John Barnes is known as the father, or the grandfather as he likes to say, of myofascial release (MFR). But there’s so much more to this technique than one might think. Join Allison as she sits down with John to discuss the life force of fascia, the power of MFR, and how the ability to live in Channel 3 allows us all an authentic path to healing.
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0:01:32.4 S1: For many of us, when we think about Myofascia release, we think about John Barnes, an internationally renowned physical therapist, massage therapist, author, and lecturer. John has tapped into the life force that is, fascia. With a deep intuitive sense, he has unveiled one of the most important modalities of our time, his relationship to fascia, his approach to working with it, and the interactions he has had around his teachings have revealed many deep truths about life itself.
0:02:03.1 John Barnes: There's this one guy in class and I... He wasn't smiling, he wasn't... No facial expression, no, nothing, so I found all my attention going to him. When I got done, Dr. Smith came up to me and he said, "Oh John, they loved you. You did great." I said, "I don't know if I was on today." And he said, "Why?" I said, "Well, this one guy, I couldn't get to him." And he said, "Who's that?" And I pointed to him, he started to laugh. He said, "He's French, from France. He doesn't speak English."
0:02:33.2 JB: So he told me, "Don't go to the naysayers or those negative, just go to the positive, be yourself, and it'll work out."
0:02:39.9 S1: John Barnes got into the field of physical therapy for the same reason that many of us find ourselves in the field of body work. An accident in his younger years brought him into not only a state of pain, but also a state of questioning how we heal. His path from athlete to healer began with his own desire to deeply understand the mind-body connection and to drop in to his intuition.
0:03:11.6 JB: When I was a junior in high school, I knew I wanted to be a physiotherapist. I had been an athlete, and I ran track, I threw the shot put, I did karate, competitive karate, competitive weight-lifting, skiing, motorcycles. I basically loved competition in motion. One day I went down to the gym to work out, and nobody was there to spot me, and I was doing squats with somewhere over 300 pounds, and I got to the point that I couldn't get up. I'd been a gym gymnast when I was younger, and I figured I'll just do a back roll to get out of this, forgetting that when you have a 300 pound bar in your hands, your hands don't let go. I landed on my sequel lumbar area with horrible, horrible force, and I laid there totally stunned, numb from the waist down. But before I go any further, let me just interject here that one of the things I teach happened at this moment, but I didn't have words for it, and I'll come back into more detail. We have a survival mechanism that healthcare paid no attention to 'cause it has to do with the mind. And as you probably realize, the mind was separated from the body in healthcare, in our education, while lip service is given to it. And I'm not talking about brain function and neurological function, so I'll come back to that.
0:04:26.5 JB: So I was numb from the waist down, and then as the numbness began to wear off, the pain began. It was horrible, I couldn't move my legs. And in that instant, it took away from me the things I loved the most, motion competition. I layed for about an hour, I had to crawl out of the gym, and I tried every form of therapy known to mankind. Nobody wanted to get better more than I did, and nothing but temporary results. And then when I went to physical therapy school, I went there and back to Paoli. I went to the University of Pennsylvania, which was in Philadelphia. As an athlete, I was interested in the mind-body complex, so I began as a PT, and then as a... I was pretty much what you call a traditional physical therapist for the first 15 years, and then I was doing... I was... Basically, what I had to do for myself was treat myself 'cause nothing was helping me. And I'd lay on my living room floor, and I would put pressure into where I hurt the most, which was my low back.
0:05:30.0 JB: And I've always been very in tune with my intuition, as most of us were when we were young, but then school kind of beats it out of us. And as I treated myself on my living room floor, I was still very strong, so I was trying to bowl my way through restrictions, which is, as you know different forms of deep body work. The problem is the Fascial System is a system that can't be forced, so it's a lot of pain for something that doesn't last, with temporary results. That's the main of all forms of therapy, physical therapy, massage therapy, OT, one... Whatever, temporary results, and there's some very important reasons for that. My intuition kept saying, "Lighten up," and I did. "Lighten up some more," and I did. And then, "Then be more patient, wait longer." And as I'd started to wait longer with the more appropriate pressures, I started to make this remarkable recovery. And then I started to apply these techniques to my patients. And, they started to have results beyond my wildest imagination.
