Behind the Curtain

By Leslie Young
[Editor's Note]

Human dissection. Morbid or marvelous? I choose marvelous. Last spring, I dropped into a dissection lab hosted by Anatomy Trains guru Thomas Myers. When I walked into the room, the excitement, reverence, and camaraderie were palpable.

Surveying the process, listening to Myers, and looking at the photographer’s images, I talked to him about scripting this issue’s cover story (page 34). Massage & Bodywork has discussed dissection labs before, but we’ve never published the
actual pictures.

Of course I’m also familiar with one of the dissection pioneers for our profession, Gil Hedley. Inspired to better understand what MTs know after they complete a dissection, I connected with one of Hedley’s dedicated students, Sallie Thurman.

During our conversation, Thurman told me the experience ends up being more about the not knowing. For example, she’ll never forget Pearl. One look at the elderly form on the table and Thurman could tell her subject had lived a privileged life—toned physique, manicured fingers and toes. But when the class found out Pearl had died of Alzheimer’s, “Everyone in the room had a visceral reaction,” Thurman says. “This formerly vital woman was probably half vacant from her body by the time her physical form died.

“The outward appearances we see—the visual—is not really what we see portrayed inside the body,” Thurman explains. “What really lies behind the curtain?”

Thurman says dissection has changed her massage technique forever. “Now, I have such tremendous respect for the delicacies of the body,” she says. “My clients all know there’s been a change in my hands and my depth of feeling.” In addition, “Assumptions go away. We become observers—as we always should be anyway.” When a client wants to know why his neck hurts, Thurman says she can’t be exactly sure.

So, in the spirit of Hedley’s site (, this issue is dedicated to exploring inner space. Make sure you check out Hedley’s YouTube video titled “Exquisite Lungs.” You can hear Thurman reverently describing the lungs as
“angel wings.”

Thurman and Hedley underscore a deep gratitude toward the donors. “We honor and respect them,” Thurman says. “They’ve left their bodies as gifts.” Hedley explained that dental and medical schools are ideal contact points for those wishing to donate their bodies to exploration.

Speaking with Myers, Hedley, and Thurman, it’s clear to me that the practitioners involved learn as much about their inner selves as they do about
the bodies in front of them. After all, only a breath separates us from them.


Leslie A. Young, Editor in Chief