Origin and Etymology of anatomy
Late Latin anatomia dissection, from Greek anatomē, from anatemnein to dissect, from ana- + temnein to cut
First Known Use: 14th century
The first time I saw Gil Hedley’s “Fuzz Speech” was at a Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball training, some five years ago now. I remember being fascinated by the images on the screen, taking in the dissected shoulder girdle and wondering what my own tissues looked like, but I never thought that I would end up in the cadaver lab and become a somanaut (one who navigates the body).
Why go into the lab at all, when there are anatomy books available? I got asked that question a lot, and quite frankly, I wondered myself exactly what I was doing, as I am fairly squeamish. Ultimately, I signed up for the lab because I wanted to learn more about anatomy in the real world and to have that knowledge to take into the classroom with me. I wanted to see the psoas and the piriformis—muscles that are too deep to palpate directly. I wanted to know if I was capable of this type of embodied exploration.
My first six-day cadaver lab intensive blew me away. The female form that my team worked on was green from the skin layer all the way down to her bones. From this form, I learned that muscles do not necessarily look like the illustrations in the Trail Guide—this woman had barely used her core muscles, and instead of the three distinct layers that I was expecting (external obliques, internal obliques, transverse abdominis), they were essentially matted together, and they were almost impossible to differentiate.
The first cut with the scalpel is where the anatomy begins—where we take an integrated whole and separate it into parts. The skin layer has to be cut away from the superficial fascia layer beneath; the muscles have to be “fluffed” and cut away from each other to create the named structures in the books. The viscera are amazing—heart and lungs are kissing cousins, snuggled right next to each other, with no intervening space. The diaphragm is intimately connected to the heart and lungs above and liver and stomach below, a thin muscular layer sandwiched in between these structures, and also interpenetrated by not just the esophagus and blood vessels, but also by the vagus nerve, which is the subject of recent research into conditions such as epilepsy, migraines, and other chronic ailments.
In Yoga Tune Up®, we are encouraged to study the human body, and there is only so much to learn from two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional forms. The beautiful drawings in many anatomy texts are representations and idealizations of “normal” human structure. In the lab I learned that there is infinite variability in human tissue, as there is infinite variability in human personality. We are like snowflakes—each unique, but sharing common substance.
I just recently watched Gil’s Fuzz Speech video and my curiosity was lit. While there is a knowing the the anatomy books we study are “picture perfect”, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get into the lab.. but I surely have an interest. I appreciate your truthfulness in sharing your experience Dawn! The seed has been planted. =)
Very interesting! To see it for real must be really educating. From what I learned from my YTU training is that we sometimes need to take off our anatomic book and really feel it in our body. But of course we can’t feel everything so that must be really interesting to understand how it really is and how it can vary between people!
l have learned about the fuzz in a few different literature places. It truly is fascinating, I think the research that is being done will map out a new direction towards healing ahead of injury. Its very cool that the fitness world is being opened up to in depth anatomy training such as a somanaut.
I’ve heard it so many times, “Everything is connected,” and as a manual therapist, I know that from the body’s perspective, it’s true. When I say this to my clients, I often ground this statement with, “No really, everything’s %@&!ing connected,” so that I don’t feel like I have to have the blinding light of a thousand suns shining forth from my navel when I say it.
But no matter how I say it, it’s the truth. And fortunately, they seem to believe me without me needing to open a human body right in front of them.
It’s fascinating to hear about the unique differences in people’s tissues and the greater understanding this experience gave you. Your wording is beautiful and poetic and I can tell how much you admire and honor the human body. Thank you for sharing your experience.
I loved the first person approach in describing the human cadaver dissection. “The first cut with the scalpel is where the anatomy begins…” is such a poetic start to your first impressions. Thank you for sharing your first insights in the dissection lab.
Wow, I can dream to one day be in your shoes. The human body amazing and we learn more about it every day. Anatomy books cant do justice to the complexity and connectivity of the structures of our bodies. I hope to one day become a somanaut as well.
Very brave! Not sure I have the stomach for the lab, but I bet it is really eye opening to see the human anatomy first hand; to really get a glimpse of how people’s lifestyle affects the inside of their physical body.
Yes, doing YTU training has opened my eyes on how l look at my body . Watching Gil Hedley ‘s videos is amazing and he has so much passion and respect for his work. I now know where my psoas and QL are located .
Thank you Dawn for sharing your experience. This is something that’s been on my mind since doing the contact hours for tuneup certification. I am fascinated with the human body and feel that in order to learn more, this is the next step to take (even though the thought of it makes my hair stand up ?). Thank you especially for the last paragraph, I am a firm believer of every humans’s unique composition; to see is to truly experience! I am more excited than frightened at this idea now! Will explore some more on this ~~ thank you again!
This is so cool. So interesting to think of layers of muscles as smushed together from being relatively unused – I wonder how many other ways each of us looks just as unique on the inside too.
What an interesting thought: we all know, of course, that all bodies are unique, but in studying an anatomy text book it’s so easy to forget that the illustrations are merely one example of billions of variations. Important to remember, especially when using anatomical study to work with students.
