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Holistic Body Reading

by Julian Baker
The word holistic has been used in the world of CAM for many years. For some, particularly those with a bias away from the field, it has come to represent something new-age, out there or, worst of all, an unproven field of therapy or treatment. It seems strange the word that encompasses the physical, emotional and spiritual dimension of the human form is considered to be somewhat alternative. Even stranger, there is no field of medicine which considers and studies the body as a whole unit. In medicine however these relationships are not only ignored but regularly denied. As a result we have an epidemic of back pain, simply because no-one accepts that most back pain doesnt come from the back, but is a result of a series of relationships and compensations. Treating the back pain itself will invariably not solve the problem long term. The body is not a series of muscles and bones. The fact that we learn traditional anatomy as part of our study when learning massage or other forms of treatment doesn't mean to say that we should continue to be reductionist when looking at how the body moves around. Let's look at the head as an example of a large counter-balancing weight, which will impact and affect the way the rest of the body moves. If I sit upright in the chair with my back straight, my feet flat on the floor and my hands resting, palms upwards, on the front of my legs, it will be impossible for me to stand up without moving my head and upper body forwards. This movement will be completely dependent on my head being in the correct position. If as I try and stand up, I tilt my head backwards by only a couple of centimetres, then again the ability to stand up becomes limited or is made impossible. To me a body read will always start with the position of the head in relation to shoulders, lower back, and the central, coronal line of the body. If the head is pushed forward then a counter-balance will be required, probably through the mid back. This in turn will be countered by an over strain through the sacrum, which I feel, contains virtually all the fascial connections of the upper and lower body. The slightest changes in our physical routine have the ability to create huge discomfort. Try drinking a cup of tea with your opposite hand. Cross your legs; now cross them the opposite way. One way will feel much easier than the other. This is simply because we have created in our connective tissues, the patterns which we lay down.

TRADITIONAL TREATMENTS There are over 40 different branches of medicine and as many medical specialties. Each one of these studies the workings of the systems of one part of the body and then specialises in understanding the ailments that affect them.
Yet with all this expertise and training there is no one field which studies the biomechanical and connective tissue relationships that make up our incredible human form. Traditional anatomy reduces the body to a series of muscles, bones, nerves, etc and assigns function and movement to these individual parts. For example if I want to abduct my shoulder, I can look up and find the muscles that are responsible for this, the nerves that supply the muscles and bones that form the joints involved. But if I tried to use just these structures, I would fall over. I need to be able to stabilise other areas of my body and allow for the weight change that is going to take place in this process. Lifting my right arm into the air will require slight contraction and stabilisation through the abdominal muscles, the hip, and the knee on the opposite side of my body to the arm that I'm moving. If therefore my shoulder or arm doesn't lift very well or very comfortably, I need to consider the ability of the other structures to take the strain of a load and to operate in a way that I am asking them to.

MUSCLE MEMORY? I often hear people speaking of muscle memory and this is a concept which both intrigues and puzzles me. Muscle itself has very little in the way of integrity. It relies almost entirely for its ability to hold a position, on the fascia and connective tissue that surrounds it.
If I learn a function or movement, then it is the relationships of tissues through, around and in between muscle that is going to allow me to repeat this movement over and over again and the muscle will give me the strength, agility and physical ability to perform the movement. Fascia itself is made up of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen is to humans what cellulose is to plants and forms the foundation of our structure and our ability to stay upright and move around. Unlike muscle and bone, fascia is continuous. It joins up all of our muscular structures and skeletal structures and also our respiratory system, spinal-cord and so forth.

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