Jun 5, 2021
In this rebroadcast of an episode from December 2020, Cal and Cathy talk with the inimitable Gil Hedley about anatomy, bodies, wholeness, acceptance, and the ultimate wisdom inherent in the human body.
In this rebroadcast of an episode from December 2020, Cal and Cathy talk with the inimitable Gil Hedley about anatomy, bodies, wholeness, acceptance, and the ultimate wisdom inherent in the human body.
Interdisciplinary will be on hiatus until July. We have a great Season 3 already in the works, and hope you will join us there.
About Our Guest:
Gil Hedley, Ph.D., has been teaching anatomy with an integral approach in the dissection lab for the past 26 years. He is the producer of The Integral Anatomy Series, the author of several books, and has spent a great deal of time on the road inviting folks to witness the gift of their human body with appreciation. Gil has a whole pile of free resources available to those who join his website, www.gilhedley.com where you can also find his teaching schedule and online courses. Gil has recently launched the Explorer level membership on his site, granting access to all of his for-credit online courses, all of his books, his comprehensive "Anatomy from A to Z" project, as well as monthly "Live with Gil" sessions, all for just $15/month.
Rebecca Sturgeon 00:12 Hello, and welcome to interdisciplinary your wealth healthcare podcast. This week we are bringing you another one of our favorite episodes from the archives. This is our conversation with Gil Hedley from December of 2020. To help you enjoy and if you enjoy interdisciplinary, please tell a friend. Write us a review. Give us some stars. Get your dogs and cats and friends and colleagues to give us a listen and we thank you for your support.
Cal Cates 00:40 As you know, we'd like to start every show with a little pun. Are you guys ready for this one? I don't know. So I submitted 10 of my best puns to a national pun competition. I figured one of them would win but no pun in-ten-did.
Gil Hedley 01:06 Wow.
Cal Cates 01:07 Yeah, right. Yeah. So
Cathy Ryan 01:11 Nicely done.
Cal Cates 01:12 So we're so excited again. I think like the last I don't even know how many episodes Cathy and I are in like a virtual brawl on the ground trying to decide who gets to introduce our guests but today we have the inimitable Gil Headley joining us. And we're gonna let Gil do an introduction and and tell us everything that we should know about Gil.
Gil Hedley 01:35 Hi, I'm Gil. That's a lot to know about me. And I'm, I'm kind of I enjoy anatomy. I kind of am an addicted hobbyist. My background academically was not in anatomy, but in theological ethics. So I got my PhD at the University of Chicago and theological ethics. But while I was doing that, I challenged my disembodied state and started practicing Tai Chi, studying massage and kind of stepping into my my own physicality in a way that was not particularly coherent. I was getting a PhD in theological ethics. And so I kind of moved right along out of that world and into another world at being kind of the bodywork field as a rolfer and trained and then dropped that pretty quickly as they realize they didn't know any anatomy and start studying anatomy and realize that that was my squeeze, to share what I was discovering in the lab with other fellow practitioners. So I moved out of my practice, after about four years when I had enough going in the anatomy department to keep myself busy and fed.
Cathy Ryan 03:07 Yay.
Cal Cates 03:08 Yes, indeed. Well, and I feel like, you know, you say that you sort of dropped the the theological ethics. But I mean, anyone who spent any time with you in the lab knows that you didn't really drop it. You just stopped going to that place.
I stopped the academic.
Cal Cates 03:23 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 03:24 And I stopped the academic engagement and and lingo
Cal Cates 03:29 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 03:30 Because I found that obfuscating and elitist
Cal Cates 03:36 Yeah
Gil Hedley 03:37 And, and that the, the, what passes for engagement with the body, and the meta-world of the University of Chicago, I found to be painful, literally physically painful. And, and I wanted to overcome my, my physical pain. And I worked at that through discovering my own body and trying to get into it, as it were.
Cal Cates 04:07 Well, and I would say that that's a perfect description, when you say, you know that there was elitism and obfuscation because I think that's one of the things that I really appreciate about your, you didn't mention in your introduction. And to be really clear for listeners who might not be aware of what I think is some of the coolest work you do which is working with donor forms and working in what we crudely call the cadaver lab,
Gil Hedley 04:30 That works- cadaver lab.
Cal Cates 04:32 And you are introducing your donor form. You just everything you do about how you work with this human body, whichever human body it might be. It seems that you It seems effortless that you make a point to not engage in obfuscation or elitism, that you really want it to be accessible and that it's as much about being a better body worker for the people who are in your class as It is about being a more informed human about the vessel that you carry that carries you around.
Gil Hedley 05:06 Yeah, I'm interested in the whole person and that is rooted in my studies back in grad school. I was a pious Catholic at the time. And personalisms is a kind of a branch of Catholic moral philosophy that I am steeped in. And, and so I showed up in the lab with an appreciation of the whole person and respect for the whole person. And, and in that sense of the whole person, I felt like, at least at the academic level, the body was left out, not only left out, but avoided even while pontificated about, so I thought I would be a little more genuine and if I engaged or had a sense of my own body, and the lab was really a strategy, on my part, not only as a professional body worker to improve myself in that realm, but really more importantly for me to, to get grounded a bit, and to allow the body to speak to me, rather than me, giving orders from distant body intellectual framework, giving orders to people with bodies about their bodies didn't seem kind of not right. And so coming into the lab, you know, I know that it's as much not just for me, but for everyone else is their, their engagement with the form is going to transform their own relationship to their physicality in a way that is not predictable in the specifics, but is guaranteed in the overarching impact. You know, on top of, you know, the professional development aspect, but to me, that's, that is professionals element aspect when you when you're not just thinking about what you're touching.
