Beyond Anatomy (LBP 062)

I’m talking with Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews, and Peter Blackaby about our upcoming somatic symposium at The Breathing Project in New York this April called Beyond Anatomy. We talk about what “beyond anatomy” means to each of us and what some of the specific things are in our own learning trajectories that we are exploring at this point. 

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How Liberated Body Changed me with Brooke Thomas (LBP 061)

For the final episode of season 3 Bo Forbes turns the tables and interviews me, Brooke Thomas. Bo asks me her own questions as well as those submitted from listeners (thank you!) and we cover a lot of ground. If you want to hear about my personal path with my body, how learning through the podcast changed the way I see all bodies, how I parent based on what I've learned, my current practices (particularly in natural movement and somatic meditation), and what the road ahead looks like tune in.

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Conversation highlights

Bo and I spoke at length and below are the questions that were asked. The circuitous route that ensues after a question was asked is hard to capture so...

  • What’s your earliest memory of being in your body?
  • The sense of being different can be an impetus for innovation or a life sentence- how did that go in your life?
  •  What stands out as key moments bringing you into this work?
  • What did your healing journey look like?
  • How and why did you start Liberated Body? What was the intial vision, how has it changed, how has the practice of doing it changed you?
  • From Rebecca M: "1) You mentioned you had health issues and became really good at eating crackers on the bench while others were involved in activity.  When did you realize that you had crossed over from sedentary to a true lover of movement? 2)  What were some of the obstacles you had along the way and how did you solve the problems?"
  • Bo "The idea that the body should be or should do... it can give people imposter syndrome. Sometimes we just have to step into our place. Often the tipping points we experience are small and subtle, yet the world often conditions us to look for these big momentous transformations.
  • From Patrice N “I know that your curiosity (at least I think I know that) and some physical issues brought you to looking more deeply into embodiment as a topic - but now, after this time of exploration - can you say something of the value you've gained from working with embodiment practices? Often, students/clients don't get what or how an embodied existence enriches the experience of being human.  They seem to think that if they simply feel "no pain" things are fine."
  • From Jill Miller “What do you do for your non-negotiable daily self-care?”
  • From Kristin W "Your mention of the Meditating with the Body program, inspired me to check out Dharma Ocean. The result is that I have been meditating on a daily basis for the first time in my life! The Dharma Ocean approach of deeply grounding in our sacred bodies has changed my life in a short few months. I would love to hear about your experience with it."
  • Luna E “What are your movement actions/daily/weekly/monthly? and how have you dealt with or have you had any injuries?"
  • Natalie “With all the info that you gather how do you discern what to practice for yourself?”
  • Marita “Who or what has changed your way of thinking about your body?”
  • John S “In season 3 we’ve heard from some fabulous researchers. I know there is so much that can be learned through the lens of science. At the same time, I sometimes question how suitable science is for learning about the embodied experience. Science is necessarily based on objectivity and reductionism, while our embodied experience is inherently subjective and holistic. Given these differences, what do you see as the promises and pitfalls of research into the embodied experience?"
  • Julie F “1. Given that body and mind is not separate, and this speaker's discussion has implications for body, mind, and life practices - I would like him to expand that more. Also how he practice the line in his life. 2. Do you have 'play list by theme', also for women..since I don't see too many women in your talks."
  • Ana Maria “I want to know how all the body nerdery has impacted what you're teaching or practicing with your son?”
  • Kathleeen L "Anderson Cooper' recent comment about his massage therapy experience has incited much conversation in our profession. I have been inspired by his experience that negative emotions can be massaged into the body. For the past few days, I have been asking my clients to share a happy, positive thought as I address their area of concern. For example, I had a teacher with tight shoulders. I prompted her to talk about why she got into teaching and her favorite memories as I massaged her upper trapezius. Is there any research or theory to support the idea that positive or negative thoughts can affect muscles in this way?"
  •  Cathy H “How do you metabolize this incredible world of questions and discovery and constant emerging-ness that the podcast invites us into? Everything I believe to be true is only the case for a moment in time and sometimes I feel that what makes me feel curious and alive also makes me feel a touch overwhelmed.”
  • What will you be up to in the off season? What projects are next?

Resources

Brooke's new project- the podcast Bliss + Grit

Bo Forbes

Yoga Tune Up

MovNat

Julie Angel interview

Dharma Ocean

Judith Blackstone

Elm City Coach and Marannie Rawls-Phillippe Bauer

Bernardo Kastrup

Cynthia Price interview

Norm Farb interview

Will Johnson interview

How Mindful Body Awareness Heals with Cynthia Price (LBP 060)

Cynthia Price is an Associate Research Professor at the University of Washington in the Biobehavioral Nursing Department.  Her clinical and research expertise is in the development of body awareness, or interoception, to improve health and well-being. She is the creator of an approach towards educating people in body awareness called Mindful Awareness in Body-Oriented Therapy or MABT for short, and is the founder of the Center for Mindful Body Awareness.

