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.