This episode is part of a course.
Integral Anatomy Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 2

Structure and Movement

35 min - Talk


Gil shows the elemental nature of the dense, strong superficial fascial layer, and illustrates how this layer of fascia facilitates differential movement while retaining total connection of the body.

This video was filmed and produced by Gil Hedley. It includes videos and photos of dissections of cadavers (embalmed human donors). You can visit his website for more information about his workshops.

What You'll Need: No props needed

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Jan 19, 2021
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So let's look into the structure and then the movements that we find first in the superficial fascia. We'll treat them all sequenced. Hmm. Okay. This is my least favorite slide.

This is from the anatomical charts catalog, these people I'm assuming. So you're in your massage therapist's office and there's this blob on the counter next to a bell and a cosmo and you pick it up and absent-mindedly stroke it and play with it. I pick it up and absent-mindedly stroke it and play with it and the massage therapist comes out and you're like, what is this thing? And they say, oh, well that's a kind of fat and you're like, and you drop it down. And why? Because this is a model of fat that's designed to inculcate disgust for your own body, disgust for the tissues of which you're made.

This is why it's not a favorite of mine. Models are really important. They convey, they teach, you know, and they teach behavior. We behave according to the model. So if you have a model that inculcates disgust, you are breeding that kind of disgust.

I had a chiropractor, he had a five-pound version of this, it looked like the San Juan Mountains of the Rockies. It was this big, I shamed him, I shipped my finger. Because what this is, I tell you, is poorly dissected superficial fashion. This represents a certain kind of unconsciousness and incompetence on the part of the dissector that I sought to overcome. So this form, I love this lady, this is Venus Mary, most precious to me, hopefully to you as well.

We have to recognize the humbling vulnerability of cadavers. These are the dead forms of our relatives that have five or ten gallons of fluid pumped into them. They blow up like water balloons, right, at the effect of the embalmerous part in order to create the fluid presence to outgas and cook the tissues chemically, right? So when we see a form in these conditions, we say thanks. When we go out in the morning after having looked in the mirror for a few minutes, right, they're afforded no such courtesy, so we'll give that to them with our heart.

Reflecting the skin, we see the whole superficial fashion now, not a blob or a chunk. You see, the blob or chunk is what an incompetent person does when they're hacking through the layer and putting it in a bucket, right? That chunk is something you put in the bucket. This thing is kind of curious. This thing makes you wonder, makes you ask questions, right?

If I were to reflect the whole thing like I did with that sponge at the beginning, we have a whole superficial fascia here and then the deep fascia body there. Some folks have seen this in 1980s. It's quite a cool image, huh, because when have you seen that? And now, when you see that as an inside of an autonomous organ independent of itself, I hope it makes you curious, and it's quite a distinct image as compared to the lump, right? If we look closer, we start to ask questions.

What's it for? It's distinctly feminine. I told you we were going into the divine feminine. We see the breasts live here, right, the mammary glands. There are many specialty functions of any organ, an aggregate of tissues with specialty functions.

That's the definition of an organ, right, so we have its nourishing capacity. We think of our viscera as being internal to our visceral spaces. This is the viscera you're wearing on your sleeve, folks, right? This is a great endocrine gland, okay? As soon as the anatomist who isn't thinking puts that in the bucket, the endocrinologist comes along and takes it out of the bucket because the adipocytes, connective tissue cells are pumping out hormones that regulate the storage and the burning of fat in cooperation with the pancreas, which is pumping out hormones, regulating the storage and burning of fat.

So we have this kind of pump going back and forth from inner to outer, core to periphery, all right, regulating our metabolism. It's a great organ of metabolic regulation, okay, so we have that going for it. There's also a grand lymphoid organ in sweeping your body in like a grape clay poultice, whisking toxins to the periphery for you, and people will be like, oh, fat is terrible. It's full of toxins. It's like, no, it's full of toxins because it's good.

It's helping you to, you know, retain them from the general circulation so you don't succumb to the shit you keep on eating. Don't blame the fat for being full of toxins. Don't blame the head. Also, you know, I love this stuff. I love like kind of surfing on it.

