The way we view ourselves and speak about ourselves matters a great deal. The lens through which we observe our own incredible bodies is invariably clouded with messaging that does not serve our greatest vitality. As a result of numerous conversations over time, with countless clients and more recently among friends over a holiday dinner, I decided to offer some new, and perhaps more complete, messages about bodyfat. In this brief series, we'll explore various ways of perceiving this part of our common anatomy, and consider additional understanding of it's functions in our lives.
The first voice I'd like to share on this topic is that of Gil Hedley, Ph.D. Gil is an ethicist, anatomist, highly trained bodyworker and self-proclaimed somanaut. He has led highly-regarded week-long Human Anatomy Intensive Dissection workshops for many years, leading thousands of nurses, physical therapists, yoga teachers, bodyworkers and healers to a deeper understanding of the human body than most programs might hope to. He's a supremely thoughtful seeker and teacher, and I hope his ideas will inspire you to reconsider some of your own regarding adipose tissue. The entire interview is recommended for those of you with a deeper interest in this topic, and can be found in the attribution link below. In this interview, he refers to adipose tissue/ bodyfat as "superficial fascia". Hope you enjoy this excerpt:
"I didn't have an instant love affair with superficial fascia. It was more like a total fear and loathing. 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.
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.
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.
One thing I'm certain of at this point is that there 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."
- Gil Hedley, interviewed by Brooke Thomas on her
Liberated Body Podcast
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well