Beyond Anatomy Resources
- NEW! Brooke Thomas interviews Amy.
- NEW! J Brown interviews Peter.
- Peter Blackaby’s Intelligent Yoga website, with articles and research
- Brooke Thomas’s Liberated Body website, with 3 seasons of podcasts
- Leslie Kaminoff’s e-Sutra blog
- Amy Matthews on ‘wild thing’ pose
- Podcast: J Brown interviews Amy
- Podcast: J Brown interviews Leslie
Brooke Thomas interviews Peter, Amy and Leslie about their journey so far:
Prefer to listen to the podcast? Click here for Liberated Body episode 62 on Beyond Anatomy.
Responding to the question “What are you hoping people will get out of this Symposium?”
I hope that people come away from the Symposium empowered to find their own way – too often we wait to be told what to feel, how to think, and what to do with what we’ve learned. I want more of us to feel like we can value our own experience and our own explorations and our own conclusions, while we stay in relationship with our community and our teachers.
Going beyond anatomy by learning to notice the signals of discomfort on all levels, physical, psychological and philosophical; to notice them, reflect on them and then to act on them if appropriate.
I hope the Symposium encourages participants to become more confident and discerning navigators of the vast amount of somatic information out there in the world. I want to inspire people through modeling an attitude of critical thinking coupled with an openness to changing some of my basic assumptions.
Reflecting on their journey so far:
I thought the answers were there. I built my reputation teaching exactly what I don’t teach now. There’s a limit to what you can resolve just by naming things.
We should stop worrying about anatomy and start thinking about function. Understand the purpose of a creature’s functioning and then you try to understand the anatomy in light of that. You can’t reverse engineer function from studying anatomy.
What’s the least effort you could use instead of what’s the most effort – that was quite a radical change for me.
All experience is embodied. I became interested in the way we carry our emotions around. The nervous system is the only place to be, the only thing I’m really very interested in. Anatomy shapes itself around the things we do, not the other way around. I now think I’m trying to influence people’s nervous systems, not their anatomy. I think, at the moment…
—Peter Blackaby, on his journey away from teaching anatomy
Anatomy is a starting place, but not a finishing place. I want to keep acknowledging what the study of anatomy has done for me, and how useful it is as a way into exploring experience … but it’s not the end of my process. I came into anatomy with the idea that I could master this body of knowledge, and that then I would be finished, and in some way complete. But it turns out it’s never ‘done’ – anatomy is not a fixed body of knowledge – it keeps changing, because our understanding and experience keeps changing.
So I have found ways to have studying anatomy be about something else, and be more about the questions than about mastery: the more I think I know, the more I realize I don’t know, and the more I see what the limits of ‘knowledge’ are. Which continually leads me to the value of process, relationship and personal experience.
There are questions to which there are no answers – there will always be more questions than answers. Always. So what if we make it more about the questions?
—Amy Matthews, on the limits of anatomy
The thing that feeds my soul the most, the thing that I can do today that I wasn’t able to do yesterday is to stop trying to do the thing that I was able to do yesterday. That’s an accomplishment that’s beyond anatomy, beyond having a body with tight hamstrings.
It becomes a very rich conversation about how to be present with my desire to hold on to an accomplishment — and maybe letting that go and accomplishing something that’s even more valuable, which is letting go.
—Leslie Kaminoff, on the subject of his self-described tight hamstrings
What I’ve learned most fundamentally in studying the body is that this is not an endgame situation. Initially my sincere and naive goal was to talk to everyone about the body and collect everyone’s map and come up with the perfect map that helps the most people to feel really good in their bodies. What happened instead is that I felt like I looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back at me. I discovered that there really is no perfect map.
At a certain point, it became about what is my experience of my body (or any individual’s experience of their own body) at any given present moment. I find it endlessly fascinating. I really don’t think our bodies are what we think they are. And I think that whatever our path in to be curious about them is great. Get in there and get ready for a surprising ride and see what you find.
—Brooke Thomas, about what she’s discovered from her Liberated Body podcast
Responding to the question “What do you mean by ‘body’ and what are the implications of that?“:
When I say body I mean our spirit and flesh and consciousness and livingness – I don’t think there’s a distinction between body and mind. We are not models of hierarchy and control, but instead are communities of fluids and cells that are responsive, communicating, coherent, and on the ‘edge of chaos’.
Changing our experience of body becomes a political act when it challenges the assumption that we need hierarchy and control to be coherent.
—Amy Matthews, on the limits of anatomy
The body is not like a machine, an assembly of various parts put together to create a greater whole, and we must stop thinking of ourselves like that. We are organisms that evolved in complex ecosystems, with layers of interdependence built on other layers of interdependence. There are no units that act alone or have any sense of autonomy – there are only relationships.