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Thomas Myers Interview

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

STT eMag

THOMAS MYERS INTERVIEW PART 2 OF 4 (16:02)

In Part 2 of this fascinating interview, Thomas Myers shares stories about sailing across the Atlantic Ocean; how not to commit a felony; the cues our bodies give off every second; our next generations of kinaesthetically-challenged and kinaesthetically-gifted children; the lessons we may learn out of this global financial crisis; Newtonian perspectives of the human body; and the human body as a soft machine.

Sit back, relax, listen, and enjoy!

Listen to Part 2 Below (Requires Flash Player)

Interview Transcription

RECORDED ON 24th March 2009

GW: Geoff Walker for SoftTissueTherapy.com.au. If I may, another topic that’s very dear to your heart, I know it’s well documented that you’re a sea faring man, in fact you’ve crossed the Atlantic?

TM: That I have.

GW: That’s quite a serious sail. How or when did you decide that you needed to do that?

TM: Oh an opportunity came up of a friend of mine who was bringing a boat across and so I joined that sail. It was not my boat, it was a similar boat to my boat but it belonged to this other fellow and we went from Spain across to Bermuda. And it was quite the journey you know, I do a lot of coastal sailing and I don’t feel the need to cross another ocean but it was exciting to do it when I did.

GW: Yes I’m sure. Yes, I believe you also felt the need to hop off your boat at one point while you were sailing off the coast of Massachusetts. Can you share the circumstances under which someone jumps off a perfectly good boat?

TM: Well yeah jumping off a perfectly good boat when there’s no land in sight can give you that kind of sinking feeling what’s underneath you. But I was sailing with my sister and my daughter and a friend down to Cape Cod and we came across the Stellwagen bank and the humpback whales were playing on the, feeding I guess more to it on the Stellwagen bank and so I, they were playing around the boat a bit but then they went away and so I, it was a very hot morning so I jumped in for a swim and I swam a few 100 meters away from the boat and then suddenly realised, of course I was right down in the water and couldn’t see anything, suddenly realised that I was in the water with 2 baby whales and did my best to swim up between them, which I’ve since discovered is a felony, you’re supposed to leave them alone and it certainly would have been the better part of valour to leave them alone but I just couldn’t resist I was so excited these huge wonderful animals they have such great eyes and they just have a great spirit and you can feel it as soon as you’re near them. So anyway I tried to swim up between these 2 baby whales that were resting on the surface, just taking the morning sun and breathing and I actually got between them before they realised I was there. I’d been trying to make noise but I think I was too scared and breathless to have made much effect. So all of a sudden there are 2 whales going, ‘What the hell is this?’ And they dove and they went under me looking up at me. It was a great feeling, all of a sudden I was hit by this very cold water that’s 10-20 feet down and they took off to tell mom and all of a sudden mom was steaming across the ocean to see whether she was going to eat me or not but I think she discovered that I was Tom, the small and meek, and I was left to my devices. But that was a wonderful gift from God really, to be able to be with these huge wild animals and I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance like that again.

GW: That’s for sure. And are you much of a, well despite by virtue of the fact that the story you told you are an adventurer? Are you a risk taker would you say?

TM: Yeah, I certainly am, I’m 60 years old Geoff so I’m not jumping off any bridges anymore, in that kind of thing I just have been watching people do amazing stuff like parkour, I don’t know if you’ve seen this kind of urban running, freestyle running if I were 30 or 40 years younger I would certainly be undertaking very different forms of training these days well I did cause I just think some of the stuff that’s being done now is absolutely wonderful and I wish I could do it. So I’m an adventurer within the confines of what my older body will allow. But yeah I don’t really feel like having an injury that’s going to stop me from being able to do what adventuring I can do but I really love being on the water and dancing between the wind and the water with a sailboat is certainly an art that I enjoy very much.

GW: And keeping on that sailing theme, aside from the more obvious ropes and pulleys and levers systems that are on a sailing boat, you’ve described listening, watching, smelling and feeling the elements as being pivotal to being a good boatman. From this perspective how much did your sailing influence the way you approached and developed as a body worker in the past?

TM: Well I have said that that was the most salient - oops no pun intended - most relevant training that I did in order to become a body worker. I’m not saying that everybody needs to be a sailor to be a body worker but I’m saying the thing that engages your passion and your senses are the kinds of things that are going to be very valuable to you in being any kind of therapist, from psycho therapists to personal trainer. Because people are giving off all kinds of non verbal immediate signals and we’re very good at reading those signals, your ancestors were very good at reading those signals or you wouldn’t have survived, they wouldn’t have survived to produce you. So our first impression machine and our subtle signal machines are very active whether we’re aware of it or not and I think it does help to be aware of it but it certainly helps to be aware of your responses to people and their responses to you obviously. So slightly dilated pupils, subtle smells that are been given off any of these things are signals that you could read and pick up on anybody usefully.

GW: Ok and we kind of draw back to the posture discussion here with from previous, you’re quoted in a previous interview, you said and I quote, ‘So we end up with people at age 23 years old who are economically, educationally and financially advantaged and their bodies are a mess.’ Do you still see this?

