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STT eMAG soft tissue therapy

soft tissue therapy

Thomas Myers Interview

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

STT eMag


Thomas Myers (Interview Part 1 of 4) speaks about his most recent tour; one of his favourite anatomy lessons; his love of other cultures; the pressures of finishing the 2nd edition of Anatomy Trains; a new handbook to help parents with their children's movement; Body Reading; Posture versus Acture; the art of using fewer techniques for best results; and that's only part 1!

Listen to Part 1 Below (Requires Flash Player)

Parts 2, 3 & 4 coming soon.

Interview Transcription

RECORDED ON 24th March 2009

Musical Interlude.

GW: Good morning, good day and good evening. To those of you about to listen to this conversation, this is Geoff Walker reporting for I have the great fortune to share some time today with a man who has revolutionized the way we, as students of the human body, view our very own anatomy. He has coined the phrase ‘Muscles are discrete, fascia is continuous’. He’s sold more than 30,000 copies of his acclaimed book ‘Anatomy Trains’. He heads the website, he’s a prolific writer, he’s sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and he’s here with me today to discuss some of his views opinions and beliefs. A very warm welcome to you Thomas Myers.

TM: Well thank you very much Geoff, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

GW: I believe you’re at home this morning, Maine time as we speak and you’ve been on tour for the last few weeks. Can we start with where this most recent trip has taken you? Where have you been?

TM: Yeah I’m sitting here with a cup of properly made English tea. Having spent my years in England I don’t make tea like an American anymore. I’ve just got back from 2 weeks in Toronto where we were starting our program and then before that I was for 2 weeks in South Africa which was just amazing. I’ve been in that country before and what a great social experiments going on there. But we did workshops for physios and personal trainers down there in Johannesburg and Cape Town and that was really as an amazing sociological visit.

GW: And you’re heading off again at the end of the week is that right?

TM: Yeah so this Friday I will be off to St. Petersburg, Russia where I’m working with an osteopathic group and then I’m going to be working with a group of osteopaths in Germany.

GW: Well I believe that’s one of your favourite destinations for a very specific anatomy lesson that you like to take.

TM: Yeah it is. Every year around European Easter we do a course where they kill a lamb or a sheep for Easter feast. And I have the students out there within 5 minutes of the lamb being slaughtered. So for the more genteel of your listeners I say that this is on an organic farm where the farmer has been doing this for many, many years, it’s a very gentle going into that good night. But the advantage of this if we get fresh connective tissue to look at, the thing about most cadaver anatomy courses is you’re looking at tissue that’s been preserved or fixated and its that fixation which takes the wonderful properties out of the connective tissue. And so when we have a very fresh animal like this we get a chance to look at not human tissue but very close to us mammalian tissue, in its absolutely fresh state and it’s so different. You put your fingers on this stuff and it just melts under your fingers in a very similar way to what you feel under your hands when you’re doing fascial work. So yeah we get to open up the joints and look at the joints we get to look at the organs and how they actually look inside the body. Sheep is not dissimilar from us. So yeah those students get a very special look at tissue and I can recommend this to any of our listeners if you’re in a place where you have a local butcher shop, if you get a leg of lamb on the day that they arrive, time is just of the essence here and you want to get it absolutely fresh and run not walk home and literally dissect this thing you will have more of an understanding of what joint fluid is like and what the proteoglycans, the mucousy stuff that runs between the muscles, how that feels and how it works than going to study endless cadavers that have been preserved and fixed with formaldehyde.

GW: Yes that would be an excellent learning opportunity. You always seem to be on the go. Do you still enjoy travel; does it still inspire you?

TM: Yes I love travelling, I love different cultures and it’s been very, very instructive for me as an American especially, so ignorant here, to get out and share my work in other cultures I really like going to work in other places much more than being a tourist or even a traveller because when you start in to work with people you really get to know them very quickly and quite well I think. I’ve had practices in Germany and Italy and France and Kenya and India, a little bit in Sydney for a short time. And each time I get to learn a lot about the culture in which I’m living through that either teaching work or actually doing the manipulative work.