0:06:30.8 S1: John appears to have been tapped in even before fully understanding what he knows today to the fascial system of the human body. It always seems, to me anyway, that experts in a field have always known what they know. But John was learning and listening to his intuition to try to make sense of it all.
0:06:50.5 JB: Yes. I didn't have a clue initially, but then as I continued to treat myself, I started to have sensations in different parts of my body I wasn't touching.
0:07:01.1 S1: I had emotions coming out, which is a... Back in 1960s, guys weren't supposed to express emotion, you know? But after I expressed the emotion, I felt a lot better, and then that started to really trigger me. I was at... I had been asked to teach TMJ seminars and on osteopathy at the college near Philadelphia. Then I started to realize that I might be dealing with the fascial system, so I went to the osteopathic college library and I looked up, and then what I found was a stack of books about 10 inches tall, with a pile of dust about two inches tall on it, it hadn't been touched in decades. Dr. Andrew Still, who was the founder of Osteopathy though, had a lot of good insights into the fascial system. But the osteopaths, basically are using what I call the old form of myofascial release, which is a categorization I would apply to most other forms of myofascial release out there.
0:07:55.6 JB: Again, it's an attempt to force a system that can't be forced, so that was my first clue. And then as I continued to treat people, I've learned to tune into my intuition, and it was like I was weaving this tapestry and this information kept coming in, and coming in, and coming in. So over the years I've put together, basically, an approach that it's... I've gotten to the point now where I've trained over 100,000 therapists and physicians and they're using myofascial release on millions of patients a month. And the important thing is there's not been one injury, because we don't force. Turns out that force is counter productive.
0:08:33.9 S1: Going from a physical therapy practice to a path of implementing intuition, to becoming the father of myofascial release is no small feat. John implemented his combination of book knowledge and intuitive self care to formulate a deep practice that he bravely opened up to anyone who was interested.
0:08:52.4 JB: So I started to apply to my patients what I had been doing on myself and the results were so... And I had a very large physical therapy practice, I had a lot of therapists work for me, but it was causing a problem because then everybody wanted to see me 'cause of the results. So I realized I have to put a... Put aside a whole weekend to teach my staff how to do it, and then I thought, "Well maybe I'll open this up to the public." So you know, when you have a new idea, everybody likes to criticize you, and put it down. They said, "Nobody will ever listen, nobody knows what myofascial release is. Nobody's gonna come, you know we'll get lucky even if we get three people and all that stuff." So there was a local physical therapy paper, actually, it's actually a nationwide physical therapy magazine. And I called and I said, "You wouldn't... If you're interested in an interview... And I'm doing something different." So they came over and interviewed me, and I just put a little ad in there, and it came out on Friday and... So anyway, next... On Monday morning, the phones were ringing off the hook, I got 200 people.
0:09:50.8 JB: Now, before that I had been lecturing to physicians and TMJ specialists, but I never really had been lecturing to anybody larger than maybe 15. So 200 people, it's a whole another animal, you know. Plus the room we had wasn't large enough to accommodate all those people, so I had to break it up into two seminars of 100 each. And I had to put down some notes of what I would say initially, I got up on the podium and I froze, and somehow God came along or somebody came along to help me out. And then the waiter came through a swinging door and rammed it against the wall.
0:10:25.0 JB: And everybody looked over there and I looked at my notes. And then I got really ticked at myself, and I just took off, I just... My intuition said, "Just do what you do all day long," and it worked out fine, and everybody loved the seminar. I loved that TMJ specialists had come to listen to me at the seminar, and afterwards they took me out to dinner. They said, "Oh John, this is wonderful what you're doing, but you know, it's only a fad." Well this fad has been going on for a long time and it's built to something huge. So look, the main message is don't listen to the critics. If in your heart you believe something you're doing is right, just do it. And you know you get criticized no matter what the hell you do. But whenever we try anything, there's gonna be fear, you just... You feel the fear and then you break through it, and then you grow.