Cal Cates 07:14 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 07:15 Feeling. Feeling yourself, feeling what you're in connection with.
Cal Cates 07:19 Yeah.
Cathy Ryan 07:23 Gil, has there been like a moment in the lab that for you is was one of those moments that was just profound. I mean, I'm sure there have been many, but but if you can share, you know, one or two of those moments for you that were just, you know, it exploded your brain.
Gi Hedley 07:45 Oh, my gosh, I had to literally mop my brain up off the floor. Because I, I've, I've used you know, at first I used my, my schooling, to blow out my dogmas. And that was a very useful tool for dismantling things that you think about, all I gotta do is get into history a little bit, and suddenly, your world crumbles. When you realize the world hasn't always been exactly as you're experiencing in this moment. And that won't be tomorrow. So the lab then also has been a tool for me dismantling my conceptual world. My experience in my body and just getting called out on shit by people is pretty profound. Yeah, I know, like, dude, like, no. You're living in a fantasy here. There, right. I may get mad. I might pout. But I'll come around, you know.
Gil Hedley 09:00 So one day, years ago, many years ago when we were dissecting the superficial fascia, and at that time, I was still kind of roughing it off the body. I didn't have much. My dissection technique developed very slowly, over decades. I'm pretty good at it now. Yeah, so, but at the time, it was, I was just kind of like, Okay, this is the stuff that you can get your hands under and kind of pull off. So let's do that. And it really created a bit of a mess in terms of the aesthetics, and it was also really uncaring. I didn't know it was uncaring. Until I saw people crumbling around me in pain and anguish over what we're doing. Basically the mesomorphs would tear the superficial fascia off the body and the endomorphs would run out of the room crying and screaming. And one lady came up to me and pointed at the melee happening behind us and said, "You did this." I was like, "I didn't do it. It's just like the nature of the tissue." It's like my cover. And she's like, "No, you did it." I was like, "I'm going to think about that really carefully." And I did this was a world changer for me, really, because being called out like that it gave me something to ponder, well, maybe there's something in what she's saying, did I do that? How did I do that? And I thought, hmm, you know, this is this tissue provokes an emotional reaction.
Cal Cates 10:43 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 10:43 I know that. So maybe I need to do it better. You know, maybe, maybe, as carefully as I can expose this more external surface, maybe I could expose the rest of it more carefully. Basically, I just started dissecting superficial fascia, the way I dissect skin, you know, taken off as a as a layer. And that was a total world shift. I think, because that gave me that, that that inroad to demonstrating the whole superficial fascia as an organ with integrity, and its own functions and textures, and I already knew that but I didin't know how to demonstrate it. But that provocation, both on my part and on a participant's part kind of launched me into an inspection of my dissection technique. Turns out though, when you change the technique, you can see a new world. And that new world when people enter it, is profoundly uplifting and positive, rather than just a disturbing provocation. So that would be one. One little, one little thing among 1000 that that that has moved me over the years, also, just something else that moves me a great deal and has blown me away, is the profound humanity of the people who show up. Because really, as much as I am a caretaker of the dead, and cherish that responsibility. I'm more, even more, so a caretaker of the living in the room. And although I don't see everything that's going on, I know what goes on for people, after 27 years or something, and can create a space that's, that acknowledges that even though we might just maybe know each other's names, maybe, and maybe remember that that person came from BC or DC, or AC/DC, but that, that underneath that surface, their dad died three weeks ago, their spouse just left them. They just got fired, or hired, or profound things are going on in everybody's lives right beneath the surface. And if you're going to judge people for whatever, because they came from a city, and therefore you think you know, who they voted for, or something, then you're just a douchebag. And that and that there's such a such as more depths to people than these most surface identifications. And that, that it's possible, it's actually possible to hold space for opposites. And it's, and to be so spacious that those things are so important. I've never met a cadaver who I didn't like, and because I don't, I'm not looking at their surface. Mm hmm. I'm going into their depths. And and their depths mirror my own. And there's more to identify with there than to, than to, separate from.
Cal Cates 14:45 Yeah.
Cathy Ryan 14:49 Well, and I mean, I, I'm certainly not aware of anyone else there that is approaching this work in the way that you are Gil, and just that really profound metaphor. of the depths of humanity and emotion and feeling and how it is represented in the physicality of our body. So, yeah, I just think what you're doing is extraordinary because it is done in such a different way than I think what is traditionally, or typically as a, as a first year massage therapy student, I had the opportunity to spend the day in a cadaver lab at one of our universities, back in Ontario, where I did most of my massage therapy, training. And I can tell you, the experience was not that. And not even close to that, or nothing that even remotely had flecks of that.
Gil Hedley 15:46 I had what I've had numerous people come and study with me and then go on to do a medical training or what have you. I can remember getting a call from someone after their first day in the lab in medical school, and they are literally on the edge of tears, they were like, this isn't what we did. I was like, it's gonna be okay. Like, this is just another way of seeing things, another way of doing things and you can learn a lot from it. So focus on that. And don't worry about how it's different. But it is different.
Cal Cates 16:21 Well, and I think it speaks to I mean, just that it's one of those goes without saying but doesn't go without saying that, like, it is not a surprise then that. I feel like for medical students. This is one of the many ways they're taught to brace themselves. And the way that they're experienced in the cadaver lab happens is it actually supports disconnection and disembodiment.
