At a fascia conference in Berlin in November 2018, I was accosted by a lady who pointed at me and accused me of being the man who “doesn’t believe in Anatomy Trains.” Slightly taken aback I pointed out that in the face of evidence, belief is not required. Bring me the evidence and I will not require faith.
Before we go any further, allow me to place a very firm stake in the ground here. I consider Tom Myers to be one of the greatest teachers, orators, therapists and thinkers that we have seen in the last 100 years. Anatomy Trains is a work of absolute genius and one of the most important contributions to the world of body work and anatomy that stands alongside Job’s Body for importance. I for one would not be in the place I am without Tom and his work. I consider him to be a friend and a colleague and someone for whom I have an endless amount of respect and gratitude. I have taught with him back in 2007 where we ran a dissection workshop in St George’s hospital in London and took him on a tour to teach my Bowen people. I like Tom. A lot.
As you might guess, there is a however coming up and you would be right. It’s actually more about how people have taken the AT work on rather than about Tom, but I offer you a quote from the man himself where he explains Anatomy Trains as “imaginary lines of strain in the body.” If we stayed here, with the word imaginary, then I would have no need for my belief system to be questioned and no need to be accused of several counts of Myers heresy. Simply put, Anatomy Trains do not exist. There, I’ve said it. They are imaginary and like many things imaginary, serve an excellent purpose when used to illustrate an idea. Anatomy has needed a model to remind us that there are continuities and connections all over the body that have functional connection and relationships and there is little better in the way of models than the imaginary ATs. Why spoil a good thing?
In the years since I first encountered Tom and the ATs, there has been much dissecting of many cadavers and along the way, the lines have been dissected out and held up as proof that “yes here they are, they do indeed truly exist.” They do not and to suggest they do demeans the originality of the work and its designer. Apart from the basic idea that the lines are physiologically impossible, cutting something out of a dead body just means that you have a sharp knife, a keen eye and a good imagination. My blog on confirmation bias is a reminder that what we seek to verify we probably will, even at the expense of good science, logic and common sense.
John Webster from California is an ice carver (and a pretty good masseur), renowned for his carvings of swans from ice. When asked how he performs such feats he claims it is very simple. “Just take some ice and cut away anything that doesn’t look like a swan.” Anatomy has been creating non-existent structures out of dead bodies for hundreds of years, giving us things like the Iliotibial band and various retinacula, all of which are carvings in the same vein as the ATs and John’s swans. Certainly instructive and interesting and definitely worth doing, as long as you see the nature of the model you are creating.
I do believe however that I have found an actual unicorn in the shoulder blade. No really.