Ep 340 – The Myofascial System in Form and Movement with Lauri Nemetz

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There are many misconceptions about the myofascial system, and the science is changing rapidly. In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Kristin and Darren speak with Lauri Nemetz about her book, The Myofascial System in Form and Movement. Lauri speaks about how her background in art history, dance and movement therapy, and anatomical dissection helped weave together the many facets of the evolving area of myofascial research.


The Myofascial System in Form & Movement: https://us.singingdragon.com/products/the-myofascial-system-in-form-and-movement

Author Images: 
Darren Buford, editor-in-chief of Massage & Bodywork Magazine.
Kristin Coverly LMT, director of education for ABMP.
Author Bio: 

Lauri is an adjunct professor at Pace (NY) University, Visiting Associate Professor, Deptartment of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, a licensed creative arts therapist, a member of the American Association for Anatomy, a board-certified member of the Academy of Dance/Movement Therapists, a Yoga Alliance yoga teacher and education provider at the 500-hour level, a Stott Pilates instructor, a certified yoga therapist (IAYT), and a provider and former faculty member for Anatomy Trains and Anatomy Trains Dissections.

She co-leads knmlabs.com and is an independent anatomical dissector with several projects, including the Fascia Net Plastination Project. She is the author of The Myofascial System in Form and Movement (Handspring Publishing, 2022), a contributor to The Anatomy of Yoga Coloring Book (North Atlantic Books, 2022), and the author of numerous articles. She has presented internationally, including at Harvard Medical, Oxford University, and at conferences for the American Association for Anatomy. More information available on wellnessbridge.com.


Darren Buford is senior director of communications and editor-in-chief for ABMP. He is editor of Massage & Bodywork magazine and has worked for ABMP for 22 years, and been involved in journalism at the association, trade, and consumer levels for 24 years. He has served as board member and president of the Western Publishing Association, as well as board member for Association Media & Publishing. Contact him at editor@abmp.com.

Kristin Coverly, LMT is a massage therapist, educator, and the director of professional education at ABMP. She loves creating continuing education courses, events, and resources to support massage therapists and bodyworkers as they enhance their lives and practices. Contact her at ce@abmp.com.



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Anatomy Trains is a global leader in online anatomy education and also provides in-classroom certification programs for structural integration in the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan, and China, as well as fresh-tissue cadaver dissection labs and weekend courses. The work of Anatomy Trains originated with founder Tom Myers, who mapped the human body into 13 myofascial meridians in his original book, currently in its fourth edition and translated into 12 languages. The principles of Anatomy Trains are used by osteopaths, physical therapists, bodyworkers, massage therapists, personal trainers, yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonics, and other body-minded manual therapists and movement professionals. Anatomy Trains inspires these practitioners to work with holistic anatomy in treating system-wide patterns to provide improved client outcomes in terms of structure and function.    

Website: anatomytrains.com    

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Full Transcript: 

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0:00:44.6 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford. 


0:00:45.7 Kristin Coverly: And I'm Kristin Coverly. 


0:00:46.3 DB: And welcome to the ABMP podcast, a podcast where we speak with the massage and bodywork profession. Our guest today is Lauri Nemetz. Kristin, hold on to your seat as I read this bio. Lauri is an adjunct professor at Pace University, visiting associate professor at Rush University Medical Center, a licensed creative arts therapist, a member of the American Association for Anatomy, a board-certified member of the Academy of Dance Movement Therapists, a Yoga Alliance yoga teacher and education provider, a Stott Pilates instructor, a certified yoga therapist, and provider and former faculty for Anatomy Trains and Anatomy Trains Dissections. She co-leads KNM labs and guests internationally for dissection projects, including the Fashion Net Plastination Project. And she is the author of the Myofascial System in Form and Movement, and a contributor to the Anatomy of Yoga Coloring Book, as well as numerous articles. For more information, visit wellnessbridge.com. Hello, Lauri, and hello, Kristin. 


0:01:49.5 Lauri Nemetz: Hello. Nice to be here. 


0:01:50.7 KC: Hello, Lauri, we are thrilled to have you here. Welcome to the ABMP podcast. Darren just shared a lot of incredibly impressive things that you are doing now, but let's take it a step back. Let's start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit more about your journey and how you became interested in studying the myofascial system. 


