Reading a very interesting book right now called Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers. In a nutshell, Myers, a bodyworker, has developed a system of body therapy based around long chains of fascia in the body, many of which span the entire body, head to toe. These long "anatomy trains" are not energetic or even functional in nature, but structural: they are actual long chains of connective tissue that run through the entire body.
I first read of Myers' work in the Schuler/Cosgrove opus New Rules of Lifting for Women and was--initially--confused: wasn't this just a variation on the old "ankle bone connected to the shin bone" song we all learned in nursery school?
The answer is YES--but the new, and powerful, idea is that these long trains of connective tissue work like guy wires on sails on a boat: the tension or slackness throughout the entire chain profoundly affects the functioning of the body and the effectiveness of movement. The anatomy trains model goes a long way towards explaining how dysfunction in one area of the body can lead to pain, or further dysfunction in some remote area.
In the introductory chapters of the book (which I haven't gotten past, truth be told) Myers points out that fascia has been largely ignored as a structural element of the body, or as a site for therapy of any kind. Instead, clinicians have typically sliced through the fascia to get to the muscles, where their primary interest has lain. Up to now, anatomists have seen the structural elements of the body primarily as a collection of bones and muscles, with tendons and ligaments holding the two tissues together. The anatomy trains model suggests a more holistic and unified way of looking at the body, not as dissociated muscles but as long chains that connect the torso and the limbs, the hands and feet and the core. The scalpel, he argues, has skewed our perspective on the actual subtle interworkings of the body, giving us a fragmented picture of true human function.
I've been increasingly uncomfortable with this idea of the body as collection of pieces. Not too long ago I was performing compound rows at the gym and someone asked me "Is that for your lats?" I didn't know how to answer him for a moment. In bodybuilding nomenclature, sure, it would be a "lat" exercise, but I've gone so far away from thinking of a workout as for one muscle or set of muscles that I almost couldn't answer him (for the record, I finally said, "Yes," but added, "It's a pulling exercise," because that's closer to the way I think about it).
This model, it seems to me, ties in well with the growing trend towards seeing and treating the body as one unit--be it in exercise, with its greater focus on full body movement, or in medicine, with its growing recognition of the whole person in treatment of conditions from pregnancy to cancer and heart disease.
More on this as I discover more.