I love hugging it up here. This stuff here, right, this is part of our sensual body, right, this is our intimacy, right, this is also our, I'm a baby, nurses and falls asleep on this soft mattress. We grow it, we grow the bed for the baby. It's a marvel. These are just a few of its many features.

I've been thinking about all of them for years now ever since seeing it in this form represented as a beautiful yellow wedding dress, a great complement to the body rather than that insult we saw earlier. Now, Renoir is the bather. You see those master painters, they understood this layer. They represented it in form in their art. This lady has the same superficial fashion as what I dissected off of Venus Mary.

If I were to dissect this body, I would get that very same suit. She wore in her age her wedding dress and its original beauty all the way to the end. I'm all for appreciating that. And now, you know, if you're an artist and you learn a little bit of anatomy and I teach you about sternocleidomesto in every work of art for the last 50 years is that sternocleidomesto popping out. It's like that tendon is like, I studied anatomy.

I've been in the old days and through the lines of the superficial fashion and recognize its sensuality. That's a bit of a stretch from here on. So I hope that took you through a few steps towards appreciating that layer in a way. And for having done so, though, it's still kind of yellow. And sometimes we react to yellow and orange.

I've been showing these images for years and still see people like, still a little unsure. But it's yellow. It's really just fat, isn't it? It's just fat and we really just get rid of it and put it on the bucket. If I call it fashion though, everybody's like, huh?

Bill Hadley's coming to Vancouver. They're talking about fat. It would be a really small one. And I'm kind of talking about fashion. It's like, oh, that's sexy.

I'm going to that. Lori Nemes is a friend and colleague. Some of you may know her. She works with Tom Myers and has come through my labs numerous times. She's a professor at a college in New York State.

She got interested in the organ transplant work that's being done where they take a donor, say a donor bladder, rinse the cells of the donor away from the scaffolding, retain the connective tissue scaffolding, put it in a solution and inject stem cells from the recipient. They proliferate on that scaffolding. You put that new growing bladder into their body. They don't reject it because it's theirs. That's cool.

That's the future of organ transplantation. She was interested in that, not as an organ translator, but a planter, but as a fashion lover. And so she thought, I want to rinse the heart and see a ghost heart. And she followed their procedures with household chemicals in the lab and did a great job. And she did it with a kidney as well.

It was quite beautiful. And it inspired me. And when I saw what she had done with that, I thought, I want to see a ghost superficial fashion. I want to see a white wedding dress right next to a yellow wedding dress. Wouldn't that be cool?

Yeah. I mean, it's an ambitious thing. How can we see through it and appreciate it even more? My metaphor for the tissue is that it was a honeycomb or a bubble wrap, right? As a honeycomb, then they'll say that the honey would be the lipids and the wax would be the connective tissue matrix.

So how do I get that honey out of the wax? Or maybe as a bubble wrap, how do I get the air, get all the air out so I just have the plastic bit left that's the connective tissue matrix. So those are my metaphors that I approached the study of with. I took Maury's household chemicals that she had used. I took a section of superficial fascia.

I rinsed it for about a day. I did the protocol and got absolutely nowhere. So I thought, I've got to poke it full of holes this way. I'll poke holes in all the honey cells that are all the bubble wrap holes. And that way the chemical will get in and it'll be able to emulsify to flat fat and it'll clear it out.

So I did that and nothing happened again. So try number three. Okay, take a section of superficial fascia. Poke it full of holes. I'm thinking it's not at the right temperature.

If I want to render this, I just need to heat it. Like in Florida, you take a stick of butter out of the fridge. You put it on the counter and it goes level because it warms up against the right temperature. So I thought if I could do that to the superficial fascia, it'll just melt the fat out of there and I'll be able to see the structure of it. So I put it in a crock pot.

If I call it a... I don't know anything else. It can be science. So I put it in a warm bath at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time, about 24 hours. So...

I mean, well. And it didn't render it at all. But what it did do is curl up like an Irish brisket, like a thera-band, malign, malign, malign. It was so, so elastic I couldn't believe it. It was like a rubber.

And that told me something. It told me I was loaded with collagen. Oh, I got to see inside by the transformed mechanics of cooking it. You cook collagen, it does that. I'm like, this thing is loaded with collagen. I want to see it! So, I took another section.

