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


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.  




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.


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!

Connective Tissue and Inflammation with Helene Langevin

Dr. Helene Langevin received her medical degree from McGill University and did a post doctoral research fellowship in Neurochemistry in Cambridge, England. Her residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Endocrinology and Metabolism was at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is a Professor in Residence of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital and is also a part-time Professor of Neurology, Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. She was appointed as Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in November 2012.

As if that weren’t enough to keep a person busy… In our worlds she is best known as the Principal Investigator of NIH-funded studies investigating the role of connective tissue in low back pain and the mechanisms of manual and movement based therapies and acupuncture.

Today she joins me to talk about her research- specifically how stretching impacts inflammation resolution in connective tissue, how connective tissue is a critical component of the immune system, how movement influences immune processes, and what this all might mean for both prevention and resolution of both chronic pain and cancer.




Conversation highlights

  • Why her research focuses on the role of connective tissue in chronic pain, and the mechanisms of movement and manual based therapies as well as acupuncture.
  • Her first NIH grant in which they designed a robotic arm to manipulate acupuncture needles and found that the cause of the force was greatly increased when the needle was rotated. This was due to the mechanical stimulation delivered to the connective tissue.
  • How this got her interested in the effects of stretching tissue.
  • Research suggests acupuncture needles interact with different pathways in the nervous system. The connective tissue can simply be the mechanical link between needle and sensory nerves.
  • They found that there are cells within connective tissue- the fibroblasts- which change shape. They expand and remodel internally. So the needle might be having an effect on the connective tissue in addition to what happens in the nervous system.
  • When the fibroblasts change shape they secrete ATP. It's a molecule we think of in terms of energy in production in the cell. However, ATP can be used in a different way and can function as a signaling molecule outside the cell. Release of ATP from cell is necessary for the cell to change shape.
  • There is research being done at The University of Rochester by Dr. Nedergaard and Dr. Takano (in resources) on the effect ATP downstream- showing an analgesic effect on sensory nerves.
  • Dr. Langevin clarifies her 2002 paper Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes (in resources) saying, “We have to be careful here when we talk about correlation of acupuncture meridians and fascial planes." and "it’s not surprising the channels aroe found between a bone and a muscle or between two fascicles of a muscle... does that mean that fascial planes are the same as meridians? I wouldn’t say that”
  • Cancer is not just a collection of tumor cells growing out of control> They need a base and that base is the connective tissue- the stroma. The cancer takes the connective tissue hostage.
  • Dr. Patricia Keely at The University of Wisconsin has studied that cancer is likely to spread along places where the connective tissue matrix forms these railroads where the cancer can spread. (in resources)
  • Dr. Langevin's paper Stretching Impacts Inflammation Resolution in Connective Tissue (resources). She defines inflammation and what it means for both cancer and chronic pain.
  • In musculoskeletal pain it’s not always clear where the tissues are that are creating the pain. In low back pain for years the belief was that it was coming from the spine.
  • How does fascia generate pain? The soft tissues of the back can be the source of pain if they have a source of persistent inflammation in the tissues.
  • Dr. Langevin defines stretching and the protocol they used with the rats at UVM in the research study.
  • Viscoelastic changes in fascia can happen fairly quickly, but the fibroblasts are much slower and didn't start changing until about the 10 minute mark.
  • I ask Dr. Langevin to differentiate between movement and stretching.
  • Static vs. dynamic stretching is a very important differentiation.
  • In the studies of athletes and static stretching, "I’m not convinced athletes weren’t stretching too much? Stretching beyond the limits is ripping the tissue, and the idea more is better may not apply. Achieving the right and specific force of the tissue may be very important."
  • The connective tissue is really the home of the immune system.
  • In her current research she is pursing the aspect of inflammation resolution with respect to the dose of stretching. She also wants to see the role of connective tissue in back pain and the response to body based treatments- both manual and movement based.
  • She is also interested in looking at longitudinal studies- observing back pain over time. Children and adolescents that are getting back pain at an earlier and earlier age- do changes in connective tissue precede the development of back pain?


Dr. Helene Langevin on Brigham and Women's website

Osher Center for Integrative Medicine- a partnership between Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital

Dr. Langevin's paper Stretching Impacts Inflammation Resolution in Connective Tissue

Dr. Nedergaard and Dr. Takano research at the University of Rochester

Dr. Langevin's paper Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue

Dr. Patricia Keely's research at the University of Wisconsin on how cancer spreads along "lines" in the connective tissue 

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful. If technology isn’t your thing however you can just tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

The Best of Body Nerdery in 2015


The year 2015 has been an abundance of riches for me, and really much of that is due to listeners like you. When I began the Liberated Body Podcast I knew I wanted to talk with teachers and thought leaders who were shaping the way we understood our own bodies. It felt like a personal master's degree that I was putting together for myself in order to immerse myself more deeply in my field. I just happened to decide to do it in public via a podcast. What I didn't anticipate was the thriving tribe of body nerds who would come join the party and make it infinitely richer.

The way I know that I'm on to something over here is not because fantastic people agree to talk with me, or that I'm gradually improving my interviewing skills, or any silly metric like a growing number of listeners. It is because all of you are so scary smart, dialed into your own bodies, and profoundly aware of how critical it is to make the world a more embodied place. And you want to listen to my show!?Whaaaa!?

I feel so humbled and grateful that you have wandered into my world and to know all of you through this little body nerd learning home we have created here. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a part of this journey with me. And thank you for the good work you are doing in the world- I know most of you are teaching and practicing in the wide array of somatic fields and this work is so sorely needed on the planet right now. Keep it up.

With that, here are some of the highlights from the show for me in 2015 in order from January to the most recent. Picking a favorite episode can feel like picking a favorite child, so I just sifted through my mind and heart for the outtakes that I keep returning to most frequently.

Gil Hedley:

Our superficial fascia is this sort of glowing leaf that we all wear, and it’s a sensual, slippery slope, it’s an emotional ride, it’s part of our sexuality and our sensuality. I would go so far as to say it’s part of how we listen to our world. It’s a kind of antennae that we pick up information of a certain type. In other words, texture has specific structure, and therefore specific tone. We can go very far into it. Superficial fascia is an endocrine organ. It’s an organ of metabolism. We could go on with its many different features, but that’s only because I’ve come to notice and accept it as this thing that we all have. It belongs there.

We’re depleted without it. If you consider also this is the place where a baby rests on it’s mother’s breast, and nurses there, that this is part of the layer as well. When we refuse it, or curse it, and hate it, we hate all that it brings to us as well, and separate ourselves from that comfort, from that sensuality, from the ministry of the superficial fascia to our personalities in a life. We put ourselves away from our self when we hold up to brutal criticism, a tissue. Some day down the road maybe we’ll hate muscle the way we hate superficial fascia now, and it’ll reverse. We didn’t always hate it. It’s a new thing to hate that tissue.

Judith Aston:

One of the pieces that I became aware of and really became such an integral part of the work that I teach is that I heard so often that gravity was the enemy; That you have to fight it and the way you fought it was by holding up against it. Before I met Dr. Rolf in dance and in different posture classes we were taught to pull up to the sky hook. Dr. Rolf had her own model.. It also had this up feel, this is a feeling of up that you had to pull up against the force of gravity pulling us down.

