Transversospinales consists of a group of muscles in the back (“across the spine”). The muscles include:


By |2020-08-06T15:49:22-08:00January 13th, 2019|Categories: Anatomy, Stuff, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Transversospinales

How is understanding breathing practical and/or useful to me?

It all started with a simple and innocent question: what is breathing and is it different from respiration? We answered the question, which led us to our first follow-up question, how do other systems of the body contribute to and/or affect respiration? This, naturally, led to the second follow-up question: how is this information practical and/or useful to me? Well, if I can control my rate of breathing, this may be a good (or bad) thing. For instance, when I need to calm down, I can take deeper, slower breaths to breathe easy. On the flip side, when I need to speed up, I can huff and puff. This knowledge is useful in training because respiration can affect metabolism. Of course, the opposite is also true as the metabolic state can affect respiration. So the chicken or the egg, fight or digest?

Since the process of respiration includes internal processes (i.e., internal transport of blood), I know that I need to keep my cardiovascular system (heart, arteries, blood, etc.) healthy. After all, it’s pumping blood and aiding in respiration (among other duties!). So the question begs, what do I need to do to keep my cardiovascular system healthy? The American Medical Association offers tips for heart health and the American Heart Association recommends physical activity. Both associations, as well as every other medical tradition (ever), also stress diet in keeping the heart functioning in optimal order. So, understanding the chemicals, elements, compounds for healthy cellular function is paramount.

Lastly, it’s good to become familiar with the most important thing you do daily. And, in the future, if you take some sort of physically oriented class (anything physical), when the teacher says breathe, you aren’t confused that the teacher wants you to stimulate your mitochondria or increase the efficacy of your ATP reactions or willfully dilate the apertures in your alveoli. Cause if you could do that, then do you really need to take classes…?

By |2018-08-22T12:12:09-08:00May 4th, 2018|Categories: Anatomy, Selfcare|Tags: , , , , , , |Comments Off on How is understanding breathing practical and/or useful to me?

How do other systems of the body contribute to or affect respiration?

Now that we answered our initial question, what is breathing and is it different from respiration, we arrive at our first follow-up question. How do other systems of the body contribute to or affect respiration?

In the articles we researched, the respiratory system (a no-brainer) and the cardiovascular (a.k.a. circulatory) system are implicated in breathing and respiration. But because the respiratory system affects every vascular cell in the body, how many other systems of the body are affected by respiration?

And, let’s not forget the musculoskeletal system. Without the musculoskeletal system at play, how are we able to inhale and exhale? Hmm… Think of CPR and the bag valve mask for manual resuscitation. It doesn’t work if you just hold it over someone’s face. Kinda like our lungs. Without the primary and secondary muscles of respiration (ahem, under the musculoskeletal purview), your lungs are just air sacks, like a balloon that hasn’t been inflated. So what’s really interesting about investigating this breathing and respiration hoop-de-do is that it reveals just how many systems of the body overlap and communicate with each other.

Next up, how is this particular information practical and/or useful to me?


By |2018-08-20T16:49:43-08:00May 4th, 2018|Categories: Anatomy, Selfcare|Tags: , , , , , , |Comments Off on How do other systems of the body contribute to or affect respiration?

What is breathing? And is it different from respiration?

As a person, I am interested in breathing because it is, quite possibly, the most important thing I do daily.

Breathing is an autonomic process. It is something that I don’t have to think about,  and I do it in my sleep. But it’s not like my heart’s amazing ability to generate electricity. None of my autonomic processes are as consciously accessible as the breath. I can prove this, empirically, as I can consciously hold my breath but cannot consciously stop my heart… At least not without decades of high quality Ninja training.

This ‘conscious accessibility’ is mirrored in Chinese medical theory, where the lung is seen as the emperor’s ambassador to the outside world. It is also referred to as the ‘canopy‘ of the organs (as opposed to a canapé of organs?). Whatever differences may exist between western and eastern empiricism, both acknowledge the lung as the representative organ in the respiratory system.


An illustration of the Taoist medical theory concerning the lung.


What exactly is breathing? What is respiration? Is breathing different from respiration? And, if it is, how is breathing different from respiration?

As with all things arcane, I begin by consulting the Google

Is breathing different from respiration?

Google usually leads me to Wikipedia—a good place to start! Wikipedia defines breathing as:

[T]he process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly by bringing in oxygen and flushing out carbon dioxide.

Other resources simply state that breathing is the physical process of inhaling and exhaling air in and out of your lungs, while respiration is a chemical reaction. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that breathing is part of external respiration. External respiration differs from internal respiration in that internal respiration occurs within cells of the body and involves all body cells, not just cells of the lungs.


