Books by physiotherapist Andrzej Pilat; and Certified Advanced Rolfer®, Rolf Movement® practitioner
Bill Harvey. Myofascial Induction™ – An AnatomicalApproach to the Treatment of Fascial Dysfunction, Volume 1, The Upper
Body by Andrzej Pilat (HandspringPublishing, 2022)
Reviewed by Peter Schwind, PhD, Advanced Rolfing® Instructor
Andrzej Pilat is a physiotherapist, an author specializing in the fascial system, and his newest book, Myofascial Induction – An
Anatomical Approach to the Treatment of Fascial Dysfunction, Volume 1, The Upper Body, would be quite useful for Rolfers® and structural integration (SI) practitioners. He gives a detailed description of the practice of myofascial induction, accompanied by high-quality photos and videos of fascia, offering a profound conceptual framework for manual therapists. This review does have some bias, as I am impressed byPilat’s body of work overall; he has made a significant contribution to fascia-oriented manual therapies. Pilat has been thinking, rethinking, reflecting, and speaking on the world of fascia for years. I remember
meeting him at conferences and in personal talks, he had such a unique perspective on our profession and the details of fascia research. And so, I state upfront that you may find this review is not an objective critique; it is warm support for a colleague that I have been a fan of for many years, so of course, I recommend this seminal text he has published.
The standout brilliance of Myofascial Induction is the illustrations and accompanying videos of unembalmed cadavers to demonstrate the connectedness and interrelatedness of various systems. Pilat’s images are more than great photography; there is
an aesthetic dimension, a sense of the beauty of the living organism, and deeprespect for the structures that are not alive
anymore. Each time I read a new page, I felt invited to explore new paths of learning about human tissue. There are practical
manual demonstrations and valuable complementary drawings, all of which offer a new way of observing form and understanding the interconnectedness of the fascial system underneath the skin.
The written content is an ocean of scientific research about fascia and manual therapy. It seems to me that Pilat has been following all the progress of modern fascia research with dedication, intelligence, and respect – studying this multidisciplinary field from atop a philosophical ‘hill’ and pondering this ocean of knowledge for the benefit of his physical therapy clients. He encourages the reader to be skeptical of some of the biases baked into our contemporary scientific approach concerning complex
For the Rolfers who have had the chance to participate in human dissection, it most likely has been with embalmed cadavers.
This allows us to learn about the topographical location of the parts of a person’s body; however, it does not show us the actual connectedness of all these systems. This is especially relevant as we want to understand the dynamics of the inner spaces within our bodies, the threedimensionality of the cavities, and the sub cavities within. Medical institutions that offer classes with fresh cadavers could give more reliable information to manual therapists, but in practice, these dissections are often focused on
pathologies and little attention is paid to a systemic perspective. This is the space that Pilat’s book fills.
The author starts the first of the seventeen chapters with a concise introduction about myofascial induction and an abundant amount of research regarding the efficacy of myofascial induction.
The reader is invited to consider the difference between Pilat’s interventions and most of the other manual approaches that work with the fascial system. It’s a matter of distinguishing the meaning of ‘induction’ from the meaning of ‘release’.
This difference is a throughline in all seventeen chapters.
These are the chapters that had the most impact on me: Chapter 4, embryological aspects of the fascial system; Chapter 7, movement and force transmission in the fascial system; Chapter 8, the neurodynamics of fascia; and Chapter 9, fascial trauma and dysfunction. These four chapters cover a wide spectrum of research, the results of which have led to a revolution in the way we look at fascia today. Pilat reviews these findings, evaluates their meaning for manual therapy practices, and considers where
his ideas may be open to criticism as part of rigorous scientific standards. Following his discussion is a second part of the book where numerous manual therapy techniques are presented.
I first met Pilat in 2017 at the “Myopain Conference” in Bangalore, India, where I listened to his lecture and participated in his workshop. It was there that I realized, Pilat possesses a unique ability to bridge the views of the fascia researchers and the views of practitioners. Frequently these two groups are in conflict, if not opposition.
On the one hand, practitioners tend to emphasize a sort of practical ‘empiricism’; that is to say, we weigh heavily our experience of success with single cases, sometimes spectacular cases. On the other hand, researchers prefer to focus on the ‘objective’ details that can bedocumented or measured from large-scale studies. Historically, these two groups have been at odds. Thankfully, in recent years there is a path along which the two do not necessarily exclude each other, where one can inform the other, and vice versa.
Since that conference, I have been awaiting the publication of this book, and thankfully now it is here for us to enjoy. I did tell you, full disclosure, that my review comes with a positive bias for the work of Pilat. I cannot help but recommendthis work as a milestone for all schools of manual therapy. ■
Breathing, Mudras and Meridians: Direct Experience of Embodiment by Bill Harvey (London: Handspring Publishing Limited,
Reviewed by Katy Loeb, Certified Rolfer® From its title alone, Breathing, Mudras and Meridians: Direct Experience of Embodiment, one may imagine that our colleague, Rolfer, Rolf Movement®practitioner, and biodynamic craniosacral practitioner, Bill Harvey, has cast an ambitiously wide net into the murky seas of embodiment. As someone with little knowledge of mudras, meridians, and their origins, I wondered if this book would provide an accessible entry point.
Harvey’s text presents a clear mission from the get-go: to be an experiential and experimental manual to find ourselves in these times of disinformation, distrust, and disconnection. Harvey postulates Reviews 74 that our lived experience of embodiment
is our most trustworthy power, the key to our overall health, and the clearest way to perceive our vitalities – the breath, mudras, and meridians provide trusty centuries-old inroads. It is clear through the content and voice of this book that it is written to be of service.
