Holistic Versus Reductionistic Thinking About Body Structure And Function And The Danger Of A Fixed Mindset Concerning Sports Injuries


“Everything popular is wrong.” by Oscar Wilde in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.‘ Cited by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek.

Hi folks,

Tom W Myers

Tom Myers studied with one of my heroes, Moshe Feldenkrais.

When you study a scientific discipline for years there is the temptation to think that you understand what is going on, when nothing could be further from the truth. This is especially relevant when it comes to understanding causes and finding cures for exercise-induced injuries. Study should open the mind to one’s inevitable ignorance, as most of Biology has yet to be explained, believe it or not. Your understanding of an issue will be influenced by how you look at it, becoming a function of your personal prejudices and ignorance, in fact of your entire life history. Our individual states of knowledge will always be incomplete, because the complexity of the universe in general, and biological systems specifically, defies the comprehension of a single human mind. But you have to start somewhere. This is where the amalgamation of reductionistic with holistic thinking is needed. My Continuum Teacher, Rebecca drew this to my attention recently, when she suggested that I should read a book by Tom Myers in order to clarify my thinking about fascia (the connective tissue, or glue, that literally holds our bodies together).

In order to learn you have to forget what you 'know,' and learn to listen, as in the Zen Master's story of the overflowing cup of tea. From: http://goo.gl/jWMuq

In order to learn you have to forget what you ‘know,’ and learn to listen, as in the Zen Master’s story of the overflowing cup of tea.

Remember, I am a veterinary pathologist by training, and I spent about 50 years studying the way our bodies work, at many levels, from gross anatomy, through ultrastructure (high magnification microscopy), to biochemistry and molecular biology. Surely no one has anything to teach me about body structure and function? However, I know enough to know that I have an infinite amount more to learn about Biology, so I bought the book, and loved it! My profound ignorance of the structure and function of fascia was revealedZen mind is the way to go, my friends, and then you just keep on learning.

Book by Tom Myers Anatomy Trains goodreads

What a great book and videos – a must for anyone interested in sports injury and repair – you’ll never think about stretching, rollers or massage in the same way ever again.

Let me use an analogy to clarify the importance of looking at things from both a reductionistic (the bits) AND a holistic (the system) point of view. If you examine the workings of a modern aircraft you may, to some extent, comprehend how it works. Then bit by bit you take it apart, seeing how each of the pieces work and how they fit and function together, including the outer shell, electrical wiring, bulkheads, hydraulic lines, radio and air handling equipment, seating, and so forth. However, if you understand all the pieces, you still won’t understand how this complex structure functions as a unit and interacts with the ground and atmosphere at its operating speeds, so you study computer simulations of air flight, and bone up on fluid mechanics and the Navier-Stokes equations. Now you have a much better idea. But then comes the complexity of metal fatigue, equipment failure, backup systems and their response times, and all the thought that goes into disaster avoidance and damage control. And the list goes on! You have to comprehend the workings of all the pieces separately and together, and how they interact with the atmosphere, ground and crew, in addition to the passengers and their luggage. The human body is no different in this respect.

When approaching the issue of sports injuries, and a program of safe exercise for better health, a great place for you to start on the study of ‘how all the pieces work together’ is an excellent book by Thomas W. Myers, ‘Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists,’ and the associated videos. Take a look! I did, and I was really impressed by the authors integration of reductionistic with holistic thinking.

You won’t look at ‘muscle strains’ in the same way ever again.

-k @FitOldDog


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.