GW: Fantastic. I mentioned Anatomy Trains in your intro but there’s a now second edition of that very famous book. So firstly congratulations on the success of that, the second edition that’s been well received I hear. Was it a labour of love or was it a necessary evil for you to do a second edition?

TM: Both of those, it was absolutely a labour of love to have genuine artwork done, the guy who did the artwork for the first edition worked for the phone company during the day and get this you know it’s a sad job at night, he was not an anatomical artist and they were very successful of the first edition it’s actually sold, I think you said 30,000 but it’s actually sold more than 50,000 copies the first edition.

GW: Wow.

TM: We’re hoping for something similar in the second edition, we’ll see.

GW: No doubt.

TM: It was very hard work to do the second edition. My wife was about to kill me by the time I was done with it but it was very much worth it especially because this time the publishers were prepared to spend some more money on it so the artist that worked on it when they’re not working on this they’re working on Grey’s Anatomy so they’re among the very best. So the artwork that we go this time was just really excellent.

GW: Fantastic.

TM: And the book is all coloured throughout and I was able to correct a lot of mistakes that I made the first time and add things in like an appendix, on acupuncture and the connection between the myofascial meridians and the acupuncture meridians,  and you know we’ve been teaching for 7 or 8 years since it happened, so we’ve since the first edition came out, so we’ve learned a lot of stuff.

GW: Are you generally under pressure to finish a book like that, from your publishers as you mentioned?

TM: Absolutely, this is a long time between first and second editions and I made them wait another year because I was waiting for the Fascial Research Conference that happened in Boston in 2007. We’re having another one in Amsterdam this autumn in October and so I wanted to get to that conference and then summarize the new findings in the book. So as soon as that conference has happened I was under a great deal of pressure to finish it, get it out and somehow it is.

GW: Fantastic. And now Kinesis, well I should ask you too is there a 3rd edition coming? Is that in the pipeline already or is that a ways off?

TM: It’ll be a ways off thank you. I’d really like to, there’s a couple of self published books that I have that I would like to turn into real books and a handbook for parents of new children which I know you’ll appreciate, in terms of how we teach our children movement, and then I’d like to write, but yeah a 3rd edition, I certainly have, we’re doing more dissections and I have more teachers teaching for me so there’s more new information coming in as they work with different groups.

GW: So I’ll be looking forward to this 3rd edition and I’ll also be looking forward to those self published books you spoke about in the future. Now where can you take Anatomy Trains from here?

TM: My vision right now is I’d like to create a suit with the Anatomy Trains lines on it and then put a model in the suit and then have them do various actions like connected sport or a particular posture and show what happens to the lines.

GW: Oh that would be fantastic.

TM: Because the thing that’s going more and more is the applications of how do we put this into, what are the implications the actual direct day to day implications of how you work in the light kind of holistic map as opposed to the individual structures that we tend to focus on when we’re thinking therapeutically.

GW: Now Kinesis, your company which by via website where you have books and DVDs for sale you also have a series of workshops as well? Body Reading is the most recent inclusion to your stable of workshops. Now was this particular workshop, was that developed in response to people’s request or was it a skill that you saw that was lacking in soft tissue therapists and body workers?

TM: Well a bit of both really Geoff. We have 2 major ways in which people got into our school, one of them was the technique workshops and one of them was just a standard Anatomy Trains workshops which sort of goes over the whole system in 3 or 4 days and we needed something for movement therapists in particular, you know all our early work has been aimed primarily at manual therapist, massage therapist, osteopaths, physios, people who are accustomed to putting their hands on a body and we were getting a lot of requests from Pilates teachers, yoga teachers, personal trainers who may use their hands for cueing but don’t use their hands to change tissue per se. But their exercises are changing tissue, yoga stretches changing fascial tissue, personal training is changing fascial tissue, Pilates is changing fascial tissue so we were getting a lot of requests for this kind of visual assessment stuff in both movement and posture and so I developed the Body Reading Self Study Course, a DVD saying and also this workshop. And so we’re getting a lot of people coming in from all different modalities because Body Reading or visual assessment, however you want to call it really, is a skill that has not been taught for by and large, and certainly not taught in terms of being this holistic connection. You know there’s so many times that, that pain on the left side of the neck is linked down to a fallen right arch. And that’s a fairly simple one but there are lots of these connections so that if people haven’t been taught to read them and see them then just don’t see them.

