Today I’m talking with Peter Blackaby who is the author of the book Intelligent Yoga which he is currently writing the 2nd edition for. Pete started practicing yoga in 1978 and began teaching in 1986. He then went on to become an osteopath. In 2002 he became involved in the British Wheel of Yoga (which is the governing body in England), and ran a two-year teacher training program for them. Since then, Pete has been running courses for teachers and teaches functional anatomy and biomechanics in the UK and internationally. His interest in the last 15 years has been to put some scientific underpinning to the practice of yoga, both in the biomechanical sense and in the mind/body relationship.
In today’s conversation we’re talking about moving away from the Western reductionist view of anatomy, what a bottom up approach to yoga looks like vs. a top down approach, how the whole person’s lived experience is tied into how they move, and how yoga teachers can approach working with students who have chronic pain.
Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and the founder of Nutritious Movement. She is the author of several books including Move Your DNA, Whole Body Barefoot, and her most recent collection of essays, Movement Matters. In today’s conversation we’re talking about the ecology of movement. How does your movement affect not just your health but also humans everywhere, even ones you’ve never met, and how does it affect the health of the planet as a whole? We discuss the real impact of our sedentarism and our drive for convenience, and how movement can be a very profound and impactful form of activism.
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.
- 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.
Book + DVD: The Architecture of Human Living Architecture
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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.
- 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.
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Dr. Steve Gangemi, aka The Sock Doc, has ruffled more than a few feathers with his proclamations that stretching is for Bozos... In today's conversation we reconnect to talk about why he's tempered his statement to "stop mindless stretching", what stretching even is, what flexibility is really a reflection of (hint: it's not your stretching regimen), why we might feel the need to stretch, and more.
Steve is a chiropractic physician who has trained in the fields of functional neurology, biochemistry, acupressure meridian therapies, applied kinesiology, and dietary and lifestyle-modification methods. He practices in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- What is stretching and why does its definition seem so different depending on who is delivering it
- What is the difference between flexibility and mobility? Steve likes Ido Portal's definition of mobility which is flexibility plus strength. Being mobile is being stable- able to resist force in certain positions.
- How do we determine what range of motion is useful range for any particular individual?
- The musculoskeletal system and fascia are a reflection of our nervous systems.
- When you get into Eastern medicine they talk about how your emotions affect your muscles and directly affect your ability to stretch and be more flexible. The emotional component is big and manual therapists can forget about it.
- There is a huge campaign right now to get people to stop sitting so much in chairs. However, you are still going to have the same locked up psoas if you aren’t breathing even if you’re moving. It can happen with sitting, but can also happen because you are in a state of fear- that’s how Chinese medicine would look at it.
- Gel fascia:that was the big talk at the FRC this past fall. Most people about fascia as Saran Wrap or a thick angora sweater. That's true, but a different type of fascia is hyaluronic acid. This specifically is a gooey jelly-like fascia that’s everywhere in our body. It hasn’t been talked about because you don’t see this stuff when a person is dead and most students are studying cadavers.
- The extracellular matrix as a body wide communication system- how that works and how it works in the context of people having changes in mobility or ranges of motion.
- Gerald Pollack has some YouTube videos about the 4th state of water as gel. We think of ourselves as 2/3 water, but our molecules are 99% water and it has a high gel-like form. This gel form of water is what makes up the ECM. That is pretty much all of our cells within this fascial matrix. It can change within seconds and some people talking about tit as a separate nervous system.
- How critical touch is in a very under-touched society.
- Why say to move instead of stretch?
- You should not feel the need to be stretching. One of the most important questions to ask yourself is, “why do you feel the need to stretch?” If you are moving well throughout the day you shouldn’t need to stretch out after you’re done, because you should have generated more flexibility during that workout. If you have to stretch out you just did something detrimental to your system.
- Many people feel stretching will decrease injury rates or improve performance but this is inaccurate.
- Is yoga stretching? Contrary to popular belief "yoga" is not sanskrit for "stretching". It is a mindful practice.
- Yoga is like the gluten issue, or yoga is becoming popular like the gluten free diet. A lot of people are doing it but they don’t know why they’re doing it.
