Episode 29: The Skin Show
Hey, there. This is Brock Armstrong, podcast ninja. And I’m here to tell you that this September 30th is International Podcast Day – and that Katy Says has been nominated for a very fitting award: The Gratitude Award for Changing Lives for the Better Through Podcasting. Now this award is not won by who has the most listeners, but rather who has the most positively affected listeners. So – if you want to help Katy Says win, all you have to do is leave a written review on iTunes or Stitchr about how this podcast has positively affected your life. Make sure you get your written review in before September 26th before the voting ends. Now, thanks for your help, everybody, and enjoy this episode.
KATY: It’s the Katy Says podcast, where movement geek, Dani Hemmat joins me, biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA for discussions on body mechanics, movement nutrition, natural movement, and how movement can be the solution to modern ailments we all experience. Dani!
DANI: Today’s topic is something I’ve just been itching to talk about: skin. Skin. I’ve been bugging you about skin. You’ve got me interested in skin. But the deal is: when we put it out there, skin questions, we got a whole bunch of hair questions, too.
KATY: Yeah, you know, I think this show came about because, um, I posted on Facebook this, um, I think it was a Science Direct article about how skin and hair communicates with the brain, and I think there was a lot of response to that, right? Isn’t that where a lot of these come from?
DANI: That’s right. They come from – and it was a great article – fairly short. That must’ve been just a little – what do you call it? An abstract of it? But it was awesome, yeah!
KATY: Yeah –
DANI: It got a lot of people talking. I mean, I – I always wanted us to talk about skin and calluses and stuff like that, but like you said, it’s not – it’s all connected. You can’t separate the skin and the hair, and this article really highlighted a lot of that.
KATY: Yeah, they definitely work together, and um, I think in Move Your DNA I talked about loads to the skin, right? So there’s this idea of movement, big body parts. Big body parts are just a bunch of smaller body parts lumped together, and skin is – skin is definitely one of those, and I think I’ve written a couple blog posts about it – skin is, probably, I think the most overlooked body part when it comes to describing human movement. Like, we’ll talk about open chain and closed chain and force production – things like walking, we’ll say, oh, walking uses your ankles and your knees and your hips. But all of that passes through or should be passing through the skin. It’s just – it’s just a major – a major body part missing from the discussion of movement and in natural movement, so. The skin show! The sk-sk-sk-sk-skin show.
DANI: Skin and hair! Skin and hair! Skin.
KATY: Skin and hair, well, right, because you can’t – all the questions are skin and hair are so directly linked that we’ll just try to talk about them together as much as possible.
DANI: That sounds cool. And I just kind of want to know because you’ve gotten us all interested in so many things – and you’ve been talking about skin, but kind of on the periphery for a long time. What kind of got you – like, what made you think, “hey!” and start following this thread?
KATY: You know, I – when I was writing Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, I was doing research for a section on calluses, you know, so. Calluses are a pain in peoples' – well, I was going to say their butt, but their feet, right? A lot of people have this – like they find them problematic –
DANI: Please write in if you do have a butt callus because –
KATY: We want to hear about it.
DANI: We do. We need to talk about this.
KATY: And you could even send a picture, or maybe not. Just send – just send an audio description, please. Keep it clean for the kids. And there was this, like, little tidbit that was callused skin is more vascularized than non-callused skin, meaning that it’s better circulated. And that was such an a-ha moment for me. I was like, oh, you know, these are – we are so unused to these small areas of extreme circulation and robustness, right? It’s healthier, it’s stronger, it’s thicker, that we cut it off because amidst the other, weaker parts of our body it feels uncomfortable, right? So if you only have a callus that’s the size of a pencil eraser and you’re stepping on it over and over again, it becomes a place of heightened pressure, which is what makes it uncomfortable. Of course, a callus being in one small spot on your foot because of the way your shoe rubs is different than a whole foot callused because of walking over ground and outside with lots of friction. So it was just a perspective-shifting movement for me to recognize that a callus was not a medical problem that needed to be cut away: the problem was the weakness all around the callus, and that we should strive to bring our body up to this better vascularized place. So I think that’s when I started thinking about skin, going, oh, you really can’t have a push off, right? To move forward – that skin traction is the first force that allows all of the other joints and muscles to work, so. That was it for me.
DANI: And that’s so – I’m no science genius and that – the whole thing about the callus being really healthy and really vascularized blew my mind, because that didn’t make any sense, because you just think, because we cut it off you think: it’s dead, it’s useless, it’s harmful. But I mean, that’s just a huge shift in thinking about a callus.
KATY: Yeah. Well, and just, you know, when you’re all – we’re all shod, right? So it was like, what is this pea? I’m a princess, and what is this pea in my shoe? And I was like, oh, it’s a place where you have mechanically loaded more and the body’s adapted by becoming more, generating more skin to an area, and so therefore you have more vascularization because you have more tissue to keep healthy. And, anyway.
