting and vertical positions. Consider anti-extension positions. These include quadruped and plank challenges, any kneeling position, anything with 1 or 2 arms overhead, among others. These are all positions where if we give in to gravity, the lower back will drop into extension. Successful motor control of the movement or exercise will prevent extension.
This Steve Smith article on Mike Reinold’s site has some other brilliant pictures and the DNS background on this topic.
Keep in mind that stability is the control of a system in the presence of potential change. The ideal is what we see in the stiff plank above, but one of the aberrant choices for stability is approximating lumbar vertebrae at key points. This can lead to success at maintaining a position, but it can happen at a cost. Decreasing joint space anywhere can lead to DJD, and in the lumbar spine, DDD as well. Stability isn’t always a good thing if it is not gained from an efficient and active position. “Hanging” on passive restraint can garner stability. However, it is not ideal for maximal force production/transmission or durability.
What makes the T-L junction maybe a little more critical is that there is ribcage attachment at this level. Rotation @ this level pulls the rib cage superiorly effectively changing the puntum fixum of the diaphragm. I believe the PRI folks would call this some alteration of the Zone of Apposition. Dysfunction @ T12-L1 in terms of hyperextension yields both hip and t-spine dysfunction as the pelvis runs into the “open scissors” posture. The anterior tilt of the pelvis and posterior tilt of the rib cage creates a visual of an open scissors in the lateral view. You will really fold into Upper- and Lower-Crossed with a hinging @ this T-L junction.
So when pain or dysfunction sets in, the suggestion is that one of the brain’s first options to set off compensations is destabilizing the T-L junction. It is not a conscious choice. It is rather one that is mediated below our volitional control. It is similar to when you have knee pain, and you simply can not put weight through the knee and foot no matter how hard you try. Think of when you sleep wrong, and your neck is wry, until it releases, moving your head diagonally backwards is not something you can push through. Bad posture is protective, and it is not something that sets in by our own choice of motor programming. When pain hits the system, we have some fair research that muscles become inhibited, others become unreliably facilitated, and the motor program inherits somewhat of a virus and begins to do its own thing. The program has good intentions: to protect or compensate against a threat in the system. Locomotion and primary movement may be preserved in the short-term, but there is an enormous cost, not just at the spine. When it is inherent that you achieve a skill through movement at the T-L junction, there’s a good chance the whole thing is shot.
Now back to the beginning.
When Baby is in its first few months, supine is the preferred position. And before the legs are able to kick around or arms reach up for something, there has to be a fixed point of stability for which Baby can move around. That first point of stability in Baby’s development in the supine position is the T-L junction. So through the different methods that espouse the Neuro-Developmental patterns, this supine position is an early option for both painful and non-painful individuals. As you will see, it is almost a regression from the Leg Lowering 1 and 2 corrections for ASLR and MSF. Given the reaching effects of the T-L junction, this supine stability position to establish intra-abdominal pressure can be be used to correct many postures and movements. Using this segment as the link is far less efficient as using the 5-6 chains of the lumbar spine as the link.
The position is fairly simple to execute and is probably similar to some yoga positions that have names like Long Bird or Supine Flamingo.
Start supine with the neck packed. The line from the crown of the head should be parallel to the floor that you are laying on.
At the initial position, the arms can be loose or at the sides or driven into the mat to deepen or establish the centration of the scapulae. This may allow the t-spine and neck to lengthen further, which allows for a more appropriate breath. Establishing the appropriate breathing pattern is the ultimate goal of these positions as the breath in these NDT positions can trigger a release of tone and restore centration and stability.
Hands can touch as far as……
the floor, random (holokinetic) reaching @ 3.5 months,
the groin or private area @ 4 months,
the feet @ 6 months, and
the feet into the mouth @ 7 months.
The furthering of the reach pulls the shoulders out of centration which gives Baby a reason to reset them back over the posterior ribcage. It is a brilliant of example of what we know as RNT in the FM System. We stabilize and learn to move based on having a reason. The reason in this case are the urge to explore the sensory-rich regions of the body. The flexion moment is met with upper quarter stability, and the T-L junction reacting to the floor allows for this occur.
The feet will contact……..
nothing @ 3 months,
big toes to each other @ 4 months,
medial edges to each other @ 5 months, and
via the soles to each other @ 6 months.
The feet progressions differ than the upper body in what the body is reacting to. You can see that these progressions lead to a little more hip external rotation. Slight hip external rotation is the centrated position of the hip. With the appropriate muscle balance around the joint, the pelvis can set out of any anterior pelvic tilt and facilitate the breathing pattern. You can grow mobility through the lower levels of breathing, or address the hips with manual therapy and come to these sagittal stability positions.