Many types of exercise, like running and bicycling only move the body through one plane of motion. Life, however, moves us in all three planes, often multiple planes simultaneously. When you reach for something in the back floor of your car, for example, you are both twisting (one plane) and bending (another plane). Regularly moving your body through all 3 planes of motion is the best way to “cross-train for life.” Yoga helps with that.
The Sagittal plane is forward and backward movement. You either move forward and backward through space, or you are forward bending or backward bending. Think of it like being on train tracks where you only move where the tracks go.
Running, cycling, and swimming move through space in the Sagittal plane, and running and cycling move sagittally within the body. There are no side to side or twisting motions, for the most part. You are predominantly using muscles in the front and back of the body for propulsion forward.
Yoga poses, such as Airplane pose, Wheel pose, and Standing Forward Bend are all poses that move in the Sagittal plane. They involve forward bending, backward bending, and moving along those imaginary train tracks.
Important Muscle Groups
- Gluteus muscles (maximus, medius, minimus) create hip extension and propel us forward.
- Hamstrings are secondary hip extensors
- Hip Flexors, such as iliopsoas, tensor fascia latae, and rectus femoris, flex the hip and create forward bending by tipping the pelvis forward.
- Erector spinae muscles (along the spine) extend the spine and create backward bending in the spine
Coronal Plane (Door Plane)
The Coronal, or Door plane creates lateral or side to side movement. This is the movement of Abduction (moving away from the midline), Adduction (moving toward the midline), and side bending. It is like standing in a doorway and moving only within the plane of the doorway. Like a pinwheel spinning.
Activities such as rollerblading or ice skating act in the Coronal plane. Your legs push side to side, even though you are moving forward (Sagittally) through space. Breaststroke kick moves in the Coronal plane, as well as when you do Cartwheels.
Yoga poses such as Triangle pose, Goddess pose, and Side Plank all exist in the Coronal plane, as aspects of the body are moving toward or away from the midline. Gomukhasana with a side bend moves the spine in the Coronal plane.
Important Muscle Groups
- Gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus all abduct the hip (move the thigh away from the midline), as does the tensor fascia latae.
- Piriformis is a secondary hip abductor
- Adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, and gracillis are the 4 muscles that bring the thigh toward the midline.
- Erector spinae and quadratus lumborum work together to laterally (side) bend the spine
Horizontal (Rotational) Plane
The Horizontal plane is all about Rotational movement, like looking over your shoulder when you are backing up in a car. It refers to all motion that moves around an axis, so applies to spinal rotation, as well as hip, shoulder, and neck rotation.
Activities such as Freestyle and Backstroke swimming, following through on a tennis or golf swing, and doing “The Twist” all move in the Horizontal plane.
Yoga poses such as Half Seated Spinal Twist, Revolved Low Lunge, and Reclining Twist move in the Horizontal Plane. All Twisting poses do. The arms in Warrior 1 and thighs in all standing poses are also moving in the Horizontal plane. Medial and lateral rotation of any type is in this plane.
Important Muscle Groups
- Hip rotators: gluteus maximus, piriformis, psoas major and minor, external and internal obturators, superior and inferior gemellus, and quadratus femoris
- Internal and external obliques rotate the spine
- Rotator cuff: supraspinatus, teres minor, infraspinatus, and subscapularis rotate the arm/shoulder
- Head/neck rotators: Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, rotatores longi, and semispinalis capitis and cerivcis
Moving your body in all 3 planes of motion on a regular basis keeps your body strong and able to navigate all of life’s irregular actions. Practicing yoga keeps your muscles strong, your joints mobile and cross-trains you for life!
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