James Earls joins me to talk about his book Born to Walk. We discuss how the whole body walks, and some of the different schools of thought that have looked at walking in “parts” instead. This brings to light how we are seduced into seeing anatomy with the same eye that we look at the manmade world around us, and how biological systems don’t follow the same rules as solid objects. In our conversation James also illuminates how ground reaction force works, the essentialness of efficiency in our evolution, the debate about whether or not walking is controlled falling, fascial wrappings as hydraulic amplifiers and oh so much more.
- Some of the schools of thought on walking that look at it in parts: Jacqueline Perry talks about the locomotor portion and passenger portion of walking, Serge Gracovetsky has his spinal engine theory that says we basically don’t need legs to walk.
- It’s all working together- In order to get the bigger picture James needed to weave these ideas together.
- How does the whole body move?
- Different styles of walking- museum walking (with one or two steps and a stop_ makes us more tired because we don’t get to use any of the energy we create with each step. Whereas with a long continuous walk we don’t feel the fatigue the same way because we get to use the energy the system is creating.
- Movement exploration- reach back with one leg and touch toe behind- feel the leg swing forward again. Keeping same position drop head forward and do same thing- the leg doesn’t come forward again with the same efficiency, recoil, and speed. This is because we lose some of the tension of the anterior tissue. The whole body is continuous.
- We have all these different catapult-like mechanisms.
- Lorimer Moseley says we are bioplastic. It’s like neuroplasticity but the whole body can do that in different ways.
- We are seduced into seeing anatomy with the same eye as seeing machines.
- Our world has gone into trying to understand the detail of the part. It’s an inside out strategy rather than outside in.
- Going into natural world a lot things don’t fit the same rules.
- It doesn’t work, because we are not solid.
- Born mid 16th century Robert Hooke challenged Newton. He drew one of the first very detailed pictures of a flea which alluded to some of the elastic mechanisms. Hooke’s law- length of the spring is correlation to the load placed on it.
- Ground reaction force- the body is a tensegrity structure. Ground reaction force is variable- concrete floor vs beach sand. One gives a lot of energy back vs dispersed energy.
- We have evolved to make walking incredibly energy efficient- why is efficiency important?
- The debate as to whether or not walking is controlled falling- how are we like trampolines
- How walking takes advantage of tensegrity’s elastic properties.
- Fascial wrappings are hydraulic amplifiers.
- James gives some universal principles/movement experiments to try out in your walking.
If you liked this episode
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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Today's episode is a double header! First I talk with Richard Brennan, an Alexander Technique teacher in Ireland who is also the originator of the School Chairs Campaign which aims to make backward sloping chairs illegal. Next I up speak with Patricia Pyrka of Beyond Training about her weeklong furniture-free experiment in her son's classroom.
What is approximately 15,000 hours spent sitting throughout the course of a child's education costing them (and us, as the adults who grew up that way)? We talk about the effects to physical and emotional health, as well as brainstorming the options for more movement-friendly classrooms and the upsides that has had.
- Richard explains what the backward slope of a chair is, and why it's so detrimental, and how backward sloping chairs came to be in the first place.
- In the UK teachers are not allowed to sit on the chairs as it is considered a health risk, but that health risk consideration has not been extended to the children.
- The effect a wedge for his child's chair has had.
- The attempts children make to keep their spines upright in the chairs and how it is admonished by educators.
- Everyone is blaming a child's posture deteriorating on heavy school bags, but they sit for 15,000 hours throughout their educational years.
- 1/5th of children in school are already suffering from back pain.
- The lungs and oxygen to the brain are also affected.
- Posture goes much farther than shape- how we dampen children's spirits and personalities through forced sitting.
- Patricia describes how she got inspired to talk with her son's teacher about a furniture-free experiment.
- How she approached the teacher and made it happen.
- How specifically the room was redesigned.
- How she communicated with the students and parents about the upcoming changes.
- The barriers in adult workplaces to sitting on the floor.
- What kind of movement education she used to help the kids adapt.
- How this week affected the children with attention issues.
- Cost comparison of traditional school furniture vs. the equipment they used.
- Does sitting autonomy have an effect on more self-directed learning?
- The teacher's input on how it went from her end.
Say goodbye to the chair for a bit! The floor is your friend... see what happens.