Masterclass Anatomy for body therapists and body psychotherapists

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As a licensed Physiotherapist, a Psychomotor Therapist and a Psychotherapist (ECP), Dirk Marivoet combines his thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology of the body and the brain with clinical insights from the diverse fields he covers.


Example of a class:
In this master class Anatomy Dirk will discuss the role of the neuromyofascial web in the somatic and the emotional motor system and will invite you to participate in a series of experiences and exercises building on the theory presented.
Anatomical research has shown that the motor system in mammals and especially in humans, originates in the motor and premotor cortex, and only for the control of axial, neck and eye movements, in the brainstem. This system is called the somatic or voluntary motor system. However, many findings in the last 20 years indicate that there exist many other pathways that are derived from brain or brainstem structures belonging or related to the limbic system. This second system is called the emotional motor system.
Certain postures as we see them in clients are steered by the somatic motor system, and others by the emotional motor system. It is my belief that a thorough understanding of the body will help us more adequately influence these respective systems.
The following observations and questions lead us to new take- aways in the attempt to unify body, emotions, thoughts and our will.
Traditional anatomy texts of the muscles and fascia are inaccurate, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our movement function. The usual term for the movement system is called “musculoskeletal”. However the term neuromyofascial web would be a better one, since the role of fascia as the biological container and connector for every organ (including muscles) has been shown essential in recent research.
Historically and for many reasons, fascia has not been seen as a whole system; therefore we have been ignorant of fascia’s overall role in biomechanics and healthy functioning. The body is a single connected unity in which literally every cell is hooked into—and responds to—the tensional environment of the fascia. It behaves just like one big net with muscles squirming in it like swimming fish. Organs pulsating in it like jellyfish. Every system, every organ and even every cell lives embedded within the sea of a unitary fascial net —so how can we in Core-Energetics, Bodymind Integration, Bio-Energetic Analysis, Psychomotor Therapy, … work with this fascial net as part of a whole, as what could be termed the “organ system of stability and flexibility”?
Instead of identifying individual separate structures within the fascial web —plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, iliotibial band, thoracolumbar aponeurosis, nuchal ligament and so on— we can start to think of them as ZIP codes, where we can post valuable information for the whole person. We get post from the cortex down (psychological processes), from the outside in (External senses/awareness of the body in space), from the inside up (‘Internal milieu’/ interoception).
It has been found that there are 10 times more sensory nerve endings in fascia than in muscles; therefore, how do we aim proprioceptive stimulation at the fascia level, as well as the muscles in Body Psychotherapy?
Taking attention—your own and your client’s—away from words, the movements, or even the muscles and putting it into the surrounding fascial tissues can make the perception of kinesthesia more accurate at times and fully informed (this will also strengthen the ‘body ego’). It will also help prevent or cure injury (physical, emotional or psychological)…whatever the focus.
The somatic and visceral activities associated with unified emotional behavior are mediated by the activity of both the somatic and visceral motor neurons, which integrate parallel, descending inputs from a constellation of forebrain sources. Slowly science is understanding the organization and function of the forebrain centers that specifically govern the experience and expression of emotional behavior. Some individuals react to neutral, harmless stimuli as if they were aversive and threatening; they also have a tendency to react similarly to positive stimuli. A failure to recognize safety signals can lead to prolonged action readiness and sympathetic nervous system overactivity. Chronic sympathetic dominance of the nervous system may in turn promote chronic tension in the fascial system. Fascia has recently been shown to be able to have significant contractile force in vitro, and this fascial contractility is thought to contribute to the incredible feats of strength humans can perform in emergency situations in which the sympathetic nervous system is also dominant.
In response to chronic excess fascial tension, fibroblasts would likely overproduce collagen and extracellular matrix in a continuous attempt to respond to the increased mechanical stress. However due to inadequate growth hormone stimulation of fibroblast there may be an impaired fascial healing response resulting in chronic fascial inflammation; there is ‘a critical role for fibroblasts in regulating the switch from acute to chronic inflammation in tissues’.
It becomes clear that in combining different elements of the work we do in Body Psychotherapy, like working with movement, tissue, breath, contact, emotional awareness and expression, etc. we can slowly help the client altering the remodeling of his neuromyofascial net as a consequence of life’s challenges and thus as a metaphor of living. In structural and characterological body readings we can estimate the levels of our successes.




For 11 years Dirk worked as a psychomotor therapist in the Psychiatric Services of Leuven University (Belgium). In 1994 he founded the Institute for Bodymind Integration in Ghent. He has been working as a full-time psychotherapist since then. Dirk is trained in Psychotherapy specialized in Core Energetics and Bodymind Integration and operates internationally as teacher/trainer and supervisor.