Her research studies have focused on the use of MABT for multiple health conditions including Substance Dependency, PTSD, chronic pain, and HIV.Interested in the processes involved in learning mindful body awareness, Cynthia studies qualitative aspects and underlying mechanisms of the MABT approach. She is an author of two scales to measure interoceptive awareness: the Scale of Body Connection (SBC) and the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA). Committed to increasing health care access to underserved populations, Cynthia works with local and international programs to provide and improve complementary and integrative health care through her research, teaching, and service.

Cynthia’s work is essentially getting at the heart of what I’m most excited about in approaches towards the body. Cynthia and I talk about what MABT’s components are and how it helps people with a diverse range of challenges in clinical settings, how and why she came to do this work, and, more broadly, why we disembody, how individual that is, and what we gain when we cultivate a relationship with our bodies.

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Conversation highlights

  • Cynthia describes herself as a bodywork researcher.
  • As a researcher she developed an approach that grew out of her clinical practice called Mindful Awareness in Body-Oriented Therapy, or MABT. She took the key elements that people needed to develop body awareness and connect with their bodies.
  • Research focuses on looking at how MABT helps people in their lives- people with trauma histories, substance abuse disorder recovery, veterans with chronic pain and PTSD,  as well as people living with chronic pain.
  • MABT involves developing interoceptive awareness.
  • Cynthia trained as a massage therapist in 1981, and was in private practice as a massage therapist for 20 years. Halfway through those 20 years she went back and did her degree in counseling/psychology. She didn’t want to do psychotherapy alone, but wanted to feel more confident bringing a psychotherapeutic focus to her practice.
  • Her practice became about body psychotherapy in approach, but really was about the development of body connection.
  • She worked a lot with people who were in recovery from interpersonal trauma, mostly childhood sexual abuse.
  • The key components of MABT- it is focused on teaching people the fundamental skills of connecting to their inner body sensations.
  • It happens in 3 phases: 1: Literacy. How do you help someone develop a language and identify and be aware of sensation? In this phase they are using massage and stopping and pausing in places and asking people what they are aware of. 2: Learning what mindfulness is and how to engage in that in a somatic way. There are a series of exercises in this phase 3: A guided process of expanding capacity to attend to internal experience mindfully. People tend not to be able to maintain awareness for very long, and this helps with developing the capacity to stay connected inside.
  • The incremental training orientation is enormously important for people who tend to avoid their bodies as a way of being in the world. What we find in our research is that people have gone to meditation classes and they are completely lost and this work helps them to know exactly how to meditate how to be in a mindful place.
  • Why do we disembody? There is not one answer to that question. In my [Cynthia] clinical experience it’s such an individual experience why someone is disconnected.
  • There is a cultural overlay but I think that individual reasons for why people get disconnected have to do with natural coping mechanisms that are really helpful for us for avoiding discomfort. Avoidance allows us to function in the face of things that are overwhelming.
  • There are common things but the individual stories are so individual. It’s part of the beauty of working individually.
  • MABT is differentiated by touch. Historically touch is not used as an emotion regulation tool.
  • The field of psychology has created this split between the body ad psychotherapeutic practices. It’s understandable in that there has been so much abuse of touch- sexual assault and inappropriateness which created those guidelines. That’s why I [Cynthia] wound up in school of nursing. They understood that touch is healing. Massage used to be something nurses did in their care of patients.
  • Psychologists will often wonder about this work- doesn’t touch create more trauma? Absolutely not. One needs to be sensitive in all sorts of ways, but touch allows people to ground their awareness in a way that provides an avenue for them to attend to their internal somatic experience. Touch is this centering focus for the mind.
  • We don’t have an understanding that body awareness is a therapeutic and useful treatment for trauma, addiction, for emotional regulation more broadly
  • That’s why it’s an exciting time. In mindfulness research there has been this focus on looking at mechanisms from a neurological and biological perspective. What has been written are theoretical models. What hasn't happened so much is really having the clinical component of this. How do we teach this work? How do people learn it?
  • This work is ultimately about listening to their body to learn that they can trust their bodies. This sense that the body is against us can be something so pervasive- how do you soften into seeing it as something trustworthy?
  • We get quote after quote [from research participants] of people really describing this. Saying they had no idea how they felt, and no idea that there was a link between physical and emotional sensation.
  • A relationship with your body allows your life to unfold and most people don’t even know what that means unless they have experienced it. How do we talk about this? It’s such an internal process. It’s so experientially grounded.
  • The most surprising and most challenging work with MABT has been with people who have chronic pain. Their pain is so big that it is their primary experience very day.
  • Working with them to bring their attention into their bodies there can be a lot of resistance and fear. Someone who has lived with pain for 20 years and developed an array of coping mechanisms including medication- it’s a lot of them to shift and trust that they can go inside and be with this scary place. This is also true with people who are struggling with PTSD.
  • In working with people with chronic pain that’s been the most amazing thing to witness- how much they discover that their pain is just one piece rather than their whole world.
  • In MABT we’re helping people to take these baby steps. It’s an education process and a creative process.
  • Work with women with substance use disorders: Learning MABT had a significant effect in relapse reduction. They are close to end of a larger study that National Institute of Drug Abuse is funding.
  • The initial findings were quite positive. Not only did women with MABT have lower relapse rates and used less substances overall, they also had less depression, improved emotional regulation, reported less stress, less eating disorders which are often very high in women with substance abuse disorders.
  • That study had a follow up at 9 months and the strongest results were from women continuing the practice on a daily basis.
  • To date she has been training massage therapists in MABT. That’s shifting with growing interest from yoga therapists, psychotherapists, and more so they are starting to open up trainings to people across all these disciplines.
  • One of the things I’ve [Cynthia] started to do is to consider how do we make this work accessible to more people? This started The Center for Mindful Body Awareness for people across all these disciplines and to work with non and for profits who are providing clinical care to incorporate and integrate this work so that it can be more accessible to people who are low income.