Maybe I have a long metaphor. This could be my problem. Watch the metaphor you use. You'll be hit according to it and it might lead you down pathways that aren't so helpful. So, here's a section of superficial fashion. It's about this big. This is a fatty layer taken from over the IT band of a elderly woman, maybe 82. It's the fat from over the IT band.

It's not the IT band. It's not the skin. It's the fat from over the IT band. I did, again, the coke bowls on it. Is two crunches sufficient or do you need more crunches? Okay, if you take a...

This is a Japanese flour-ranging tool. It's like a bar-soaked bed of nails, basically. That's what I was using to poke holes in it. If you took that tool and stuck it in a stick of butter, would it make that sound? I don't know.

How about a bowl of olive oil? Would it make that sound? I don't know. There's something in there, folks. There's something in there.

Oh, it turned out that the method that worked was... You're going to love this. Massage. So, my friend Christopher spent about four hours rubbing this thing. Rub, rub, squish, squish. Squish, squish, squish.

Four hours, four hours on the back. I'm off in the background teaching. Gil, come here. Check this out. That's what was crunching in there.

That's what cooked and curled into a rubber band. That's the... It's dense, not loose, air-related connective tissue. It's quite thick, dense, collagenous fiber, folks, but it's circular, not linear. The age of the guy is linear.

The age of the gal is circular. This is a gal thing going on here. It's not chaos. It's an organized fiber matrix. It's just organized differently.

It's differently regular and quite beautiful and impressive. This is not color corrected. I don't know how the moon color will occur. So, if you... Now, there is flat on the table.

If we lift it up a little bit, you can see it has dimension. It's kind of popped, huh? It's kind of popped. We put it in a bath and flooded it. It's like a sponge.

It's like a sponge. Coral. What else do you speak? Sweater. Sweater.

Sweater, yeah. Or that's loose. Sheeps, please. Polar. Polar, it lasts a word.

Polar. Polar, fair. Porro, elastic, cool. So, we were pretty gaga over this. Now, what are you looking at?

You're looking at the inner structure of a sponge where the smaller bits of sponge have been squished out of it. Because it turns out it's not a honeycomb or bubble wrap. It's a fractal ingress of sponginess. Meaning the sponge pattern is repeating at the smallest levels, right? And the more fragile bits of the sponge we squished out of there.

We broke away. There was not a pile of liquid on the table. There was a pile of bits of sponge, right? So, the sturdier bits of sponge were retained. The sturdier bits of the structuring, right?

And the smaller bits where the fat cells are lipid-filled, they broke away. I could poke holes in that thing all day long, and it's never going to run liquid, because it's not a liquid, right? But the fats are suspended even in a intercellular skeleton, right? And the only way to empty it would be to metabolize it, right? You can't poke it out of there, because it's not a honeycomb.

It's not a bag of fluid. In the 70s, when I was a child, we learned that a cell was a bag of fluid with organelles floating around in it. So, I kind of maybe retained that misdirecting metaphor when I first was an approach analyst. But now I know better. I know I've got a sponge on my hands, or maybe just a cloud.

Maybe it's just the fascia. Maybe it's fascia. Do you think that it's... Oh, my gosh, it's fascia. Whoo! Now, one question to guess another, right?

So, when I first started learning how to dissect the superficial fascia in, like, slots that were larger and larger, until eventually it could demonstrate Venus Mary's entire beautiful fleecy wedding dress, it got me thinking, could I do the whole thing, you know, with the... kind of do the white wedding dress in its entirety. But I thought, well, let me just take a larger section. This was from a big man, a 250-pound man, standing maybe 6'2". He was lying down, actually.

And this section here, I removed a very large slot about this big trailer thickness of the other one. And I started squishing. I had two weeks to squish. I squished and I squished. I poked holes on the top.

I poked holes in the bottom. I squished and squished and squished for a week. And I poked holes in the middle. I kept poking holes. And I squished and I squished.

And I missed my lunch for two weeks. And sometimes I missed my dinner for two weeks. And people started to feel sorry for me when they came around the table. So people came and squished with me. And after two weeks, I ran out of lab time on this side project.

And we had gone pretty far with it, right? So we got something like that going and floated it on a dissection table in about an inch of water. And what turned me on particularly about this section was the way I could watch the waves go through it. See, I just sent a wave through it. And this told me something.