DANI: Man, that’s so cool.
KATY: Yeah, it was just a reverse. It was good for me, and then I started thinking about hands, right? Hand skin, hanging, swinging – if a lot of people listening to our other shows are like, oh, I want to start hanging and swinging and tree climbing or even if you’re like, already lifting in the gym or whatever you’re doing, and you’re like, it’s my hands that give out first. It’s the hands if you go to start hanging from a monkey bar that’s usually going to fail first. It’s your hands that let go because the skin isn’t strong enough to carry the burden of your weight, because you simply haven’t done it very much. It hasn’t thickened over all resulting in the ability to use more shoulder and arm muscle because the weakness of the skin doesn’t allow you to continue to go on.
DANI: And that’s something I hope we talk about is that – that all over callus instead of the Princess and the Pea thing?
KATY: Yeah, right.
DANI: I would venture that not many people are familiar with what that feels like. I personally don’t have them, but I’ve felt them on another human and it was the most interesting – it was just very interesting. I mean, it’s not a lump or a bump, it’s an all over thing -
KATY: Yeah, it’s like –
DANI: - from using his body.
KATY: Yeah, well, we’re not talking butt calluses, are we? Who is this person that you’ve been feeling their calluses? Is this your husband?
DANI: No, no.
KATY: Your child?
DANI: No, it’s one of your teachers. And we were talking about climbing and hanging, and I just ran my fingers across his hands and it was a uniform – I’d never felt anything like it. It was a callus, but it was a flexible, uniform covering. It was just part of his hands that made it so he could be a little monkey.
KATY: Yeah, it’s dense, too, we were tapping our calluses, because if you just flick your skin, it’s just like, thud thud thud but if you flick a callus it’s tighter, so it bounces off. It’s almost like a thin, plastic shell, like a flexible – like a soft-shelled crab almost, which is kind of gross, but like that.
DANI: Get a bunch of people that have those together and do like an a cappella number where you kind of like beating on them, sort of a –
KATY: Toto’s Africa. Toto’s Africa played in callus. We need 1200 people to hit every single note.
DANI: That’d be awesome. Okay, so should we talk about – okay, I have an idea, actually, because I’m very interested in your take on skin. If you were going to write a dating profile online for skin, what qualities would you want to highlight, so nobody would, you know. Swipe the wrong direction on skin. What do we want to know about our buddy, Skin?
KATY: Well, first we have to say that it’s younger than it actually is. It’s like, skin is somewhere between 20-29. Just so it can get a date. But anyway, well, I think the functions of skin, you know, if you just go to the Wikipedia basic functions of skin, it’s part of your immune system, right? It’s that first defense for germs. It also is a major sensory input organ. Um, so – I can push on your skin. Everyone can touch their skin right now and you can feel that, but you can also lightly – you can lightly brush the area on top of your skin where there is no skin, but you’ll be moving hair around. So your hair, then, moves the skin. So that’s the interesting thing about loads to the skin is they don’t only come via a direct exchange. The hair, if you move the hair, the hair moves the skin and that, too, is movement to the skin. So maybe that’ll come out later when we’re talking about hair. That’s why they’re so difficult to separate, because you can clearly see when you’re moving the skin directly, but it’s harder to see when you’re moving the skin because of the bending and movement of the hairs. And then there’s also the movement of the hairs that come from the muscles – the erector pili muscles that are inside your skin, so that’s moving the skin simply because the skin is, you know, essentially containing these muscles and then the hair is moving the skin and the muscle. So it gets a little muddled, but also – like, so for as far as movement: movement is my area that I work with, and so like, I’m really fascinated by things to the skin like: if your hands or your feet get wet, they get a little pruny? Right? Are you familiar with prune hands?
KATY: That – it’s increasing the traction of your hands.
DANI: No way!
KATY: So, like, you know – way! If you are, you know, you get rain tires? I mean, I guess all tires are supposed to be rain tires, but there’s tires that handle better in the rain, because they have deeper traction that’s flinging the water, right? So that’s what they figured out that pruning is for, is your skin sensing the environment and adapting in – you know, within a minute or 17 or 40, however long you’ve been in a hot tub – and that it shifts the shape so that you can still have traction even in wet situations, which I felt like – that’s huge. That’s actually a shift in shape that your skin is able to do to handle the environment. It’s a highly adaptable organ, so there’s that –
DANI: Man, we are so cool.
KATY: We are very cool.
DANI: We are so cool.
KATY: We are very cool. Um, but it also changes color, right?