Resources

Cynthia Price's Center for Mindful Body Awareness

Upcoming training in MABT this November

Paper: Mindful awareness in body-oriented therapy as an adjunct to women's substance use disorder treatment

All of Cynthia Price's publications

If you’re inspired to support the show, you can do that here. You can also leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher  or simply tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

The Architecture of Living Tissue with Jean-Claude Guimberteau (LBP 059)

guimberteau
guimberteau

Today I’m talking with Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau who practiced for many years as a hand surgeon specializing in microsurgical replantation and transplantation. Many of you listening know him best for his current groundbreaking work exploring and defining the movement of tissues beneath the skin using an intra-operative endoscopic camera to record living tissues, and from that to  develop concepts related to the new paradigm of biological structure in human beings. He is the author of many books including the book and DVD set, The Architecture of Human Living Fascia.

In our conversation today we talk about how he transitioned out of performing surgery and into this discovery of form. We talk about the Multimicrovacuolar Collagenous Absorbing System, or MVCAS for short, and what it has to do with form, how we are volumes, that the traditional anatomical view point of movement happening in 3 planes is incorrect, how each movement is unique, and that structurally we are an apparent, yet intelligent, chaos.  

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Conversation highlights

  • The inspiration to film tissue endoscopically came from taking pictures in reconstructive surgery. He was initially impressed by how tendons were sliding in the connective tissue- to understand that you have to observe it you need a camera.
  • Wan not prepared to find what he found, "I found a very strange world,a  world of fibers, a world without order.
  • MVCAS used this abbreviation 15 years ago for the sliding tissue around the tendon because when you are moving your tendon, the tendon inside this part of your hand is moving but if you observe the surface of the skin of your palm it’s not moving.
  • Between the tendon and skin there is an absorbing system. When you observe it you observe fibers and between them some small vacuoles- the frame is made of collagen.
  • The MVCAS is in fact the fibular network you can find everywhere.
  • Vacuole- this term is not the best, have also thought about using areolar, but too irregular. Aveolar, also interesting. I use vaculoe because it is a small volume with apparently nothing inside.
  • I think of it as a 3 dimensional structure and it’s not made from solid material but it contains proteoglycan gel- it is responsible for our fluid volume.
  • We are volumes. If we are volumes you can’t think the structure of the body only in 3 dimensions otherwise it’s drawing on a book. You can explain how a body is organized only if you accept that we are volumes. Microvacuoles are everywhere made by the intertwining of the fibers in 3 dimensions.
  • It’s made of proteoglycan gel and it’s attracting water. You have a constant volume, so the volume is maintained. It’s adaptable. You can preserve the volume during the movement. From the mechanical point of view this behavior is interesting and for me it’s been a discovery. I was never taught about that. During the first part of my surgeon life I never imagined how it was working.
  • The traditional way of thinking about anatomy tries to explain mobility by a stratification of 3 planes. But in fact that is wrong. If you only think of the traditional anatomy description you can’t explain many things. You can’t for example explain why all these small vessels has such surprising design without any order. Why is it a sort of chaos? How will this chaos assume the perfect blood supply of an organ?
  • When people listen to the world of chaos they think it is completely no sense, but in fact if you look to say a tree try to find an order along the branches. There is no order that humans consider order. It’s a disordered pattern but it’s a tree and it’s a perfect tree. Our body is made with a similar architecture.
  • I think for the moment that biotensegrity is the only one concept able to explain how a body can resist gravity. There is no other concept able to describe it.
  • At first, what I found is not icosahedron [considered the building block of biotensegrity], I found microvacuoles which are not empty, there is glycosaminsoglycans inside the volume. In biotensegrity you never talk about what is inside the icosahedron- We talk about the frame and the tension/compression but never what is inside the volume. This why I have some nuance with the global concept of tensegrity, but I agree with it.
  • Biotensegrity is a theoretical model and I don’t think our body is made of icosahedrons, that’s wrong.
  • You have to have an understanding of the gel volumes with the glycosaminosglycans or proteoglycan gel.
  • How does the system move- sliding vs. gliding  John Sharkey and Joanne Avison  discuss the difference between glide and slide but for a Frenchman this is difficult to understand. At the beginning used gliding. Then met some American and English friends who said use sliding.
  • The mobility of the fibular frame- all these fibers are moving. When you have a movement, 3 or 4 or 10 minutes after if you think you are going to make the same movement, it is not. There is another way that fibers are going to adapt. The external factors are different, and for each movement you have a particular behavior of the fibers. Each movement is unique.
  • At 20 years old you are at optimum of tension inside your body. Little by little all these elements are decreasing slowly in quality because we are not plants to be alive for eternity. We are not as able to resist gravity as well which explains aging. It also explains scars. All the fibular harmony is completely destroyed the result is a true chaos, not an apparent chaos. All these behavior disappears and never returns. A scar is a scar for life.
  • Is it possible to get some of that glide/slide back with a manual therapy approach? Yes, but i think it’s better to hope you never lose the original state. You can largely improve and have a good result but you need time. It’s not in one instant, you need patience.
  • Now we know not to use too large incisions. Surgeries have changed so much over the last several years. It’s a surgical revolution.
  • The ideas are parallel- the body is a perfect harmony and so you use very small incisions to avoid destroying the harmony.
  • Talking about the Theil dissection coming up at Dundee University with John Sharkey and Joanne Avison- it is more difficult to do a dissection with an old cadaver. If you use a tree  cut one year before and if you use a tree still living it’s different. Our idea of anatomy has been built on cadavers, thanks to technology we can change that.

