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Integral Anatomy for Modern Somanauts with Gil Hedley (EP#69)

Gil Hedley joins Tahnee on the podcast today. Gil is an anatomist and self proclaimed "Somanaut" - a person who is "dedicated to exploring the inner space of human form". Tahnee and Gil dive deep today, exploring the intricate nature of the human form through the lens of anatomy, philosophy and spirituality.

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Gil Hedley joins Tahnee on the podcast today. Gil is an anatomist and self proclaimed "Somanaut" - a person who is "dedicated to exploring the inner space of human form". Gil has encouraged thousands of fellow "somanauts" to appreciate, explore and embody the wonders of human form through his lecture presentations and hands-on human dissection courses in the laboratory. Tahnee and Gil dive deep today, exploring the intricate nature of the of these bodies we call human. The pair share their insights through the lens of anatomy, philosophy and spirituality.

This one is a bit of a mind bender folks, but in the best possible way. Tune in to be taken beyond the linear understanding of the human body into the expansive realm of universal connection.

Tahnee and Gil discuss:

  • The fascial system.
  • Religion and spirituality.
  • Religion and spirituality.
  • Taoist sexuality and sexual anatomy.
  • The heart as a factual vessel not a 'pump'.
  • Martial Arts and the textural foundations of the body.
  • The intricacy and non symmetrical nature of the human form.
  • Integral vs regional anatomy, embodied understanding vs intellectual analysis.
  • The human body as a whole, each individual as a cellular representation of the whole - the universal body.


Who is Gil Hedley?

Gil Hedley is an anatomist and certified Rolfer who holds a PhD in theological ethics. Gil's combined interests and training have supported his personal and professional exploration of the human body, which has lead him to develop an integral approach to the study of human anatomy. Through hands-on human dissections courses in the laboratory and lecture presentations, Gil has encouraged thousands of fellow "somanauts" to appreciate, explore and embody the wonders of human form. Gil has authored a number of books, as well as produced The Integral Anatomy Series, a set of four feature-length videos documenting his whole body, layer-by-layer approach through on-camera dissection.



Gil's Website

Gil's Facebook

Gil's Youtube

Gil's Free Online Courses  


Check Out The Transcript Below:

Tahnee:   (00:08)

Hi everybody. Welcome to the SuperFeast Podcast. Today I'm really excited to introduce Gil Hedley, who's joining us from Colorado. Hi Gil.


Gil Hedley:   (00:15)

Hi, Tahnee.


Tahnee:  (00:16)

Nice to have you here with us.


Gil Hedley:   (00:18)

And everybody listening.


Tahnee:  (00:19)

Yeah, the whole listening world. Gil is the founder of Integral Anatomy and he's a really amazing anatomist and somanaut which is a great word that I'd love for you to explain for us later if that's okay. But also you've studied theology and you have a PhD in theology. Is that correct?


Gil Hedley:   (00:37)

Theological ethics, actually, yeah.


Tahnee:  (00:38)

Okay. And you've done some rolfing things. You've kind of got this interesting mix of I guess the spiritual, and the tangible physical, and then obviously, like through the hands-on human dissection that you do. I feel like that's such an interesting combination of worlds to weave. But what I've seen you express, I suppose is this really beautiful and profound philosophy that I guess has arisen through your physical dissections and actual extractions of human form. But how does one go from actually doing theology, which I understand is like the study of religions and theological ethics, which is I suppose, I saw your piece on marriage. Is this around the role religion plays and how we create ethical constructs in our society. Is that right?


Gil Hedley:  (01:28)

That's exactly right. Yeah, exactly. Looking to see the moral systems that are rooted in religions. So that's my master's degree. It was in the study of religion. My BA was also in the study of religion, and my PhD. All ethics throughout actually, I was studying ethics throughout. But basically, yeah, looking at ethics is a meta study where you look at people's ways of being in a world and trying to see how they reason about their moral-


Tahnee:  (02:05)

Conduct sort of thing.


Gil Hedley:  (02:05)

Conducts, and preferences, and choices, right? So.. And then theological ethics is where you look specifically to the moral systems of religious systems and ask like, "How do they come to believe that? What's their rationale for holding that position," or what have you. So actually, I brought my spirituality to the University of Chicago, certainly didn't get it from it. In fact, when I showed up, they're like, "What are you talking about God? we don't know God," because it's a very academic and abstract mental place.


Gil Hedley:  (02:37)

That sort of intentionally drives you out of your body. My attempt to claim a body there was, was amusing I think, to my professors. I started doing Tai Chi and then I learned massage and rolfing while I was in my PhD program, in my own effort to just ground myself because I felt that although grounding was not a appreciated pursuit in my field, actually quite the opposite. I felt that it was ridiculous to try and come to moral positions or study ethics about the body, for instance, and make rules and such about the body or even evaluate rules about the body without knowing what a body is, or even living in one because it wasn't really valued to actually live in your body at the University of Chicago. I went into Tai Chi to try and just ground myself and get a little physical and explore my movement and such. I went to massage training and my rolfing training.


Gil Hedley:  (03:46)

I got a little more body connection. I kind of realised that I couldn't speak to the body without having a more intimate understanding of the body. Before you knew it, I wasn't so much into the rolfing thing as I was into the anatomy that was helping me be a good rolfer. I sort of switched my career choice out of the rolfing upon the shoulders of which I continue to stand and into the the body exploration in the laboratory, where I found myself swimming in a universe that both terrified me and compelled me completely.


Gil Hedley:  (04:28)

I found that when folks found out what I was doing, friends and other people, I was in a healing school as well after my rolfing training, did five years in an energetic healing school, kind of psychodynamics and energy healing and that kind of thing. My friends were like, "Teach us anatomy." I was like okay. I kind of told them what was going on in the lab. When I was in the lab, I kind of brought the energy of the healing school to that. That's much more how spirituality made its way into my anatomy laboratory as opposed to anything I ever got at the University of Chicago studying theological ethics, where I basically just fought the popes in Latin. It wasn't really particularly spiritual.


Tahnee:  (05:15)

Well, and religion has such a history of denying the body because I mean ...


Gil Hedley:  (05:20)



Tahnee:  (05:21)

Do you have anything to say to that? Because I mean, I've got lots of thoughts on that.