When I look at that model in action I didn’t like the effort. This little voice inside me said, “If this is correct, why does it have to be so effortful? If this is correct, why do people not do it naturally?” Therefore I was off jumping in to the field of trying to figure out a different way of finding a better posture and being on the planet. I’m not lifting up. I never saw a sky hook before. The only sky hook I’ve ever seen are those that hold the skeleton by the head in a screw. There is no sky hook. If we bounce off the earth, if we let go into gravity, it increases this pressure into the ground and it pushes back on us. As children we learn that spontaneously.

Stephen Levin:

We essentially are foams... When I started doing this, I tried to find some structure that looked like a cell and that would build from a cell. The icosahedron is one of the Platonic Solids going way back. It’s a fully triangulated structure. Again, only triangles are inherently stable, so if you’re going to have flexible hinges, you have to be triangulated. It’s omnidirectional so that you can turn in any direction. It has the largest volume for surface area, so it’s energetically in the sense of using materials that are most economical. It can be close-packed to fill space or would fill spaces like cellular space filling. It joins together. When it does join together, it’ll share structures.

It’s like sharing the faces in the bubble, as we pointed out. The individual icosahedrons can actually then function as a one unit structurally, but it also has the ability to function as the individual unit. They become independent and interdependent at the same time. It can have an external or internal skeleton. You can internalize the compression elements instead of keeping it in the outside shell, and that internal creation is a self-emerging property that comes from the structure itself. It also has mechanical properties that are non-linear, or viscoelastic, which is the same as biologic materials.

Ged Sumner:

The body is full of bliss. Absolutely. That's the greatest secret of all actually- It's brimming with it and somehow we remove ourselves from it... I think something in our culture has said no way can we experience bliss, especially if it's free. No way can that be the case. How can that possibly be the case!? We've sinned way too much to experience something as beautiful as that.

But it's there, it's on offer from your cells all the time. We've just generated this ability to shift away from it. Maybe it's unbearable? The unbearableness of light? We like misery- it's what we know. We are completely as mad as hatters. It's kind of funny really. I laugh at myself and all of us, we're so crazy and we keep digging the hole don't we? We make it worse all the time. It's got to be more complex, faster... all kinds of weird attainments to get to.

And all the time the very thing we probably do want is right there, it's sat with you, it's sat within you. It's your biology. I don't think you need to make it any more complex than that. The bliss of biology. The bliss of your blood moving around you body. And when you start to tune into these things- the simple things like your heart beating and literally arterial and venous flows- it's totally blissful. Give it a week of meditation and you'll be walking around in this beautiful state all the time and not getting caught up in the past or the future. There lies happiness. Just feeling your bones- that is the most beautiful thing. To feel the living bone. Not as an idea, not as a visualization, but to actually to drop into your sensory awareness of that. And on it goes... that is a universe of experience. It's endless. Endless experience and it's all within. All that is necessary is a finessing of your sensing apparatus.

Frank Forencich:

The "long body" is a rarely talked about Native American term. My understanding of the long body is that it refers to the individual body plus the life support systems around it. So it's a much bigger conception of the human body than what we normally have in Western culture. This seems not just to be a Native American idea but it comes up again and again in native or indigenous cultures. They don't make such a distinction between the body and the larger environment; They see the body as being continuous with the larger environment...

In this realm the question that always comes up is why do you have a nervous system, what does it do? And the short answer is that you have a nervous system to regulate your own body. That's true and that sounds good; It's fantastically effective at doing that. But the nervous system has other functions as well that have to do with learning. For human beings in particular, the purpose of the nervous system is to learn habitat and to learn our social environment as well. So we have this incredible sensitivity to these two things: the land, habitat, to plants, the weather, sensation. And also we have this incredible sensitivity to one another.

In other words, the nervous system is all about helping us to learn our life support systems: The ecological ones and the tribal ones. This is why we have a nervous system. If we ignore the life support systems of habitat and tribe then we look at the body in isolation and we miss so much of what the body is actually doing in the world. The body is not as singular and unitary as it would appear.

Joanne Avison:

Fascia is by no means new, it's been there since before the dinosaurs. But what's very interesting from a historical point of view is that it was largely ignored anatomically for its significance. What that means is that John Godmen 100 years before Andrew Taylor Still, 100 years before where we are now, all mentoined the fascia as being highly siginficant and a major part of the body when viewed from an anatomical point of view.

What happened was, if we go back in history very briefly- basically science has to have an element of something popular that inspires the patronage of the appropriate circles to have it considered and have it researched. Rene Descartes was considered to be the father of modern science and he did what Candace Pert in the book Molecules of Emotion called a turf deal with the Pope. Human dissection was not allowed, it was forbidden. So he did a deal with the Pope persuading him that it was appropriate to do human dissection. The Pope basically sanctioned human dissection under very specific circumstances- the church held jurisdiction over the mind, the spirit, the soul and the emotions- anything non-physical. And the physical body only could be taken to science and examined under scientific law. According to Candace Pert that created a rift in the science. It took it down a road under the auspices of the person that had this type of examination sanctioned.

We can't make Rene Descartes the bad guy, his work was extraordinary, but the circumstances under which that work developed meant that the future of work with the body was designated under the way clocks were managed. Horology was another one of his [Rene Descartes] studies- and he suggested that the human body functioned by means like a clock- levers and pendulums. He saw it as like any other automaton. It was divorced from its context. And so anatomy progressed in scraping away anything that isn't a thing.

When you do a dissection fascia is everywhere... Fascia is continuous and ubiquitous. It is absolutely everywhere and it is connected from the tiniest microscopic part of the innermost core of a muscle out to the skin. And it covers the bones, the organs, the neurovascular vessels- absolutely everything within this mesh-and it is continuous. That is one of the reasons why when it is unbroken it affects everything we do.

No one is saying the muscles aren't doing anything, no one is saying the bones are not doing anything- No one is saying throw out the old and in with the new. We are inviting an evolution of the perspective. We are saying we have to include this highly significant fabric of our form because it is all joined up.

Daniel Keown:

We're all effectively crystals. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but our bones are crystalline, the collagen itself is semi-crystalline. And one of the properties of crystals is pizeoelectricity. That means that when you bend a crystal it will create electricity. And equally if you apply electricity to a crystal it will bend.

So anyone who's got a cigarette lighter with the clicky thing that produces a spark- that spark is being produced by pizeoelectricity. There is a tiny quartz crystal in there and when you push it down it deforms this quartz crystal and you get more electrical current on one side and that arcs across the gap and you get a spark of electricity. This is happening all the time within our bodies. The collagen itself appears to be pizeoelectric.

Within our bones this is almost certainly why astronauts lose all their bone mass in space. Because the gravitational stress on your bones is constantly deforming the collagen and that's producing electrical currents. Where these currents are strongest we know that bone cells move into the area nd they lay down calcium and phosphorus and this creates hardness, this creates incompressibliity... This is governed by the electricity in the area generated when things move.

When you go into space because there is not more gravitational stress on the bones there is no more stressing of the collagen and no more piezoelectricity. So the bone cells, called osteoblasts, think, "Oh great! We've done a fantastic job and there's no need to do anymore building." And then the bones get slowly reabsorbed. So piezoelectricity is everywhere in our bodies, and again it's almost completely ignored by Western medicine.