Resources

Jean-Claude Guimberteau's website

Book + DVD: The Architecture of Human Living Architecture

Paper: The role and mechanical behavior of the connective tissue in tendon sliding

Stephen Levin on biotensegrity

Joanne Avison on biotensegrity

John Sharkey on biotensegrity and glide vs. slide

The Dundee University biotensegrity dissection

If you’re inspired to support the show, you can do that here. You can also leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher  or simply tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Parkour with Julie Angel (LBP 058)

Julie Angel received her doctorate researching Parkour, and she has a new book out, Breaking the Jump, which chronicles the birth of this movement. The book, and our conversation, wind up tackling the larger issues that have emerged out of Parkour- like how the origin and effects of this movement is about something so much bigger than athletics or physical training; Really how it was an is a way to evolve as a human. We also get into our cultural biases to, on the one hand, abuse ourselves with physical training, and on the other hand to be so obsessively careful and terrified of movement or of leaning into the edges of one's capabilities that we wind up without much middle ground. We also discuss Julie's personal journey from a sedentary academic to someone who also does Parkour and how that has changed her and how she sees the world.

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Conversation highlights

  • What it means to have a doctorate in Parkour and how Julie ended up studying it.
  • How Julie came at Parkour as a filmmaker and academic- how she was always expecting to be on the other side of the lens.
  • She had been sedentary for 20 years when she started filming and studying Parkour
  • What people were getting from Parkour was more than being amazing athletes.
  • People are usually introduced to it through the visual spectacle of it which is amazing. We’re drawn to that yet at the same time it’s so much more about the relationship of mind body than anything purely physical. It’s not about jumping.
  • The reality of facing something hard- like concrete, or balancing on a rail. These are personal experiences, no one can move for you. You can’t hide or fake it, and every jump is a new jump. It’s very humbling to go out and train.
  • Julie noticed a huge difference with stress in performance. There was no progress- she couldn’t engage on a deeper level.
  • Some of the key things in the “soup” of these founding men’s young lives: They were looking to find their own identity, and these were the tools they were using. It was an extremely multicultural group, all first generation immigrants. The oldest of them is only 42 now- at the time the youngest was 9 years old and the oldest was 14.
  • For 10 years they went through some really unique experiences and the environments they were living in shaped that a lot. There was a lot of discrimination, violence, racism, and not a lot of opportunity.
  • They were also in new towns, suburbs of Paris, that were these daring architectural experiments.
  • Architecturally there was a bizarre landscape- the Dame du lac is the world’s only modernist climbing structure. On the other side was the forest so there was the natural environment as well.
  • Williams Belle his insight at only age 9 that this was about improving oneself outside and inside. Williams started teaching and training the local kids at age 14, and they all described Williams with the word “wise”. He describes Parkour as a question and answer experience every time he moves; that what’s behind the jump is far more fascinating.
  • The group of people who created it are really artists. There was no YouTube, no social media- there aren’t even photos of them training. It was an authentic experience that had to be lived. It was a very mindful practice.
  • There is a real difference between those training for 1 or 2 years and those training for 7 years and beyond.
  • I talk about today's cultural bias to self-abuse with over training. With them, it didn’t go this route because of their relationship to it. Everything was trial and error and high repetitions. People think it would be damaging or a destructive culture- but they had been training for years to get there. They spent a decade exploring what they could do and gradually increasing that. For anyone to imitate that they are going to break their body.
  • They weren’t training for a competition or a TV show- it was only to see what they were capable of. There were competitive elements among them but nothing external. It was like a secret society.
  • They would fall down onto concrete and people would think “what about their knees!?” they’ve been training for 25 years and their knees are fine. It defies the logic we’re told, but they were moving every day in very gradual progressions.
  • A day off would be maybe just 3 or 4 hours of training and a 10 mile run.
  • Their training was the thing that gave meaning to their lives.
  • How has Parkour changed Julie? "It taught me to be brave again. When I was confronted with an obstacle or a challenge I realized I never thought I would be the person who couldn’t do that. This growth mindset in Parkour- that you’ll never be the best, so you’re just trying to improve."
  • "I would envision these really tragic injuries. I realized how disconnected I had become from my environment. I can see now a beauty and an opportunity for places and for movement. You realize that things aren’t fixed- nothing is one thing.
  • "I see a lot more beauty and opportunity in the world. By having all these fears revealed to me I can address them and overcome them. It’s a process.
  • One end of the spectrum is this desire to overtrain and abuse ourselves and the other end is our super careful, bubble wrapped way of being in the world. Parkour is an opportunity to find the middle road.
  • There’s been some great work introducing Parkour to school children as an alternative to PE. If we’re not teaching people who to deal with risk when they are young, how will they deal with it as adults?  This idea of comfort and convenience is very unhealthy. The more you engage with challenge the better facilitated you are mentally and emotionally.
  • A lot of people are quite lonely and isolated in their urban lives and this is a way to reconnect.