I loved this blog post! One of my career goals is to participate in a cadaver lab dissection and it was so cool to read about an insider’s perspective. Your description of what you found is almost poetic in nature. Thank you for illustrating your experience so well. It makes the idea of doing this seem more doable for me one day and I’m even more excited to figure out how to make it happen now!
I am such a hands on learner that I know I would benefit from this kind of training but I too am squeamish! Your post was definitely intriguing to my quizzical mind 🙂
I can only second that! I had the opportunity to be in an anatomy lab and found it to be an invaluable experience! Books, pictures and videos of dissections are helpful but being able to dissect, touch and feel the anatomy yourself, I found, takes it all to a different level of connectedness and understanding! Thank you Dawn!
Thank you, Dawn, for your vivid descriptions from the lab and allowing us to be there vicariously with you a bit. I have been very curious about doing a lab but I’m worried about being allergic to the formaldehyde smell. I loved the description of the abs being matted together–as my YTU 1 TT said, we are slabs of meat.
I never thought I would think of going into a lab, but honestly your passion about anatomy made me see why people do it. My husband is a biology teacher, and the other day when he mentioned he was dissecting a lung I found myself wishing I could go 🙂 Thanks for your passion! I miss our level one training so much!
Dawn, I love your description of the intimate connection of the heart, lungs, liver and stomach. Watching the fuzz video with you a couple days ago, I got excited again about going into the dissecting lab, perhaps with Gil, or maybe with Tom Myers that I’m more familiar with. Anyways I can’t wait to have this sacred experience live! Thanks for making it even more exciting!
I have recently just become extremely interested in being part of one of these intensives. I watched the Fuzz Speech when I first learned about fascia. I think I have watched it 10 times since in various Yoga trainings and what not and it never gets old. I need to purchase his DVD’s !
Thank you for this!-I’ve been debating on whether to go into the lab and really wanting to– but fearful.
You’ve made it seem a bit more accessible with your honest account of your experience!
The diaphragm massaging the cousins (heart and lungs/stomach and liver) with each breath stimulating the vagis nerve. This muscle is growing on me in its anatomy but also in a mystical kind of way. It will be the muscle for my send in homework….hopefully it is as intriguing but burried in some more layers of knowledge in a few weeks :-).
Thanks for your post, Dawn.
I just went through the Yoga Tune Up portion of my 200 Hr YTT last month. The Somanaut vids were a major highlight. I’ve made use of anatomy books and animations for decades, and that’s been helpful. Seeing the actual tissue and bone manipulated in Gil’s hands gave me the clearest understanding I’ve ever had of the way the individual hamstring and quadriceps muscles interact with the bones they connect to. I can definitely see myself getting into the lab to explore the details first-hand. It’s been funny telling people about this. People assume we were all grossed out, but I expain that all of us were leaning closer to the screen, taking in every detail 🙂
Thanks Dawn for sharing. I can’t wait for joining the somanaut experience.
I am currently in YTU Level 1 and have gotten over the fact that wow, I know NOTHING!! Anatomy education is amazing and I am learning so much that my mind is blown and yes, I am like a deer in a headlight. The pictures/illustrations are great but I have been pondering the idea of a lab to actually SEE bodies and observe touch and experience how each of us is different. your article has pretty much sealed the deal for me to look into taking a lab. Not two of us are alike, similar to trees, we are all different. Given someones background, health history, were they sedentary, active. Was the bone structure strong or calcified? All these things I thing would come two fold by observing a cadaver in lab. Each is a story and I would be able to take these learnings to integrate to my yoga classes, bc there all of us are different and people will relate to what unfolds in the lab. Thank you for sharing!!
Thank you, Dawn, for this behind the scenes look into the lab. The imagery you presented makes me want to participate in a lab session even more. I am especially connected to your reference of the abdominal muscles and how they seemed to almost merge together because of lack of use. That beautifully illustrates the deep need for Yoga Tune Up in our society.
As an anatomy student, I sometimes get attached to the names of the muscles and their functions. Your story reminds me that, while this is important, it is also important to remember that everything is connected. We teased apart the muscles and named them, which is so helpful in our study of movement – but it is also helpful to remember that if we neglect one muscle, we neglect them all.
I will actively seek three-dimensional representations of the body after having read this post.
Dawn, thanks for this. I’m in the midst of a Yoga Tune Up training right now, and we were talking about Gil today. I will be sure to check out the video, not sure if I’m ready for the cadaver lab.
I want to go to cadaver lab intensive to deepen my anatomy knowledge!
Thank you Dawn, for the that great reflection of your experience in the lab. It is on my list of things that I want to do.
Thanks so much for your perspective from the lab! You remind me of a short anatomy lab course once at Mount Sinai. I also especially appreciated how neatly the heart and lungs looks snuggled together. There is truly nothing like seeing under the skin. I was also interested in seeing how different the body looked based on lifestyle – high heels, smoking, frozen shoulder, and like you said, weak core. Very cool stuff. Thanks again for sharing!
