The Integral Anatomy DVD Series by Gil Hedley

Review by Stew Wild

Same body, new view

In the last 10 years there have been some landmark visual aids for improving our anatomy knowledge, including the Ackland videos, Adam interactive and the Primal 3D Interactive 9 disc set of CD-ROMs. If you thought you had seen it all as regards books, CD-ROMs and DVDs on anatomy think again.

There is a new DVD series out which concentrates on the fascial systems of the body produced by a free thinking anatomist named Gil Hedley, PhD. Hedley is a Rolfer living in Colorado. His novel approach is to not concentrate just on muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels, but on the skin, the superficial fascia and the deep fascia.

Gil runs a traveling 6 day dissection workshop in the USA called Somanautics, dedicated to exploring inner space (as opposed to astronauts). Participants learn to appreciate the body as a whole, integrated, connected entity. If you read no further then this just jot down the web site and have a look some time.

The following is an excerpt from the somanautics introduction by Mr Hedley. “Anatomy literally means to cut up with a knife. Anatomy is furthermore an act of abstraction. Abstraction means to draw away from. So anatomy is a study based upon cutting up a body with a knife and drawing things away from the original whole. Those drawings in the anatomy texts that we have come to love and admire are abstractions to the point of idealizations. They represent an artist’s ideas as much as any “reality” that might be attributed to any particular human form.

Cadavers themselves demonstrate a high degree of abstraction from the living form of a person, and from the person who expressed the form”. In essence, what this means is that in order to fully understand what lies beneath you have to see it for yourself; don’t believe everything you see in the text books. Instead of having to get all gowned up and gloved up it’s now possible to get a new perspective on anatomy dissection by viewing the two disc Integral Anatomy DVD series.

Volume 1 of the series is titled Skin and Superficial Fascia. You will be introduced to the theory of the ‘onion tree’ model of the body that uses the analogy of onion layers with a tree superimposed to explain how the body connects. The five-part sequence of observation, palpation, differentiation, exploration and removal describes the practical aims of his dissection. Imagine massaging a cadaver to discover what you may be dealing with deeper down. Imagine removing the skin and superficial fascia and laying it out like an animal skin rug. This is all performed with reverence and good taste. Volume 2 of the series completes the three dimensional fascial web by exploring the deep fascia and muscles.

You will be amazed at the strength of the deep fascia and the fragility of muscles when its fascia is removed.

The DVD shows many examples of what Gil calls ‘fuzz’. This fuzz is like candy floss or spider web-like fine filaments forming between the sliding surfaces and easily broken by the stroke of a finger. A special feature at the end of disc 2 is the ‘Fuzz Speech’. This speech alone should convince you of the need to stretch on a regular basis. Gil postulates that the ‘fuzz’ builds up while we sleep. If we don’t regularly break the ‘fuzz’ it accumulates. Accumulated ‘fuzz’ cant be broken down with the glide of a finger, it needs a scalpel to cut through it. Massage bodywork and active stretch are both promoted as ‘fuzz breaking’ techniques. I recommend this series to massage therapists because of the thoughtful, child-like enthusiasm Gil Hedley shows in regard to anatomy.

Most filming is done with students from a variety of bodywork professions present. I like the originality of Gil’s concepts and the disregard (almost disdain) of isolated muscle origin, insertion, belly ideology which has been consigned by history and embedded by convenience.

For example, he tells us that there is no obvious place to divide the three muscles attaching to the corocoid process; the short head of biceps brachii, pectoralis minor and corocobrachialis. Instead he renames the three of them together as triceps coracoideus.

Any anatomy DVD that shows students pressing, lifting and jostling the cadaver tissue to appreciate what palpating the corresponding living flesh may resemble has to be enlightening. At times he himself steps back in wonderment as if trying to understand what he has just uncovered. Each DVD is nearly two hours long and will be supplemented by a visceral version later his year. The DVDs are reinforced by the website complete with free downloads and plenty of links.


Stew Wild, RMT (NZ), LMT, Certified NMT Instructor, AIS Stretch Therapist (USA)