I’M OFTEN asked for an exercise to help strengthen a muscle area, or an exercise to help relieve stiffness or pain in a certain place.

But when they come along to a movement session with me we often work on a completely different part of their body.

“I’ve got shoulder pain, why are you giving me exercises for my legs?” or, “I want to build strength in my chest, why are we working on my lower back?”

If you were to strip down the body so that you could magically see the workings of our muscles, you’d be amazed to see how the network of our muscle and movement system really is just that – a full body network.

We tend to think of our body as being a group of parts strung together, our legs stick out from our hips, our arms protrude from our shoulders, our feet are stuck on the end of our legs.

But, in fact our whole body system of bones, muscles, organs and vessels is interconnected and wrapped up in a layer of connective tissue called fascia.

This is the body’s bagging system.

Our bones are covered in this fascial layer, as are all our muscles and organs.

What’s so special about it?

Well, this network of Fascia extends throughout the entire body, meaning that what goes on at one end of your system will have an effect at the other end.

As fascial surfaces glide against and interact with each other a movement message is registered throughout the whole body.

Here’s a very simplified analogy: imagine you are wearing an all in one stretchy body suit that even covers your head, like Spiderman.

The body suit is tight and clingy, made of lycra and it stretches and moves when you move.

Now imagine you tie a knot at the end of one of the feet. The whole side of that body suit, right up to the shoulder, is now going to feel very tight and uncomfortable.

Or tie a knot in the head of the suit, that’s going to make it feel tight all over the body.

A tightness or misalignment in one area of the body can cause movement problems and eventual pain in a completely different area, which may seem quite unrelated.

When we consider this approach, it makes sense to choose exercise methods which will move the entire system in a synergistic way, rather than focus on exercises that only concentrate on one area at a time.

Underlying all this is the skeleton.

The skeleton is what our muscle and fascia attaches to and grows out of.

You could say that the skeleton supports the body, but also that the muscles and fascia support the skeleton.

It’s a holistic system.

The keystone to the skeleton is the pelvis, the position of our pelvis will dictate the alignment of the spine, the shoulders and the neck, besides affecting how we walk and sit. More about this next time.

Patricia Issitt is a movement therapist and Pilates instructor based in York.

Find out more at yorkpilates.com