Gil Hedley:  (05:25)

Absolutely I mean the ease with which I engaged in the intellectual pursuits at the university and in graduate school was grounded, it was founded I should say, in my own disconnection to my body that was definitely fostered by my religious upbringing as a Roman Catholic. With all due respect to Roman Catholics, some of my best friends are Roman Catholics, my mum for instance, the modelling of the body in the church that I was raised in as liberal and 1960's kumbaya religion that I was raised with, still had a beloved saviour crucified, right, as the model of the body, and a virgin mother of him. So when you put those two together, you start scratching your head. You don't even have to scratch your head.


Gil Hedley:  (06:24)

It's so deep. It goes in so deep to your psyche and to your way of moving, literally it affects how you move when your heroes, when your spiritual heroes, are naked but murdered and his mother weeping at the foot of the cross, actually never had sex, according to the story. So this is strange, and it's a strange way to model by the people you value most are void and have broken their bodies and offer their bodies as a sacrifice etc. When you take that seriously and I did, I took it so seriously, I got a PhD teaching Catholic ethics.


Gil Hedley:  (07:06)

You get massively conflicted around your body and around your body's urges, around sexuality, around physicality, and many people just never worked through that. I've actually used the study of anatomy and the exploration of movement through something like Tai Chi for years. Then just like life and sex and family to become embodied. So that when I speak an anatomy word, it's not just an intellectual thing for me. I have a relationship with that tissue, an intimate relationship with a tissue. I know what it feels like, I know where it is. I can go there. I can call out its name and it calls back to me with sensation. So that's the embodiment that I've pursued and it's their integral anatomy.


Tahnee:  (08:02)

So do you feel like there's this deeper sense of like introception and self-awareness, I suppose through the work that you've done, like it hasn't? Because I think a lot of people-


Gil Hedley:  (08:13)

Yeah, I can go in there.


Tahnee:  (08:15)

Let's go. Yeah. Because I mean, I see a lot of people. I've done a little bit of work in wet labs and stuff. It's almost like people become disconnected from the body when they do that work. It becomes this body I guess.


Gil Hedley:  (08:29)

There's a risk of that when the approaches is regional and not integral. That's why I've developed integral anatomy because a regional anatomy, when you're parsing the body out literally into parts, bits, pieces, naming them, that's an intellectual process. It's a mental construct, and it doesn't have a whole lot to do with what's in front of you. But if you give a little time for the body to talk to you and tell it a bit about itself, and this was kind of my point as an ethicist was I keep learning about people and systems that are ordering the body around. They haven't even stopped to listen to what it has to say, or how it's organised, and what it might speak to the moral life because it's the moral life is lived, is a bodily lived experience.So what does the body speak to that? Because if the body is a gift and not a curse, then it can possibly inform the moral life rather than be its subjugated-


Tahnee:  (09:25)

Vehicle of fear almost. Yeah.


Gil Hedley:  (09:28)

And bedraggled partner or servant or mule as it were. Yeah, so if you're just doing regional anatomy, you really do run the risk of of getting disconnected. When you come into a lab and the body's head, and hands, and feet are wrapped, and they're faced down, and you never connect with them as even though the housing of a person but it's just like you're on day one of medical school. You're told to go in and find the integration of the trapezius muscle, meaning you have to hack a panel out of the skin, superficial fascia, deep fascia, flip the muscle over, find the nerve, then you get your A. Now, what happened to you in the process, right?


Gil Hedley:  (10:16)

So chances are, you're disconnected or as I bring people into a room, we stand around the table holding hands in a circle. We give thanks and we bring ourselves into a state of appreciation. We acknowledge that this form is a gift, and this is came from a person who had an intention or the family who has an intention. We look them in the eye, and we sit them up, and we stand them up, even and we meet them in a vertical so that we can we can acknowledge, "Oh, this isn't just some dead body. This was someone's body." It's not a person on the table by any means. I'm not a surgeon. I don't work on living persons.


Gil Hedley:  (10:58)

But I do work on the artefacts, and the footprints, and the old shoes of persons. I learned a lot about them as a result of that. I learned more about myself, my own fears, my own disconnections. I invite the people in the room to constantly, step up to that mirror and look in it. And see, do you hate what you see in the mirror? Do you love what you see in the mirror? Do you hate some of it and love some of it? Some of it you can't even see because it's literally outside of your ability to see. So I try and help people to see more. Then to just observe what their relationship is to what they see. Because if it's unappreciative, I'm going to work my hardest to to point out aspects of appreciation that can bring that person into a positive relationship with the gift that's in front of them and hopefully the gift that they're walking around with.


Tahnee:  (11:54)

I had a close friend about maybe 2013, do your training in San Francisco. She sent me these emails while she was there, and it was like witnessing a breakdown, and then a breakthrough, and then this kind of rebuilding of her identity. I mean, I just looked at them again, when I knew I was going to talk to you. I remember them, they was so visceral for me when I wasn't there. I can feel how visceral it was for her and this process of spending six days, going back to her hotel alone and just processing. I think about how we're so removed from natural processes, death, birth, like all of these things.


Tahnee:  (12:36)

I remember when I had my daughter, I had an experience meditating where I could almost feel this energy stream between her and I. Even though I was across the room from her. I remember reading in one of your posts about like fat being the fascia, sorry being the receiver like a transmitter of energy. I could feel how like my body had softened so that I could have this deep connection with her. I think those little little insights, they just they change your experience so much. How could I hate my chubbiness? If I was deeply connected to my little baby.


Tahnee:  (13:14)

I mean, for me, that was just such a beautiful, getting even emotional talking about it. It was such a beautiful change because I've spent my whole life with eating disorders and various forms of that even if they weren't avert. That's what I saw with Kate, her respect for her body and for her students and how she was able to just see differently, I can just imagine you must have these huge transformational experiences going on every day in your work, right?


Gil Hedley:  (13:44)

At least in my courses, I definitely set them up as opportunities for transformation and healing, I like to say that my classes are transformational, not traumatic. Because I mean, I was brought into gross anatomy laboratory when I was 17 years old in high school and in an advanced biology class. The guy who took us around the lab, at the Harlem School of Pediatry was basically like John Belushi, it was a joke. He was going to make us laugh and we did laugh, but it was simultaneously horrifying.