Gil Hedley 16:46 Yeah, that's kind of one of the one of the goals. Actually, it's not so much about learning anatomy.
Cal Cates 16:52 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 16:53 But about establishing a disposition of objectivity, which is ridiculous.
Cal Cates 16:58 Yeah, exactly.
Gil Hedley 16:59 Philosophically, and, and actually, and practically, yeah, it's also about teaching them differential diagnosis is actually kind of good for that, like you got 40 seconds, you have to name three flag pins. And so you have to very quickly go through a deductive reasoning process in your mind can't be this can't be that can't be this can't be that must be that maybe. So I'll pick that. That's differential diagnosis. And that that that part of it sticks.
Cal Cates 17:24 Yeah. Wow.
Gil Hedley 17:25 But the anatomy part 95% of it is gone by senior year says the studies. But also that, you know that where you might go whenever your whole semester with the hands, feet head wrapped? Yeah, yeah. Or they always start with the hands, feet head wrap face down. Or as I start face up, completely exposed in a circle holding hands.
Cal Cates 17:48 Yeah, yeah.
Gil Hedley 17:49 And trying to actually make a connection, because I feel that respect arises from connection, not from disconnection. And so I don't have to give speeches about respecting the donor.
Cal Cates 18:00 Yeah
Gil Hedley 18:00 Because you've just, we've stood literally stood them up in front of us, we stand them up. Yeah, and so that you're actually, you know, confronted even more so with the humanity that once lived there that this is a human form, it's not a dog. It's not, it's not a mouse. It's a human form. It's not a person. Because as I mentioned, in my interest in the whole person, certainly the flesh remnant of a person is not the person, the whole person, so I'm never worried about cutting into a person- surgeons do that. I don't do that.
Cal Cates 18:39 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 18:40 But I can look at this model, this this footprint, this used sneaker, of a person and see the and see the echoes and the impressions and the tracks of, of life and personality there. And I feel like the more fully you confront that upfront, personal and immediately the quicker you'll actually not be afraid. This is like not that scary. Really. It's kind of cool.
Cal Cates 19:14 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 19:14 And then rather than hiding something behind a curtain for six months, and building up the tension and giving you dark dreams for all semester until it's finally that moment, and it's like, what's the big deal? So it's a face?
Cal Cates 19:27 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 19:29 So you know, and, and but also, I don't do the like, like, here's a body on a table. I rip the right sheet back to fuck with people. Yeah. Not at all because that that is the thing you know, you see it on TV, right? Like, yeah, and then half the room just passes out, nobody passes out in my class.
Cal Cates 19:49 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 19:50 Because you're, you're actually connecting rather than disconnecting you don't pass out when you're connecting. It's the opposite and connect with each other. You connect with, You connect with the the gift on the table. And you have a different experience. And from that starting point, it's just gets better. You fall in love.
Cal Cates 20:15 Yeah, well, I mean, you know, you say that by fourth year, you know, they forget the anatomy, but they, they don't forget the the sort of trauma and disconnection from the body I feel like and we see that translate into the way that physicians need so much support in terms of resiliency and connection. And, you know, the increased suicide rate, and just the way that we're not taught people who decide to be physicians or even nurses aren't really taught that the humanity is where it's at, you know, they're sort of done a disservice by the way that they're taught.
Gil Hedley 20:46 Yeah. And also the the regional approach, which has its practical aspects, in terms of the medical curriculum, when you sort of like on day one, it's like, show us the nerve that goes to the traps, you're going to it's going to heave off slabs of skin and superficial fashion, you're going to scrape away deep fashion, you're going to cut the thing right down the middle of the belly and flap it open, there's the nerve, like, we did it, you know, but now you have this jiggledy-piggledy approach on the table. And then the next Monday, you have to do though, the lower limb, same way and before and still the skin is still on here and there. And then all the layers are out at the same time. And there's no sense of continuity or relationship. And in fact each each new region that you go to you're tasked with removing the skin and superficial fascia that deep fascia to find that named structure. And if once you've done that 16 weeks in a row, you're like slapping that shit in a bucket. Like it's like it's your enemy.
Cal Cates 21:49 Yes.
Gil Hedley 21:50 And it's not because the people are bad or anything like that. It is literally the structure of the process, the container that they built for engaging with the form is is a is a kind of approach that's that's that's incoherent and inadequate to the continuities that are present on the table. So it's actually it took a little bit of dreaming took a little bit of dreaming to come up with this- what I do wasn't done.
Cal Cates 22:25 Right, right.
Gil Hedley 22:26 So I had to kind of dream that up. And in dreaming it up the dream was Wow, what if I could see the I want to see with my eyes as a textural continuity is that I feel with my hands.
Cal Cates 22:41 Yeah, yeah.
Gil Hedley 22:42 That I learned about in my rolfing training, when I was taught to touch, you know, because it's like, the body knows nothing of regions.
Cal Cates 22:51 Right.
Gil Hedley 22:52 It knows it has no lines in it, it has no borders, it just has transitions from one texture to another as one thing. And so the insight to you know, try and show that. You know, put me on a different dissection path, which it turns out, it is way easier to work with the skin for one day, in a really intense way. Yeah. And then have it be reflected and removed. Than to keep coming back to it in these extremely distorted ways where it's torn here, but not there and blah, blah, blah and all sudden it looks like something got run through, you know, a plane propeller. And and and it doesn't make sense to our to our own bodies anymore. It doesn't make sense. It's not a it's not an it's not a helpful mirror.
