Fascia is the human body’s primary force transmission and proprioceptive system. It is this tissue that we are primarily working with as Bowen Therapists.
As a tissue, fascia possesses an intricate architecture that is as visually captivating as it is complex. Strangely though, we have never seen it in its entirety, largely due to the surprising absence of fascia in the models, photographic images, and drawn illustrations commonly used to teach anatomy today.
It’s an understandable problem. Fascia covers up and hides from view much of its more famous “relatives”— nerves, muscles, organs, vessels, and bones – and has therefore been literally removed from the playing field for over 500 years of anatomical study.
“Anatomists feed on technicalities and on detail,” says FNPP’s John Sharkey. “The traditional method of teaching anatomy via dissection is uniform and systematic. The student of medical anatomy removes the skin and associated fascia in order to get a better look at the vessels, nerves, and organs that lie beneath. These structures are completely encased in fascia, making it virtually impossible to view them in the clean, antiseptic manner we see in modern anatomy texts.”
The downside, Sharkey says, is that this approach places the emphasis on where. “Where is the superior mesenteric artery? Where is the celiac trunk? Where is Dandy’s vein? While this is essential for surgeons in training, it takes focus away from the associated fabric that unites and supports these structures, the very tissue that was removed—the fascia.”
While thousands of scientific studies have increased the global awareness of fascia’s importance, the general population, and even professional practitioners of movement and bodywork, are still unclear about exactly what it looks like, where it lives, and why it is important to them. As Jean-Claude Guimberteau writes in his book, Architecture of Human Living Fascia (Handspring, 2015), “Connective tissue is, in fact, the constitutive tissue. It does not only link the different parts together—it is the frame in which the parts are developed.”
The problem describing the appearance of fascia is a vexing one because fascia varies greatly in texture and thickness; therefore, it can look like many different things. From the tough, durable fabric of the iliotibial band, to the delicate meningeal fascia of the nervous system, this mysterious and essential tissue needs to be holistically rendered in all three dimensions to be fully appreciated in its true form. The goal of the Fascial Net Plastination Project is to do just that.
A collaboration of the Fascia Research Society, Somatics Academy, and the Gubener Plastinate (GmbH), the FNPP is comprised of anatomists, bodyworkers, movement educators, acupuncturists, physical therapists, academics, professors, physicians, and dissection enthusiasts from around the world. Together, they hope to advance human fascia anatomy education through creation of the world’s first 3D human fascial net plastinated forms.