Gil Hedley:  (14:22)

There were bags of feet on shelves around the room. There were hammy pelvis and legs lying on the table. He's yanking on tendons, showing, making toes move like a chicken. I didn't eat chicken for two years after that visit to the lab. It made a tremendous impression on me. When I came to study in a lab myself, I was like, the fact of the matter is that when you enter the laboratory, you actually go into altered states of consciousness, just by dint of the circumstances.


Gil Hedley:  (14:48)

So you don't need to take anything magic to have your consciousness altered when you go into the lab. If you're brought in mindfully, with consciousness and awareness. I felt and do feel a keen responsibility when I have a room full of people in an altered state of consciousness instead of to jerk them around or mess with them, to serve them. From my Catholic upbringing, I have a service mentality. That's my ethics. That's my religion, my religion is service, right? That's the core of my own ethical structure. I do take the opportunity to serve the people in their altered states of consciousness in the laboratory for their sake, as opposed to what often happens in workshops where people are brought into altered states of consciousness and then the leader manipulates them for their own sake to take the next workshop. I hate that. I can't stand that.


Tahnee:  (15:55)

Welcome to the yoga industry, yeah.


Gil Hedley:  (15:58)

Yeah. It's so mean to start enrolling people when they're in the middle of their ecstatic experience. I would much rather have you calm down and realise here, and two years later think would you ever want to do that again? Most people are like, "No, that was plenty. I got that down." Now, there are the occasional people who come back and come back and back and back. Some people come every year. But they've made it their own practise. That's their own practise. I've made it my own practise as well.


Tahnee:  (16:27)

Well, I mean, it seems like an endless task almost to try and map the body. I mean, it's so complicated.


Gil Hedley:  (16:38)

It is. Things don't hold my attention for very long unless they're very interesting. So I found like with ethics and the moral life while I was studying that still am, I haven't stopped, observing, making observations and tinkering with my own set of ideas around how it is to be in the world and what I am in the world. What is going on here? These questions still drive me, who I am and what is my body. But when I think about how long I've been doing this for at this point, if you'd asked me, I would be like, "You're crazy." But it turns out that it really is the universe that we're exploring here. Whether you do it in macrocosm or microcosm.


Gil Hedley:  (17:23)

I mean, I am like a kid in a candy shop in the lab every day because I'm seeing stuff, making observations, seeing details that have escaped me for all these years or details that I saw and then forgot. To be able to do that is quite a privilege, but also just speaks to the complexity of the subject. Even at the gross anatomical level, because people I mean, many people just dismiss gross anatomy like, "Oh, we already know all that stuff. That was figured out 400 years ago, right?" There it is. It's in the book. It's done there's nothing more to say. If you were getting a PhD in anatomy right now, you'd be hard pressed to find a professor who would support PhD level work and gross anatomy. No, you're going to be doing molecular biology. You're going to be working at nanometer level sizes of anatomy, cellular anatomy, gross anatomy is passe.


Gil Hedley:  (18:28)

They'd rather have it out of the building actually because it smells and it's expensive and scary. But I have found actually that working at the gross level, I'm exploring the same questions that people are exploring at the micro level about movement and interfaces and relationships and continuities. But I find that the gross anatomical level provides a mirror for transformation that may be the microscopic level might not. You might not see yourself there quite as easily as you do when you're looking at a bedraggled old man on the table or a sweet old grandma.


Tahnee:  (19:06)

Yeah, you see humanity reflected back at you, don't you?


Gil Hedley:  (19:09)



Tahnee:  (19:09)

I mean, I've read just recently actually read that you were talking about, you've even got theories that challenge, I guess, our gross anatomy conceptions that say like the heart is a pump, like you see it as more of a fluid. Is it that pressure dynamics, is that kind of what you're ...?


Gil Hedley:  (19:30)

The heart is definitely not a pump.


Tahnee:  (19:30)

Yeah. So speak to that.


Gil Hedley:  (19:32)

By design, but the heart can be reduced to a pump, under the untoward circumstances of a stressful life. You can force your heart to become nothing but a pump to maintain homeostasis, but by design the heart is more of a, I see it as the place where the blood spins itself, where it refreshes its movement.


Tahnee:  (19:55)

I guess centrifugal force kind of a thing is that what you ...


Gil Hedley:  (19:59)

I think it's more about ... Well, there's that for sure, because I would say one of the primary functions of the heart is to facilitate the restoration of the vortex, the lamination of the blood and its flow as opposed to forcing it through smaller and smaller tubes that terminate 30,000 miles away and then make a 30,000-mile road trip back. That ain't happening with that little bit of flesh inside your chest. If you saw the kind of a pump that would be required to force a fluid through pipes with increasingly smaller diameters, the mathematics of it results in the need for an absolutely large machine, which is not located inside your chest.


Gil Hedley:  (20:43)

If you've ever seen a heart lung machine, just look it up on Google, heart lung machine. It's like a big ass machine that is forcing blood. It's really the the amazing fluid dynamics and fractal form of the vascular network that's actually a reflection of the movement of fluids rather than its cause that results in the blood being drawn to the periphery and then being drawn back to the centre.


Tahnee:  (21:19)

Like a tide, kind of?


Gil Hedley:  (21:21)

Yeah, maybe like a tide. But there's a wonderful, wonderful Austrian naturalist whose name was Viktor Schauberger.


Tahnee:  (21:31)

Yeah, I was about to say. Because he was all about the water needing to spin in vortex. We have an egg at home that our water-


Gil Hedley:  (21:37)

Do you really? That's so cool.


Tahnee:  (21:38)



Gil Hedley:  (21:39)

How wonderful.


Tahnee:  (21:39)

That's the thing. Because like nature is if you look at a coastline, it's all fractals, if you look at anything in nature, it's water streams like and the way water-


Gil Hedley:  (21:48)

Yeah, so is the heart rhythm, the heart rhythm is fractal, we are fractal. We are mirrored best with fractal forms. We don't need a pump to make the water go around the planet or to make a vortex form in a stream nor do we need to control the streams banks. Similarly, if left to its own devices and if the heart is free, the blood will flow beautifully for your whole life. But if you resist that flow, if you resist the movement of life within you, literally through hypertension, emotional states and dietary duress is supplying your form, you can actually, I use the phrase canalyzing.