Cal Cates 23:50 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 23:52 In other words, when the body on the table is all higgledy-piggledy like that what's being mirrored is discontinuity disruption, destruction. Rather than then beauty, continuity, texture, relationship. And when you when So, you know, by morning number two and in my whatever kind of classic six day class, you're looking at the superficial fascia as a whole. Yeah, you've had your experience to the skin. Now you're going to have a whole day of experiencing that superficial fascia. But you're not going to come back to chunks of it every week for 16 weeks or whatever. That would be disturbing. That's disturbing. Yeah, it's as disturbing as my initial approach to dissecting it when I was not skilled enough or perceptive enough or I didn't understand the texture enough to demonstrate it. I think one of the best compliments I ever got was from- I got a lot of backhanded compliments in grad school. "You've written more of this than anyone has ever come to the Univeristy of Chicago." Too bad, you don't understand it. I got a very front handed compliment from I had just done a talk on Alex and Allyson Grey at their, at their studio that they had down in Manhattan. And I gave a talk there and, and a slideshow and what have you, we had a great crowd. And afterwards they kind of, Alex said something to the effect that he basically acknowledged me as an artist, which I hadn't thought of myself as an artist. I was like, Oh, my God, yeah, I'm a sculptor, actually. And, and then he- and a photographer. But what he was acknowledging was that it takes a lot of practice, to master a single texture as a sculptor, whether it be clay, or marble, or wood, or whatever you're working with. And when you're working with the body, you actually have to master a number of textures to truly reveal them. And that's true also as a body worker, right? In other words, if, if you've only mastered the muscle texture, and you ignore all the rest of it, well, what's the point, you know, you're not really needing not only the whole person, you don't need the whole body they living that whole person is living in that whole body.
Cal Cates 26:29 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 26:29 So if you're just honed in on one texture and have no comprehension or connection or relationship to the rest of them, you're you're you're limiting your service potential. So whether it says a sculpture or bodywork or whatever, the more experience you have in understanding the properties and, and the qualities and the differences and the relationships from one from one biological texture to another, the more opportunity you have to serve, explore, understand, comprehend and grow.
Cal Cates 27:05 Well, and to be accurate, I feel like you know, I feel like when you talk about, I think about I was lucky enough to go to a massage school that is near a medical school where we had a relationship where we got to go into the cadaver lab with the medical students, but it was very close to the end of their lab experience. So as you said, everything had already been reflected. And not even I mean, you reflect the skin and the various layers, things had been chunked up. And everybody wanted to see the psoas and everybody wanted to see the sartorius and, and, you know, pectineus and you leave there thinking that when you touch that part of the body, that is what you're touching, and you I feel like when I like I just attended one of your virtual six day things earlier during the whole COVID situation and you by the time you get to that you stopped even caring about it almost like you're like there's so much other stuff between the surface of this body and the psoas as that like, so what? almost and and you sort of go like this whole
Gil Hedley 28:12 Psoas-what?
Cal Cates 28:13 Yeah, exactly. And that leads me to one of the things that I'm so I just like if I were cartoon character, little hearts would have been coming out of my eyes, as I watched you talk about the adipose layer. Because I really, and it sounds like that was a progression even for you. But the way
Gil Hedley 28:33 Oh, it was a huge progression.
Cal Cates 28:34 How could you not love your adipose layer after watching you talk about it? And and I have you know, I, we all have our baggage about our adipose and we had some guests on a few weeks ago to talk about fat shaming and big bodies and sort of how much work we have to do as a culture around this. But I I just want you to talk about the adipose layer and your relationship to it. And the you know, you you just like rolled your eyes about the progression that it was for you like, tell us about that?
Gil Hedley 29:03 Well, I showed up to the lab as a skinny, muscular guy. And with very little little adipose to show. So from my own physical experience of myself, I really didn't have a relationship with it. To speak of, yeah, didn't say negative, positive, otherwise. And then when I started doing dissection, like I said that I mean, when I finally had the insight to dissect in layers and gave it a try, now we kind of got the skin off not in elegant swaths but in potato chips. And still having done so and been careful for what was underneath it, we revealed this incredible yellow fleece.