Happy 2016 everyone! I look forward to more deep body learning with all of you soon, and am currently in the process of creating the line up for season 3 of the podcast. It never ceases to amaze me how many spectacular people there are to talk to in the somatic fields. I look forward to sharing those conversations with you soon!

photo by Shelly S

The Spark in the Machine with Daniel Keown (LBP 046)

Dr. Daniel Keown, who is both a Western medical doctor and a Chinese medicine doctor joins me for a conversation about his book The Spark in the Machine

We discuss many of the crucial things that Western medicine ignores- things like fascia, extracellular fluid, how an embryo knows how to organize around a seeming blueprint, and how your spirit affects your health. We talk about how fascia explains Qi, how and why jing and shen are better predictors of lifespan and health than a person’s genetics, what cancer has to do with fascia and Qi, how we are all built like crystals, what that has to do with piezoelectricity, and so much more. 




Conversation highlights

  • Why do you begin your book with the question "Why can’t humans regenerate?"
  • It gets to the core of what healing is. The question isn’t how does it occur by why can’t we? In primitive animals they can regenerate limbs.
  • There is this myth in western medicine that somehow doctors heal you. What they really do it allow the healing to occur.
  • Chinese medicine knows and has always known that the space between the cells is as important as the cells themselves. The spaces in the cells taken up by extracellular fluid- it makes up about 40% of the body- so it's a huge amount of fluid. If you imagine your skin as a membrane that keeps everything in, and this is the fluid that bathes all of our cells, it’s also a communication medium. Yet there is no real concept of this fluid as being living and important in Western medicine.
  • Western medicine does not really have a philosophy of health.
  • Qi is the energetic blueprint from which matter is made manifest.
  • We are one cell that develops into trillions and trillions of cells in our perfect complex organisms- there is an energetic blueprint on how that forms, and that’s Qi.
  • Jing and shen are more real than genetics in terms of predictors of health and longevity. The big problem with genetics is that it is too complex. People think you have “a code” but that’s not how it works. You have multiple different codes- this is the science of epigenetics. If you are in a stressful situation you will tap into that "code" to get you through the stressful situation.
  • That’s an example of your shen, your spirit, affecting your jing, your matter. This plugs into why meditation is so important and why living a good life is so important- it resonates through your material body. The science of genetics is not going to go much farther, it is going to go into epigenetics.
  • Fascia explains Qi because fascia is like the skeleton that your body is built around. It is a web and then the cells grow into this web or are knitted into it.
  • Doctors and scientists will talk about how they can grow a heart, but they can't actually do it. They will take the heart of a pig, strip away everything but the fascia, then inject heart stem cells- they’re kind of cheating. The Qi is like the skeleton of fascia.
  • Chinese medicine devotes two organs to fascia- triple burner and pericardium.
  • When getting the degree in Chinese medicine a lot of questions that couldn’t be answered. He couldn't get a straight answer about the Triple Burner. so looked through an old book- Giovanni Maciocia Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine and saw the pelvis, abdomen, and chest-the triple burner described the fascia which separates it and keeps these compartments behaving like they should.
  • Acupuncture points are what surgeons use everyday. Google keyhole surgery and you'll see loads of videos, the hole they are putting it into is this space within the body- they blow it up with gas so they can navigate the body. Surgeons don’t want to cause damage in the body so they go along the pathways that are already there, which are the acupuncture points.
  • When bad things happen in surgery it’s always because they have broken the rule of never crossing fascial planes.
  • Cancer spreads through fascia- Cancer is just a break down of Qi. Qi is the force that keeps everything doing its right thing, and cancer is just a group of cells who decide damn you and they are going to go their own way.
  • There are mechanisms in the immune system that are designed to mop that up, and immunotherapy is one of the most interesting fields of cancer therapy, but you also have to address the underlying Qi disturbance.
  • How does the body self organize? People say it’s genes, but Qi is a more accurate description. Google frog electric face to watch it in action (in resources).
  • What is piezoelectricity? We’re all effectively crystals. Electrical current is happening all the time within our bodies- the collagen itself appears to be piezoelectric. This is why astronauts lose bone strength. They lay down calcium and phospohorus and this creates hardness. In space there is no more gravitational stress on bones- so bone cells, the osteoblasts, feel there is no need to do anymore building and so bones get slowly reabsorbed.
  • Within Western medicine there is a slight crisis among doctors- we have completely removed the concept of spirit or shen. As a result doctors are literally becoming dispirited.
  • The miracle of antibiotics is 50 yrs old- chronic diseases now are about looking deeper into society
  • We live in turbulent times but there are a lot of good people out there. 1% of bad eggs who are now at the top of society, and we need to reclaim society and part of that is going to be making medicine simple and about people again.


The Spark in the Machine- Dr. Keown's book

Space: 21st Century acupuncture- Dr. Keown's private practice and blog

Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia

frog electric face video

If you liked this video, you might also like

How We Form and Move with Joanne Avison

Mapping the Anatomy of Connection with Thomas Myers

The Bliss of Your Biology with Ged Sumner

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful! If technology isn’t your thing however you can just tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

How We Form and Move with Joanne Avison (LBP 045)

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.




Conversation highlights

  • 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.


Joanne Avison

book: Yoga, Fascia, Anatomy, and Movement

Thomas Findley: The Fascia Research Congress From the 100 Year Old Perspective of Andrew Taylor Still

Carla Stecco: Fascia Redefined: Anatomical Features and Technical Relevance in Fascial Flap Surgery

John Sharkey and Joanne Avison: Terra Rosa magazine: Biotensegrity, Powering the Fabric of Human Anatomy

Jaap van der Wal: The Architecture of the Connective Tissue in the Musculoskeletal System- An Often Overlooked Functional Parameter as to Proprioception in the Locomotor Apparatus

John Sharkey anatomy events

About the Thiel embalming method

If you liked this episode, you might also like

Biotensegrity with Dr. Steven Levin

Exploring Inner Space with Gil Hedley

Mapping the Anatomy of Connection with Tom Myers

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful! If technology isn’t your thing however you can just tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Gil Hedley: Exploring Inner Space (LBP 031)

I have long admired the work of Gil Hedley who is the founder of Integral Anatomy and Somanautics Workshops. For those unacquainted, Gil Hedley is an ethicist and anatomist who runs unique human dissection labs. They are (very) unique in the field of anatomy in  that they are about discovering the reality of our connectedness, rather than about finding the separations between things. We talk about this viewpoint and what it changes,  how our model of the body determines our relationship with it, the superficial fascia and why everyone is either ignoring it or hating on it, different tissue layers as different kinds of antenna of the body, insights into the famous “fuzz speech” (in the resources below if you've never seen it) and more.




Show notes

Brooke: Can you define what integral anatomy is?

Gil:  Integral anatomy is my way of describing a field of study, or of naming a field of study. I use the word anatomy very broadly, and that's what integral earns me. I put integral in front of anatomy and I get this whole world that I can play in beyond what folks normally consider when they use the word anatomy, which of course means to cut up with a knife. I do some cutting up with a knife, but my approach to anatomy, the intention is not to anatomize things for the purpose of naming bits, or establishing mechanics. My entire reason for cutting things up with a knife, or anatomizing is to put myself together, and to help other folks have a more integrated experience of themselves.