0:02:09.0 LN: I think the most important thing is that I've always been curious. So I have come from an eclectic background. I've studied anatomy in different forms for a very long time now. But as an undergraduate, I was an art history and French major. And then in graduate school, I went into dance movement therapy, alternate form of psychotherapy, which I'm still licensed in. But it was, I think my art history background that has really gotten me to the point I am today, because it is about looking at things and ways of seeing and how we interpret that information. And all of us do that, whether you're a manual or movement, whether we're looking at an anatomy dissection, we are making choices, but also reflecting on our idea of how that is in the world. So I've been a long time fascinated with how we see things. So I think that's the short answer to how I got there. I can go a little bit further on that, but that's the really short version. And then we can dive in some more. [chuckle] 


0:03:23.5 KC: How did you become so interested in dance movement and the physical movement of the body?  


0:03:29.4 LN: So beginning in dance movement therapy, to backtrack that a little bit, I started to have a big interest in dance when I was younger, but I couldn't afford dance lessons traditionally. So I always found creative ways to get into the types of things I wanted to do. So I mean in college, I created my own dance company called Visual Impact actually, with another friend of mine. And I also became somebody who worked for the American Dance Festival because I wanted to get to experience dance as a mover and also work at the same time, which I always needed to do. And that really sparked my interest in this whole newish field called Dance Movement Therapy. So I was, at the time, like I said, art history and French major, exploring all sorts of things, but I'd also done a lot of psychology work as undergraduate. And I was fascinated. I had a choice of kind of going on to more hardcore science, which I've come back to, or going into something more creative. And I thought about that. 


0:04:33.3 LN: I played around with a few dance companies for a little while, but I wanted to combine the two, thinking and creativity, doing things, helping other people, which has also been something that's so important to everything that's kind of guided my career. And I find the creative arts therapy is something so fascinating as a way to get into how we cope with the world in creative ways and how we can come out of some times that are very difficult in creative ways. So that's kind of what led me into that whole pathway. 


0:05:04.5 DB: So I've got to ask the next step. So where does anatomy and dissection come into play? 'Cause that's a pretty big leap, but I'm super curious to hear. 


0:05:14.9 LN: Yeah, it is and it isn't 'cause everything has kind of guided one halfway to the next in different ways. And I think what happened is I had to take anatomy as part of my dance movement therapy master's degree that was required. I was fascinated by it, but it was a short little course in kinesiology. And then I went out there into the world and I was working with lots of different populations and I had a very big curiosity. Nothing looks like the textbooks. Nothing in the way I'm doing things looks at all like this. You know, yeah, all right, I recognise this, I recognise that. And so I kind of wanted to go a deep dive into things further and I had just such a big curiosity, why wasn't this matching what I was seeing? So I mean, around the time I started to explore anatomy deeper, I came across Tom Myers' first book of Anatomy Trains and it spoke to me because there were stories in there. 


0:06:20.2 LN: There was... It wasn't all hardcore science but it also had some of the names that I was starting to appreciate, everything else too. And I was one of the ones way back, I think it was 2001, he did a body language course, a 200 hour course in New York City, and I was part of that. And from that point too, I became faculty. I was faculty for Tom for 10 years. I became interested in dissection, I think too, because I had that art background. I not only studied it, but I have also done a lot of art. And there's something artistic about a good dissection. It's a way of actually honouring your donor for one thing, but it also reveals different things at different times. So you can go all classical and reveal that layer of things, or you can, as Tom said, turn the scalpel sideways and start to look at those longitudinal connections. Or you can start to do other things and also have a curiosity why these different things connect in different ways. And I had a skillset for it. So that developed over the years. I'd studied also with Gil Hedley over time at Mount Sinai through a programme that is still there with Dr. Leitman and all these other good people. And I just became more and more fascinated with it. 


0:07:52.3 LN: And I also have a lot of interest in cross communication. So what led me aiming to places like Rush Medical, I don't have a traditional anatomy background, but I studied those things so I could have that conversation guest in there. And when you speak some of the language, people are really willing to have you in their spaces. Interestingly enough, I'm coming back now for a PhD in contemporary anatomy education. So I'm kind of rounding out all that stuff. I'm firmly in my mid-50s, but I'm going to be doing that pathway because I feel so passionate about different ways we can do this and do this better. 