Gil Hedley:  (22:38)

Which I mean to make a canal out of literally. So, if you put a canal and put walls, canal walls on a stream, you stress it basically. You dispermit its normal flow of movement, and yet it's still on a spinning planet. So what happens is there's friction, right? Instead of there being sort of a frictionless passage of the fluid, you have friction against the walls of the canal, which will be broken down by the fluid friction and also by the altered chemistry of the water, which when not moving in the same way has an altered chemistry. It's no different in our bodies, when we enter into emotional states that stiffen our otherwise flexible river beds, then we can analyze the path of the blood, generate friction of the blood against the vessel walls, which abraids, destroys them along with the altered chemistry, which chemically abraids them.


Gil Hedley:  (23:36)

You have that combination of things, and then homeostasis kicks in and says, "Well, you promised to stay on this planet as long as I could keep you here, and so I'm going to proliferate cholesterol from your liver, the purpose of which is to be an antioxidant, and I'm going to take the oxidised cholesterol. I'll pack into the fissures along the vessel walls and I'm going to ... Oh well that's not enough. We're going to going to a hole in this thing eventually. So you really do want me to build a canal and your body will actually lay down bone basically," it'll calcify a literal canal, a little calcified canal inside the blood vessel. Then your blood will try and flow through that but you've created is no longer being sucked to the end and sucked back.


Gil Hedley:  (24:24)

You're actually demanding like I said, at the beginning of the story, that your heart be a pump then, and then you'll get megalocardia, right, the heart will increase it and literally, increase in size as it worked for the first time in your life to move the blood. It never had to work before, it just happened. The ocean doesn't work to draw the rivers into it. The clouds don't work to form, and rain over the mountain tops, and soak into the soil and turn into spring water and bubble back up. There's no work involved. It's all just happening on a spinning planet, in a spinning galaxy. We are that.


Tahnee:  (25:03)

Spinning bodies.


Gil Hedley:  (25:04)

Yeah, we our bodies, are participating in that potential fluid movement on the planet. Unless we decide to hell no. I'm going to do it this way. I'm going to do it the hard way I'm going to resist the moment of life within me, and show it better. We never do we always show it worse.


Tahnee:  (25:28)

I mean, it sounds like you're talking a lot to the Taoist world view. Would you say that's fair? Because it seems to be, like if we resist the flow of life a lot of this stuff, I guess is reminding me of like the Tao Te Ching and those kinds of concepts.


Gil Hedley:  (25:42)

Yeah, there's a lot of good stuff in there, huh? Definitely. I would say when the Tao is lost, morality arises. Yeah, that's a little Tao Te Ching for you. I read it many times as a boy.


Tahnee:  (25:54)



Gil Hedley:  (25:55)

Man. I love the Tao Te Ching. I was like, "Wow, what's this all about?"


Tahnee:  (26:00)

This idea I mean, because I have a little bit of a background in Chinese medicine too. I'm thinking like one thing, Paul Grilley who's a yin yoga teacher, I think you know him.


Gil Hedley:  (26:09)

I know, Paul, he's pretty good.


Tahnee:  (26:11)

Yeah, yeah. Well, he was talking recently about how one of his theories is that the fluid around the organs changes, and that gives rise to deficiency or access patterns and stuff. That makes sense when you're talking about the chemistry of the fluid. If it's altered by stagnation or by excess flow or whatever, getting flushed out too quickly, then we're going to end up with physiological effects from what had happened.


Gil Hedley:  (26:37)



Tahnee:  (26:39)

Yeah, and then those manifest health symptoms and things, is that phenomenon visible in the fashion, not just in organs, obviously be it all through the body, right, that we'll be seeing this kind of stiffening?


Gil Hedley:  (26:51)

Absolutely, I see. Well, what I call perry fascia I see as a fluid reservoir in our body. I like Peter Fritos word of a conduit. It's both a pathway as well as a reservoir. It's chemistry is dependent upon levels of hydration, which can be altered, but not only hydration, but the entire chemistry is altered by dehydration, right? You start to get you know, hydrogen bonding and cross fibre linking in the tissues that are designed to facilitate differential movement. When that happens, then at some level, the function is mitigated.


Gil Hedley:  (27:53)

I don't know what percentage is required. I'm not saying dehydrated like cardboard, I'm saying like 2% of lack of fluidity and what does that do to the cells or the slipperiness of the tissue. When there's this level of drag generated mechanically throughout your body, how does that alter physiology? How does it alter movement? How does it alter mood or how does mood alter? It goes both ways, right?


Tahnee:  (28:24)

Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's so easy for us to be either or with these things. When you start to really look into them, it's always both, there's a great F. Scott Fitzgerald, quote, it's like, the sign of advanced intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time. It's one that we constantly have to remember where we because ... You try and conceptualise these things, and it's so easy to want to know the truth which and then realistically it's always both. We're physical beings, we're emotional beings, we're spiritual beings. We're all of these things at once. I mean that idea that you say of I guess just reclaiming the body as a positive kind of a thing because I think so much of our culture like movement practises are ... I see some of the stuff people are doing, especially on social media and it just seems like it's abuse. It's like we're flogging our bodies.


Gil Hedley:  (29:22)

Oh yeah, for sure.


Tahnee:  (29:24)

I mean, you have some movement practise of your own. Right? Or you speak to movement quite a bit like, is there a ...


Gil Hedley:  (29:34)

I walk.


Tahnee:  (29:34)

Well, I mean-


Gil Hedley:  (29:34)

I usually walk when I'm on the telephone. At the moment, I'm plugged in, I hover over cadavers in uncomfortable positions for hours a day, tormenting myself. Then I come home and collapse on a soft gushy sofa and do four hours of admin on my computer. While we make popcorn and eventually relax by watching something on Netflix. I'm pretty much in the loop of-


Tahnee:  (29:57)

Of life.


Gil Hedley:  (29:59)

Earlier. By the way, I think F. Scott Fitzgerald must have been a Libra.


Tahnee:  (30:03)

I'm a Libra, so maybe that's it.