Dawn, thanks for this blog. I, too, was fascinated when I first watched Gil Hedley’s, “The Fuzz Speech”. It certainly sparked a flame to continue to learn more about our bodies. The fact that you were able to participate in the cadaver lab is pretty amazing. Through your writing and watching more of Gil’s videos in YTU trainings, I can visualize the interconnections more clearly. Who knew the heart and lungs were kissing cousins and there is no space between them…I had no idea. Thank you for sharing your experience.
The more I know about the “fuzz” and fascia, the more i want to know. To understand the connections makes the poses, the work more exciting because I comprehend on more levels. More knowledge, more proprioception.
I am very fascinated by the diversity in the human body. Like Dawn has mentioned, “we are like snowflakes – each unique, but sharing common substance.” Dawn’s experience goes to illustrate what we learn from 2D pictures in the book can be dramatically different from real bodies. This is especially important as I pursue my teaching career so that I could remember that every student’s body is different and I should bear the differences in human bodies in mind while teaching. Thank you for such an interesting post!
Si on est capable de voir et j’imagine de supporter l’odeur du cadavre, cela doit être absolument extraordinaire de comparer des corps et très probablement beaucoup en apprendre sur eux avec le corps qu ils ont laissé. Cela fait également prendre conscience qu’en laissant son corps a la science on peut aider de nombreuses personnes non seulement par le prélèvement éventuel de certaines parties mais aussi en contribuant au niveau éducatif; et plus les gens comprennent leur corps plus ils seront en santé et moins les services de santé seront englués.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and for including the “Fuzz Speech”. As we deepen our awareness of what is happening within the physical body, we cannot help but treat it more respectfully. Please do write more blogs about your experience with anatomy!
Je trouve vrai que les êtres humains veulent toujours essayer de comprendre celui-ci en se fiant sur un modèle général du corps. Je savais que nous étions parfois différents de l’extérieur mais je dois avouer que je croyais cependant que nous étions faits de la même façon à l’intérieur. Je trouve ça super intéressant de constater que non! Merci pour l’article!!
Vraiment intéressant, régulièrement l’être humain tente de comprendre les choses ou de les expliquer en isolant l’information sans nécessairement replacer le contexte ou l’environnement. C’est fascinant de voir que lors d’un lab on peut constater les effets des habitudes de vie d’une personnes de part son anatomie, le cas de cette femme que vous avez observer par exemple. Merci pour le partage ça pousse à réflexion!
Vraiment fascinant! L’être humain à souvent tendance à vouloir traiter l’information de manière isolée en oubliant parfois de repositionner les choses dans leur contexte ou leur ensemble. Je me questionne à savoir je serai à l’aise un jour d’être en laboratoire mais je suis certaine que l’aspect 3 dimensions aide à une meilleure compréhension du corps humain et des effets laissés par les habitudes de vie choisies.
I took a few anatomy classes on fixed cadavers some time ago. I would love to go to a class with unfixed ones to have a more realistic feel of the different tissues. Still great classes anyway.
Wow, we all know everyone is different. But in my head I always thought we were (inside) like in our anatomy books.. It makes so much sense that our lifestyle impacts how we look on the outside but on the INSIDE as well. It’s very interesting to be able to look inside different bodies to see the differences and understand why our inside is the way it is. Thank you for this awesome article! 🙂
I love The Fuzz Speech video! I haven’t considered studying at a cadaver lab since I was in university but I’m very compelled by this idea. Thanks for sharing!
We got to see this video in massage school! It was awesome!! Movement is life! University of Louisville was wonderful enough to have a three day cadaver lab available to massage therapists and students! Movement certainly is life! Thanks for posting!!!
What a well-written explanation of your experience in Gil’s lab. I felt like I was experiencing it along with you. I especially liked the comment about ‘undoing is just as important as doing.’ This is my most recent focus. I’ve been following Dr. Perry Nickelston of Stop Chasing Pain as this is his approach. Thank you for sharing!
This guy is too funny!
I never knew about the fuzz, but it all makes sense now.
Thank you for sharing this article and this awesome video during our training. I am hooked on learning about “fuzz” and am no longer “fuzzy” on the importance of moving the body.
Thank you Dawn!
I am taken back to when I took anatomy in the early 80’s. We got to observe dissected cadavers and instructed on things but were not allowed to touch. I was curious to see more then. I had a man in a class a few years later that said he was a prosecutor and had to observe bodies that were being autopsied and asked if I wanted to watch some time. At first, I was like no way! Then my scientific curiosity kicked in and I told him Sure! It never happened. But what an opportunity that would be to see it all fresh. I’m sure that sounds strange to some folks…
Dawn, thank you for sharing this blog post as well as your expertise and curiosity about the human form in our YTUTT level 1. I, too, am really interested in human anatomy and physiology and how the body systems work together to bring life and force into our bodies. I am compelled by your description of your first day in the lab and your finding that things were not as you imagined them in the “Trail Guide.” I really appreciate surprising little lessons as such…I am curious about uncovering the layers of the skin, fascia, muscles, the placement of the organs and how each bone fits into their respective joint. I think I’d like to take one of Gil’s labs someday to really see how things are organized just below the surface. However, I am a bit squeamish myself, and I might need to do a bit of self-coaching over the next couple of years to actually get myself in the lab.