Harvey presents his material in short, approachable chapters that progress naturally. He opens by asserting that we must “reconceive the body” by moving away from anatomy and toward vitality (Harvey 2021, 10). Harvey gives several reasons why anatomy and even fascia’s existence alone cannot be our organizing principle – the most compelling for me is his reminder that anatomy has never been “neutral” (Harvey 2021, 1). Anatomy has been weaponized for centuries to support many evils, including the transatlantic slave trade. (I respect Harvey for not wasting page space explaining this; it is not his job. Any resource on the history of phrenology and physiognomy during the aforementioned historical period will elucidate.) Even those of us touch practitioners who stress about remembering detailed anatomy and knowing where we are cannot discount the criticality of breath to our work and the secret sauce of embodiment. The structure of Harvey’s argument to retreat from anatomy, however, does betray the possibility of, say, a constellation paradigm for embodiment. Maybe it is anatomy – along with its torrid history – and breath – and other factors that form a dimensional web of understanding.
To transition into the meatier, didactic portion of the book, Harvey locates his exploration of this material in the personal, in this case, his own journey as a human, practitioner, and teacher of how to integrate bodily sensations, spirituality, and verticality. Harvey brings a vast exploration of Rolfing® Structural Integration (SI), biodynamic craniosacral, Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to the pages of this volume to explore the throughlines of breath and movement to improve our vitality
and wellbeing. It is, frankly, impressive how Harvey has structured this book by layering and titrating the importance of breath and sensation. As a newer practitioner, his text provides accessible language and techniques to explain why breathing is critical for my clients and me. From being a direct pathway to ourautonomic nervous system, to the more spiritual or meditative aspects, Harvey advocates clearly for how breath can bea barometer for progress, self-awareness, and even self-regulation. Moscompelling for me is Harvey’s assertion that “breathing adds the dimension of the present time to all the processes in which we engage” (2021, 19). The breath anchors us within ourselves in time and space. This is empowering in our current political, social, and personal realities.
The middle of Harvey’s volume offers an introduction to mudras and meridians and how to use them to contact places within ourselves. Harvey makes it easy to follow along with color photographs, didactic images of meridians, and written descriptions throughout. Several chapters offer mudras to work with specific organs, diaphragms, Ayurvedic Vayus, and TCM meridians. He also provides step-bystep experiential exercises to cultivate “inner spaciousness” (Harvey 2021, 173).
Harvey packs in so much information that this book demands titration, revisiting, and layering on more experiential exercises as desired.
I found Harvey’s chapter on ‘skinbreathing’ particularly helpful, even as a ‘pre-mudra’ entry point. Harvey patiently walks readers through various combinations of hand and finger positions, inviting us to notice how the breath changes location or feeling within the body. He believes that our “superpower” is our ability to sense breath with a wellintentioned touch, so breath and attention
are “intertwined” (Harvey 2021, 43). It is a kind of magic, the sensation of blood, warmth, and attention simultaneously coming to a body part.
Harvey’s background in biodynamic craniosacral therapy very much strengthens his work. He states that modality presupposes that the client is already in the process of self-healing and that we as practitioners do not fix people.
Our job is not to sculpt but to guide.
Throughout the instructive chapters, Harvey’s voice is compassionate, full of humility and respect for his work and the traditions he has studied. For example, at multiple points, Harvey acknowledges that, having not grown up within Ayurvedic traditions, his entry point to the work yields a different experience and meaning. He does not appropriate the tradition, but rather shows his curiosity and respect.
His languaging around this is a worthwhile model for any of us who work with traditions not indigenous to our culture or society.
He drives home his mission by modeling how to prioritize one’s phenomenological experience and, as such, does not pretend to know how it ‘should’ feel or assert to have had an authentic experience of, say, a Vayu of Ayurveda.
Moreover, Harvey gives us plenty of leeway to just experience – to try something new.
He is quick to assuage that for those of us who do not come from a meditative tradition; it may seem very challenging to connect with meridians. Harvey maintained my curiosity rather than let me fall into overwhelm with the amount of material, perhaps revealing his experience as a seasoned teacher. Again, this serves his objective to foster self-awareness, as throughout the volume, he allows us to come up for air from the density of the material to remind us that this is all meant to serve. These practices and mudras are meant to ground us so that we are more equipped to show up in our lives.
In case you were concerned that this book excluded any discussion of Rolfing SI, fear not. Harvey discusses and eventually concludes, for example, that the ‘Line’ is TCM’s central channel, or Ayurveda’s Sushumna. He asserts that “fascia is the bridge between Western scientific knowledge and Eastern phenomenological, evidenced-based scientific knowledge” (Harvey 2021, 68).
The Line allows us to converse with many traditions and concepts simultaneously if we allow it. Harvey also devotes a chapter
to meridians and a functional walking pattern, posing the inquiry of how qi plays a role in effortless movement.
Harvey concludes with the same compassionate message he began with, reassuring us that the Western mind-body split does not have to be a permanent fixture. Through breath and meditative practices, we can reclaim our connection to self, as well as our inherent connections to the Earth and our individual spiritualities.
Always centering the applicability and real need for awareness, he writes: “We are our own authorities for any question we may have about our lives. We can pose the question, connect ourselves to above and below, then we will feel the true answer. That answer is never going to be racism, nationalism or violence” (Harvey 2021, 178). Not only is this an ambitious and powerful conclusion, but it elevates the hope that in our work with ourselves and our clients, any change gained has the potential to be bigger than we may perceive.