Cal Cates 29:58 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 29:59 And I was stunned and amazed, as were the few people who helped me to do that the first time to do that to a whole body. And I was like, is that instructive? They're like, that's instructive. I was like, Yeah, for me too, like, I can't believe it's amazing. Like, where, where's the picture of that in the book? You know, where's the- where are the lessons on that. So I immediately you know, knew that something big was in front of us something important. But then, you know, when you the relationship of superficial fascia, what's underneath it varied, so sometimes it's membranous, so that it can move, right, so you put your hand on your forearm, scan and shoulder flip a little bit back and forth. Um, you're, you're, you're moving your skin and your superficial fascia, and you're descending the perifascial membranes that intervene between the fatty tissues, and the and the deep fascia. And so I didn't know all that at the time. All I knew is that sometimes I could, I could kind of get my fingers underneath it, sometimes I couldn't. So the places where I could get my fingers underneath that I did, and it was really cool, I could show like these sort of sheets of it. And that was fascinating to me. And I found myself appreciating that and then that then there are places it turns out not like, continuously, you know, there are anchor points for our superficial fascia where there's a more fibrous relationship and not a membranous relationship between superficial and the deep layers. So I didn't understand that either. All I knew was I could get it off here. And here, it was really tough. So they start kind of yanking at it. Cuz you're already using your hands, I didn't even think to pick up the scalpel, and you're yanking at it, and it's like, oh, shoot, I tore it or crumbled, or I broke it or whatever. Now this thing that was a unity, and a continuity is now starting to become, you know, disrupted and broken, etc, doesn't look as pretty anymore, I just wanna then, then after a while, like psychologically, you just want to make it go away at a certain point, because it's like, this is a fucking nightmare that I've created here. And I gotta, I gotta try and get through this. And then you kind of accelerate in your anxiety and start to kind of pull and rip and get get things off and then it creates that kind of thing I described earlier. And so, that was disturbing, right to me too, like, it wasn't just this poor lady crying. I go home and like howl at the moon, I was like, crazy making, and I had nightmares. I had nightmares for years, I had, whatever it was night, it was nightmarish what I was doing. And, and so I had to work through that. Because I'm like, "I know I'm having nightmares here. But you know, that's good." You know, so, gotta work through that, you know, and I'm, I'm disgusted, it's horrifying. I've It's horrible. You know, so I'm having this horrible experience at this thing that I know is a beautiful integral part of the body. So I'm like, something must be wrong with me. You know, I gotta work through that. And keep coming back to it, and keep coming back to it and then developing the dissection technique, and seeing more because when you first go into a dissection lab, you know, and you don't have any capacity, visual discernment or textural discernment capacity, it just looks like a big scary yellow mess. Yeah, takes a long time before you can start to see nerves and lymphatics and collagenous matrices and differences in lobule shapes, sizes, and organization. Start to see functions, start to see differences in depth, differences in texture within that layer and start to realize this is a complicated amazing world. You know, and so it took it took me years to build up so many aspects of appreciation for what I was handling and enough dissection skill to, to properly contain and showcase those aspects of appreciation so that a person can walk into the lab now and on day one, they're like, "Oh my God, that's amazing!" You know, with and and just sort of skip over that, you know, 10 year learning curve that it took me to get to, you know, Mr. Agape's smoking jacket or Venus Mary's you know, whole body wedding dress.
Cal Cates 34:39 Yeah,
Gil Hedley 34:39 That that that was 10 years. It took me to get to that. And so that and to come from nightmares to appreciation.
Cal Cates 34:49 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 34:50 And that 10 years of work plus another 15 or 16 now has enabled me to create a entrance point for people that, that spares them that 10 years of fucking misery. Yeah, I went through to to, to kind of actualize the initial insight that something amazing was in front of me. I always knew something amazing was in front of me. I didn't always get to experience that though that took a long time.
Cal Cates 35:21 Yeah. Can you eve- can you even speak to the- Can you imagine how you might have felt had you not had the influence- this is this a crazy question- the influence of culture around fat? Like, was it partly about that? Or was it really just about this thing that had gone unnoticed in your previous explorations?
Gil Hedley 35:47 It's more more that I didn't really realize as much what a what a cultural problemazation fat was, initially. I think, like I said, I didn't really have much of a relationship with it. I was just a skinny muscular guy. And, you know, my wife at the time was fleshy, I had no objections. It seemed kind of yummy. So I don't think I was a fat hater showing up.
Cal Cates 36:20 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 36:21 You know, and then I became terrified, horrified for a period of time. And yet, I knew that something was off there. And I, I, I was like, Oh, actually, it's not just me, there's our whole culture is terrifying, horrified at this. And in fact, yogurt is labeled, like, non fat, right, that's a virtue, you know, yogurt, yogurt, packaging, virtue signals with
Cal Cates 36:46 Yes.
Gil Hedley 36:47 Wow, emblems of fat freeness. You know, I just got to just go to the cookie aisle, because you know that yogurt's not going to do shit for you, you're going to eat it and be starving, so you got to go eat something afterwards. They took the fat out of it, you know. So same thing with people, you take all the fat out of them, they're not quite as yummy. I have, you know, I have watched people die of inanition, you know, starvation. And it's like, oh, that's, that's a problem for humans, you know, yes, our fat and actually, until, and again, building these aspects of appreciation. And I did come to basically acknowledge not only the problematization of the fatty layer, but the problematization, of every layer and the whole body in itself. In our culture, we have a very disturbed relationship to our to our, our embodied reality, where each aspect and texture of it is deeply problematized by the culture, and then you're sold, commodified solutions to the problem you're told you have for having a body. So there's a kind of a deep lack of acceptance of, of embodiment, and in itself, and I don't think the academic world that I was a part of, is is much of a help at all. It's actually part of the problem. And so, yeah, so I came to, over the years, spent a lot of time doing cultural critique, really.
Cal Cates 38:25 Hmm, yeah.
Gil Hedley 38:27 Because I know that people who are walking in the door to the lab, who I'm going to attempt to sort of bring into the church of adipose are not necessarily going to be- going to go there kicking and screaming.
Cal Cates 38:42 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 38:42 So I have to kind of, I head it off at the pass, not always directly. I'm a very indirect and sneaky person, basically, because I found that if you go straight against someone's defenses, you make very little progress.
Cal Cates 38:54 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 38:55 But if you kind of go around them and underneath them and support a person in discovering something, they'll, they'll, they'll find it for themselves that you don't have to preach it so much.
Cal Cates 39:09 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 39:10 Or try and convince anybody of it. You just show them the reality. And then they'll start asking questions of their own presuppositions. And many, many, many, many, many people have walked away from the class saying, Oh, my gosh, you know, I got into the shower last night, I was like, this stuff is cool.