TM: I still do, I want that statement to co-exist with the one that I made a little while ago which is the kids doing break dancing, some of the things that are happening in sports nowadays, some of the things that people are doing with the environment like kite flying and boarding down these incredible mountains and stuff like that, that’s happening too and that’s wonderful but there also a generation of kids who have on the one hand every advantage in the world but on the other hand they’re, a poet Juvenal in Latin said ‘Men sana in Corpore sano’, ‘a healthy mind and a healthy body’ and I think these kids are being given, I don’t know what’s happening in Australia but in the States and in Europe physical education is being cut back and cut back and cut back and being made really small and small minded as well as small in the amount of money that’s been spent. So the kids are coming out of high school with a decent education and what not but their connection to their bodies is very, very small. In other words we’re visually and auditorily dominated, but can kinesthetically we’re a very poor culture. And I do think that contrasts with what people are doing as individuals in terms of rock climbing and all kinds of stuff like that. But the general tone of the society is more television, more computers, more ‘labour saving devices’ and less and less connection to an authentic feeling of self. If I were to go more philosophical about it, advertising we live in a consumer culture where advertising is going on all the time and advertising essentially tries to tell you that you lack this or that and you’ll be a much more complete person once you get this or that car, this or that cigarette, this or that perfume. You know the implication is you small bad and you’re not going to get anybody as a good sexual partner until you smell like this. And that’s a way of detaching people from their own genuine feelings and the experience of themselves and actually welcome this economic traction even though it’s hard on me personally, I think it may help people to shed some of this consumer idea that they’re going to be completed by something that they can buy and figure out that they can be completed by something inside themselves.

GW: Do you think this has happened because the way our bodies have been viewed and are studied? If I may another quote from you and I do quote ‘What has characterised anatomy in the 500 years since the Vesalius and the renaissance of anatomy is that its all been informed by Newtonian mechanics that says, ‘If you understand the parts and you put the parts together you’ll know what the whole does.’ Is that the wrong way to look at the body?

TM: No it’s not the wrong way to look at the body, it’s just a way to look at the body. So to understand this in context that once we got to the renaissance which is really, if you’ll forgive me the ‘re-Greekification’ of western thought that all from about 500AD to about 1200 AD we were really thinking in Churchly terms. And then science began, science which is a uniquely western thing really, we tend to have a dialog with the church and Vesalius and Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo started actually examining the body so that they could do better art. It wasn’t a scientific thing so much, the first scientific one was the Vesalius and he came up with a chart of the veins and the reason he came up with the chart of the veins is they were trying to be more systematic about how they bled people that being the primary treatment at the time. So that was the beginnings of a science and art and of course in those days art and science was much more conjoined than they are in that they’re separate now. So we started looking at the body, Decartes made a deal with the church that the body is a soft machine and therefore we can look at the body as a machine and we can look the soul of course belongs to the church but the body belongs to the world, the things of the world. So look at how many ways in which we look at the body as a machine, the heart as a pump, the liver is a factory, the intestines is a waste disposal unit and the brain is a computer. It’s very much viewed as a machine and certainly the way we’ve gone after looking at bio-mechanics if we have done it in a very mechanical way and there are a lot of presumptions kind of contained in the way we look at things. We string a skeleton together and we say the skeleton holds us up but look at that skeleton, it’s all wired together. If we took the wires away the skeleton would fall down, if we took the rod out of the spine, the spine would fall down. Clearly there’s a role for the soft tissue but there’s a kind of political, if you’ll forgive me, but certainly an axiomatic statement in the way the skeleton is put together that says oh no the skeleton is the structure and the individual muscles are the kind of ropes and cranes that move that structure around and we certainly define muscles in terms of take everything off the skeleton except that one muscle and what would happen if that muscle drew it’s 2 ends together? And that’s how we define a biceps. So we take everything out around the biceps away and then we say well what would happen if it approximated the two ends while it would bring the radial tuberosity closer to the coracoid process just to use one of the heads and one of the feet. And so therefore its an elbow flexor, a supinator and a weak diagonal flexor of the shoulder and that’s how we define the biceps. And the more recent work in fascial research would suggest 2 things about that. One is, three things actually. One is that you’ve taken it away from its neurological and blood supply and those are actually coated in fascia and that there’s mechanical transmission around those things that enter the muscle. Secondly you’ve taken it away from it’s neighbours in latitude in other words when you put tension on the biceps tendon, not all that tension shows up at the other end at the origin or the other attachment. Some of it’s dispersed out into the fascia of the brachialis or even around to the triceps and that’s been shown by Firsching and his work. So we really can’t talk about a muscle action separate from the muscles that are near. And thirdly, and this is the Anatomy Trains gospel is that there’s transmission beyond the attachment of the muscle to the next set of muscles up or down the kinetic chain and that’s been my work is to put these chains together and show the longitudinal connection but they’re all valuable.

GW: Would you say it’s a more primitive way to look at humans the Newtonian model?

TM: Well primitive only in the sense that it’s had its day, no no it’s a very good way and its given us all kinds of insights to look at the individual muscle. But it’s just a way and I think that way has pretty much run it’s course. For instance we’ve had what, 100 years of that kind of kinesiology really going and we still don’t have a very good model of walking because you can’t assemble the combined actions of a 100 muscles or so and come up with something that looks like smooth human walking, at least we haven’t so far. We have ideas about when the piriformis and when the quadriceps fires in the walking sequence but I think looking at this in terms of connected anatomy and the way the fascial system as a whole takes shocks and distributes them throughout the body is simply going to be the next useful thing you know, after some years that will be the standard way and somebody will have to come in and over turn that, it’s not better or worse ways its just that we’re not going to find a whole bunch anew about anatomy, we know the structures there, it’s a question of looking at those structures in a new way that’s what’s going to produce new types of thinking.

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