GW: It sounds like the participants will take away some very valuable tools from doing the Body Reading workshop in terms of cueing and/or manual therapy?

TM: Uh huh. And its also, one of the things that I say is that it eliminates what you don’t have to do. Now there’s so many people that when faced with the problem just kind of throw everything that they have that possibly concerns the left shoulder at that problem and hope one of them sticks. One of the things we’re hoping to do by this, certainly the older I’ve gotten as a therapist the better I’ve gotten. And the better I’ve gotten is not ‘cause I know more techniques, but because I apply fewer of them. I apply ones that are really going to make a difference. And so that’s what we’re hoping to do with the Body Reading courses to help people do exactly what’s necessary and no more than that because that’s how you get the most effective results.

GW: In saying that is it even worthwhile defining posture, what’s good or bad posture or its different strokes for different folks?

TW: Well yeah, I don’t think it’s come down to where we can say that collectively yet. What the situation that we’ve got here and we’ll get to answer your question in a second. But the situation that we’ve got is a lot of in the semantics realm is that almost everybody who gets into it was inspired by someone, in my case, Ida Rolf and Moshe Feldenkrais and other people, somebody else where you really are just so taken with this particular mode and you think it’s going to solve all the problems and you get out there and so and then you find out that actually there’s quite a few things in the world and these problems are not so easily solved or they would have been solved long before now. But I started that way with Ida Rolf so my ideal started out the Rolfing ideal now its evolved over 25 years and you know you can see a yoga body and a Pilates body and personal training body has been changing a lot but when I was first starting out in this work you could certainly recognize the gym rat for his characteristic curl around his biceps, you know. And I think right now there’s just a lot of dialog going on and we’re happy to be part of that dialogue. Generally speaking, the idea that the body being aligned, the skeleton being aligned in space, one centre over another is pretty inescapably a better way to be than in a slouch, in a slump with your pelvis way out in front of your feet. But when we get into the real refinements of where should you just be for the best breathing, what’s the best relationship between your pelvis and your femurs? Should the weight fall through the ankle or just in front of the ankle. I think we got lots of discussion available without that kind of thing and whether things that are suited to one are suited to the other but the general idea of alignment where the weight is coming down through the bones and not being engineered by the muscles is a pretty good one. I think the idea that humans have a very high centre of gravity and a small base of support so that they have a very high degree of a very low moment of inertia around the vertical axis, a physical way of saying that we rotate really easily and that maximising the height of the length of the body and it’s balance around that minimal base of support is generally a good idea. How we go about doing that in terms of manipulation, training, those are the things that we should be discussing and unfortunately we’re all off in our own little individual world and so I’m doing my part at Kinesis, I hope, to bridge those worlds and try to bring them together.

GW: Yeah without a doubt. I’d just like to divert away from the posture at the moment cause we’re, I’ve got…

TM: Oh, can I add one more sentence about that before you divert away ‘cause I did want to answer your question?

GW: Please go ahead.

TM: Ok well just the difference between posture and acture I don’t think that people have a posture even though I use that a great deal, I use posture a lot just how people stand there. But nobody ever stands quite the same way twice and I really like Feldenkrais’s word ‘acture’ which is your posture in action. You definitely have a recognizable movement pattern and so do your girls and if you saw them from 2 blocks away where you couldn’t see their faces, you would recognise them from their characteristic movement pattern and they would recognize you from yours and it’s that characterised movement pattern which I would call posture but I like Feldenkrais’s word ‘acture’ ‘cause its posture in action.

GW: Yeah definitely.

Musical Interlude.


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