Cal Cates 39:29 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 39:30 And getting to a place of appreciation for their bodies that they didn't have beforehand. Of respect and appreciation, that kind of quickly, you can actually go past the cultural problematization quicker than you think. And that can have different that can play out very differently for different people. For some people, they just like, because the reality of the human body is that it's variable, extremely variable. And don't let any frickin government chart convince you otherwise. That there's some sort of mean or average that everyone should kowtow to be healthy. It's not true at all. Body variety is the norm not the exception. Nobody is the mean. And it's mean to think otherwise. So when we accept the fact that some bodies are more fleshy than others, by nature, by personality, or by whatever, by dietary preferences, like sorry, some people think certain things are delicious.
Cal Cates 40:29 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 40:29 And want to eat them. Yeah, that's just the fucking reality of it. It's delicious. And I want to eat that. And don't shame me because my tastebuds are oriented to find this delicious. And, and. And yeah, we shame ourselves. We don't need a culture of shame us. Once you're in the culture, you shame yourself.
Cal Cates 40:49 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 40:50 It's a brutal reality to live in that constant shame of your body, when you know, someone's got what's considered culturally to be the Rolls Royce body and someone else has got the, like, got the loser body or whatever, the more the immoral body, it's in what can you control yourself? No, I have a larger body than you.
Cal Cates 41:11 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 41:12 You know. So the thing is, that that's how it that's how it is. And and and I think that when you start to see just basic, simple differences in the lab, yeah. Oh, put a femur from one body next to a femur from another body. They're very different. Yeah, in every way, like the length of the neck, the head the the distance from here to there, the shape of the trochanter, the lesser and the greater, their relative orientation. The twist in the bone itself and the end and the rate at which the twist twist expresses, you know, in other words, the differences are extraordinary. And the most simple thing we can't expect it to be any different than any other texture of the body has apologists understand this. They know we're that fatty primate
Cal Cates 42:03 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 42:04 You know, we're though, we're the fatty primate, we're the ones with the, with the shiny, the shiny skin, and the fat underneath it.
Cal Cates 42:11 Right.
Gil Hedley 42:12 That's, that's the human thing. And just because whatever, there's heroin chic walking down the fashion runways doesn't speak to the reality of human body, which just means that human coathangers will get paid more if they wear certain things. Because, you know, I'm saying, like, there's nothing wrong with being skinny, either. I'm not a skinny hater, or a fat like fat girl's best friend kind of thing. I've been called that. And I'm like, you know, actually, no, it's kind of all good and interesting to me. If you can't find the sensuality in a skinny body. You're not getting it either, you know, on a sign because the lifeforce is flowing where it flows.
Cal Cates 42:51 Well, I think you're you're pointing to something. I mean, I think that your- whether the epiphanies happened in your classroom, or later, the service that I feel like you're doing to body workers, in particular, for body workers. I mean, I just, I just finished reading, Sonia Renee Taylor's, The Body is Not an Apology, and she is all about embracing radical self love, but throughout the book, she talks about, you can't have radical self love for yourself, if you don't have it for all bodies. And if you don't have it more broadly, and I really think that as body workers, we work with the body, in a direct relationship to our own relationship to our body. And so
Gil Hedley 43:31 Absolutely.
Cal Cates 43:31 If I, if I feel like I need to get my, my, you know, forearm in here and in, quote, lengthen your IT band, like I'm probably bringing that own aggression to my body. And, and I think one of the things that I have learned from the bit of coursework I've done with you is, I've learned so much more about what I'm not doing, and what massage school taught me I was doing, and then I've been like, oh, what they told me I was doing isn't even possible. Like, when you look at the IT band, it's like, it's like a Chinese finger trap. Like, if you stretch it, it's just gonna stretch back like you.
Gil Hedley 44:09 You can't stretch
Cal Cates 44:10 You can't stretch it, right?
Gil Hedley 44:11 I depends on that. I'm gonna I'm gonna qualify that actually. Because I've actually tested this in the lab with like, weight.
Cal Cates 44:20 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 44:20 So the, the, the IT band, from say, up high to down by your knee, right?
Cal Cates 44:27 Yeah,
Gil Hedley 44:27 That direction. What direction is that? Up and down. Right, the fibers, the very thick collagenous fibers that run in that direction are not distensible. They're not meant to be distensible no matter how many times you run your- blade your elbow down it just fucking hurts. And so you get someone saying and it hurts because it must need it and then you do it some more as let's just like wrongheaded. Now the fact is that the IT band does stretch. So for all those people who say the IT band does not stretch, I'm gonna have to, I'm gonna have to challenge that. It's stretching -it expands and
Cathy Ryan 45:02 Laterally.
Gil Hedley 45:02 When you flex your thigh. Yeah, it expands circumferentially.
Cal Cates 45:05 Ah, yeah, yeah. Because it's not flat.
Gil Hedley 45:08 Excuse me?
Cal Cates 45:09 Because it's not flat, right? It doesn't just go out.
