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is largely removed and discarded to give visual access
to the muscles and other underlying tissues. 43 ^ 5
These common pictures have also removed and dis-
carded two important superficial fascial layers: the epi-
dermis that provides a carpet backing for the skin, and
the fatty areolar layer with its well-funded store of white
blood cells (Fig. 1.24). If we left these hefty layers in the
full picture, we would see the animal equivalent of a
citrus 'rind' beneath the very thin skin. This has helped
to contribute to a general attitude of viewing the fascial
net as a 'dead' scaffolding around the cells, to be parted
If we were to render all tissues invisible in the human
body except the fibrillar elements of the connective tissue
- principally collagen, but with some added elastin and
reticulin - we would see the entire body, inside and
out, in a fashion similar to the neural and vascular
nets, though the areas of density would once again
differ. The bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments
would be thick with leathery fiber, so that the area around
each joint would be especially well represented. Each
muscle would be sheathed with it, and infused with a
cotton-candy net surrounding each muscle cell and
bundle of cells (see Fig. 1.1 B). The face would be less
dense, as would the more spongy organs like the spleen
or pancreas, though even these would be surrounded by
one or two denser, tough bags. Although it arranges
itself in multiple folded planes, we emphasize once again
that no part of this net would be distinct or separated
from the net as a whole; each of these bags, strings,
sheets, and leathery networks is linked to each other,
top to toe. The center of this network would be our
mechanical center of gravity, located in the middle of the
lower belly in the standing body, known in martial arts
as the 'hara'.
The bald statement is that, like the neural and vascu-
lar webs, the fascial web so permeates the body as to be
part of the immediate environment of every cell. Without
its support, the brain would be runny custard, the liver
would spread through the abdominal cavity, and we
would end up as a puddle at our own feet. Only in the
open lumens of the respiratory and digestive tracts is
the binding, strengthening, connecting, and separating
web of fascia absent. Even in the circulatory tubes, filled
with flowing blood, itself a connective tissue, the poten-
tial exists for fiber to form at any moment we need a clot
(and in some places where we do not need one, as when
plaque builds in an artery).
We could not extract a cubic centimeter, let alone
Shylock's pound of flesh, without taking with us some
of this meshwork of collagen. With any touch more than
feathery light, we contact the tone of this web, register-
ing it whether we are conscious of it or not, and affecting
it, whatever our intention.
This ubiquitous network has enough of a regular
molecular lattice (see Fig. 1.14) to qualify as a liquid
crystal, which begs us to question to what frequencies
this biological 'antenna' is tuned, and how it can be
tuned to a wider spectrum of frequencies or harmonized
within itself. Although this idea may seem farfetched,
the electrical properties of fascia have been noted but
little studied to date, and we are now glimpsing some
of the mechanisms of such 'tuning' (pre-stress - see the
section on tensegrity below). 39 ^ 2
In contrast to the neural and vascular net, the fascial
net has yet to be depicted on its own by any artist we
have seen to date. Vesalius' closest rendering is the
familiar ecorche view of the body, which certainly gives
us some idea of the grain of the fabric of the fibrous
body, but really renders the myofascia - muscle and
fascia together, with a heavy emphasis on the muscle.
This is a prejudgment that has been continued in many
anatomies, including those in wide use today: the fascia
Fig. 1.24 (A) An extraordinary one-piece dissection of the areolar/
adipose layer of superficial fascia fills in the picture not covered by
Figure 1.23 (or Fig. 1.6). This picture does not include the dermis
layer of the skin, but does include the fat, the collagen matrix
around the fat, and of course the many leucocytes at the
histological level. (B) Here we see the specimen in full along with
the donor who provided it. The concept of this fascial layer as a
nearly autonomous organ, somewhat akin to the rind of the
grapefruit pictured in Figure 1.25, is given a concrete reality
through this feat of dissection. (© Gil Hedley 2005. www.gilhedley .
com. Used with kind permission.)
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