I do find that the study of anatomy does bring us into a much deeper understanding of ourselves if we'll let it. I was trained as an ethicist, and if I bring my ethics background to the study of anatomy, I find myself wanting to ask questions of the body of how I might live, as opposed to me showing up and telling the body what it is, and what I'm going to make it do.

Brooke: What are other parts of your background that have brought you to this fascination with the human body, but in this particular way?

Gil:  Like most people my keenest interest in the body sparked by the pain in the ass that it has been to me. So many people are in pain, and so they start studying the body, and I'm not different from that. I took an interest in my body very early on, and started lifting weights, and doing all kinds of wonderful damage to myself as an ignorant teenaged, 1970s weight lifter. However, that did bring me into an experience of my body, and I have a very transparent anatomy. At 13 years old standing in front of the mirror, I was like, "Shazam. Look at all them muscles. What are they all about?"

My ethics background, basically I went to college and learned how to read, which was helpful. Then graduate school ultimately. It was there that I took my study of the body past weight lifting into things like Tai Chi, and massage, and ultimately Rolfing, and then healing work. I'm a very head oriented kind of guy, and I found that practicing Tai Chi, and studying massage is very grounding. I took that desire to be embodied further through my study of dissection.

Brooke: You've created one of my favorite words of all time, somanaut. Can you define what that word means?

Gil: The word breaks down nicely. Soma is the body in Greek, but richly understood because there's also sarks which in Greek simply means flesh. Soma is maybe a richer understanding of the body, or a broader conception of form. Then naut would be the same root for sailor, or sailing, or to navigate that we have. The astronaut navigates the outer space, and sails about in outer space, and the somanaut then is the one who navigates the inner space of the human form. I made up the word basically to describe the wonderful healer, and shaman, and dancer Emilie Conrad who developed Continuum Movement, and many years ago when I was editor of the Rolf Lines Journal at the Rolf Institute, I interviewed Emilie, and to make an article for that. The only way I could describe that woman was to make up a word, because she was absolutely original.

I described her as a somanaut in that article, and that was maybe 22 years ago, or something. Ever since then I realized, "Oh, maybe I'm a somanaut too. Maybe all of us who are curious to explore the inner space of the bodies are somanauts." and it kind of caught on.

Brooke: You pointed out that regional anatomy is really about naming, which I think is so fascinating, because it's a distinction that's rarely talked about. Oftentimes I think we've believed that anatomy means understanding the human body.

Gil:  I haven't seen a whole lot of that going on.

Yeah, anatomy ... It would be wonderful if it were about understanding the body, and developing a relationship with it. But it tends to be more like if you can't come up with that Latin word in the right amount of seconds while someone is tapping their foot, and you're filling out little dots on a form- that tends to be what the words are used for. For testing, and professional trainings, or schooling situations. I feel that for anatomy to be a process of understanding, it needs to be an experience, and the words if we're going to use them should evoke experiences. The only way for that to happen is to connect with those tissues that are named in a way much more deeper than the flinging of intellectual vocabulary words.

Thankfully there are many who've plowed this field before me. People like Emilie, or Bonnie Banebridge Cohen, or Tom Myers, and ... I'm trying to think of, "Taking Root to Fly"- Irene Dowd. Irene, and Bonnie, and Emily all long precede me, and are inspirational to many. Just consider me a recent loud mouth.

Brooke: You've said that our model of the body that we're mostly functioning from, that it's determining our behavior towards our body. How so do you think?

Gil: The thing is that anatomy is generally understood as this naming of things based on the cutting up of them, generates a very abstract set of information and categories. I literally mean abstract meaning the levels of tissue have been drawn away from other levels of tissue. Abstraho literally means to draw away from, so we draw one thing away from another, and then we feed the thing that's left and develop a mental conception of it. Every time you approach a body with an idea, and then execute that idea with a knife, you're making up anatomy, because there is no thing as a liver on a tray. There is not such as a skin unto itself, except through a process of dissection, and abstraction. Those aren't realities. The reality is this whole flesh and blood pulsing experience that we're all wondering around with.

Then we get our abstraction built, and then we say, "Oh, okay. There's this muscle, rectus femoris, there this muscle adductor magnus, there's this thing in our chest, the heart, and that's a pump. The other one abducts and the other one adducts. We have all of these very abstract, conceptions. Then we approach with our techniques people, and we see them move, and we have that set of abstractions in our brain, and we say, "Well." It's like a math problem, and we add it up, and say, "Well, this should be doing that because of what they're doing there. Then we apply our abstraction to the form, and try and make it emulate what our abstractions tell us it should be instead of taking in a given whole set of compensations and helping it to function better.

Rectus femoris doesn't exist except as a mental construct, but in fact our human function is always a function of the whole.

Even my layered approach to anatomy is just a set of abstractions, which with the help of the folks who come to my class, I break down my model as I teach it, so as not to believe it too much, because it's just a way of getting in. The actual functional person is always a gestalt of all the systems, and all of the hopes and dreams, and all of the life processes, and all of the trillions of cells streaming. In other words, that's what's happening in front of you, not, "Oh, we're having difficulty abducting our x, y, z." Which would be cured by strengthening the a, b, c. I don't think we work that way.

Brooke: Yeah, for me one of the things that I'm most excited about ... I did an interview recently where somebody asked me, "What are you most excited about all of the current research into fascia?", and the honest truth is my most idealistic self would like to believe that maybe if we're approaching the body in this much more unified, whole way, maybe it can change culture eventually. Maybe we'll start to see ourselves as more unified.

Gil: I hope so. That was certainly Ida Rolf's goal. I don't think I've fallen too far from the Rolfian tree in my aspirations along with you to transform culture. She was looking to cultivate a more mature human being, and I feel that I'm wanting to do the same, at least for my part. I feel that part of that maturity lies in an acceptance and learning from the body. I may not carry an ideal of the body the way that maybe Ida Rolf did, like it should be this way, and then if it were, then that would be great. I don't have so much of an ideal. One thing I'm certain of at this point is that their ain't no single representation of human anatomy. Each one of us is an absolutely, 100% perfect representation of human anatomy. Not like you got it right, and I didn't.

In other words, that's another element of integral anatomy is to shift the focus from the idealization, and the consequent idealistic representation of the body as the point of reference for anatomy, and shift the point of reference for anatomy to the specific, to the individual, to the most basic living individual representation of it. Also, to spread the conception of the body much larger then that which is contained in our skin. You go to a lab and you see a dead human form, and you're like, "There's a lot missing there."And so what all that other stuff is to me is also deserving of our attention, and our anatomical inquiry, because we really don't know how that stuff on the table will ever work without considering the emotional life ors the spiritual aspiration, or the intellectual constructs, or the religious beliefs, or the cultural underpinnings. It does involve a culture shift to understand the body differently. This culture's got some serious opinions about the body-

I think the study of anatomy can challenge that. As an ethicist I was writing on family ethics, and stuff like that. A lot of considerations of the body were involved, and a lot of rules for embodied folks were being written without much consideration of the actual knowledge of the body, or experience of it. It's like how would our ethics change, not to mention our culture. How would our ethics change if they were informed by the truth of human experience as we might perceive it through the study of integral anatomy?

