A few days ago, a massage student asked me a question I get asked every time I teach a class: “Why do we have to know this?”
To be fair, the student in question asked it in an unexpected manner: “Will understanding the difference between endochondral and intramembranous ossification really make me a better massage therapist?” I usually respond with an almost defensive statement, that conscious intent and increased meaning amplifies the energy exchange that takes place in a bodywork session.
A Change in Perception
I say usually, because recently, I have been undergoing some key changes in my perceptions, as I have moved from Florida to Colorado and have become quite the amateur geologist. I bought this great field trip book of the local county, and it takes us on 25 different hikes, each describing maybe three to five layers of Earth’s crust—as it turns out, three to five layers is not too much information to overwhelm, but just enough to blow one’s mind.
So there I was, on my third field trip, and I recognized my first stratum of rock. I studied a couple more layers, and came away with the sense that I was studying the histology of Earth. As I walked, I could almost feel the 4,000 feet or so of Pierre Shale beneath my feet, a layer created when Colorado was underneath the ocean during what’s called the Cretaceous period.
Now, did this awareness change the biomechanics of the hike? Did it diminish my hyperawareness in my attempt to not step on snakes? Did it lessen my fear of mountain lions, or the avoidance of poison ivy or ticks? No, it did not. But did it add a new dimension to the hike? Did it heighten my appreciation and add a subtle quality to the walk that will now always be present? Absolutely.
At that moment, I recalled the student’s question as why to learn all this anatomy. I thought, Does the differentiation between the two forms of osteogenesis change how one delivers a massage? Does the depth of pressure, or the direction of the strokes, alter knowing this difference? Probably not; biomechanics are practical.
Yet, does knowing how the tissues form add to the miracle of the bodywork session? Does this in-depth knowledge add to our appreciation of what is happening before our very eyes, beneath our sensitive fingers, all being maintained throughout our somatic structures while we stand, kneel, bend, reach, push and pull? Again, absolutely.
It is an honor for me to have as part of my work on this planet, the daily reminder of the details of our body. I became a teacher so I could continue to learn, and sometimes anatomy and physiology-related information can be the easiest to forget.
So, enjoy the hike, everyone. We are a mirror of the Earth, and our body’s form is consistent with that of the Earth—she just moves a lot slower.