Gil Hedley:  (30:06)

You're a Libra? I'm also a Libra, like a triple Libra.


Tahnee:  (30:10)

Oh, no, are you?


Gil Hedley:  (30:12)

Yeah. I'm as Libra as they get. I'm a Venusian, they're like man are from Mars and women are from Venus. Gil is also from Venus.


Tahnee:  (30:21)

This explains a lot though because you also have the poetry and the beautiful philosophical musings, which I think is a very Libran trait to always look at the beauty in everything.


Gil Hedley:  (30:30)

That is very true.


Tahnee:  (30:34)

There was something you actually said. No, I think he taught a workshop on it overseas. I think a friend of mine from England went, I think that's why I knew about it. It was Sex and the Sacred Heart. Is that something you did?


Gil Hedley:  (30:48)

That was recently, yeah.


Tahnee:  (30:50)

I was not there, but yeah. I think a friend of mine from England who I'd done one of Paul's training's with was in attendance.


Gil Hedley:  (30:55)

Yeah. Jo Phee.


Tahnee:  (30:57)

I love them.


Gil Hedley:  (30:58)

I held a yin teacher training in Berlin, actually.


Tahnee:  (31:02)

Yeah. She had a whole bunch of you though that were pretty next level guests.


Gil Hedley:  (31:05)

Yeah. Robert Schleipe was there. Jupp Vaanderwall, John Sharkey, and there was a gentleman, an acupuncturist fellow who I didn't have the pleasure of meeting. He was gone by the time I arrived. But anyway, yeah, When Jo says come, you got to go.


Tahnee:  (31:23)

For someone so teeny, she's definitely got a authority.


Gil Hedley:  (31:27)

Yeah, well, Jo's been coming to my class for years. I figured I owe her.


Tahnee:  (31:31)

Yeah. Look, I mean, she's a wealth of information and hardworking.


Gil Hedley:  (31:36)

She's wonderful, wonderful teacher. Yes, so I did teach a workshop called Sex and Sacred Heart. It was a kind of an experiment. I was thinking I might tour that talk. I was trying to see could I actually teach a class without my computer and without an image from the lab, and just tell stories that use toys such so I did. I did twisty tie balloons.


Tahnee:  (31:59)

Okay. I thought you might made ...


Gil Hedley:  (32:01)

I made a giant clitoris and a giant penis, and we had a great time.


Tahnee:  (32:06)

Well, because one of the things my Taoist teacher talks about is how the Heart is expressed in the head of the penis and the clitoris. That's one of his big things. He's like-


Gil Hedley:  (32:16)

I believe him.


Tahnee:  (32:18)

Yeah. All of his work is around sex is a healing practise instead of as something to be-


Gil Hedley:  (32:23)



Tahnee:  (32:24)

Yeah, was that the name of what you were talking about? Basically?


Gil Hedley:  (32:27)

Well, for me, I wanted to basically offer, have a frank discussion about sexuality that wasn't so reductionistic as well. It's like well, first let me share with you some of the basic anatomy of our sexuality that may be overlooked or misunderstood because people haven't gotten that Sex 101. I found the more I talk about it, the more I realised that folks really don't know anything at all about their sexual anatomy for starters. And that's understandable, it's just not around. Where it is being taught, it's very difficult to comprehend the dimensions, the dimensionality and relationships, the anatomical structures are poured over it for years.


Gil Hedley:  (33:15)

I think I can offer, I can make those connections with people but then also to be like, "It's not about these body parts. It's nice to know that and to be able to meet and connect with the actual qualities of our parts intimate," as I call them, but also that ultimately good sex is a function of the Heart. Not everybody wants good sex, but if you look at some people just want trashy sex, whatever you want to say. That's fine too. I'm not the judge. But in our culture, at least in the American culture which is all I can really speak to, the disconnection that we spoke of earlier with regard to our religiosity actually produces its opposite in the culture with as much or greater strength.


Gil Hedley:  (34:11)

So to the extent that you deny, suppress, repress, revile, hate, and control sexuality, you create the largest porn industry in the world because literally, the porn industry is a function of our religion in the same way that the devil it's himself is a creation. If you have a pure God, that's only love and you and you subtract anything else from that God, you build a devil, right? If you go to the Indian religions, Kali Maas, terrifying, and sexy, and murderous and terrifying. You know what I'm saying? So it's all wrapped up into one thing. It's a little more psychologically rich. Similarly, if you banish an aspect of the human body to a lesser status. You cut off your very experience of the human body at the waist, you will not know the fullness of your Heart.


Tahnee:  (35:21)

Even at the shoulders, like so many people who are living from above the neck, right?


Gil Hedley:  (35:27)

Absolutely. Not even in the head. They're actually above the head. It's too terrifying to even come into the body. If you just ask people to a number, "Where do you feel yourself to be?" There will be people who will put their hand over their head. They don't feel themselves to be inside their bodies. If you've actually judged the body to be dangerous or if the body is perceived to pose a moral risk to the soul or salvation or however you want to construct it, then you're going to have a very busy porn industry.


Gil Hedley:  (36:15)

In the same neighbourhood, because it'll be right next to the church. So there'll be the church, and then there'll be the dirty movies shop, right? Because you can't part yourself from that. You can't divide your heart like that. So for me, the is heart sacred and it infiltrates every cell, makes up to every cell of my body, the capillary network infiltrates my below the waist as well as above, it's the same Heart. I can't believe that a kind creator God would would give me a zone one of my body that was forbidden somehow or that was somehow less than any other aspect of my body. My mouth can't say to my dick, "I don't need you," to crudely paraphrase, the Apostle Paul.


Tahnee:  (37:14)

That might be the headline. Kidding.


Gil Hedley:  (37:19)

Yeah. You might have an establishment coming. Just saying.


Tahnee:  (37:22)

Same intention.


Gil Hedley:  (37:24)

Yeah, it's like the eye can't say to the hand, "I don't need you." There's nothing, there's no part of a body that is a gift that is unwelcomed or dirty or doesn't belong. And once you actually embrace the whole of the body as a gift, then you could say, "Well, then I gotta unwrap it all. I have to be open to the potential, the entire potential of this form and not just part of it." If I fall down on my knees, and literally straightened my body up and cut my pelvis, the energy off of my pelvis, above the pelvis, it's a strange thing. It's a very strange thing.


