“The Integral Anatomy Series” by Gil Hedley

Gil Hedley, is a Ph.D. and founder of Integral Anatomy Productions, LLC, and Somanautics Workshops, Inc. Hedley’s 4 part series of dissection of the fasciae, allows the viewer to gain a deeper understanding of the fascia system and grants us different kinds of access and insights, as well as enhances our ability to see certain tissues through the highlight of the multiple layers of the deep fascial lines and the superficial fasciae lines.

Each part of the series presents the anatomy of human form, layer by layer, from an integral, whole body perspective, not isolation. Now, these DVD’s are not for the faint of heart, but if you feel comfortable with paying tribute to those who have offered their bodies to science after they have passed and are interested in the dissection process of our multiple layers, then I highly recommend this 4 part series. It is quite frankly – fascinating.

A Short Intro into Visceral Fasciae:

Visceral fasciae (also called subserous fasciae) suspends the organs within their cavities and wraps them in layers of connective tissue membranes. Each of the organs is covered in a double layer of fascia; these layers are separated by a thin serous membrane.

Gil Hedley dates back the two means of fascia from Greek times of dissection, meaning:

1. Broad Sheet

2. Wispy and cloud-like

Understanding viscera and somatic healing offers the framework for how fascia works.  It allows us to also investigate relationships with our internal and external environment, to increase our awareness of continuities both intrinsically and extrinsically and heighten our sense perception as we build on the framework of our integrated system.

The onion and tree model is a functional simplification of the human body and is used as a metaphor to visualize this webbed matrix of myofascial layering. Each layer is significant with braches (much like a tree) that permiate each layer with those layers getting thicker as we reach its core (much like the human body) of the fascial lines of superficial vs deep.

Superficial Fasciae and Viscera:

We can reference the whole mass of the viscera as a deep layer, much like the deep layer of an onion or branches of a tree, as with the case of Neurovascular trunks and limbs.

The skin is the terminus of those visceral branches from the neurovascular trunks, as they interface directly with the external environment of the body. The primary form of our shape – is via our superfiscial fascia, that ebbs and flows and holds our tissues in a concise manner. It is the shaping layer in conjunction with our skin. Keeping in mind; the skin is our largest organ; which is resilient, strong and has fantastic integrity. When  we use the onion-tree model we can see that the skin and superfiscal fasciae have a special relationship and work as partners to give the human body shape, as well as the shape of the organs. The skin of the organ is known as the visceral layer and visceral fascia is less extensible than superficial fascia and plays an integral role in communicating the sensory input from our nervous system and sensory impulses.

A comprehensive understanding of these deeper layers requires a thorough understanding of the more superficial ones. Due to its suspensory role of the organs, it needs to maintain its tone rather consistently. If it is too lax, it contributes to organ prolapse (2) Ref. Wikipedia

The Superfiscal fascia is a great suspensory web of perception of a particular frequency range, in which the neuromuscular pathways branch out amongst the yellow finery of our sensory fleece. We can separate out tissues, layers and pathways of connection which we hold dear due to our mental conception of the body.

Deep Fasciae and Viscera:

The viscera are not limited in their physiological function or anatomically extent to the thorax, abdomen or the cranium but mentally we need to divide these lines up in order to understand the conceptually. From an integral viewpoint the visceral are meant to be non local phenomena , they are co mingled with all the tissues of the body. We can speak of the visera of the arm or leg – but there is no disconnect. When the heart beats, the movement and balance of pressure is not solely felt in the viscera of the chest, but through the whole body – all tissue is integrated.

The deep fascia can be a more thickly woven set of fibers and has a different texture and tone of the superficial fasciae. It is thicker and we can usually see more fiburous white striations and/or lines like the rings of a tree outlining the muscles and bone.

These thick layers of the deep fascia leverage tension and compression in the body. Through movement we can create vectors of “pull” and at the dissection level, watch the translation of the movement in the fascia, with the restrictions of components like, scar tissue. Scar tissue is not smooth, nor is it easily manipulated. Its structure is hard and tense; therefore we can assume that this will, no doubt lead to increased tension in the fasciae in the surrounding tissue.

What can we learn from fasciae dissection?

The largest benefit I have taken away from this 4 part series is the integration of all the systems that contribute to our form, the contours and comprehensive over laying structures that work together.

One interesting factor in dissection is seeing first hand the interplay of the superficial fasciae and the wispy interconnection of the adipose tissue just under the skin layer; which we cannot get from books, anatomy charts/maps or real life movement patterns.

In Yoga and corrective movement understanding the framework and connection of the fasciae system to the musculoskeletal anatomy is one of the most beneficial additions one can make to their professional resume. Understanding the tension and compression pulling factors on the multiple fasciae lines, in association of the kinetic chains can directly influence a client’s success on and off of the mat.



Gil Hedley’s 4 Part Seiers “The Integral Anatomy Series”

  1. Skin and Superfiicial Fascia
  2. Deep Fascia and Muscle
  3. Cranial and Visceral Fasciae
  4. Viscera and their Fasciae

Take a quick peek at an intro to each video here – http://www.gilhedley.com/ghvideo.php

Upcoming workshop in Vancouver (Squamish, BC) in Dec 2012 – http://www.gilhedley.com/index.php (I’ll be there).

About the Author: Sarah Jamieson

Sarah Jamieson has written 155 posts on this site.

Sarah is the owner and head movement coach at Moveolution; a Vancouver based consulting company focused on the integration of movement and recovery science. Bridging the gaps between the clinical and performance fields Sarah’s passion stems from lifelong passion of Yoga, Jujitsu, and Qi Gong; which she integrates into her coaching practice. She is a full time social change maker, a ‘run-a-muker’ of everything outdoors and repeatedly engages in random acts of compassion.

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