After some research, I conclude, breathing, as I know it, is part of external respiration, and is responsible for the transport of gases to and from the pulmonary alveoli. It is the most external process of the respiratory system.

And so

I found my answer, which is good. But the answer also leads to more specific questions. Specifically, 1) how do other systems of the body contribute to or affect respiration, and 2) how is this information practical and/or useful to me?

word… :-)



By |2018-08-20T16:49:43-08:00April 29th, 2018|Categories: Anatomy, Selfcare|Tags: , , , , , , , |Comments Off on What is breathing? And is it different from respiration?

The Illustration of Cultivated Truth: The Lung Inscription

修眞圖 (Xiūzhēn tú) The Illustration of Cultivated Truth: The Lung Inscription (a simple translation). The featured image is a detail from the 修眞圖 (Xiūzhēn tú). Stone tablet (Shanghai, China), Author’s Collection

Chinese Pinyin English Translation
fèi Lung
神形如白虎 shén xíng rú bái hǔ The Spirit of the Lung takes the form of a white tiger
象如懸磬 xiàng rú xuán qìng Its apperance is of a hanging stone chime
居五臟之上 jū wǔ zàng zhī shàng It lives above the five viscera
對胞若覆蓋 duì bāo ruò fù gài The two identical parts take the form of a canopy
故為華蓋 gù wéi huá gài Therefore it becomes the imperial canopy
神名皓華 shén míng hào huá Its spirit’s name is ‘Bright Splendor’
字虛成 zì xū chéng Its character is emptyness
重三斤三兩 zhòng sān jīn sān liǎng It weighs about 1.65kg
六葉兩耳 liù yè liǎng ěr It has six leaves and two ears
總計八葉 zǒng jì bā yè Making 8 leaves in total
肺為脾子 fèi wéi pí zi It originates from the Spleen
為腎母 wéi shèn mǔ It then becomes the mother of the Kidneys
內藏七魄 nèi cáng qī pò The Lung conceals seven spirits
如嬰兒 rú yīng ér These spirits are like infants
名曰:尸狗、伏屍、雀隂、吞賺、非生母 (蜚毒)、除穢、羣臭 míng yuē: shī gǒu, fú shī (shǐ), què yīn, tūn zuàn, fēi shēng mǔ (fēi dú), chú huì, chòu fèi Their names are: Dog’s Corpse, Hidden Arrow, Shady Sparrow, Gulping Thief,  Flying Poison, The Unclean, Rotten Lung
乃七名也 nǎi qī míng yě Only seven names, more or less
鼻為之官 bí wéi zhī guān The Lung’s officer is the nose
左為庚 zuǒ wéi gēng The left [nostril] is the 7th Heavenly Stem
右為辛 yòu wéi xīn The right [nostril] is the 8th Heavenly Stem
在氣為咳 zài qì wéi ké Its sound is coughing
在液為涕 zài yè wéi tì Its humor is nasal mucus
在形為皮毛也 zài xíng wéi pí máo yě Another manifestation is body hair
上通炁至腦 shàng tōng gěng zhì nǎo The energies [of the Lung] flow up to the brain
下通炁至脾中 xià tōng gěng zhì pí zhōng These energies also flow down to the Spleen
是以諸炁屬肺 shì yǐ zhū gěng zhǔ fèi Thus, all energies belong to the Lung
肺為呼吸之根 fèi wéi hū xī zhī gēn The Lung is the root of respiration
《 黃 庭 》云「 喘息呼吸依不快急存 白元和六氣 。」 《 huáng tíng 》 yún 「 chuǎn xī hū xī yī bù kuài jí cún bái yuán hé liù qì . 」 《Canon of the Yellow Court 》When panting, breathing heavily or feeling uncomfortable, one should concentrate on the Spirit of the Lung to harmonize the six energies
By |2018-08-20T16:50:40-08:00July 30th, 2015|Categories: Anatomy, Language, Stories|Tags: , , , , , , |Comments Off on The Illustration of Cultivated Truth: The Lung Inscription

Integumentary Strata


Another skin illustration found here

The skin, a.k.a. the integumentary system. It’s a lot more complicated than I thought… Where to begin? There are plenty of diagrams available that show all the “stuff” in the skin: pores, vessels, vesicles, capillaries, pacinian corpuscles (see the illustration on the left). However, I’m interested in the very, very beginning. So, why not start with the different layers, or strata.

By becoming familiar with these layers, all the stuff can be organized by some sort of hierarchy.

For example, within the stratum corneum of the epidermis, you’ll find your corneocytes, a specific type of skin cell or, more specifically, keratinocyte. These cells differ in form and function from adipocytes, another type of skin cell, which are the most popular type of cell in the hypodermis.


