I was recently exploring my book of Leonardo Da Vinci’s anatomy drawings. I love this book because it feeds both my enthusiasm for the human body and for ‘illustration’ (if I had my time again, an illustrator would be one of many things I would become!). His drawings are exquisite and, to quote, ‘mark him out as one of the greatest anatomists of all time’. It is awe-inspiring to think that his dissection work dates back to the 1500s – I can only imagine what equipment he would have used and what the work space would have ended up looking like!
My anatomy journey
As part of our initial training, all massage therapists complete an anatomy module before being able to qualify.
However, as I began practising, I realised there was a lot more to learn. 10 years ago, this led me to undertake an advanced anatomy certificate (Jing Advanced Massage Training). It was a year of discovery that fuelled my enthusiasm for our structure.
The course gave me a more detailed knowledge of our anatomy. I learnt the landmarks of every bone in the body and the muscles and other tissues that attach to them. This provides me with an understanding of the way in which movement is created. Of balance and imbalance. How the direction of muscle fibres lead to ‘pull’ in a specific way when a muscle is used. I apply this knowledge to the issues my clients bring.
I remain as fascinated now as I was then by how we ‘fit together’, what we have in common and what makes us unique. Over the years, I have continued my anatomical journey in various ways, but there is always more to learn.
What might current anatomy research mean for my work?
The bodywork world (among others) continues to dissect and explore the human body on many levels. One current focus is unpicking the intricacies of fascia, the web-like material that envelopes us on every level. This was a layer largely left out by the early anatomists and so one which is now producing great excitement and detailed research. Theories abound about how this tissue might be ‘worked’ by the various types of practitioners there are. Some common ground exists and also some disagreement,
Likewise the complex nature of our nervous system’s reaction to pain or damage. Research is showing that not everyone’s body responds in the same way to identical issues (ie: a disc bulge). Why might that be? How might these things help me develop my treatments and, consequently, greater assist my clients?
I have a wealth of knowledge to draw upon, differing opinions to absorb and an awareness that this subject continues to evolve despite centuries having passed since the original anatomical work began.
Which brings me back to Da Vinci
After Da Vinci completed his work, it remained unpublished for some 300 years. Da Vinci died in 1519 at which point the drawings passed through various hands. It is in 1690 that they are next recorded, at which point they enter the Royal Collection (where they remain). There was sporadic interest in his work during the centuries that followed until the drawings were finally published between 1898 and 1916.
Whilst we have made huge advances since that time, it is clear that the complex nature of the human body has not been figured out overnight. I am sure there will continue to be shifts in thoughts and understanding, certainties and uncertainties, and advances in technology that will last me my career and beyond. I will continue to watch with interest.
If you are interested in Da Vinci’s work, there is currently an exhibition marking 500 years since his death.