Gil Hedley:  (38:10)

I don't feel like that justly demonstrates gratitude to the gift of the whole body. I feel that kind of, then so we actually have a culture that's split on those lines, right? And you end up, because of that split, the spirituality, actually a kind of spirituality, that splits the body in two and considers part of it great, that part of it good. That kind of spirituality literally drives the negative and empty expression of sexuality in the culture, right, because then everyone who actually goes for it is like, "Well, this, this can't be that." They're just the other side of the coin. By bringing the heart or the idea of a sacred heart into the story of sexuality is to say that we can't split our hearts in two and expect ourselves to feel whole. The heart is no less present in your [inaudible] than it is anywhere else.


Tahnee:  (39:16)

And I mean when you're... Because that's something I think I've heard you say that even the separateness of our bodies is something you've brought into question recently. Is that something? Have I understood that correctly? Because I've been thinking about I guess, again, looking from the Taoist perspective, and even some of the tantric practises , that sacred union has been transformational for people. I've certainly had that experience in my life where I've had the good and the bad sex, where part has been really healing and empowering. That's, I guess, my current relationship,. It is like a transcendental experience where you actually do sort of dissolve almost, then there's that experience of like meditation or altered states of consciousness.


Tahnee:  (40:15)

I mean, that's what my experience has been when I've managed to kind of unify through sex. I think that's there's a reason that subjugated because that's very empowering. You don't want to be a part of a ... You become kind of less able to be controlled, I think, when that's a part of your experience, because if you think about advertising, and politics, and all of these things, they really come out of this, these ideas. I know we're getting into deep territory, but that's been my experience. I think about if I'm repressed, and suppressed, and afraid, and don't trust myself, and don't trust my power and my body, then I'm much more easy to control. It's an act of sovereignty and liberation in a way.


Gil Hedley:  (40:58)

That's beautifully put, I love it.


Tahnee:  (41:01)

Yeah, well, I'm getting there. So could you flush out that idea for me about because we're all so different, and that's something you mentioned before we got on, you've been in the lab a lot lately. You've been taking apart two bodies simultaneously, and recording it so people can actually see even side to side, we're different. This is something I literally have to hit people over the head with. You won't be able to assume the same shape on one side that you do in another side in a yoga class.


Tahnee:  (41:29)

It might be minutely different, it might be vastly different. I think people think we kind of have like those butterfly prints you do it at school when you're a kid. We're like clone from side to side. But that's not how we grow to my understanding. We kind of spiral out. That fractal nature of us. We aren't perfectly symmetrical, and none of us are perfectly-


Gil Hedley:  (41:52)

Very true.


Tahnee:  (41:52)

Yeah, well, none of us a perfectly symmetrical, but then you're also saying that we're very similar. So can you explain what's going on for you there? What's that line of thinking?


Gil Hedley:  (42:02)

Well, we got a head. I have a head, we both have a couple arms, most of us do, a couple of legs, some hairy bits here and there. That's kind of like the basic map, right? Then literally to a number, every one of us kind of is a spin on that basic format that we call the human body.


Gil Hedley:  (42:31)

But when I think about the human body, I mean, I've thought about the human body for years and years and years now. I keep kind of shifting my idea of the human body. Now when I say the human body, I tend to include yours with mine. I tend to include all the bodies as the human body. There's this body of humans on the planet. There are many, many cells to it, right? This human body, We're actually, all those human body cells that we are are governed by the same sun, the same moon, the same stars, the same spinning planet. Those are the master glands and the master physiology of the whole human species. And believe me, when the sun throws some crazy ass cosmic rays at this planet, we behave differently. When the when the moon is full, we behave differently.


Tahnee:  (43:33)

Luna speaks.


Gil Hedley:  (43:35)

Yeah, exactly. Our skins are producing in response to the sun, everything, whether we're hungry or tired is based on the sun. You can't get off the planet. Just try, jump. See how far you get. You snap back down like a magnet. There's substance to the space between us. Just because it's not our, our sensory habit of perceiving the content or substance of the spaces that we imagine are between us in the same way that when I went to the lab at first, I didn't really expect the muscles to be connected to each other. I mean, I knew they were connected to the bones or something, but I thought there was kind of, I don't know, maybe some juice in between them.


Gil Hedley:  (44:42)

I didn't expect it to be a facial connection. I didn't expect it to be a substantial connection. I was basically surprised and in denial of the connection I was witnessing. Isn't that true about all of us? Aren't we surprised and in denial of connections between us? Right? Such that we keep forcing our minds to imagine ourselves separate in spite of the intimacy of our mutual connection across the planet with one another, regardless of telecommunications or whatever. There's a substance that's a continuity that is the relationship of the whole human body on the planet.


Gil Hedley:  (45:32)

I don't really need to even stop it there. Why stop at the human body? Why not just talk about the planetary body or the body of consciousness? Right? Then you can just include everything. Why not? Because I don't know, I don't really. I'm not really a big, big bang kind of guy. You know what I'm saying? I find that to be a very amusing story. Right. Whether it be true or not, I don't even care. But I just see it as, as a nice metaphor for connection really. Right? So if you do conceive of a beginning or of a beginning that was the end of something else or a new beginning that is a very concentrated mass of atoms without so much space in between them that that spread out, formed our universe and our bodies and our stars at the star dust.


Gil Hedley:  (46:34)

If there's any truth to physics, the proximity of those generated a mutuality such that at a distance, they remain connected in their behaviours and in their substance, even electromagnetically or however else that happens. I don't really know. But just as a story, I'm willing to ramp that up at the macro level. I can easily extend the notion to our mutual connectedness. I also know that I can feel people at a distance. I don't automatically deny that experience. Any human can, with a little practise view remotely and extend their consciousness. So the the field of consciousness that we share may be our body, may be my body. I don't say that egotistically, but as just a simple fact of reality.


Tahnee:  (47:37)

That's very yogic. Well, that's sort of the map I've learned of what Paul teaches is actually, where ideas and energy and form, but we're all the same thing all the time. It's just we choose to perceive ourselves this way right now.


Gil Hedley:  (47:59)

It's not the worst choice in the world, it can be interesting.


