Joanne Avison, author of Yoga, Fascia, Anatomy, and Movement, talks with me about fascia and why it has been overlooked historically (which includes a fascinating tour through the history of anatomy and its relationship to the Catholic church), how we form embryologically and what implications that has for biomechanics vs. biotensegrity (or biomechanics vs. biomotion). We also discuss what that changes when we have to reconfigure the language we use about movement and the body.
- Why has fascia been so ignored historically?
- Andrew Taylor Still and John Godmen before him first mentioned the fascia as highly significant
- Back in history- Rene Descartes did a “turf deal” with the Pope. Human dissection was not allowed. The Pope sanctioned it except the church held jurisdiction under the mind, spirit, soul, and emotions- the physical body only could be taken to science.
- Candance Pert points out in Molecules of Emotion that this took us down a road where we thought about the human body functioning like a clock, or like any other automaton. It was divorced from its surroundings.
- Anatomy then progressed by scraping away anything that wasn’t a “thing”.
- John Godmen was the first to have students to open the body and see what they see without their ideas from their anatomy texts. What they saw was fascia everywhere.
- Andrew Taylor Still is the father of Osteopathy, Thomas Findley has done a lot of beautiful pieces on Still and his story of fascia [in resources].
- Fascia is continuous and ubiquitous.
- No one is saying throw out the old and in with the new- we’re inviting an evolution of perspective. We have to include this highly inclusive tissue.
- Biotensegrity- one of the big difficulties about understanding the fascia is that if we take the fascia out on its own- is that the architecture of the body is under tension. It is pre-tensioned. It’s under a kind of stretch already.
- The visual metaphor of a circus marquee- this is not a biotensegrity structure because it is attached to the ground- but it is easy to imagine tension-compression architecture.
- We are a closed structure but we are formed under this tension. It’s the appropriate tensioning of the tissue that gives it its characteristics
- When a muscle contracts it has got something to pull on in order to move. You can’t separate one from the other.
- This is why levers give us a tough time- because they are open chain mechanisms.
- According to the naming of the different types of fascia, it has to be continuous to be called fascia, but the bone has to be discontinuous in order for us to move as we do. Bones are omitted because they are considered discontinuous, yet in a tensegrity structure we need those discontinuous structures.
- If the elbow is a lever, where is the pin? (!!!)
- We are formed in the round- how do we work if we are formed in the round?
- Jaap van der Wal did his PhD on fascia. What he found was a whole and complete architecture full of proprioceptive nerve endings. His work wasn’t published because it was so controversial. [in resources]
- He also said there are only 6 true ligaments connecting bone-to-bone, the rest are continuous with the joint structure, and in essence accused anatomists of carving ligaments.
- Jaap van der Wal says “ask the embryo” because the embryo forms in the round.
- Joanne does an amazing job of taking you on a gorgeous tour through how an embryo forms- don’t miss it.
- It’s like bio-organic origami.
- No one really knows how an embryo “knows”how to specialize. We’ve grown up in a culture where we have inherited a foundation in fact, and science has come to mean that the spiritual side of things- or accounting for anything that can’t be seen by data- gets lost.
- John Sharkey facilitated the first human dissection program looking through the lens of biotensegrity. It was a Thiel dissection- meaning the body was treated for 5 months in a different way than the standard formaldehyde cadaver- and therefore they behaved like anesthetized bodies in the operating theater.
- Joanne could look for membranes instead of which bone is which and which muscle is which. She was allowed to look through a different lens.
- The second you put the knife to them you have destroyed their wholeness, but they found the membranes. They were so fine.
- So-called “muscles” are continuities.
- Anatomists “designing” anatomy.
- What was so amazing was the folds- you don’t get to see this in a typical dissection. If we learned movement in terms of folds I don’t think we would make so mamy mistakes or have so many injuries.
- Muscles are turn-buckles- they tension the whole matrix. People can tighten them in uneven ways with movement patterns and repetitive fitness habits.
- If we follow the laws of fascial fitness we bring in diversity.
- We have to be stiff enough to hold ourselves up- yet we use the word “stiff” to describe pathology. We need to think differently about the words we use- particularly “tight” and “stiff”
- The idea of the plumb line and how it is a faulty view of how gravity works.
John Sharkey and Joanne Avison: Terra Rosa magazine: Biotensegrity, Powering the Fabric of Human Anatomy
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