0:11:09.5 S1: We may not have had a painful injury like John did as an athlete, but his understanding that we have all experienced some sort of trauma gives us the ability to feel more deeply and therefore no healing more intimately.
0:11:25.1 JB: So much have happened to just about everybody, actually it occurred at our births, and early childhood falls, and all of the things that happened to us in school, attacks that occurred, difficult deliveries, on and on, and on. And basically what our society taught us to do is to deny the fear or shove it down. And in so doing, we didn't realize the fear then solidifies to the ground substance of the fascia. It ultimately turns into crushing pressure that causes so many of the effects or symptoms that we deal with every day. So healing is feeling.
0:12:00.4 S1: It is clear that John's connection with healing is feeling resonated with a lot of people. And it may not always seem obvious to us if we are on the right track to whatever path we wish to take. John seemed to know though that there is another part of us that holds the answers, but has become increasingly more difficult to access.
0:12:20.7 JB: I have a way of looking at consciousness. It's very simplistic, but I think very accurate. Our whole educational process, particularly we as therapists, basically we're taught on the intellectual, rational level, and I call that channel five. All of healthcare is based on order and control, which is fine if it worked, and it's not working. And so what Myofascial release does is switch us into what I call channel three, in a very safe, efficient, and effective way. Channel three is your intuitive, instinctive side, that is the healing zone, and that is not accomplished. In fact, channel five blocks it. This is why you don't want too much talk or thinking in the treatment room. You have to teach your client to quiet down too, so they can feel what's going on, as long as you're thinking, or talking, or bracing, that's the problem with too much force, there's no therapeutic value. It's on channel five, they can't help it, 'cause our whole society, our education was not true education, it was mass hypnosis.
0:13:22.0 JB: And so healing is awakening, and this hypnosis, basically Channel five from psychological parlance is called consensus consciousness. Another word for consensus consciousness is trance. You and I and everybody in our society is in this trance and I thought it was so bright, and so healing is breaking out of that trance, that myofascial release allows us through by letting our fears come up, allowing ourself to feel them, and then we can make change and we can grow in our own particular natural and unique way. Until then, we're zoned out, we think we're just... We're basically coming through other people's thoughts and ideas. There's an old saying that if you don't define yourself, somebody else will, that's what's happened to us in our society.
0:14:08.4 S1: So getting out of channel five and tapping into channel three, can open doors that fear has seemingly sealed shut.
0:14:16.0 JB: The neuroscientists have recently discovered, that the database available to us in Channel three is in excess of 10 million to one about our intellectual side channel five. You and I were born as geniuses. All the incredible geniuses we know about, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Einstein, Nikola Tesla, all these incredible people are tapped into what's called channel three. You see another word for all of that, I call our feeling intelligence, but another word for all of that is wisdom. But the programming from our society blocked that, and struck us on this minuscule level of consciousness. It's not that we don't use our own, like I have great respect for it, it's an incredible tool, but it's a tool. And we let the tool run the show, now it's this flip flop because now you use the tool for the wonderful server mechanism it is, 'cause the tool has dominated us, it's not pleasant, we're trapped in it. This is about freedom and gaining your... This exactly like you said, gaining your own potential in your own unique way.
0:15:20.0 S1: It is one thing to begin to understand how to tap into channel three within yourself, it is another thing to be able to teach others how to do this. In order to cross that bridge for himself, John faced one of his own biggest fears.