Resources

Breaking the Jump (the book)

Julie Angel's primary website (which includes her gorgeous Parkour and MovNat films!)

Julie's See and Do project

If you’re inspired to support the show, you can do that here. You can also leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher  or simply tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Your Body Is Your Soul with Jaap van der Wal (LBP 057)

imgres
imgres

Jaap van der Wal is a phenomenological embryologist who is searching for the soul via the embryo. He teaches about this all over the world through his Embryo in Motion project.

In our conversation today we talked about the dualistic time we are living in and how we make the brain and/or the genes the most important “parts” of the body, how we conceptually consider the body a machine that comes in parts, and the way we separate the soul from the body. Jaap discusses how the embryo challenges the notion that we are our brains, says that genes do not cause what happens in a body, that motion is primary and form is secondary- or that we are always a present-tense alive process that is performing, and hence creating, the body, what fascia has to do with all of this, and that the body does not have a soul, it is a soul.

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Conversation highlights

  • Jaap van der Wal introduces himself as an embryologist and anatomist who is searching for spirit in the human being. He wants to help people to see and become aware that there is something more at stake than just body dimension. 
  • The embryo is the perfect domain to ask questions like what are we doing? What is a body? Is a body something producing us or that we are producing? Is my consciousness coming from my body? Am I shaped by myself?
  • He is not trying to get people to believe in spirit, but to approach it scientifically
  • Early in his career he started having questions like, w"What is anatomy actually telling me about MY body?"
  • The body that I am, that I experience, is quite different than the body I have learned, studied, and dissected.
  • This led him to phenomenology- where you don’t become an onlooker, you primarily start to experience the reality. The body you live, the body you are is different than what he had to teach the students.
  • From the beginning your body is a performance, a life-long process.
  • The embryo challenges the idea that we are our brain. For more than 8 weeks in the embryonic stage you do not have a brain in the way we do now. How do you exist when you are an embryo?
  • There is so much presence or awareness in your body that is not your brain's behavior.
  • He learned from the embryo that your body is not producing a brain which is producing you. You are producing from day one til your last day- it is the primary thing you do. Every morning you wake up new. You are not a machine
  • Your brain is not moving your arms, you are moving your arms. I need a brain, I need muscles, I need a lot of things to produce that movement.
  • Every day or every moment you have a new body. This is your body being a performance. We are a time body. Every living organism is a process, not a machine built up from particles. The anatomist is wrong. All phases of your life are a part of the whole performance in time which your body is.
  • Genes do not cause anything. The most lifeless molecule is the DNA. It is a molecule of heredity. It is produced by living organisms, and not the reverse.
  • Genes and brains are necessary but not sufficient conditions to give a body its shape.
  • When you change the genes or brain the organism behaves differently, but that does not prove that they cause behavior. His wife’s brain tumor and her personality changed. If you damage a brain you get a damaged personality. Yes, but that does not prove that the brain is primary.
  • Modern science thinks the experiment proves that they are right. Science is not what they want us to believe. They want us to believe that it is a new way to know everything, yet every scientist has in his or her mind the frame of thoughts that is looking for the facts in harmony with the idea.
  • What is making the embryo? The only answer is that apparently in me and all of us there is something else realizing itself in us.
  • Spirit and matter if they exist must be one.
  • Modern materialism has no future. He is worried about the future that will be realized by a society that only believes in brains, genes, and bodies.
  • If you’re alive then you’re alive but we don’t understand what aliveness is or that it’s happening all the time.
  • Learned from the embryo motion is primary, forms come out of motion- the embryo is not past.
  • Motion is the primary dimension and related to time. Bodies appear in time. Time and motion are related.
  • We are motions and processes producing forms.  That’s what we can learn from the embryo
  • Erich Blechschmidt- the German embryologist, "Don’t consider soul or psyche as something added to the body later." The soul is pre-exercised in the body. Your body is behavior. If you want to understand human behavior psychologically you also have to look physiologically. The way we shape our body is what we are capable of psychologically and physiologically.
  • Fascia is about this "producing" our body. It is faithful to actions and emotions
  • Stop talking about “germ layers” ecto, endo, meso. It’s too anatomical. We don’t have 3 layers. We have ecto and endo and then we have an in-between, an innerness.
  • We are addicted to causality. Why? Finding a cause means you can manipulate it. It’s our only motive. Finding the cause of disease means we can manipulate it. It is very helpful, it saved the life of his wife, but it is not the only reality.
  • The body does not have a soul it is a soul. It is one.