Gil Hedley 45:11 Exactly. It's so the thing is that you have these up and down fibers that are very thick and very tough and not not prone to distension. But the weave, the weave of the of the IT band and the fascia latae, in general, which is different around the leg, I can identify many different patterns that you see just in the fascia latae. But say at the IT band where you have a very 90 degree type grid of up and down fibers and then cross fibers. And the cross fibers are in two layers on either side of that up and down grid. So you basically have a three fiber layer sandwich. And if you look under microscope at the, at the ones that are going kind of around, right there, they're crimped, they're kinky, they're kinky fibers and, and and they're unable to and they're and they have the potential to expand to accommodate the the distortions and shape of our musculature as it as it as it's used as it's flexed. Right, but it's not changing- the change, the change in length is not from your, from your hip, you know, or from your iliac crest, say to your knee joint. Yeah, that length is consistent. And it better be are you going to be so you're not going to walk. So you need that. But while you walk and use your musculature, the dimension of the girth, the girth of the thigh changes constantly. Right? And and you have like these rubber bands, basically wrapped around the circumferentially or around your your thigh in the form of this fascia layer that enables those up and down fibers to have more space between them at certain points in the movement cycle. And it's really cool. And if I if I take if I take a section of the IT band, and I I take clamps and it's not easy to clamp flesh, trust me, I've been making strategies for stressing tissue for a while now and it does doesn't lie. It's It's slippery stuff, you know, and you compress it And anyway, so I got have various strategies with metal and, and vise grips and stuff to to clamp the top of the IT band, and then do the same on the bottom and then suspend weights from the bottom. And I can I can I run out of strength. I only have about 70 pounds of weights in the lab here. So I can hang 70 pounds of weights off of an IT band without much anything happening at all. But if I change the orientation.
Cal Cates 47:45 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 47:47 Right? And I put it kind of width wise, right? Yeah, I do it lengthwise with those tough long fibers. Nothing happens. Right? And God knows how much weight I could put on it more than I can lift. Yeah, but then but then when I turn it sideways. Hmm. Can you imagine that? Try to turn that long thing sideways. Now I got a sideways leg and I clamp it on the in the other direction.
Cal Cates 48:10 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 48:10 Would demonstrate its its circumferential expansion.
Cal Cates 48:13 Mm hmm.
Gil Hedley 48:14 Hang weights on that a tears that about 40, 40-45 pounds. Wow. And when it does so, and I look at the torn tissue under the microscope, what I see is like the rubber bands have like sprung and they're going in all different directions. And in the more dense fibers have simply been been torn from one another.
Cal Cates 48:35 Yeah.
Gil Hedley 48:35 And it's like wow, this is such a fascinating weave of a fabric of biological fabric. And and so when people like get into like debates on friggin Facebook about whether fascisa stretches, I'm like, "Yes, and which one. And in which direction and you don't know what you're talking about." drives me crazy because people like fascia doesn't stretch. Collagen doesn't stretch or whatever. I'm like, actually, I can take like friggin sticks and weave them. You know, you know, in other words, straw is not stretchy, but you can weave it into a into a basket. That's has stretch potential, right? Yeah. So it's not it's not always about the the properties of a molecule. Yeah, it's about the properties of the way the the organization of the fibers that the molecules have formed, and how they're organized that enables something to be distensible- I like the word distensible because people friggin go ballistic. I have haters who hate me because I actually pronounce that.
Cal Cates 49:39 You spoke the truth!
Gil Hedley 49:40 That dirty word "stretch." Oh my god, it doesn't stretch rah, rah. You know, I'm like, get over it.
Cal Cates 49:48 Well, and by the same token, our good friend adipose. I think I saw a video that you did.
Gil Hedley 49:53 That's super stretching.
Cal Cates 49:56 Yeah, it will stretch.
Gil Hedley 49:57 If you can't stretch. You can't move right? Everything is dispensable in the body. Otherwise, you're a friggin two by four.
Cal Cates 50:04 Yeah. But the adipose tissue, I mean, I think we assume it's stretchy, but I don't I had no idea was that strong?
Gil Hedley 50:12 Yeah, me neither.
Cal Cates 50:13 I mean, holy cow, like I mean,
Gil Hedley 50:16 And again, it all depends on how you do it. If you put hooks into it, it just tears apart. But that's true with a rope too, right? You can have a rope that can hold up ocean liner to a dock. Right. But if you unravel it in a certain way, you can break it with your fingers.
Cal Cates 50:32 Right.
Gil Hedley 50:32 So you know, uh, you know, pages of a telephone book, you can tear individually, but there's only a couple magicians who can tear the whole damn telephone book, right? So that was like the thing when I was a kid in the early 70s. Like tearing telephone books and spinning plates on sticks was like, entertaining you like lined up in front of your black and white TV to watch that shit. And we were like, wow,
Cal Cates 50:57 It's amazing!
Gil Hedley 50:58 Yeah. Now you go on YouTube, and you type "amazing." And its like [yells]
Cal Cates 51:06 Take me back to the place.
Cathy Ryan 51:10 Spin some plates! Spin some plates!
Gil Hedley 51:11 We're gonna have a really big show here, tonight. We're gonna spin 10, 10 plates at the same time. They always have that music in the background.
Cal Cates 51:23 Oh, definitely. Yes. So Cathy, is the resident fascia geek, I feel like you probably have a three days of questions or comp? Well, I was just gonna say anybody that knows me knows that I'm just like, this is an early Christmas gift for me and knows that I've just like losing my mind at all, because of our society
Gil Hedley 51:45 You put an IT band in my stocking.
Cal Cates 51:49 That would be amazing. You guys taking notes?
Cathy Ryan 51:56 But you know, it just, you know, all of this conversation for me is just so yummy and juicy. And of course, we know that tissue is different in living bodies when it's juicy, then when it's when it's not. But you know,
Gil Hedley 52:10 Oh its plenty juicy afterwards.