0:08:35.4 DB: Lauri, what are some common misconceptions about the myofascial system that you encounter your work, and how do you address those?  


0:08:39.2 LN: Well, it's an interesting thing. It's a good question because the language keeps changing as well. I think... I see... For those of you, you're not able to see the visual, but he was nodding a lot enthusiastically. [laughter] I kind of am cautious of anybody who claims to know everything about fascia because we don't. We are very actively always changing definitions, getting together and discussing these things among peers and everything else. And so what we know about all of this is just scratching the surface. I'm so fascinated by some of my friends and colleagues like Helene Langevin, who has done some of this work looking at acupuncture and how that may be stimulating the fascia system or she's taken the mice in little up dog positions, kind of yoga style and see how that changes a gene expression for breast cancer. All of these things are kind of cutting edge because we really haven't investigated them so much so far. And I mean, that goes back to visualization because it's the way we see things. In the traditional anatomy world, fascia is very much known for the thing you throw in the bucket and it's what you clear out of the way to get to the good stuff, and good stuff meaning muscles and bones but it's all good stuff. 




0:10:10.1 LN: So we want to include that in there and sometimes take a look at just looking at just the fascia in relationship to each other. That's what was done on the Fascia Net Plastination Project with FR: EIA. Or again looking at relationship in between. So I think that's the biggest thing. There's a lot of misconceptions because it's a hot word right now. You use it in the gym, you see it on articles, which is great, but anytime something goes up in popularity, there's oftentimes people who claim that they know it all about what's going on in the system. And I go, "I study this a lot, and I'm still... " Part of the reason I wrote the book is I'm working through it always many times, and I mean, the different ways that I teach it. 


0:11:00.0 KC: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors. 


0:11:02.9 S1: Anatomy Trains is excited to invite you to our latest in-person facial dissection workshop, April 10th through 14th, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. Join Anatomy Trains author Tom Myers and master dissector Todd Garcia on this voyage of discovery. Visit anatomytrains.com for more information. 


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0:12:23.1 KC: Okay, let's segue now into the section of the podcast where Kristin geeks out about your book because there are so many concepts that really resonated with me. So let's start. In the chapter titled Your Body in Motion and Emotion, you write, "I spent many years as a dance and movement therapist, working on expanding the possibilities in the body, both in movement and in mental states. When I started studying myofascial connections in tensegrity, this made sense to me. Fascia, slow to change compared to muscle, also holds patterns for a long period of time. If we give more resiliency to this tissue, we can perhaps, in turn, give more possibility to our expression in the world." I mean, wow, first of all, and then can you share more about that?  


0:13:14.9 LN: Oh, thank you so much. And yes, this is the thing that captured my attention with all this work because I'd already worked for a little while as a dance movement therapist. I was actually... My specialty was trauma and I'd been brought in post 9/11 to actually work with a lot of the people in this greater New York area, which is where I've been living for quite some time. And then I studied some of this myofascial work and I started to make connections like, oh, this front collapse in the body, of course, there's a lot going on, lungs protection, whatever else. But the connection between different parts started to make sense to me. And then I had even more tools in my toolbox about how to work with this and why some of those patterns weren't just so easy to come out of. In dance movement therapy, we oftentimes use different movement languaging like Laban Movement Analysis to parse that out. Laban has all these crazy tensegral-like structures that he used to visualize how movement works and how we can look at different qualities of movement at the same time. 


0:14:27.9 LN: So I've been really familiar with working with that system of language, but then I was like, okay, overlay this with ideas of tensegrity, which also have a lot of the similar shape, which is really interesting, and then ideas about how fascia trains. Really, we keep changing the numbers slightly as the latest research keeps changing, but it's somewhere between six months and two years to affect the myofascial system, the fascia itself. So this becomes interesting. Obviously, if we train muscle, it trains very quickly, but the fascia system, as we all know, is a lot slower to go there. So this is why I work at a university, a lot of the college athletes I work with, the types of injuries they get, if they're doing something explosive will be that Achilles tendon tear or something of that nature, which we're well familiar with. But I started to also think, ah, this explains some of the big deep holding patterns we have emotionally. 