0:15:34.5 JB: I have twin boys and when they were like six or seven, I took them down to Disneyland and I went down, there was a physical therapy meeting there, and I didn't really intend on going to the meeting, I just was gonna take them around, but it was raining the first day and we couldn't go out. So I decided to go down and I looked through the agenda and there was a TMJ specialist speaking there, and he made... He's the first physician or TMJ specialist I ever heard that believed in the whole body concept and in the mind and that type of thing. So I found him really interesting and he said, "Go out and when you go back, go out, you have a lot to teach scientists dentists [0:16:13.8] ____ and they have a lot to teach you." And so I sent out a letter to the local physicians and my other team also... You get no response, but two or three people did show up. I invited them over to my facility for like a little inservice meeting, and one of them was Dr. Steven Smith, who's actually known for his, TMJ specialist, after I got done teaching, he said, "You know, you're a natural teacher." And then he said, "Would you be interested in coming down? I give TMJ symposiums to the Osteopathic College." So I said, "Okay." I said, "Okay." 'Cause I thought I it might generate referrals, but I hated public speaking.
0:16:51.5 JB: And I just remember driving down the first morning and I was nervous and I had a jacket and tie on, and all, that whole thing, and halfway down my intuition said, "Take the damn tie off and just talk about what you know." And within 10 minutes I was flowing, I just enjoyed it, I connected with the audience somehow just 'cause it was coming from my heart. And then so I started to resonate with people, so then he kept inviting me back to different seminars... And all over the Mexico, Bermuda, Hawaii, beautiful places. So I used to make a game where I would see how quickly I could tune into resonance with them, and then one seminar, there was this one guy in class and he wasn't smiling, he wasn't... No facial expression, no nothing. So I found all my attention going to him, so when I got done Dr. Smith came up to me, he said, "Oh John, they loved you, you did a great... " I said, I dunno if I was on today, and he said, "Why?" I said, "Well, this one guy, I couldn't get to him." He said, "Who's that?" And I pointed to him, he started to laugh, he said, "He's French, from France, he doesn't speak English." [laughter] So he told me, "Don't go to the naysayers or those negative, just go to the positive, be yourself and it'll work out."
0:18:07.3 S1: John's deep wisdom of fascia, his sense of intuition and profound belief in the whole body approach, is something that might prove to be met with scrutiny in today's modern demand for scientific research. His observation of this trend though is a perfect reflection of his methods.
0:18:24.0 JB: What myofascial release does, it kind of holds up a mirror force as you get into it, and allows you to see your programming, your limitations, which is so enormous, we never realized it. So it brings you to a form of self-awareness. So as people, the first day, they're... Not everybody, but some people are very negative and critical, by the second of day or third day, they've just melted 'cause, they're feeling what I'm saying is true to them. I'm not making stuff up here, as far as the awareness of fascia goes, Dr. G Barto, [0:18:56.6] ____ he was the French hand surgeon who as he operated on people, he was becoming increasingly distressed because what he saw in the living human being did not match what he was taught in medical school. So he did 25 years of research on the fascia system. And he was particularly single lined being a hand surgeon.
0:19:17.8 JB: And one of the things he says... He has many videos, and what he says in his videos is, in 25 years of research, he could find no linearity in a human being whatsoever. Everything you and I were taught, no matter what PTOTMT orthopedic surgeon was linear, analogical. The big problem with that is your body's neither linear, nor logical, it's a non-linear global system. And it has to do with your intuition and your instincts, so the... Not that we don't do our intellectual side, but about three years ago, fascia got nationwide attention, there was an article in one of the leading newspapers, about a physician had discovered a new organ.
0:20:04.4 JB: So is the fascial system they were talking about. And he discovered this thing, completely disregarding all the people have done good work the fascial system before that. So he talked to the doctor [0:20:17.3] ____ and let them know what's going on. So he already knew and they had a chat and they've since become friends. But what really interested me in the article also was this picture... There's a picture of the three-dimensional aspect of the fascial system of the fluid within. That picture is exactly what my intuitive side saw 15 years ago in treating people. What they finally admitted was exactly what I've been teaching for decades, is the way it's been done has been totally incorrect. So before they study any soft tissue, they would smash the tissue together and they studied dead people.