Brooke: You are particularly well versed in a tissue that has gotten totally ignored in most spheres, which is the superficial fascia. What is your fascination with the superficial fascia?

Gil: Well, it's there, but it wasn't in my book, so what the heck? I took the pre-training at the Rolf Institute, because as an academic, I didn't have that massage background, and Tom Myers had written this pre-training for the Rolf's Institute back in the late 80s, and early 90s when I was there. That was when I first was exposed to this very idea of superficial fascia, and I didn't have much of it. Still don't, but we did this layered meditation kind of experience with a partner to feel into the different layers, and that made a huge impression on me. When I went out eventually, a couple years later as a Rolfer and found myself noodling around in the body, I wanted to see that, and other things. I went to the lab, and it made a big impression on me, because it freaked me out.

I didn't have an instant love affair with superficial fascia. It was more like a total fear and loathing. I thought, "Well, that's interesting Gil. What's all that about?" It was extremely provocative and challenging to me to face my own cultural baggage that I carried with respect to that, and my own personal relationship to my body, and what it might mean. It took a lot of nightmarish self-work to come to what I would consider to be a much more mature, and loving, and accepting relationship with superficial fascia, so much so that I could help others to really love that tissue, and love themselves wearing it, because it is our anatomy. It is the fact. It is massage therapists touch. It's what every Rolfer works through.

When you look at a muscle chart at every school in the country, and that's suppose to represent human anatomy, and its so far from the reality. Again, it's a very crazy level of abstraction. I wonder to myself, "Well, why do we prefer that? It's all human tissue. It's all part of the whole, so why does one get preferred to another?" It gets into the culture critique, and what have we done to our self in the process of abstraction to alienate our self from certain tissue textures, and accept other ones, or to give preference to certain mechanical relationships, and to dismiss, or ignore other mechanical relationships. Even the mechanistic approach itself has within it strong preferences for one tissue relationship over another. You have to do culture critique to actually embrace the whole body. My comfort did not come easily.

Brooke: What are some of the gifts that our adipose tissue gives us that we miss sense we've decided it's a bad tissue to have too much of in our culture? I'm sure there's a long list.

Gil:Our superficial fascia is this sort of glowing leaf that we all wear, and it's a sensual, slippery slope, it's an emotional ride, it's part of our sexuality and our sensuality. I would go so far as to say it's part of how we listen to our world. It's a kind of antennae that we pick up information of a certain type. In other words, texture has specific structure, and therefore specific tone. We can go very far into it. Superficial fascia is an endocrine organ. It's an organ of metabolism. We could go on with it's many different features, but that's only because I've come to notice and accept it as this thing that we all have. It belongs there.

We're depleted without it. If you consider also this is the place where a baby rests on it's mother's breast, and nurses there, that this is part of the layer as well. When we refuse it, or curse it, and hate it, we hate all that it brings to us as well, and separate ourselves from that comfort, from that sensuality, from the ministry of the superficial fascia to our personalities in a life. We put ourselves away from our self when we hold up to brutal criticism, a tissue. Some day down the road maybe we'll hate muscle the way we hate superficial fascia now, and it'll reverse. We didn't always hate it. It's a new thing to hate that tissue.

It's a very American movie culture thing to hate that tissue. Before the movies, a beautiful woman was portrayed as fleshy. You can look at the arc, the curve of decline of appreciation for a tissue over a century, or less. Really less than a century. Near 60-70 years where we've started to put that aside. I'm trying to rehabilitate a little bit. I'm putting a little energy into rehabilitating our cultural connection to it by helping people see what it is.  Can the hand say to the foot, "I don't need you."? Can the mouth say to the superficial fascia, "I don't need you."?  We do need you, but in my mind the only way to create a revision of the connection is through appreciation, and it's very hard to appreciate something if you keep chopping it up, and throwing it in a bucket, or if you refuse to draw it, if if you refuse to give it a chapter in your book.

If it doesn't even rank a chapter, then how can anyone ever have any regard for it? I'm giving folks a visual connection, and then maybe a whole bunch of people will do me the favor of adding chapters to their books that acknowledge this tissue. How can you be a massage therapist touching people all day, and not have spent a couple of weeks in your training connecting to this tissue as opposed to this bodily prioritized muscle layer.

Brooke: I love this idea of it being an antennae of sorts for receiving a certain kind of information. That's going to be on my mind for a long time now after this interview.

Gil: I personally see each texture of our body as having a quality of an antennae. I mean it very specifically as a transducer of signals from one kind to another, like a radio antennae transduces the radio waves into an electrical wave. Our eyes transduce visible light spectrum frequencies into neural impulses. Our ears, we transduce warping of the air into frequencies. Similarly, all the impressions made upon our body are transduced by the different tissues, and delivered different kinds of information into the whole system that we are.

Brooke: What are some of the ways that the superficial fascia differs from the fascia profundus, or the deep fascia?

Gil: Well, it's all squishy and yellow for starters, and it changes it's dimension very much so over the course of a life. Different parts of your life cycle, and in different areas of your body. The superficial fascia is interesting. It's a loose areolar connective tissue with variable adipocytes deposition. Adipocytes are connective tissue cells. Folks don't really know that for the most part, but an adipocyte is a connective tissue cell. In the deep fascia, we don't have that. It's more of a dense material.

We could get into fascia definitions, and category charts all day long, but for the most part, superficial fascia, I would call it a fluffy layer, and deep fascia, I would call it a thin layer. We have an alternating sequence of thin, and fluffy layers in our body. Skin is thin, and superficial fascia's fluffy, and deep fascia's thin. Maybe we could look at their relationship as one of like insulative, and conductive. Maybe that the superficial fascia is an insulator of the conductive properties of the deep fascia. That's one way to hold it in your head. In structural terms the superficial fascia is movement, and the deep fascia is stability.

The superficial fascia moves relative to the stable deep fascia. The muscle tissue is also a fluffy layer. We went to thin skin, to superficial fascia, to deep fascia thin, to muscle fluffy. We have to fluffy layers, muscle and superficial fascia sliding relative to the somewhat fixed deep fascia. They have very different functional properties in our body. They're both contractile. I know folks have gotten a lot of sense of the contractility of the deep fascia from Robert's [Schleip] research and his company, and friends. Superficial fascia also is a highly contractile tissue, perhaps more so than the deep fascia, and the superficial fascia. We know in wound healing if you slash your body with a knife, the superficial fascia will pulse, and contract to close the wound. It's really ... It's alive.

Anyway, that's just a few snippets. I could go on-

Brooke:You did a talk a while back that really got around. Did it's viral thing on YouTube called the "Fuzz Speech." Personally, I love the "Fuzz Speech," I have heard that you have come to clarify some of the concepts in that talk. I was wondering if I have a chance to talk with you here, if you can speak to what you would change about that discussion now?

Gil: I pretty much stand by what I said in the "Fuzz Speech," although I don't feel that visually I represented it in the least confusing way possible.  That's partly because 10 years ago, or when I made that, it represented the culmination of 10 years of thinking, and experience that needed another 10 years of maturing to make more sense. As a Rolfer I was told that the muscles should glide, so when I touched somebody I was hoping to facilitate the silk stocking gliding between the gastrocnemius, and the soleus when I was working on someone's leg.