As seen in the above diagram, the skin (of vertebrates, and more specifically homo sapiens) has three main layers: epidermis, dermis, hypodermis. These layers are broken down into further sub-layers, specific to each level.

One anomaly in naming (maybe) is the reticular layer. If it’s to be grouped with the others, shouldn’t it be called the ‘stratum reticula‘, or something of that ilk? (Ha ha… ilk…)

Anyhow, an overview for the strata of the integumentary system is as follows:

Layers of the Skin

  1. Epidermis

    1. Stratum corneum
    2. Stratum lucidum (found in the skin of the palms and soles)
    3. Stratum granulosum
    4. Stratum spinosum
    5. Stratum basale / germinativum
  2. Dermis

    1. Stratum papillare
    2. Reticular Layer
  3. Hypodermis (or Subcutaneous Layer)


And there you have it. Another rabbit hole.

The main illustration for this article is .svg format. Pure vector goodness. So go ahead! Resize all you want, as you like, no pixelization here!


By |2018-08-20T16:50:40-08:00July 26th, 2015|Categories: Anatomy, Stuff|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on Integumentary Strata

System-specific Training (Body Systems, that is)

The main systems of the human body are as follows:

  1. Integumentary
  2. Skeletal
  3. Nervous
  4. Cardiovascular
  5. Endocrine
  6. Muscular
  7. Lymphatic
  8. Respiratory
  9. Urinary
  10. Reproductive
  11. Digestive
  12. Immune*
  13. Excretory*

* Not depicted in the two illustrations from Wikipedia’s Systems of the Body

It’s interesting to think that most training regimes focus on one or two of these systems. Or maybe one or two amalgams of these systems. Like the cardio-pulmonary system, or the musculo-skeletal system.

That’s all well and fun. But, how is it possible to give the other systems their due consideration? What are the desired results for training? What’s the difference between a weight-lifter and a tri-athelete? A fire-fighter and a UFC fighter?

How, exactly, does one train one’s spleen, which is part of the lymphatic system? (I’m a big fan of lymphatic drainage massage, btw—so gentle and helpful.)

It’s also interesting to try and remember these thirteen names. Anagrams?

  • Dulcimer Siren
  • Incurred Miles
  • Clumsier Diner
  • Cider Miles Run
By |2018-08-20T16:50:40-08:00July 26th, 2015|Categories: Anatomy|Tags: , , , |Comments Off on System-specific Training (Body Systems, that is)

Yaar… Deliver me Lumbar…

Where, my friend, is this Lumbar Region?

Well, friend… It refers to one of the six regions of the axial skeleton:

  1. the cranial region (skull)
  2. the cervical region (neck)
  3. the thoracic region (chest / upper back)
  4. the lumbar region (abdomen / lower back)
  5. the sacral region (butt)
  6. the coccygeal region (tailbone)

And, it’s a very flexible section of the axial  skeleton (complementary to the appendicular skeleton). For example… In the torso (thorax plus abdomen), the thorax is surrounded by the ribcage; providing a lot of protection for the soft squishy bits (the lungs, the heart, the stomach, spleen, etc.).


a cool list of human anatomical regions.

But the lumbar is supported and protected by soft tissue. This makes the lumbar more flexible (like the neck), but also more vulnerable.

As with most parts of the musculoskeletal system, the body is always favoring either stability or range of motion (compare the glenohumeral joint to the ilio-femoral / acetabulofemoral joint).

Other cool facts: the lumbar also lends its name to a muscle in that region (quadratus lumborum anyone?). The appendicular skeleton articulates with the axial skeleton at two1 locations: the sacroiliac joint and the sternoclavicular joint2. Last but not least, there’s 80 bones in the axial skeleton, or thereabouts.

Bones of the Axial Skeleton:

  • Skull: 22 (facial bones: 14, cranial bones: 8)
  • Auditory Ossicles: 6
  • Hyoid: 1
  • Cervical: 7 (C1-C7)
  • Thoracic: 12 (T1-T12)
  • Ribs: 24
  • Lumbar: 5 (L1-L5)
  • Sacral: 4 to 5 (S1-S5)
  • Coccygeal: 3 to 5 (CO1-CO5). While the amount of bones can vary from individual to individual, the coccyx has the greatest disparity, from three to five bones, depending on whose tailbone it is.

For more cool anatomical fun, some excellent references are: Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy, and Andrew Biel’s Trail Guide to the Body.


1 There are actually four discrete locations, but they are bi-laterally symmetrical and taxonomically identical pairs—so there.

2 The only place that the arm bone attaches to the body bone



By |2018-08-20T16:50:41-08:00July 4th, 2015|Categories: Anatomy|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on Yaar… Deliver me Lumbar…