0:20:52.0 JB: See everything we learned was about cadavers, but that seems from Switch. We learned about dead people, that living, beautiful organism is full of love, life. We are liquid crystal, full of incredible wisdom. We own this amazing wisdom of Leonardo da Vinci and we can tap into it. And that's what changes our clients lives too. Because that enables them to get to that point. So I always question people not to regret what happened to you, you can't change the past, but we can change the response to it, and as we do, this beautiful wisdom comes through you. And now you find who you truly are, your true self. You see, channel five is the false ego, it's not who you are. It's the negative, critical, judgmental, fearful side of us. Channel three is this amazing loving wisdom with great clarity, it's a whole different world.
0:21:45.1 S1: Although there are many separations as John sees it between what we can explain and what we can feel, he sees only deep connections once we dive into the actual work of myofascial release.
0:21:58.1 JB: So what you do with myofascial release is you approach the system very slowly, you slowly sink into it. Because this is all about feel, you slowly sink into it till you feel resistance. Now with myofascial release we're never forced to resistance. You're sort of nudged into it like you making hand prints, and the therapist learns to quiet their mind, center themself, so they can feel deep into the body with appropriate set of senses. As we nudge into that, we then have to wait, five minutes preferably much longer. Now, that's what drives therapists crazy in this field. Channel five can't be still, it's frantic. It can't wait to get on to the next damn thing, it can't stop talking. So always you are talking, thinking you under state of distraction. To an event somewhere around the five-minute period, the most amazing things start to happen. There's a number of phenomena that are elicited that have to do with authentic [0:22:50.5] ____. Somewhere around five minutes, piezoelectricity begins to occur. Piezoelectricity is a Greek word for pressure-electricity, so that in our body there is bio-electricity. That is then coupled with something called Meccano transduction. What that means is our mechanical pressure is converted into biochemical and hormonal response at the cellular level.
0:23:16.7 JB: So physicians have been treating symptoms. So all of those over treating symptoms physicians now turn to treating symptoms by the biochemical effect, not that we shouldn't have medicine at times. So what they've just discovered, and this is very important, as the mechanical transduction is occurring in your client's body, they are producing interleukin 8, which is your body's natural anti-inflammatory. All the recent research on cancer and other diseases show that all the past research has been wrong. And what cancer and other diseases turn out to be, is a thwarted inflammatory response. Inflammation is a very important part of the healing process. But when it's thwarted, what happens is that which should be fluid to ground substance starts to become more and more viscous, eventually turns into a solid mass of crushing pressure up to 2000 pounds per square inch, a pain sense of the structures. And that's what produces its symptoms.
0:24:15.4 JB: So everything we have done in the past as therapists affect the elastic and muscular component of the myofascial complex. But this is only 20% of the fascial system, that's why the results are temporary most of the time. Myofascial release deals with 100%, the other 80%, which is the client's test bar, [0:24:32.9] ____ is something about the positions in space of PS trauma that has been completely ignored, that must be let go on electromagnetic level for the bodies, mind protective responses to eventually let go. If the mind doesn't let go, the structure work will never let go on a permanent basis.
0:24:52.6 JB: Then we move into what's called phase transition. You and I were all brought up to believe there are three phases of water; ice, water and vapor. Well, if you look into the work of Dr. Gerald Pollack, one the world's biggest [0:25:06.2] ____ experts in fluid dynamics, he has found a fourth phase of water. It's liquid crystal. Other word for liquid crystal is fascia. As the character is both solid and fluid and can change. See there's the thing, it can change. In the phase transition, there is a chaotic period. Now that's a dirty word in healthcare. Myofascial release is based on systems theory and chaos theory. The systems theory states that only time is a kind of meaningful possibility of growth change or humeral is in chaos. So as the therapist is producing therapeutic chaos, and as a person goes into the character, because we do have a mind, it will always reorganize at a higher level. So there's this roller coaster effect, you feel better then you get a little stirred up, you feel better but then [0:25:56.1] ____ better and better and eventually progress. So repetition is very important. Then we eventually go to resonance.