Resources

Jaap van der Wal's website www.embryo.nl, and the Embryo in Motion project

Article: The Embryo in Us: A Phenomenological Search for the Soul and Consciousness in the Prenatal Body (English version)

If you’re inspired to support the show, you can do that here. You can also leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher  or simply tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Embodied Cognition and Health with Cathy Kerr (LBP 056)

catherine-kerr
catherine-kerr

Cathy Kerr is the director of the Mind-In-Body Lab at Brown University. Her research focuses on whether brain rhythms underlying body awareness and movement are actively modulated by mindfulness and movement practices such as Tai Chi and Qigong. Her hope is that understanding how these therapies work will have a positive impact on conditions like aging and chronic pain or functional disorders where these approaches have shown the clearest therapeutic benefit.

She joined me today to talk about the focus of her research broadly, but also to discuss a specific research study that is in progress which is looking at the effects of Qigong on distressed female cancer survivors.

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Conversation highlights

  • What does her research focus on? The status of body awareness as a therapeutic mechanism and looking specifically at mechanisms related to body awareness in the brain; How neurons process and relate to body focused attention, primarily in the somatosensory cortex.
  • Became interested in body awareness originally a Qigong practitioner because of having a difficult chronic illness for 20 years. Cathy noticed that with her practice the sense of touch in her hands would change.
  • Started to wonder if body experience could be part of a therapeutic mechanism. Was it a way of signaling healing? Or a very active way of creating the placebo effect?
  • Initially began researching the placebo effect with Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard
  • In 2005 departure from work on placebo and learned the neuroscience of body awareness.
  • First project to look at the effects of body awareness within a healing technique- for that technique they ended up choosing MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction).
  • It was paradoxical because they were not a part of the mindfulness research community, and mindfulness as a body based healing technique not the majority view.
  • The study showed that after 8 weeks of MBSR training people were better at exerting pinpoint control over neurons in their somatosensory map.
  • Cathy's TED talk mindfulness begins in the body.
  • There is an interesting suta by the Buddha- the 4 foundations of mindfulness, and mindfulness of the body is the first foundation. Cathy wrote a review paper on this in 2013.
  • Cathy's teaching with medical students at Brown how to have immediate access to body sensations as an anchor for mindfulness.
  • This is an immediate way of stabilizing the mind. For many Western people their mind can be floating free and ungrounded and anchoring your mind in the body is very powerful.
  • Some people don’t even know that they can voluntarily shift their attention to their body. (story of a man who jumped away from his own hand because he was so startled when he shifted his attention to it).
  • Many people with chronic pain, and IBS don’t have that ability to bring the mind to the body. The reason is that they are already always preoccupied with these negative body experiences.
  • What’s really exciting right now is that The Davidson Lab has begun to look at the effects of mindfulness and exercise. They are bringing mindfulness off the cushion. It really helps people to understand a broader range of embodied approaches like Tai Chi, or yoga.
  • At the University of Washington Dr. Cynthia Price is working with assisted mindfulness in people with trauma. In  assisted mindfulness a bodyworker helps them to be and stay present while they work with mindful attention to body sensation.
  • Cathy's current study on the effects of Qigong on distressed female cancer survivors.
  • She chose Qigong because she wanted to see what would happen if researchers expanded the number of modalities they looked at in addition to just mindfulness.
  • There is a novel undertanding of how the mind and body relate in Qigong. The hope was that they could capture these ideas and understand them in scientific terms
  • Cancer survivors are really underserved and have a lot of psychosocial needs. About 30 to 50 % of them are actively fatigued and distressed for years following cancer remission. Is this chemo? Existential effects? They don't know but the main thing is people are not able to return to their full lives. The whole pink ribbon campaign doesn’t really capture this reality.
  • Gentle physical movement in a group can really transform people’s experiences. The question is why, and how does it work
  • Inflammatory cytokines show an up-regulated process of inflammation going on in the body. Especially in people who are highly fatigued. This process of inflammation is really important for many diseases.
  • There are now some markers in blood that we can measure- giving insight into this process of daily inflammation. They are associated with feeling sick and tired daily. If you are bathed in inflammation for years it can bode poorly for susceptibility for many issues like heart disease, vascular disease, it is associated with dementia... Getting a better understanding of inflammation is one of the main scientific tasks right now.
  • We know that if you are injected with one of these inflammatory cytokines you will get "sickness behaviors" like not wanting to get out of bed and feeling generally unwell... but we don’t know how to clear these inflammatory cytokines out.
  • There is an old Chinese folk saying- the mind (yi) leads the qi, the qi leads the blood.
  • This seems to suggest a solution to the puzzle of qi. So if you behave as a scientist you can measure the mind and its ability to focus on the body. You can measure the yi and the blood... So maybe that is a pathway of how mind intent or somatic awareness might have an effect on parameters in the blood like inflammation or the ability of the blood to flow through the body.
  • Embodied cognition: many philosophers have gone on this mind trip and have posited these ideas of brains in jars and brains in vats- that we can only look at brains. They are saying no there is a relationship between brian and body and body and world and if you miss that you miss everything.
  • Interoception research has been a very brain centered endeavor to the point where all the relevant processing is considered to takes place in areas in the brain. But in fact there is a lot of bodily signaling from the heart and other centers.
  • Neurons in the body have their own way of processing experience and an ability to send independent sources of information that are not simply sensory through-puts but are actual information processing. There are independent sources of information and embodied cognitive processing to help the body in the brain.
  • We want to measure different forms of connection between the hand and the brain. Want to see if that changes during the course of practice.
  • We hear a lot about consciousness. One of the main factors is something called a brain rhythm. The gama rhythm is of consciousness. There was a study in 2004 of Tibetan monks doing compassion practice gama rhythms go off the charts. It turns out these rhythms also extend into the muscles, and these rhythms of consciousness that extend into the muscles also relate back to the brain.
  • The beta rhythm is a stopping rhythm. It’s very operative in thinking and in moving. If you need to hold something in memory beta says no more info for a bit please. Beta becomes disregulated in parkinson’s disease. Measuring beta in Qigong. Looking at quality of information that the muscle spindle neurons send back to the cortex.
  • Curious about if that somatic awareness has effects on the ways that the muscles process information. Do some of those effects tell us anything about changes in blood flow or in inflammation?
  • The rubber hand illusion tells us that there is this very interesting multi-sensory body sensing capacity.
  • It tells us that our sense of the body is being knit together by these different streams all the time.
  • Their biggest hope with this study is that they will learn something new about how some of these body awareness practices like Tai Chi and yoga might have an impact on inflammation. It could be a novel mechanism for understanding inflammation. That’s the big home run hope.
  • Being able to have an impact on the distress of this population would be wonderful.
  • Cathy asks me is there a discussion about the intelligence of the body? How do I as a practitioner use that? \
  • I talk about the Liberated Body tribe- most of us are in a variety of manual and movement therapies. The thing that makes us all stand out is that we have a reverence for the body - we believe in its importance to life.
  • My life changes the more engaged I am with my body.
  • As a larger group the thing that makes us different in terms of the broader culture is that we talk about the body as something critical to a rich thriving life.
  • Cathy: there is so much wisdom in people who are carrying that out in a daily practice. There are so many of these practices across all cultures. There must be something universal about this, it's not just something people are making up. I’m excited about people engaging with the science.
  • Fascia research: We are all learning how the nervous system and the connective tissue scaffolding are so intertwined.
  • There is a lot of exciting sense of possibility. It’s like we discovered we have the amazon right here in the body.