Tahnee:  (48:06)

If you do believe we chose it, then we chose it. There has to be a reason on some level that we're here for this experience. Again, ideas and stories.


Gil Hedley:  (48:16)

Punishment. You're being punished. You've come to the earth because you suck.


Tahnee:  (48:22)

I heard a spiritual teacher stay the other day. He said, "You've been very naughty. That's why you're here." And it made me laugh, and it was in the time of Coronavirus. I was like, maybe it's our great punishment or something


Gil Hedley:  (48:38)

Yeah, I don't think so. I have sneakingly suspicious that we're not being punished.


Tahnee:  (48:45)

Yeah, I mean, my partner and I talk about these things a lot. We both feel that, I've always used the analogy of like Super Mario. I had a little Gameboy when I was a kid and it's like, why am I putting myself through this? It's because I learn and I grow and I get better. It's that self-development that motivates my life and obviously motivates yours. It's like that constant curiosity and questioning. I think that's fun.


Gil Hedley:  (49:13)

Yeah, some of us are cursed with that drive to grow. What is that about?


Tahnee:  (49:20)

Maybe we did something naughty.


Gil Hedley:  (49:21)

Yeah. We must have done something naughty.


Tahnee:  (49:24)

I have one sort of last question that which is curious to me as a movement, as somebody who I guess practises yoga asana as well as other things. You talk a lot about textures and about feeling textures. I know like bodies. Actually, I have a couple of questions in here. So I know you do like fixed dissections and then also gooey ones, which Joe and I actually talked about last year when I saw her she was saying that she'd done, like the brain was just like a puddle. It was very different to a normal brain.


Gil Hedley:  (50:00)

Very different. Yeah. It's moving. Why is it moving?


Tahnee:  (50:03)

So this idea that because most of us, even if we've seen anatomical models, they've been quite fixed by the formaldehyde and that kind of processing that goes on. You work with bodies that are quite fresh sometimes. We are really just sacks to goo and space and water and stuff, right?


Gil Hedley:  (50:27)

It's pretty well differentiated in there actually.


Tahnee:  (50:29)



Gil Hedley:  (50:31)

Yeah, I guess I'm not a massive goo, but tubes of goo. Is that kind of ...?


Tahnee:  (50:38)

Yeah, well, there is a very watery quality to the body that's not fixed. There's a very, well for lack of a better word, sort of chickeny quality, cooked quality to the fixed bodies. Neither of them really capture the, the true tone of the human form and its textures. There are advantages and disadvantages to studying both. That's why I like to do them both because they're complementary rather than one better than the other. I couldn't work for seven straight weeks on an unfixed body because it would be rotten by the end of it.


Gil Hedley:  (51:16)

The decay is too rapid and the fixed bodies, if it's done well, you can read into them the properties of the unfixed body. So the textures that I'm feeling into also represent differences, right? I can extrapolate from textures that are slightly off differences that can be palpated in the living form, right? So although the textures might not be the same, there are relative differences conveyed to the living form, whether it be a fixed or a unfixed body. can I can make use of the donated forms, the models as I call them, to interpret and read into the living body in the same way that a good tracker can read into the hoof prints of an antelope herd and pick out the the young and the weak, and walk after those hoof prints. Sure enough, come upon the young and the weak that are worn out, that just lie down and then the Bushmen of the Kalahari, just they can just dinner is served.


Tahnee:  (52:40)

Got served.


Gil Hedley:  (52:43)

I basically consider myself a tracker. You know, I don't I don't take the track for the being, right? I don't mistake the track for the antelope, but I can learn a whole lot about the antelope from the track. I can learn a whole lot about movement dynamics, fluid dynamics, structure function from the track that is the deceased human body.


Tahnee:  (53:14)

So this idea of then movement, it becomes more about experiencing or developing this ability to perceive the textures. Is that what you're kind of getting at when you talk about movement practise and bringing this stuff in? Because there is that sort of Taoist idea that junk kind of congregates at the joints. I guess being dense and less full of goo perhaps, maybe is where that idea is coming from on a physical level.


Gil Hedley:  (53:45)

The joints are pretty full of goo too actually. I just had a handful of synovial fluid this afternoon and my hand. I was like, wow, this is serious goo.


Tahnee:  (53:55)

I guess that's more goo than what I'm imagining, because I'm imagining if there's a fluid and then a junction that's gooier, you can imagine things getting trapped there as opposed to like moving through muscle tissue where maybe there's more blood, it's more dynamic, there's more access. In my body, I can feel that those movements have a different texture and I guess a different experience. Is that kind of what you're talking to? I guess I'm just trying to comprehend how I would experience texture in my body.


Gil Hedley:  (54:28)

Touch, just grope around.


Tahnee:  (54:30)

Just touch it.


Gil Hedley:  (54:32)

Yeah, just touch it.


Tahnee:  (54:32)

Yep. I've got some rope up here in my shoulders.


Gil Hedley:  (54:35)

Well, exactly. That's exactly right. So it's like, oh, I feel some rope up there. What's moving or not moving their? Or oh, this is kind of mushy, no matter how hard I try and contract it. What's going on there? Or when I turn this way, I feel stiff. When I turn that way, I can keep going. What does that texture feel like or what does it mean to move from my bones or what does it mean to move from my deep fascia versus my superficial fascia or from my membranes? Can I actually ... Actually when you can begin to sort of get a sense of those textures in your movement. We see this in the sort of traditional movement arts around the planet. Someone who's doing Xing Yi is moving from their sinews, from their tendons, and their deep, deep fascia. Very different than someone who's practising Aikido or something, right? Or someone who's doing Kung Fu or Karate or Taekwondo.


Gil Hedley:  (55:51)

Those all the martial arts are actually deep explorations and moving from different textural foundations in the body and exploring their power, and the individual's relationship to the movement potential of those different layers. I find that fascinating, and fun to explore. and easy to see. For me, from my vision when I'm looking at, I'm like, "Oh, wow, that's a real muscley movement I'm looking at there," or wow, I look at my friend Russell Malphite, who's a choreographer in London and man that dude is liquid, he's just moving. He enters into the, the fluid potential, the fluid surfaces that are inherent within his body, and then he projects that out into space for all of us to witness.