0:26:07.2 JB: When you and I touch another human being, our vibratory rates are quite different. But then when you give us sufficient time using the proper pressures, the vibratory rates at some point will match identically. And that's when that which has solidified begins to rehydrate, the tissue becomes capable of glide again. And this horrendous pressure, 2000 pounds for square inch starts to melt. And that's why people have such profound results with this. Every therapist should be doing this as... I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing all the other things we're good at, they're really good. But without this, it's a massive missing link, and I'm talking massive. It's the healthcare of the future. We always need physicians. We always need biochemistry. We always need surgery at times. But what I always say that except in emergency, always have Myofascia release first, I'm very prejudiced.
0:27:00.2 S1: Myofascia release is powerful work and our understanding of fascia itself can be even more powerful. John took a moment to help explain his perspective of how this incredible anatomical element responds to trauma.
0:27:14.6 JB: See, the ground substance is the fluidity of the fascial system. The fascial system is the main transport medium of our body. So we're 70% water and more, right? So that what happens from trauma, as they said, is the ground substance tends to become viscous and then crushing pressure. But also what happens now, it's much good nutrition as you think you're eating, it's not getting to the cell. Nutrition is not when the food goes down your throat, it's when it enters the cell. The water you drink, hydration is not when you swallow water, it's when it enters the cell. The oxygen you breathe is not getting to the cell. The biochemistry, the hormones, the information, the energy, every cell needs to thrive. When you have fascia restrictions, it doesn't get there. If you look at fascia systems at three dimensional web, if you look at like a sieve at the cellular level, if I pour water into a sieve, the water goes through the sieve. If I pour mud into the sieve it doesn't matter what you put in there. Now it's getting, not getting to the, basically you're dying in those areas. It's not good. So this brings, like, this brings you back to life again. It helps to prevent some horrible things that happen to people in their lives.
0:28:29.3 S1: When it comes to his own healthcare and our collective healthcare, John holds that our ability to live in channel three helps us to observe ourselves in channel five. And what can happen from there is spectacular.
0:28:43.7 JB: You think about when you're traumatized, one of the examples I give is, let's say you're walking across the street, you see a car coming at you, turn toward the car, maybe your hands are... You get hit by the car. Our feeling and intelligence, which is channel three, somehow leaves your body. Now you're usually injured in motion. So I fall to the ground, there's another position, space and more leaves. Damn car runs you over me. That's a big one. No. So the... It turns out that this survival mechanism, when something has gotten too intense for us, too painful, too scary, the feeling intelligence leaves your body to numb you out. To go back to my weight lifting accident, I numbed out from the waist down. I didn't know what it meant at that time. So it numbs you out to help you get through the ordeal.
0:29:37.4 JB: In fact, it saves your life a little, so that no other form of healthcare takes any intention to that. It turns out that your subconscious, your channel three, your mind, whatever you choose to call it, is capable of healing yourself. So with the help of the therapist, what we do as we take, we take gravity outta the system very lately, and it's about trust. If the patient trusts you and if the therapist is in channel three, they trust you. They can feel on a subconscious level 'cause they're being touched in a way they've never been touched before, and it feels very safe. As they take their breaks off, which is channel five, the body spontaneously starts to move. It's the most amazing thing. And somehow the body will find positions of past trauma. When you hit these positions of past trauma, all the pain, all the fear that happened at the moment of trauma come bailing forth from the subconscious and it connects with the conscious mind. That's where authentic healing commences.
0:30:34.4 S1: It is clear that John Barnes lives an authentic life dropped into his channel three. His passion for Myofascia release and its profound effect on how we heal is contagious. I felt an immense sense of calm after talking with him. And if that is any indication as to the power of this modality, we could all use a little more Myofascia release.
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