0:15:31.6 LN: So I started to have a little bit more ideas of how this might work with things or even early also in my career, I worked a lot with autism and those are in that whole spectrum and also looked at people who were again, toe walkers, but utilise things like hair tinglers in order to calm this nervous system, calm perhaps the fascial system. That made sense to me when I started studying something like Tom's superficial line, which he also admits may have some mechanical changes, may have some fascial, maybe also something more to do with neurology-wise. But that made started to make sense to me that, oh, you mean in psychotherapy, we can work with the body system in different ways. 'Cause I mean, [0:16:24.1] ____, we knew not to go from one extreme of movement to another, that's too startling. But this was yet another way of looking at how we might explain the body system and work with it for health and resilience, which is what I really love. 


0:16:41.1 DB: Lauri, the title of chapter six is Spirals. Can you tell us more about how common spirals are in the body system and how understanding that concept can alter how practitioners understand and approach the body?  


0:16:52.9 LN: Sure, absolutely. And it's spirals not only in the body, but in nature. We see them everywhere. So the seashells, the spiral of the cosmos, all of these different things, there's a nature of things working in spirals. I mean, early on in dissection lab noticing with different people that tumors, also unhealthy growth as well as healthy growth, goes in spirals. It's a really interesting thing so that this circular pathway is very much used in nature and inside our body. Think about the inner ear, think about other places where these spirals start to work. And I think too, I talked about in Canada, I also kayak and we look at these fishing weirs and they have these lovely little spirals that are utilised with the tidal waves to bring the fish into that and trap them in because it's a very efficient way to utilise energy. So we use this in the body too. If we're teaching somebody, even an elderly population, how to get up from sitting instead of yanking themselves up, a spiral is always going to be more body friendly. 


0:18:11.2 LN: So we even use that in terms of those big things or coming down to the floor. Somebody is rolling out of a parkour roll, they're going to use a spiral because that also is very efficient in getting all that energy into different places and not being a harsh break. So the body really does this all over the place, bones too. It's always a revelation to a lot of my special university students that the bones aren't straight in the body but they all have this spiral and curve to them. That also is very efficient for all the attachments that come on to it but also for how we move. So the body lends itself to these beautiful spirals throughout and it just is a, like I said, both health and disease tend to work with that because of its efficiency. 


0:19:05.9 DB: Lauri, how do you incorporate the principles of the myofascial system into your own movement practice? And what benefits have you seen from doing so? And we can bring back all those amazing things we read in your bio as well when you talked about your training in yoga and Pilates and dance and holistic approach to movement. Can you tell us a little bit about incorporating that?  


0:19:24.9 LN: Absolutely. I think as I've come along and gotten to know more about this, first of all, there's a level of patience with oneself because it doesn't change all at once. And I think a lot of times, especially here in the US, we sometimes get very impatient if things don't work right away. But I think, I mean, learning all of this has given me some grace and patience with myself as I'm exploring something new, that it may take a little bit of time to finesse that. As far as, I mean, in yoga, we were oftentimes or Pilates or some of these things were oftentimes very linear, but there has been more exploration not only for myself, for a lot of these other people to start to look into those spaces in between. So I talk about even in the book that those some of those points, I don't want to get rid of them completely because they're a language we can have a conversation with directional-wise. But then once we know that, we can play in those in between parts. So even, for my own movement, I might take a simple modern dance sequence, I show that in something with the arm chapter doing a very simple arm sequence, and just keep that as is for the moment. 


0:20:42.4 LN: If I'm adding more and more facial qualities to it, I might start to preload and do a little bit of bending in my knees and make it a little bit more elastic as I go and start to add that in. Not a surprise to many modern dancers, we played with this always anyhow, but calling it out for what it is. And then from there, loading and actually taking it into a jump. And timing matters with all of this as well. You stay down in the Achilles tendon for too long, you're not going to be able to get that fascial recoil or train it. You take a light bit of timing, you can actually then train that into timing. But then we'll take it further than that. So we'll take it starting to change directions in the room. So it's not just a facing forwards, but I might start to play with it in multi-directions in the room. Change which arm is dominant, change even going backwards with a sequence and start to play with that. 'Cause we know fascia trains really well with changes and variations in time, loading, all of those sorts of things impact it and we want to keep the body in a lot of different little ways and places and playful. Because as we age, oftentimes we get more and more rigid anyhow. We don't have as much of that slide and glide of the hyaluronan, but we want to keep ourselves open to possibility. 


