The following notes are from the Fascial Net Plastination Project lab and show some of the work done by the team. This research helps us as Bowen Therapists to more fully understand the role of Facsia and how this impacts our work as Bowen Therapists.
Our bodies are one continuous fabric. There are no layers that just fall off each other without some prodding, prying, or actual cutting. In that regard, you can say we only have one single layer. But when you take into account the densities, textures, and molecular and cellular components, you can differentiate several tissue layers in the body. One basic way to “divide the cake” is to break it down into these primary layers: skin, superficial fascia, deep fascia, muscle, organs, and bone.
By stepping this lower-leg dissection, we revealed organization from the skin down to the muscle tissue, making it easy to see and understand. Starting with the top layer on the far left, what you can see in this stepped image of the lower leg is the skin, a divided layer of superficial fascia, deep fascia below, and then the muscles, of which each have their own epimysium, perimysium, and endomysial fascia around and within them.
As Beverly Johnson and I worked across from each other, slowly pulling the superficial fascia away from the deep fascia of the abdomen, we used only blunt dissection, meaning no tools were used to divide the layers other than our hands.
The process clearly revealed several things:
- Our layers are really not “layers.” What I saw, I would describe as a continuous fabric with different textures.
- We are “stitched” through and through with threadlike nerves and vessels. Often, we had to stop to clip the threads that went through all the layers.
- There is a dramatic change in texture and colour between the two types of fascia here. The golden, billowy, bubbly texture of the superficial fascia stood in deep contrast to the glistening, silvery, intersecting lines of collagen in the deep fascia.
I love knowing that this natural wonder of beauty lives hidden in every single one of our bellies! I was truly in awe.
After dissection, we used two different methods to pretreat the abdominal superficial fascia to find out which one would plastinate better. The first was to simply create the prosection, leaving it to the temperature and chemical fat-removal process during plastination. The second was removing the fat before plastination. This was a laborious procedure involving pressing a special pin-covered tool into and through the entire layer, creating exit routes for the adipose that fills in the BubbleWrap-like spaces. That was followed by manual squeezing, squishing, and massaging the tissue until the adipose was removed. This was a sensitive and labor-intensive process, aptly nicknamed “squidging” by FNPP Scientific Advisory Board member Gil Hedley, PhD. However, for all that effort, the untreated plastination turned out much better than its fat-free counterpart. This image is of the plastinated un-squidged piece, which really reveals its beauty.
Cross-Section of the Leg
The deep fascia can be divided into two types: the aponeurotic fascia and the epimysial fascia. The aponeurotic fascia envelops various muscles and connects them, forming the compartments of the limbs. The epimysial fascia is specific for each muscle and defines its form and volume. The prosection pictured here is from the anatomical leg. You can see two bones present: the tibia and the smaller fibula.
What is remarkable in this image is that even though all of the skin, superficial fascia, and muscle tissue were painstakingly removed, what still remains is quite a lot! Fascia can be thin—even gauzy in some areas— but it is easy to see here that it comprises a great deal of the stuff of which we are made.
Respiratory Diaphragm and Pericardium
The truth about the respiratory diaphragm and the heart is that they do not exist within our bodies in isolation, which is what you can assume by looking at anatomical pictures. In reality, they are intimately connected and embryologically stitched together through their fascia. The fascial covering of the heart, the pericardium, is continuous with the fascia of the diaphragm. Fascial relationships are often omitted in drawings and dissections, which are highlighting the muscles and the organs instead of the connective tissue relationships.
This is the only visceral fascial dissection we attempted thus far in the Fascial Net Plastination Project.
First, we separated the respiratory diaphragm from the vertebral column, rib cage, and abdominal fascia surrounding it; from ligaments of the liver, stomach, spleen, and strong vascular network on the bottom; and from the respiratory apparatus on the sides and top of the heart, preserving only the aortic arch and superior vena cava. Next, we removed the heart from its pericardial fascial sack, which was quite an interesting process of “ungloving the heart.” We made several incisions in the central tendon of the respiratory diaphragm (where pericardium and diaphragm are one and the same structure) in order for the heart to be able to exit its sleeve.
By leaving the primary fascial connections intact, we were able to uncover the glistening pericardium encasing the heart and expose its remarkable continuity to the fascia of the respiratory diaphragm muscle. In the image on the left, the heart is still present in the pericardium, allowing you to see the natural shape, while the image on the right is just the protective and supportive pericardium on its own, illuminated from beneath. This image immediately brought to our minds a beautiful quote from Gil Hedley, PhD: “Your heart is made to be light.”
Says FNPP’s Tjasa Cerovsek Landes, “Open the heart and chest opening are common phrases in postural and movement classes. The prosection I worked on of the heart, pericardium, and respiratory diaphragm helped me understand that this language— along with its inherent conceptualizations— creates problems for effective, therapeutic interventions. The heart is saddled in its visceral fascia, which is harnessed to the sternum, anteriorly; to the vertebral column, posteriorly; to the lungs and vessels, laterally; to the thoracic outlet (first rib ring), superiorly; and inseparably, fascially married to the diaphragm, inferiorly … and believe it or not, that’s even omitting some connections! I hope as people see this prosection and the finished plastinated expression, that it will inspire them to continue to ponder and subsequently integrate new ways of communicating progressive releases of the thoracic basket.”