On top of the elasticity, which I can demonstrate in the tissue, which is a kind of movement property in itself, elasticity, pick it up, drop it down, pick it up, drop it down. This has elastic properties. Also, it's wave conducting. This is an important one. We don't normally think about force conduction by means of waves.

But we are transferring all kinds of forces in our bodies every step we take through wave conduction through this tissue. This is cool. It's a wavy tissue. It's not a force. It isn't all about this.

There's also this. There's fluid dynamics. And the forces transfer through our body in waves. When you take a step away, it goes through. You take another step away, it goes through.

If the wave doesn't go through, you won't be experiencing differential movement. You won't be experiencing walking on blocks of wood. Now, this can happen. I had a cadaver about a year and a half, two years ago. This woman had a lymphatic disease.

Remember, this is a great lymphoid organ. It had a lymphatic disease, although infidemic drainage people are working at this level. It had a lymphatic problem and crystallized her superficial fascia so hard to break my scapulae. Can you imagine what it would be like to be walking around with ski boots deep to your skin? No differential movement there.

You're going to be lifting your feet and putting them up and putting them down on blocks of wood. So you might not know about the waves moving through your body until you're missing them. But I'm alerting you to feel for them now. Pay attention. You've got waves going through you, and they're really awesome.

And saltwater with waves going through you. I was flying over the country and saw that very same swath floating in the sky beneath the airplane. It was a very beautiful cloud. We'll come back to it later. I did this for about half an hour in front of the camera.

In that very same section, I lifted it out of the water to see its dimension and put it back down. I watched it float and lifted it and dropped it and lifted it and dropped it. I roamed the water out of it to see it was like a sponge. I put it back down, soaked up the water, lifted it up to see this cross section, which absolutely reminded me of that first section I showed you, that cross section of superficial fascia with which I originally identified the layer. Now we're seeing through it.

We've erased the yellow, and you're seeing the incredible matrix. The incredible matrix that's structuring the fatty tissue. That's the structure of fat. It's kind of spiky, huh? Now one question gets another, right?

You find yourself chasing it. If it's not a chunk, but it's an organ, what's it for? And once you think about what's it for, well, you kind of want to look more deeply into it. Once you've looked a little more deeply into it, you kind of notice it looks kind of strong. Makes you wonder, how strong is it?

Right? This is my process. So I say, give me a piece. You've got all the glass. And I'm like, I got one for you.

This came from over the shoulder of an elderly man. The Juno, another land friend, spent a day massaging this. She has a little finagle and rendered it to that. Same section. We floated it and enjoyed it like we did the one prior.

And I was amazed to see, actually, how similar it looked from the shoulder of an old man to the thigh of an old lady. And so we decided to stress it. And I went to Home Depot. And I bought four clamps. I got some Brillo pads, because everything's kind of slippery in the lab, and you need to improve the grip.

I got some electric plates to make sandwiches above and below the section so I could clamp it with the electrical plates, and you have broad grip, so it's not to simply tear the tissue, right, with a hook or something like that. And then I hung some weight off of it now. In the lab, you have wood blocks lying around. So I weighed them. About 32 pounds of wood blocks.

Finish up any better. The many uses for carabiners. Okay, now this is a torn piece of matrix of superficial fascia that can just lift up 32 pounds. Now, I guarantee you, if we did that with muscle tissue and put two pounds on it and we shred, right, there's no integrity to muscle tissue. We like to say in the lab that muscle is fashion, bitch.

So I'm thinking, if it's this strong, when it's torn and abused basically by our manual manipulations, what's it like if I just start with a regular section of it and test it for strength? This was taken from the chest of a man. You can see the nipple is sort of a marker of location. I added weight. Now we're up to about 50 pounds.

I don't know what that is in kilos. Someone do the math. What should you do in this country? We do both. You do both?

Go ahead, 50 pounds. Okay? They don't do both. This is the fascia. I don't know if it's close.

Up we go. No problem. Do you see how it kind of stretches too? You see it has an elastic property. I'm feeling pretty proud of that.

See, I just came back. Just came back. It came off of it. It went back to its smooth muscle tissue. The superficial patch is also loaded with smooth muscle cells.