In my mind, "silk stockings" were independent things, and didn't have any actual relationship. Here's a stocking, and here's a stocking, and they're sliding against each other. When I got into the body and started doing anatomy, it was like, hey, these things are connected. There's fuzzy stuff in between the gastroc, and soleus. Does that belong there? I didn't see it drawn in Netter. I didn't know what it was, so I called it fuzz. I was like the bodies are full of fuzz! I speculated about that for a long time. What is this stuff, and does it belong there? Do some people have more of it? Some people have less or it? Does it inhibit movement? Is that what I'm trying to get rid of? Should my hand be obliterating that when I'm working on a client because it doesn't belong there? But it seems to be everywhere. Maybe it's some kind of an artifact of the lack of movement? There is some truth in that in that we can have a tissue agglomeration. Sticking together of tissues. Tom [Myers] had taught us back in that initial training that there's hydrogen bonding going on in our tissues at night, and that would increase our inner stickiness. I pieced together the idea of that along with the fuzz that I was seeing, and came up with my theory of the fuzz. What I would change is my now knowledge that, that tissue is anatomical, it does belong there.

It never was my job as a Rolfer to make it go away. What is my job is to facilitate the level at which a tissue that's all about movement helps you move. If you are frozen, or stuck in that tissue which facilitates movement, then the play in the tissue can be enhanced through movements and touch, which really is a kind of movement. What I would change is the visuals and say, "Our job isn't to make the fuzz go away. Our job is to facilitate the quality of the tissue so that's it's hydrated, and so that it has optimal play." That, what I call, filmy fascia now. Filmy fascia is in between any tissue that moves relative to the other tissue.

Superficial fascia can slide a bit over deep fascia. It does so because they have a filmy relationship at certain points. Similarly muscle tissue isn't only fixed into deep fascia with say, septa, but with what I would call filmy fascia. Now, if I'm taking the body apart, we're going to call filmy fascia fuzz, because it looks like cotton candy, but if you lay it back down, it looks like a film again, and that film is the principle of movement in our bodies. Fuzz permits movement. On the dark side, it can also limit movement. If it's inhibited, it glides, it's through dehydration, or through scarring, or through adhesion, then it becomes a limitation on movement, and we need to melt it.

In the viscera, every word I'll stand by in my fuzz speech, because in a viscera you have tissues like say a stomach to a small intestine, they have greasy sliding relationship, and if see a fixation here that's non-anatomical, then I'm saying, "Hey, that's an adhesion. That's a pathological fascial relationship relatively speaking." It might not cause a whole lot of trouble, or maybe it will, but in either way it's not standard issue anatomy. It's a fixation that subsequent to inflammation, scarring, injury, surgery, whatever.

I can see those aberrant relationships with my eyeballs when I do dissection of the viscera, but when I'm dissecting muscle tissue, I can't at any point say, "Hey. There's too much fuzz here," because it's already connected, so I'm not in a position to evaluate the quality of the relationship of tissues that already have a filmy, gliding relationship in the cadaver. I can see it in the living though. In other words, if I'm evaluating tissue movement with my hands, or with my eyes, I can say, "That ain't moving there," and then facilitate the movement. In the dissection process I can't really say, "Hey, there's too much filmy fascia between these two things," although I have ... You can read up surgeons, and whatever who will confirm the kind of thing I say with respect to the tissues I say it about in the "Fuzz Speech," that it gets agglomerated basically. It gets solid.

The deception that carries forward in the "Fuzz Speech", and I feel bad about this, sometimes people think, "I should get rid of my fuzz" , and it's just one more thing on themselves to hate. Now, there's also many thousands of people who've told me, "You inspired me to move," and then I'm jumping for joy and clicking my heels, and that's why I don't take it down. I think I've inspired more movement then self hatred with with the "Fuzz Speech", and I'm going to run with that.

Brooke:I believe you have. We'll make t-shirts that say, "Love Your Fuzz and All Will Be Well," When I was at the Rolf Institute we did a 5 hour dissection lab with a medical student in Denver at the teaching hospital. We were basically working with this medical student who got stuck taking the body workers through a 5 hour tour of a cadavear already cut up via med student specs. He was stuck with us for the day, and there was really this glibness in his attitude. This real intentional disregard for the human being on the table by the med student. A lot of us, being sensitive Rolfer types, I think we felt really uncomfortable and irritated quite frankly by this guy.He really had this very intentional way of taking advantage of this person who donated their body to science for us to learn. I know you create a very different atmosphere in your dissection labs, and I was wondering if you could speak to that a bit.

Gil: The atmosphere that I create is very much based on a similar negative experience that I had. When I was as senior in high school, and in the advanced biology class for AP Bio, or whatever, back 100 years ago, our teacher took us to a school in New York City, and we were brought down to the anatomy lab. I tell you, the fellow might as well have been John Belushi who took us through this cadaver lab. He was glib, and disrespectful to us I would say, not only the cadaver. He was trying to get a charge. He was playing with the charge of it. Instead of serving us, he was playing with us. I found it offensive and didn't eat chicken for 2 years. I thought to myself, well, when you enter a laboratory you literally go into an altered state. It's no time to mess with people.

That's your big chance to serve them. When a person is brought into a state of tremendous vulnerability, how will you act in their regard under those circumstances? That's the guiding principle for me. It's like, "Okay. I've got a bunch of people in altered state here, I'm going to be a little bit careful, and try and serve their interests. This is no time to trick them into voting for my candidate, or to provoke them, or traumatize them. This is not a hazing." I'll only say, with regard to whoever took you through that experience that it represents a certain maturity level that your group exceeded. Some other groups he might have done that for, and they all would have laughed along with it as a quirky yada yada, but when you're trying to cultivate regard instead of disregard, then there has to be a whole other kind of approach.

This isn't to say that I don't have fun in my class. We have a blast, but the fun that I have tends to be at my expense rather than the donors. I'm a donor family. My uncles body, and my father's body I gave to medical establishments, and I know what it's like to have offered a family members body up for study. Believe me, it's not that I don't hope that people didn't laugh when they were working on my father's body. I hope they laughed and had a good time, and made as many jokes about his giant testicle as we did, but that having been said, it was done in good spirit.

Not at his expense, but in the love play. You know what I'm saying? It's a fine line to be walked when you're in a lab, and given that my intention is to cultivate self-appreciation, and inner connection, I do try to take advantage of that altered state in a best a way as I can.

Brooke: You're in the midst of a big project related to a recent 3 week dissection that you held. Can you talk a little bit about that, and what might be coming up for people.

Gil: I stated my intention publicly to produce the atlas of integral anatomy. Now what that means to me, and what that means when people hear the words, are probably very different things, because there's conventions around the word "atlas", and "anatomy" that may lead people to believe it would be a certain thing, but I'm imagining a more multi-genre effort. My first efforts toward producing anything called integral anatomy ended up yielding a book called, "Reconceiving my Body," that's many years old now, then I was like, "Okay. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do integral anatomy." Then it didn't turn into a book, it turned into a DVD series, and that was a multi year project.

Now I have 6 books, and a DVD series, and I still don't have the atlas of integral anatomy. I thought, okay, well I'm going to run these 3 week dissections then I'm going to collect incredible stuff towards that. I absolutely had an unbelievably powerful learning experience doing that, but because I am compelled to teach, I spent more time teaching then recording in both of the sessions.What I found myself doing presently, and I'm working day and night on it, I swear to you, is a subscriber site into which I'm going to put all my content, and I'm going to build what I call, "Atlas Galleries."