0:22:12.5 LN: And this is why one of the reasons I walk pretty religiously every day, and a lot of people who know me, even on Instagram, I'm posting my nature trail pictures most of all. And I will be out there on the trail every sort of weather, every sort of day, and take a big area of land where I can vary my pathway each time. And it's never the same anyhow, 'cause weather is never the same. But there's gravel, there's grass, there's whatever. And it keeps me on my toes, because literally, I'm having to change where I land at every point. If I'm not there and present, I could slip and fall, but there's a lot of places for variation and variability that really help build up my own body system and something that I do really in my own self-practice, yeah. 


0:23:10.8 KC: You share several different ways that we can expand our view of the physical and emotional body and how we perceive that. And I think these will really resonate with our Massage and Bodywork Practitioner listeners. Can you tell us more about two of these concepts, kinesthetic empathy and how to assess the body like an art historian?  


0:23:31.3 LN: All right. So I'm so excited about that question with kinesthetic empathy. And I have to give credit to Mimi Berger, who is one of the older dance movement therapists who came up with this term. Dance movement therapy really grew out of the modern dance movement, both in the US and Europe and then picked up all the other dance styles and countries. But at that time too, modern dance was really interested in psychology, especially things like Jungian psychology, and that got brought into the work. Think of somebody like Martha Graham, who was exploring psychology at the same time as dance. Now, kinesthetic empathy is a really interesting concept because it means that we can look at somebody else, feel their body movement, and have that appreciation for it in ourselves. We do a lot of technique in dance movement therapy called mirroring, where we directly try on the movement, mimic the movement at the same time. So we might be rocking with a patient back and forth to be empathetic in that way. But we can also do that without moving, but just feeling internally what that movement might be about and how to expand from there. It often gives us great ideas of where to go next and also really puts us in touch with the client or patient themselves. So that's some of the idea of kinesthetic empathy. 


0:25:00.4 LN: Assessing the body like an art historian. Well, there's so many different ways to look at body reading or body assessment or charting these things that have been done and done brilliantly. But I stepped back into my own background as an art historian and thought about what we look at and what we appreciate. And a lot of that is about connection and relationship. So what in one part of the painting might make a connection to something else and how that's reflected. So if we start to look at things like that in the body system too, we're also going to even be more appreciative, but also appreciate the beauty that's going on. Like an art historian takes any painting or sculpture in front of them and assesses different parts of that and what is working together, what is maybe changing or challenging something apart. 


0:25:58.5 KC: I think it's going to be so fun for us as practitioners now to have some of those concepts in mind with our next client interaction, thinking about kinesthetic empathy. And you've got a great series of questions for how to assess the body like an art historian that we can kind of have running through our mind. So so fun. I love just having different ways to think about and look at and evaluate the body. Such good tools. 


0:26:23.4 LN: Thank you so much. And that's where I hope, I hope this can spark new ideas and ways of playing with it and may spark the reader's own new concept of how to do it. Because sometimes we get very narrow into, oh, this must be the only way to do something. And it isn't. So if we open ourselves up to possibility of enjoying multiple systems, it gives us richer material to work with. I think that's important. That's part of the stay curious that I am so in love with for getting through life. [chuckle] 


0:27:00.4 DB: And that has brought our podcast to a complete circle. So listeners, stay curious. I want to thank our guest today, Lauri Nemetz. For more information about her, visit wellnessbridge.com. Thanks, Lauri and thanks, Kristin. 


0:27:14.7 LN: Thank you so much. It was my pleasure to get to be here. 


0:27:17.3 KC: Lauri, thank you so much for not only this incredible conversation today and sparking some new ideas for all of us, but also for your beautiful book. I hope everyone has the chance to appreciate it and soak it in like I did. 


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