It's profoundly contractile. Give yourself a gaping wound and watch it pulse and approximate the edges of the wound back to on us how we heal. So I had a lady walk up. So it was really strong. I had a lady walk up to me after class five or six cities ago, and she came up to me after this section of the talker.

She said, do you know a thing about suspensions? And I was like, no, for sex. And she said, no. And I was like, no. And she said, no, for strength.

This was an amazingly beautiful tall woman. She was a couple hundred pounds, very elegant, and she said, basically, her friends pierce her back in a sequence, and this lady pulls an F450 truck with her flesh. And she said, that's nothing. My friends pull tractor trailers with these apparatus that they pierced themselves in. And she was very excited to see what the piercings were anchoring on and of strength.

And this makes you ask yourself, why? Why does she do that? I mean, everybody's got their puppy. Why is it so strong? Is it for pulling tractor trailers?

Well, I've got to think about it. Like, why does tremendous shear strength? Oh, well, I mean, I'm a dad. I had three kids on the hip. In sequence, they started out at 10 pounds, then they're 20, 30, 40.

The one's 50 pounds, and then I got a 10-pound one. I'm peeling an orange for the 20-pound one over here. You put one hand, we'll hold hands together. It's crying. Okay, so does your flesh tear from your body because you have 50 pounds hanging on it?

No. No problem at all. You pick up something of object, large. It doesn't rip the flesh off your hands. We have this incredible, flexible, living, highly structured chain now buried in our lipid layer.

Strong, dense, fashion. Cool, interesting. I was going to just put this in a bucket after having it done. Juneau was like, no way. She had to render it.

That's Juneau. Juneau and Chris are on. They did all the squishing for me. Chris also runs on my computers, and this is Lori Amis, the way he got into the organ stuff. He can read her articles in the abstracts of the fashion congress.

Yeah, so Juneau didn't render that section, and then we went back with it. Wow. So cool. So, more on movement. Okay, so what we have, we have elasticity.

An elastic property is a movement property of superficial fashion. We have its wave conductivity, but we also have shearing. I'm going to show you two types of shearing in superficial fashion in this one clip. One shearing in the depth of the tissue, and one shearing of the whole layer over what's beneath it. So shearing is going, look, you see the lobules shear relative to each other.

There's differential movement of the lobules in the layer. How else can that wave go through it? Right, so the structure, the lobular structure of the superficial fashion allows it to conduct those waves, and then look, you throw a baseball, you don't throw your skin off, but there's a certain push, push, right? Any use of your body is involved in the shearing of the whole superficial fashion layer over what's underneath it. Two more movements of the layer.

All of these movements together comprise, like, the movement system facilitating your movement through space in the fatty layer. Now, you may have palpated from body to body different densities of fatty tissue from the side surface. You know some person feels very dense, some person feels very fluffy, right? And that will move differently, right? So we can feel into those textures.

Here's the exception that proves the rule, that humans are the fatty body. This was the only body in my entire career, over 24 years the dissection has no fat. So you can see through the matrix of the superficial fashion without having to render it as it shears over the deep fascia in that image. Again, the exception that proves the rule, anthropologists study us and identify us as the species with the abundant fatty layer under the skin. That's distinctly human, this characteristic.

We don't share it with rabbits or deer. They're very thin, thin fatty layer, and that's typical of them. We do share it with our puppies and dogs that live with us, right? I think I'm lumbering downstairs from a good one now. But a wild dog, there's only one.

If you've ever been to a country where there's just one dog, a guy has spent months in Haiti, and there's only one dog in Haiti, it's tan. It's ribs are sticking out, and it's licking mango pits, right? There's one dog, right? And it's like a rabbit, again, having a very thin layer of superficial fascia. When they're hyper-dynesticated in our own environments, then they'll change that.

Banana, come on. So as surely as the whole layer of superficial fascia can shear over what's underneath it, that's not universally true over the whole surface of your body. The relationship between skin and superficial fascia is always fibrous, and there's no differential movement. The relationship between the superficial fascia and the deep fascia is sometimes via a membrane and sometimes directly fixed through fiber into the deep fascia. So take your palm as a good example.