The atlas galleries will consist of something like this, an image, and then so there's an image right? Then the image will have accompanying with it some explanatory video. You'll see an image, you'll get me explaining the image, maybe some audio of that, maybe some textual accompaniment, maybe a set of references, maybe what other people think about it. Each gallery entry will be a little lesson, a story that can be gone into as deeply as the interested party wants to, and that it will connect to different learning styles so a person can listen to something, or watch something, or do something with regard to the entry, as opposed to a regular regional anatomy atlas where there's a picture, and then a bunch of lines, and then a bunch of typed words with names of things.

Again, I'm not so much interested in naming things as exploring relationships, as exploring continuities, and connections of that thing. Helping not to separate that out in someone's mind, so that they can spot a liver when they see one, but rather to help there to be so many roads going into it that you can go there if you choose to. They'll be maybe this abstract thing, but then I'm hoping to provide many paths into it, and many paths out from it so that it becomes the truly contextual related reality that we are living with more so. Then my idea is that after several years of building these atlas galleries, and adding video, and basically putting my entire professional archive online, which is what I'm going to do ...

Everything that I've ever shot, and everything I've ever snapped a picture of is going to go into this site, and be nicely sorted over time, and then my idea is to go backwards from that, and produce "The Atlas of Integral Anatomy," so that I'll pick and chose from those presentations something that could be textualized, put into a book, and then there would be a very intimate connection between the atlas itself, and the website. They would be mutually supportive, and inter-functional learning resources.

Brooke: Sounds amazing. Consider me in the proverbial line with everyone else waiting for that. Sounds great.

Gil: The site I'm going to open soon actually-In a couple of months. Basically, the content initially will consist of- I'm just going to put my 1 day workshop that I filmed a couple of years ago in Los Angeles, I'm going to have that whole thing there available for viewing, and I'm going to have a course option, so you could potentially get credit for watching that, or for watching my integral anatomy series. Then I will get the gallery opened with a couple of entries and continually add video, and topics. I have so many things that I want to build into this thing over time, that really could be a project going forward for many years. I'll build a very rich learning resource hopefully. If I don't, well you can all say, "He had a big mouth."

Brooke:            I doubt we'll say that. Just to wrap it up I always like to ask all the amazing people I get to talk to, is there anything you're currently fascinated by in your own practice right now?

Gil: The thing is that what's turning me on is that nothing stays that same. What's turning me on is that if I attach myself to any particular idea the dying process has begun. I am willing to suffer the indignities of constant change until death. I'm on that ride. I'm not going to be one of those persons who picks a set of ideas, and then marries them until death do I part, and defends them. I'm willing to constantly have my projects broken down in front of me so that the shells keep it being cracked, and that I can continue to expand as a variable amorphous light, as opposed to a dried stone.

Home play!

I don't know about all of you, but after the holidays I have a bit more adipose tissue then I did when they kicked off... all the more to explore with! Can you notice how you ignore or hate on your adipose tissue? Can you get to know it in a friendlier way? To not look away from it? Embrace it even? Let me know how it goes!


Gil Hedley- web home of Integral Anatomy Productions and Somanautics Workshops

Gil's book Reconceiving My Body

Numerous dissection videos (viewer discretion is advised) 

Gil Hedley's fuzz speech (including notes on his current thinking about it)

Continuum and Emilie Conrad 

Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen

Thomas Myers

Taking Root to Fly  by Irene Dowd

Robert Schleip

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Tom Myers: Mapping the Anatomy of Connection

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Tom Myers: Mapping the Anatomy of Connection (LBP 011)

Ask and you shall receive! Many of you have gotten in touch with me to say how much you would like to hear Tom Myers, founder of Anatomy Trains and Kinesis Myofascial Integration, on the podcast. Well here you are! He does not disappoint. This episode is the proverbial kid in in the candy store moment for body nerds...

Tom talks about the history of Anatomy Trains and how he came to chart connections through the fascial fabric, where Newtonian biomechanics fall short and how fractal mathematics might illuminate new understandings of the body, fascia as the 3rd big autoregulatory system,  what Kinesthetic IQ is and why it matters, common misconceptions about fascia, and more. Phew! Lots of good stuff!




Show notes

Anatomy Trains started as a game.  All of the anatomy books, then as now, were looking at origin and insertion of muscles and how muscles worked by pulling those 2 ends together on the skeleton. That's only one thing muscles do. Much more emphasis in recent research is now being placed on the isometric or stabilizing functions, the eccentric or braking function of  the muscle, and more than that it turns out the muscles are attached to the muscles beside them, which we cut away with our scalpel. That's the work of Huijing and van der Wal [in resources].

My work was to say, "Well, why stop there?" The fascia is continuous with the next muscle, and I wanted to see the connection through the fascial fabric, yet all the anatomy books were written in this origin to insertion way. I started this game suggested to me by an article that James Oschman gave me by Raymond Dart, an anthropologist in South Africa, who was also a student of Alexander Technique.  It was about the trunk and these double spiral arrangements [it's in the resources] and I thought again, "Why stop there?"

With my students, we played a game; If you keep going in a line, how many muscles could you find connected? There were other rules- they had to be fascially connected, they had to be able to transmit force from one to the other without intervening walls of fascia in between, etc, but that game soon was built into a system.

The book Anatomy Trains was really an outlier initially, but it's turned out to be a bestseller in the world of textbooks.

We understand when we have a nerve problem that that nerve is a part of a whole system, and we have to consider the effect on that whole. We understand when we have a hematoma, or some other problem with the circulatory system, that it's going to have systemic effects. Yet if you go to physio or anyone working in this kind of field, and say you have a problem with your Achilles tendon, they are really likely to focus on your Achilles and not see it as a part of the whole system.

So I've put forth this idea that the fascia is the 3rd big auto-regulatory system. The nervous system is an amazing auto-regulatory system, and circulatory system ever since the 1600's has been seen as just that- we add in the lymph and the cerebrospinal fluid and we have an idea of how the fluids work in the body.

After 500 years of anatomy we still don't have this image of the fascia as a whole system. Every time I go to Equinox in NY I see someone on a foam roller rolling out their iliotibial band. It's really of limited value, and it's really quite painful, and if someone could see this as a part of this larger system they might not do it- but the predominating vision in a lot of people's minds is that we think of ourselves as put together like a Ford or a Dell computer. We live in an industrial society, and so we think of ourselves in these terms. But it's a really inadequete view.

There's a lot we don't know about fascia. I've spent 40 years with it and I don't understand it. A couple of the misconceptions:

One from the medical point of view is that you can't move this stuff. Fascia is understood to be fixed, and this is because they did their dissections on cadavers fixed with formaldehyde. But in a real, living human being it is very dynamic.

Another misconception is the idea that it is the saran wrap around the muscles. It is so much more. There is saran wrap and that's called the epimesium, meaning the outside the muscle. However there are structures inside the muscle called the perimesium and endomesium which have different characteristics.

We don't actually work the muscle. The mind doesn't' think of it as training the deltoids or biceps. It thinks in terms of individual neuromotor units, of which there might be a hundred in the biceps. Each of these neuromotor units is wrapped by fascia, called the fascicles.

