• Why I’m Taking a Week Off to Take a Dissection Class

    gloved hand holding a scalpel

    By this time y’all probably know that I need to take continuing education classes in order to keep my massage license. Normally, I choose some sort of hands on class to increase the efficacy of the work I do, learn a new technique, or to be able to help with issues I wasn’t able to before. That’s good news for anyone who sees me for massage or bodywork.

    As you’ve probably guessed, a dissection class won’t teach me a new technique or allow me to do more specialized work. So why take it? Well, it’ll give me a greater knowledge of what I’m feeling and affecting while I’m massaging you.

    Wait. Dissection? Like With Actual Bodies and Stuff?

    Yes. This class will involve cadavers that were donated to science for the express purpose of being used in a class such as this.

    And, yes, I will be doing the actual dissection. Well, not by myself. There will be teams of 6-8 people working on each form in order to be able to finish in 6 days. It’ll be grueling work, but it’ll be an amazing experience that will teach me more about the body.

    But Didn’t You Study Anatomy in Massage School?

    Sure, I studied anatomy in massage school, but that was taught using books with 2 dimensional pictures. And as you’ve probably noticed, people are 3 dimensional beings. That means that flat drawings and pictures don’t do it justice.

    I also took an anatomy class when I was in college, back in the 80’s, that included an anatomy lab. The problem with that class is that I was 18 years old and didn’t appreciate the way I would one day need or want to use all that 3 dimensional, real-life information. Plus, I was too busy just trying to memorize the name of every single structure in the body, in one semester, to develop an appreciation. Don’t get me wrong, I found the human form compelling and interesting, but I just didn’t have time (or the experience) to develop a profound appreciation of what it was that I was looking at.

    Now I have a lot more experience dealing with a wide range of bodies than I had in college or massage school. I’ve also had exposure to information through professional sources and continuing education that I didn’t have when I was actually studying anatomy in an academic setting. All of those things together mean that I’ll get a lot more out of this type of class now than at any other time in my life.

    Some Specifics, Please

    So that was a pretty general overview of why I’m eager to take a dissection class. But there are some very specific reasons embedded within those generalities. They include:

    • Anatomy drawings are a composite. Most people don’t actually look like that. Think how different we are on the surface. Things like nose size, shape, and placement; amount and distribution of fat; and just overall body morphology. It’s the same on the inside, you just don’t see it every day. That makes it easy to forget. Out of sight, out of mind.
    • Body structures are not as uniform as we were taught in school. For instance, the hip socket alone has numerous, known, variations including being more shallow or deeper than “normal” as well as being pointed farther forward, down, up, or back than “normal.” I’d love to see some of that in real life, as opposed to pictures.
    • Muscles and nerves are not located in precisely the same spot on everyone. For instance, did you know that your psoas (pronounced SO az) muscle is listed in various sources as being anywhere from 1 to 2 inches away from your belly button. That’s a lot of wiggle room when you’re trying to locate a specific muscle. All the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, etc. have variation like this, although perhaps without quite as wide a latitude as the psoas.
    • The instructor has a deep reverence for the human body, so it’s guaranteed to not be dry and boring. Instead, it’s almost guaranteed to bring some sort of profound insight that wouldn’t be available in a similar class offered at a university or medical center.
    • I’m a kinesthetic learner. That means I learn best by doing and touching, not by listening or looking. I’ve never had a chance to learn anatomy kinesthetically before, not even in anatomy lab. The cadavers in my college lab were already dissected for us by the upper classmen who were taking an advanced anatomy class.

    I promise when I take the class in October I’ll fill you all in on how it was. Don’t worry, though, I’ll spare you the gory details and just stick to the insights I glean.

2 Responses so far.

  1. You are a brave and noble soul! I want gory details because I am curious and because it might be okay at this “safe distance.” Humans are incredible constructions! So variable and yet working so continuously. Best wishes on this adventure! Um, maybe not photos tho. 😁

    • Michelle Doetsch says:

      I’ll definitely give you some additional details. No pics, though. They aren’t allowed out of respect for the forms we’re dissecting as well as their families.