Resources

Dr. Cathy Kerr's Mind-In-Body Lab at Brown University

Cathy's TED talk: Mindfulness Starts in the Body

Cathy's paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Mindfulness Starts with the Body

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Ted Kaptchuk and placebo research 

The Davidson Lab

University of Washington Dr. Cynthia Price

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A New Paradigm of Anatomy with John Sharkey (LBP 055)

In this episode I am talking with John Sharkey who is a Clinical Anatomist, Exercise Physiologist, and European Neuromuscular Therapist. He has developed the worlds only Masters Degree in Neuromuscular Therapy which is Accredited by the University of Chester, he is on the editorial board for the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, the International Journal of Osteopathy, and the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. He is also a member of the Olympic Councils medical Team and a founding member of the B.I.G, otherwise known as the Biotensegrity Interest Group. He has also authored several books including the 3rd edition of The Concise Book of Muscles which we talk about in the interview.

John and I are talking here in great depth about the old paradigm of anatomy and biomechanics and what the new paradigm holds. This is critical stuff here. We are on the brink of a new understanding of the living human body and it’s time to look at the old models, where they come from, and why they are outdated. So if you’re interested in living tissue vs. cadavers, biotensegrity vs. biomechanics, continuity of form vs. origin insertion, and how individual human anatomy is and what that changes about our often dogmatic approaches to the body this episode is for you.