The idea of a muscle is something that we created because of the way we took apart the body with the blade. If you go after anatomy with a blade you're going to come up with some structures. But now that we can see inside the body, we see that really the body is not organized that way.

I think people are jumping on the bandwagon and saying fascia does all sorts of things, but we really don't know so many things. We don't know how much fo this is neurological change vs. fascial change- and the neurological system and the fascial sustem are so intertwined.

It's very exciting that it's this framework that holds all of our cells. If you think that you start as one cell and proliferate to several trillion cells by the time you are born, and somewhere around 70 trillion cells by the time you are an adult.

So your 70 trillion semi-autonomous cells are coursing around in your body either staying still and doing their job or going around with the blood and doing their job and somehow the whole thing works.

It has to work biomechanically and it has to work at every instant. There is no point at which you can put it up on the shelf. The body is continuously working all the time and it goes through amazing biomechanical changes.

The cells are held together by this amazing system of fibers- by all different forms of mucous and a fibrous network embedded in that mucous. It's an amazingly adaptive system.

Recent work with Dr. Stephen Levin (who pioneered the idea of biotensegrity- in resources) about how Newtonian biomechanics have fallen short. When Einstein came along with his theory of relativity he didn't overturn Newtons laws. Newton's laws still work. They are included in a much bigger picture.

We've been using Newtonian biomechanics for the last 450 years which is basicaly the lever model. If we go back to the biceps, your elbow is a fulcrum and the biceps are the lever force which exert force on your arm. So it talked a lot about vectors, and force couples, etc. Every anatomy book you ever read is all based on that kind of mechanics.

The dynamics of all these cells holding themselves together is much more fluid and is better explained by fractal mathematics, or chaos mathematics; the mathematics of complexity. If you think of things rolling, tumbling, and flowing, it's a lot more like that than like levers.

It doesn't' negate the idea that the elbow is like a lever, but if you actually go in there and look at the body it doesn't explain movement. If you had to describe swinging a baseball bat simply with Newtonian mechanics it's very hard to do. We think of the nerves as these wires, like telephone wires, that snap the muscle on or off, and again that's way too simplistic and industrial a point of view.

Your fascial system is constantly adapting, It adapts in some ways very fast. When you catch a baseball, the synovial fluid in your hand is solid, but the moment you catch the ball, it becomes quite fluid so that you can manipulate the ball.

There's the gel- the mucopolysaccharides or proto-amino-glycans that lubricate things to almost zero friction.  If you have zero friction environment, you have to be holding the body together not one single muscle at a time, but considering the whole system.

So if we imagine the fabric holding it together, the first is under the skin and very movable in any direction, but if you try to tear someone's chest open like you did in Indiana Jones it's very hard to get through the skin without a blade. Under that is the adipose or fat, but under that is the first fabric that really holds us together- the fascia profundus. Then you have the sections inside just like you do in an orange, everything you own inside you is wrapped in fascia.

When you consider that as a  system you begin to see this different idea that bones float in a sea of soft tissue. Your brain doesn't organize movement in terms of parts, it's a response of the whole body [when you move to catch a ball].

Tensegrity is the balance of the body determined by  the tension in the soft tissues. In other words, of you want to re-position the bones you need to address the soft tissue.

Now everyone agrees that no bony manipulation will stay put unless you address the soft tissue, this has completely changed from the viewpoint when he started working in the field.

Why he's working with movement and fitness professionals a great deal these days: If I do wonderful work on people in a session, and they go back to sitting in their same chair in the same way, what I did won't hold. So we need to address changing habit.

Trainers are on the front lines of health care these days, as massage therapists are. People come to them and are asking all kinds of questions. We're really looking at a different approach to healthcare in the next 20 to 30 years as our healthcare system changes- I don't think the system is going to survive all that much longer. What we call the healthcare system is sick-care, not healthcare. And we have  a number of people in our society that need sick-care, they have any number of diseases that bodywork isn't going to cure.

The trainers, the massage therapists, the yoga teachers, they are all on the front lines of healthcare, and people are turning to them for their health-care and this crew needs to be educated more.

Kinesthetic literacy- we have a real idea about what IQ is and how to measure it with tests. With the help of Daniel Goleman and the rise of the feminine in culture we are getting an idea of EQ- emotional intelligence. We really have not defined KQ- physical or kinesthetic intelligence.

In today's society people are no longer required to do physical work. My European friends say an American is someone who drives their SUV around and around the parking lot until they find a parking spot close to the gym.

So we go somewhere to exercise, and that's annoying to me. We should have a life that engages our bodies completely. But we don't. We have energy slaves- things working out there for us in the form of light-switches, and new cars- I don't have to lift the lid of my car anymore, so that's one more way I don't have to use my muscles. And kids are pretty much focused 40 cm away on their screens.

As we move from the Industrial Society to an Electronic Society, we need to define Kinesthetic Literacy, what do kids need to know, what do older people need to know? What are the certain set of movements that they should have to know? Physical education doesn't give an idea of how to be competent inside the body. We need to educate the kids of this generation or we're going to have mental problems because of the physical issues.

We haven't even mapped this out.We don't even know what the topology of movement is.

A lot of the intuitions that we have about people are coming up from our kinesthetic self. Things that we call "hunches" I think are body based.

What is Tom playing with in his own practice? Tom is currently enjoying his sailing season. What he describes as his delight in life- every sense is engaged. I [Tom] wish that for everybody- that you find something that really engages you as a whole.

For his work he is currently really interested in how does a 1 celled ovum grown into a 70 trillion cell adult? [He references the Inner Life of a Cell animation by XVIVO which is in the resources] they have shown the biomechanics inside the cell. All of us a-fascia-nados and a-fascia-nadas are interested in what's happening between the cells that allow the cells to be perfused- I [Tom] want to know how that works, because if we know how that works then we can get every cell in the body into their happy place.

The fascia tugging on cells can actually change how the cells express themselves, change how their genes work, change the epigenetics, determine what gets switched on, this is new business. We can make physiological changes with bodywork. It's not just that you made more space in the ribs, it's that you made more space for the cells to do their work.

Home play!

Go for a walk, run, swim, yoga practice... whatever movement you do where you can get "inside yourself" better, and for the time of that practice- whatever it may be- let go of ideas of yourself as a collection of parts, and see if you can think about yourself as 7o trillion cells that are held together. Cells that are rolling, tumbling, flowing... You don't have to do your best impersonation of an octopus, it's not about changing gross movement patterns, but you can see if this little mental shift changes the experience of your practice.


Anatomy Trains website

Anatomy Trains book, now in its 3rd edition

Kinesis Myofascial Integration, Tom Myer's school for Structural Integration which holds trainings worldwide

Huijing: Muscle as a Collagen Fiber Reinforced Composite: A Review of Force Transmission In Muscle and Whole Limb

van der Wal: The Architecture of the Connective Tissue in the Musculoskeletal System-An Often Overlooked Functional Parameter as to Proprioception in the the Locomotor Apparatus

Raymond Dart: The Double Spiral Arrangement of the Human Trunk

Dr. Stephen Levin's resources on Biotensegrity

Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence

The Inner Life of a Cell- animation of cell biomechanics by XVIVO and for Harvard