Cathy Ryan 52:12 Yeah. So everything about this is just, you know, I think about my work as massage therapists over 30 years. And I've often said that for- for me, one of the most important things that I do is to perhaps assist people in engaging with their body and developing their relationship with their body. It's not so much about what I'm actually pushing or pulling on, you know, with my hands so much, but it really is about that. And I think what's missing in massage therapy, education and training is exactly all these things that Gil has been talking about, about the connection piece. And not only from a physicality perspective, but all of those other perspectives as well. You know, when I got out of massage therapy school and started my practice, and it was good and all was great. But I knew there was something missing that there is not a magical line down the center of the body that this is the right half and that is the left half our body's just isn't like that. And that's exactly how we're, we're taught, you know, and origin insertion and this chunk over here, and that chunk over there, you know, which set me off in my Odyssey to figure out what am I missing here. And that sent me off studying, you know, looking at anything that was written by the Rolf community and found Robert Schliep's website, and then found Gil, and you know, and then eventually the Fascia Research Congress. So you know, and I think back on my career, and I think I just don't know how we can do something positive or productive for folks, when we're not aware of all this. And if we don't have the capacity to feel what we're touching.
Gil Hedley 53:52 Yeah. Well, if you come to the lab, and then you go back to your books, you have a whole new collection of books.
Cal Cates 54:01 Yeah. Yeah. Right.
Gil Hedley 54:02 Because now, you look back at the books and you're like, "Oh, I see what they were trying to draw."
Cal Cates 54:08 Right.
Gil Hedley 54:10 I see what, you know, what they're what they want to convey. Right? That there's communication happening in the books, and they're doing the best that they can. But when you have the larger context of a lab experience, then it's like, oh, okay, I see what they had to take off because I had to take that off to get to that spot. Oh, look, they stayed left all that other stuff out, because they wanted to show this. And that's really the only way you can draw or speak or communicate about anything at all. There's nothing wrong with that. Its what we're doing right now. We're parsing out reality with our mouth noises. And reality, isn't any any- is unchanged by our lip flapping.
Cal Cates 55:04 Yes.
Gil Hedley 55:05 And grunting and syllabic
Cal Cates 55:09 Utterances.
Gil Hedley 55:09 Civilizations, right? And similarly, I can put my scalpel or my, I can put my pen to paper and parse up reality and try and communicate something. It'll never, it'll never be the whole. Because when you confront an encounter the whole you stop talking. Yeah, it's nothing to say, no, it's indivisible. And words divide. But that doesn't mean you should stop talking, or stop dissecting or stop making books. It just means you should become conscious of limitations of what you're doing. So that you don't fall for your model, as a reality model, whether it be through speech, or dissection, or drawing is always a reduction of reality. And that's what we do. And that's fine. I don't have a problem with that. I do it my whole life. It's all I do. But I know I'm doing it.
Cal Cates 56:08 Yes.
Gil Hedley 56:09 And that's, that's very different. I'm not I'm not really falling for it anymore. I'm no longer as deeply susceptible to the illusions that I create as I used to be.
Cal Cates 56:23 Wow, that feels like that feels like a perfect wrap up. Actually, that's, that's the nugget of if you haven't been in the lab with Gil, you need to do it. And no matter who you are, I know that it's way easier to do online a whole lot cheaper, you can sit in your living room and eat your dinner while Gil reflects the skin layer and deeper. But um, yeah, I think anyone with a body really should should make that something on their on their bucket list because it it will change just as you said like the way that it will change you will be very individual but if you are not changed, you should call us because yeah, we should do it together.
Gil Hedley 57:05 If you're not changed you're in a box already.
Cal Cates 57:08 You missed something. Yeah, exactly. Totally. Yes. Gil, any any other parting wisdom for our listeners?
Gil Hedley 57:18 Oh, from the wisdom factory.
Cal Cates 57:22 Go down to the wisdom files and pull 'em out.
Gil Hedley 57:25 And for the wisdom files there is the wisdom is always your own. And and literally you're walking around with the universe at you're literally at the touch of your fingertips. In your own form. There's nothing missing there. There's nothing wrong. There's there's nothing dirty or unacceptable. There's no orifice. There's no texture that doesn't belong there. That, that can't be rightfully and pleasurably explored, discovered. Wondered at and and, you know, the body's just a crazy, outrageous, amazing gift. And anyone who tells you otherwise can fuck themselves.
Cal Cates 58:15 Perfect.
Gil Hedley 58:15 Which would be good. Because- Sorry, I don't know why I had to end on that.
Cal Cates 58:22 Yeah, you know, one of our listeners what I meant to say That's right, close to one of our foundational goals is to make our listeners uncomfortable. And you have done that in spades and congratulations. Well, thank you so much for being with us today.
Gil Hedley 58:42 You're welcome, it was a blast.
Cal Cates 58:44 It was indeed. I'm still Cal Cates, Executive Director of Healwell, where we make massage therapy matter.
Cathy Ryan 58:51 And I am still Cathy Ryan, and thank you so much for joining us that we bring the perspectives of engaged and compassionate humans to issues of equity, education, health care access, advanced practice of essential humanity in our work as caregivers.
Rebecca Sturgeon 59:16 Interdisciplinary is produced by Healwell our theme music is by Harry Pickens, you can send us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's info at Healwell. New episodes will be posted weekly, via Apple podcast,