Gil Hedley:  (56:48)

Your jaw drops and you're like, wow, how can that even be? How can a person move like that? With that as your mirror, it confronts your own movement way of being in the world. This is ethics, your own movement way of being in the world which may be conserved or stiff or held in textures that are more wooden. That might be conveying a wooden mentality or a wooden religiosity or disdain for your own sexuality so that you can't actually get a wave going through your spine or an infinity wave going through your pelvis because that would be judged as seductive or something. Yeah. So that's kind of what I'm getting at.


Tahnee:  (57:36)

Yeah, we have a friend who's, his name's the Movement Monk. But he teaches just those explorations. When I was practising them, and I heard you speak to that, I thought about it, because I mean, practising a lot of Yin. You really feel like that deep fascia, those rebound kind of sensations, and that's something I think for me, in my eyes, I think I was, must be early 20s when I first practised Yin. It was such a visceral and distinct sensation versus like the muscular action I supposed I was used to from athletics and life, and even regular yoga. I feel like we've lost a lot of that, I guess kind of exploratory function in modern movement. So it's nice to feel like maybe it's coming back a little bit. Yeah, well, that's probably a nice place to wrap up. So thank you. I mean, I really appreciate you taking the time. You must be knackered. The Australian, I don't know if that's an American word. Very tired.


Gil Hedley:  (58:42)

Yeah, it's a very American word. Knackered, we say that all the time. Yeah.


Tahnee:  (58:46)



Gil Hedley:  (58:46)

We say, "I'm wasted. I'm so tired. I'm wasted."


Tahnee:  (58:50)

In Australia, that means you drunk too many beers.


Gil Hedley:  (58:53)

Yeah, that means that here too actually.


Tahnee:  (58:56)

Yeah, so thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.


Gil Hedley:  (58:59)

Thank you, Tahnee.


Tahnee:  (59:00)

Yeah, I'll put all the links to your work on our webpage so that people can find you. But do you want to just rattle off your website for us? GilHedley, right?


Gil Hedley:  (59:10), G-I-L-H-E-D-L-E-Y dot C-O-M. There's tonnes of free stuff there. So enjoy it.


Tahnee:  (59:16)



Gil Hedley:  (59:17)



Tahnee:  (59:17)

Also you're on YouTube, you've got your famous fuzz speech, which I know you've probably copped a lot slack about it.


Gil Hedley:  (59:23)

Very kind to not ask me for a whole hour about the fuzz speech.


Tahnee:  (59:27)

I figured you've probably been there and they'll be stuff out there about it.


Gil Hedley:  (59:32)

Yeah. It's not a problem. I'm happy to speak to that anytime. But actually I do on my website, if you join it, which involves putting your email down. I won't email you back unless you have beg me to, basically I have three free full length video courses that amount to about 16 hours of teaching an on camera dissection. That'll give you my learning curve over the years and a whole lot of cool content, then I put that up there, especially for you Australians, because-


Tahnee:  (01:00:02)

I know. I've been dying to come for years.


Gil Hedley:  (01:00:06)

I always feel bad. I mean, I'm honoured that the Australians come to my courses. They're always like, "When are you going to come to Australia?" I'm like, never. Just do that.


Tahnee:  (01:00:16)

The logistics must be difficult to arrange a cadaver in another country.


Gil Hedley:  (01:00:20)

It is. Yeah. I'm so busy with what I'm doing now that I'm not really looking to-


Tahnee:  (01:00:26)

Yeah, expand in that way.


Gil Hedley:  (01:00:27)

Multiply, multiply the number of times, the number of weeks I spend in the lab each year.


Tahnee:  (01:00:33)

But don't worry we come to you.


Gil Hedley:  (01:00:35)

Thank you.


Tahnee:  (01:00:35)

Australians like travelling.


Gil Hedley:  (01:00:37)

I'll be coming to you because all this stuff that I've been doing in the lab, I'm basically shooting footage for a massive online course.


Tahnee:  (01:00:45)

Yeah, awesome.


Gil Hedley:  (01:00:45)

Yeah, that'll take people-


Tahnee:  (01:00:46)

Is there a timeline for that, Gil, in terms of ... Do you have a ...?


Gil Hedley:  (01:00:51)

Give me a year, about a year, maybe less. I mean, the stuff on my website, I give away and it was just so I could learn how to make a website that could contain this massive thing that I'm building. Right now, we're shooting it. So there's a whole lot of other levels to making good education than just shooting the excellent video. I want to have it be flushed out as a whole course of study into the human body that's not exclusively laboratory based, but that has other elements to it as well in terms of exercise and exploration that can facilitate folks all over the world having a totally different experience to what it means to learn anatomy.


Tahnee:  (01:01:37)

Yeah, I think that for me is such a gift. I mean, I'm sure I'm speaking for other people, but to not have to go through a traditional route to learn this stuff. I was looking at do I go back and do another degree and study. I'm like, I'm not going to learn what I want to learn as well. So that's really amazing we have these kind of independent options. That's something I can't imagine how much work that's been for you at the backend. So very grateful. Thanks.


Gil Hedley:  (01:02:11)

I can't even tell you. I can't even tell you.


Tahnee:  (01:02:13)

I mean, look, we sell herbs in a country and it's hard enough, I can't imagine what it's like moving tissue around. Yeah. I've heard some stories over the years of what you've jumped through. It's always impressed me. Anyway, on behalf of anyone out there who's listening, thank you. Yeah, I'll see you one day when the Coronavirus ends and the world is open again.


Gil Hedley:  (01:02:37)

I look forward to it, Tahnee.


Tahnee:  (01:02:39)

With existential experience.


Gil Hedley:  (01:02:39)



Tahnee:  (01:02:42)

All right. Thanks, Gil. Have a beautiful afternoon.


Gil Hedley:  (01:02:44)

You're welcome. You too. Bye bye.

Back to All


Pelvic Health with Heba Shaheed (EP#70)

Tahnee welcomes Heba Shaheed to the Women's Series today. Heba is a qualified women's health nutritionist and physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic and sexual pain, menstrual health, bladder and bowel health, pregnancy, postpartum, and complex trauma.

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Pelvic Health with Heba Shaheed (EP#70)