There is shearing in your palm. You can feel movement back and forth from the lobules in their depth as you squish back and forth on your palm. But you notice the whole layer of fat doesn't shear over the deep fascia. It's fixed into it. That enables you to grip.

So this grip function is represented in a lack of membrane in your hand. Similarly, the grip of my feet, enabling me to stand on my pins and speak to you in this way, is based on that same thing. There's movement in the depth of the superficial fascia, but there's no movement of the superficial fascia over the deep fascia. It's fixed into it. It gives my foot a grip.

Oh, by the way, I noticed you're all sitting in your chair. Isn't that slipping out of it? Right? Isn't that cool? You have ass-grip, both.

Because the superficial fascia in your butt is gripping in to the next layer as well. So we have this in different areas of our body, and this is distinguished just again from a rabbit whose skin you could slightly get going to go fling, and a rabbit would go flying out of his skin, right? Because it's so thorough, knowingly, membranous over the surface of his body. It doesn't have these certain anchor points the way that we do. So you don't have to write this down, because I'm going to give it to you, but it's just a brief reminder.

At a postal fascia, superficial fascia, the spongy one, okay? It's movement's shearing within itself, shearing over what's underneath it. Sometimes elastic, way of conduction. It's dissectable as a fascia. Did I show you that?

Yeah. Okay, a regular, modular, fibrous matrix, as well as membranes. It's a combo deal. I dissected bodies with great dimension. I have had many bodies, over 400 pounds, that I've dissected.

I had an embalmer friend in Boston who got it into his head that I would, you want the good ones, right? You didn't want the good ones. I said, John, Boston. And I was like, John, how old am I? Five good hours and 450 pounds of heat.

And it's very interesting. Very interesting. But I was like, John, you know, it's an amazing variety of human bodies in the world. Some of them aren't big, and some of them are smart, but he's so full of seals. And he's like, yeah, but you like the big ones, right?

So I get you the big ones. And I was like, nah, I hear them. So I took the big ones. And when you look at them in cross-section, you can see a kind of a layer-taking effect within the superficial layer, where you have some fatty, lobular matrix, a membrane, more fatty, lobular matrix, a membrane. This can go three, four times that.

So multilayered, that's what I'm talking about. Greatly variable in depth. That's from one area of your body to another area of your body is variable in depth. It's variable in depth from one time in your life to another time in your life. It's strictly variable in depth from person to person, and it's strictly variable in depth from gender to gender.

In a very loose sense, females are generally more complemented with this layer than the masses. It has a very loose observation. Sometimes fixed, sometimes translating or demonstrating dispersion potential, how we structure resilient, flexible, pliable, super-cool chain mail inside your body surface. Awesome. So what do we start out with?

Total connection and differential movement via the fascial system or via fluids. We can anchor that within and we can witness it without. Here I see total connection and differential movement via fluid. Can you see it? Do you want to see it?

Total connection, differential movement. There's a tremendous amount of connection going on between these creatures. My late friend Marjorie, she is a very competent swimmer. She was in the Bahamas on a boat. She saw a pot of wild dolphins and jumped in.

There's a whole bunch of people on the boat who weren't so audacious, except there was a photographer who, unbeknownst to her, also slipped into the water while she proceeded to have this experience with these dolphins, knowing dolphin behavior. She didn't try and swim after them, right? They flicked at the tail 30 miles an hour. They didn't come, right? But instead, she started turning circles, knowing she could attract the dolphins to come play with her.

So she started turning circles and the dolphins started circling her on a dolphin circle. She said they're going three inches of her eye, though, to make eye contact with those kind of eyeballs. They kind of say, hi, I'd like to know who they're playing with as they circled around her. And to me, I think that's a beautiful demonstration of total connection and differential movement in the spaceflight of fluid.


Sara S
So amazing! As a visual artist, this really helps me to understand the power of the fascia. Thank you
amazing presentation and work!! thank you!! I work with different body systems through BMC lenses in my yoga practice and this really broaden some Ideas I had about fascia ... so necessary, so beautiful, so important to love it and hug it in our practice ... specially embracing the relationship with adipose tissue ... fat is power and sensuality !!!! an so m much fun !!! thanks for the humor !! thanks Yogaanytime for bringing this show on !!! can't have enough!

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