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Conversation highlights

  • What is a clinical anatomist?
  • For a long time there was a big gap between the medical field and massage therapy. He made the decision that physiology and anatomy were gong to be the foundations that he was built on.
  • Alma mater is Dundee University in Scotland. The clinical anatomy department there was within the department of anatomy and human identification so it was a broad speciality.
  • Clinical anatomy is all about "where". Where is the phrenic nerve? Where is the... and not just where, but what is its path? What structures lie close to it? This informs surgeons as to where the nerves are and in what percentage of population would you find it 1cm lateral or medial etc. Anatomists feed on technicalities, detail, and specificity.
  • Me: If clinical anatomy is about where and about knowing the names of structures then it is steeped initially in the old paradigm. Yet you are also a champion for the new paradigm. Do you agree with terms old/new paradigm and how would you differentiate them?
  • His work with Dr. Stephen Levin who was investigating the biotensegrity model.
  • When studying anatomy, new students are given a textbook like Grey’s, they open it up and will tell them how to carry out a dissection. They will follow the dissection descriptions the same way previous students carried it out the same way students previous to them carried it out and on and on... from that viewpoint dissection always the same.
  • We also want to get through the skin and get to the structures that matter the most like the nerves, blood vessels, and viscera. This is the focus of parts and the language of parts. John wanted to explore the language of wholes and appreciate the relationships and continuities.
  • John's work with Dr. Levin's BIG (Biotensegrity Interest Group).
  • Definition of biotensegrity in his terms.
  • To give a visual people will often use the Skwish toy made by the Manhattan Toy Company. However we are not made of wooden struts and elastic bands.
  • Words are hugely important. Human tissue is not supposed to be stretched. It does not stretch.
  • Once tissues in the pelvis have stretched they will not return to their former state. There are many people who will spend hours stretching- gymnasts for example. How are they achieving this new range of motion? We don’t want to take the origin and insertion further away, so we are changing the tissues that lie between them.
  • Also doesn’t like the term sliding. Many people use that term. However place one hand on top of the other and move your hands back and forth. Feel the heat which is the consequence of friction. This is not a good way to build a body. In living architecture tissues do not slide, they glide relative to each other. Guimberteau’s videos demonstrate that beautifully.
  • We talk about stretching in a Newtownian way. If we take the Newtowninan tube- for example the heart or blood vessels- the tube would lengthen and it would expand under pressure and with all the pressure the blood vessels of the brain should also expand and would squeeze the brain out of the ears. And that doesn’t happen because of non-linearlity.
  • Language has to evolve alongside our models as they evolve.
  • We’re getting a very antiseptic view of the human body. However let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. He loves the history of anatomy.
  • The icosehderon as the building block of biotensegrity. We will never get to see that because the icoshedron is a 3 dimensional version of a 4th dimensional thing.
  • We have a right eye and a left eye. All the visual information you take in that goes to the brain will cause the brain some problems because the images from the 2 sides do not correct, and the brain fills in gaps. At best we see in 2.5D, but tensegrity icosehedrons happens in 4D. Like a mobius strip- there is no inside or outside but only continuity- that is what living architecture is like.
  • We need to recognize that what we are dealing with requires soft matter physics. This will give us the mathematical models that will provide us with computer graphics to help us to explain the multidimensional dynamics. 
  • It's amazing to me that we are still working on the idea that the body is a lever based system. In an x-ray we can see there is space between those bones. Why are the bones not crushing each other? People have this notion that there must be a lot of fluid in the knee joint. However if you lick your hand- that’s how much fluid is in the knee joint.So what is keeping the integrity of that joint space?
  • People like Serge Gracovetsky have demonstrated that to do a deadlift it would have to demonstrate so much intra abdominal pressure that they would explode.
  • Bone is soft matter- it is all it is is a continuation of the fascia.
  • Me: You recently co-authored 3rd edition Concise Book of Muscles. What was the approach to building bridges between new and old paradigms in that book?
  • Change takes time. Origin and insertion type of detail is important for med students. However, the other aspect is introducing a section co-authored with Dr. Stephen Levin to introduce biotensegrity for a new anatomy of the 21st century. In the next 10 to 15 years the 6th and 7th editions will look very different.
  • Working with cadavers treated with formaldehyde changes the texture and color- everything looks same.
  • Once you make an incision to skin and allow atmospheric air to touch what is beneath the skin you will begin to see changes taking place. From that viewpoint if someone takes a tissue out of the body and investigates it what you are actually witnessing are emergent properties. You have to see it in situ.
  • Jean Claude Guimberteau could do what no university would allow. He got permission from patients to place a camera under their skin. For the first time in history we have recorded images of our connective tissue in living tissue. It has blown people away.
  • This is the type of evidence that demonstrates to people that you cannot stretch tissues. Tissues glide relative to each other. In fact in Dundee we are going to bring in an endoscope and use it on the Thiel cadavers. The cadavers hold on to original colors, fluids move, lungs inflate and deflate. It is as close to being a surgeon as possible. However there is no life in the tissue.
  • Aliveness changes so much which is why Guimberteau’s films are so important.
  • Individuality is the norm of human anatomy.
  • Every bone is a sesamoid bone.
  • Anatomists have discovered a new muscle in the quadriceps- not sure what we're going to call the quadriceps group now...
  • In the dissection room students will take out boxes of femurs and pelvises and they will measure them. When they come back they will find none of the measurements are similar in any of the bones. This tells you that there is no one squat that fits all. You have to work with people as individuals.
  • There is nothing perfect in human anatomy or neurology.
  • The real motors for movement in shoulder come from lower limbs. So many people who train things in isolation do it for purely for cosmetic reasons. If you think of it in terms of chains and links you have this massive link with no relationship to the entire chain. Now it produces forces out of sync with the entire chain.
  • Our strengths used to be dictated by needing to climb a tree or over rocks. We didn’t have a fitness center where we could put our legs in a leg press and disassociate these structures and ask them to repeatedly contract. When we do this we are teaching the body new neuromuscular anagrams and losing the connection between the whole body.
  • People should be informed. Once people understand the ramifications they can make an informed choice.
  • Children involved in sports and demanding activities will have long term ramifications to their adult form.

Resources

John Sharkey's website

Upcoming event pre-conference day of the British Fascia Symposium

Upcoming event Dundee University Biotensegrity dissection

Dr. Stephen Levin 

My interview with Dr. Stephen Levin

Skwish Toy

Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau

Serge Gracovetsky

Concise Book of Muscles 3rd Edition

If you’re inspired to support the show, you can do that here. You can also leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher  , or simply tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!