The Century of the Body: Fascia, Yoga and the Medicine of the Future
The medicine of the future will have to focus on healing the epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases by changing behavior, says Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains in this interview with Yoga U Online.
Yoga, bodywork and other therapies that tap into the transformative potential of the body’s fascial network have an important role to play in this process. In this interview with Yoga U Online, Tom explores the transformative potential of the body’s fascial network and its implications for the future of yoga and yoga therapy. Also Check out Tom Myers’ upcoming webinar on Fascial Fitness—An Emerging Evolution in Movement Science
Yoga U Online: Tom, you trained with Ida Rolf, the founder of Structural Integration, before developing the notion of the anatomy of connections. How did you get interested in this area?
Tom Myers: Well, Ida Rolf was giving a demonstration in Santa Monica, close to where I lived. I went there with a friend of mine, and as it happened, Ida chose my friend as a model to work on. He was one of these people, who looks normal when you look at them from the front, but when you look at them from the side, you can hardly see him because his chest was collapsed so badly, his breast bone was nearly on his back.
In 45 minutes, Ida Rolf took a hold of his ribcage and changed its shape so that he was visibly deeper from front to back. His voice changed. Even his emotional affect changed. He became, if you will, a deeper person. I was so impressed at the level of change that this woman could generate in a short time that I thought, “Hmm, I really want to do this.”
Yoga U Online: Ida Rolf developed her work in part inspired by yoga, is that correct?
Tom Myers: Yes, she started studying yoga in the 20’s in New York with a kinda rogue tantric guy named Pierre Bernard. She studied yoga for many years. At the time, yoga was totally unheard of in the States. So she never thought that there would be the kind of resurgence of yoga in the West the way there has been.
When she created Rolfing, she was asking, “How do I create a yogic experience in a western way?” Rolfing or Structural Integration was aligned with the goals of yoga as “a physical system that enriches the student’s body, mind and spiritual well-being through an understanding of structural balance.”
When Ida first started working with people, she started putting them into yoga positions and looked at where they weren’t stretching properly. She would then grab the tissue and start stretching it. Later, as she got in contact with osteopathy, it evolved into table work. But it was still trying to get that experience of yoga, still trying to get that fundamental thing of Hatha yoga which is, if you change the body, you can change the person.
That’s not an idea that we’ve really gone with in the West. We mostly thought, “Oh, well, if you change your mind, you could change your body.” We think of it in terms of stress; you have to reduce the stress in your mind, and then you can reduce the stress in your body. However, we all know now that if you reduce the stress in your body, you will reduce the stress in your mind as well.
So the theme in my approach to body work over these past 30 years has been to do just that – reduce the amount of structural or gravitational or oppositional stress that was going on in the body, so that the person could be more themselves.
Yoga U Online: Part of your work has been to draw attention to the all-important, but much overlooked role played by fascia in the human body. What is the role of fascia in this picture?
Tom Myers: Fascia is that network that connects it all together. We are made up of somewhere between 70 to 100 trillion cells. That’s 70 trillion cells acting together. Most of your cells are little packets of water, like little water balloons. Something has to hold all those 70 trillion cells together. That’s the fascia
Fascia—or connective tissue—is what glues us together. So, it’s a broad use of the word fascia. What we’re really talking about is the body-wide extracellular net that holds us together.
Yoga U Online: Yet, as it is turning out, fascia is more than just the ‘wrapping’ of the body?
Tom Myers: Yes, what’s really exciting is the new research on fascia that’s coming out. Up till recently, everybody was thinking of fascia as just the packing material that goes around the other tissues. Now, we’re finding out that it’s a regulatory system in the same way that your circulatory system is a regulatory system and your nervous system is the regulatory organ balancing your inside and your outside world
The fascial system is also a regulatory system. It has an organizational dimension that keeps us in the shape that we’re in. It’s that role that’s being explored now, which is really exciting…
Interviewer: Robin S.
Publication: Yoga U Online