KATY: So, like it’s – there’s um, you know, and there’s so much interesting stuff out right now with sun exposure, you know, we’ve kind of gone from – we’ve kind of re-like, seriously decreased our light exposure because of being inside, and then we have, like, this short term adaptation of skin to burn and then peel off because it doesn’t take much energy to maintain more pigmentation if you’re rarely out in the light. But if you go out into the light more frequently, then you have this adaptation where your skin is going to darken a little bit and effect its relationship with the light, so you don’t have to go through the burning and peeling process, so I just think of it as this highly intelligent, highly adaptable tissue that surrounds your body that again most movements are going to pass through your hands and your feet as they have the ability to thicken and essentially increase your ability to move well through an environment. So I just find it fascinating – fascinatingly under-represented or thought about, you know?
DANI: Yeah, I was going to say, like, most of us – when we think about skin, we think about shaving, sunscreen, stretch marks, you know. Blemishes, wrinkles – it’s more appearance related than functional, but oh my gosh!
DANI: We’re shape-shifters! Woo!
KATY: I know, we are! We watch X-men and we’re like, that would be so rad! It’s like, dude, it’s rad right now! Go sit in the bath for 17 minutes!
DANI: You are Mystique!
KATY: You’re Mystique! We totally are! I am all the time, as long as I’m in the bath, or in the sun.
DANI: I’m so psyched about my newfound super power.
KATY: Yeah. So here’s where the whole thing started with me while I – I mean, I was talking about skin for Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, but hair – someone posted on Facebook (the source of all genius thoughts) was an article about Native Americans having – who were excellent trackers before they went into the Vietnam War, but then upon having to get the military cut, they lost their tracking abilities. It was like, a huge article, and you know, I read it, and I was like – I’ve always been interested in hair. I’ve always been interested in erector pili muscles, why hair is more concentrated in certain locations of the body, you know, how the effects of – like, I’m always thinking in terms of loads, so what about short hair vs. long hair? We’re in a world where you don’t have, you know, access to major cutting tools, like, how did that change the loads to everything? Because, like, you’ve got hair, but its hanging on your skin, which is hanging on your connective tissue, which is hanging on your bones. So there’s loads. There are loads to your head from having a huge head of hair.
DANI: Or just how you wear your hair.
DANI: Like, you know, anybody that’s had a tight bun will tell you that you get cranky, and a headache, and like, I used to have dreadlocks and, um, it would just – it was constant awareness and pull.
KATY: You had dreadlocks? Like, long ones?
DANI: I had long dreadlocks.
KATY: Come on, pictures in the show notes! Or at least send me one. Send me one.
DANI: And I had a shaved head, so I could clearly – there’s clearly a difference in the – yeah. The loads.
KATY: You were having an identity crisis. You know what we should do is dreadlocks on one side and bald on the other side and we’ll do some data collection, because I – you know, your head –
DANI: You go ahead and volunteer for that.
KATY: You go a-head? That was my one pun. So I think that hair is fascinating in that there’s clear – there’s clearly a large roles for hair, whether or not we think about them is a different matter, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist just because we don’t really think about them. So –
DANI: Okay, well, I have an idea.
DANI: Because this is so huge. We are not going to be able to do just one show, and it’s skin and hair, so maybe let’s just work on skin for a while?
KATY: Yeah, we can do whatever you – whatever you were thinking is fine with me.
DANI: Yeah, because I don’t want to lose any of these awesome things that people have asked or things we want to know, so we might have to come back to this.
DANI: We’ll just do what we can for today. So I suppose the good thing to do would be to maybe just talk about natural loads to the skin.
KATY: Sure. Well, I think natural - I mean, so we talked about this when I went to the MovNat retreat, so this is in the MovNat show. You know, I’ve written a lot of blog posts on foot skin and hand skin and how to improve the strength of your skin, right? So it mostly comes down to dynamic surfaces. If you’re wearing shoes and you have a couple calluses it’s because the way that you use your feet in those shoes, there’s only a couple points of pressure. So when you walk out on cobblestones, or even in the grass or the dirt or whatever – sand – you’re like, what you’re feeling is you’re feeling more points of pressure. The shape is different underneath your foot, and so the response is to change your shape to match. So the shape, in this case, is more layers of skin at these points of pressure. So there’s that, and then for hand skin, you know most of the work that we do is on bars that are very flat, so the points of pressure tend to be, for those of you who have been hanging or swinging or even working out and you know, using kettelbells or monkey bars, that the points of pressure tend to be at the bottoms of your fingers, you know, where most people’s calluses show up, those pads, right? They tear or rip off a callus, the worst thing ever – ever – is to rip off a callus and see it hanging there. But if you were hanging onto a tree that the tree itself would be like, if you just go find a branch when we’re done listening or if you’re listening to this outside, which is awesome. Go find a branch and just grab onto it. If you can hang, fine, if not just go grab onto it really hard for like 20 seconds and then pull your hands away, and you’ll see that the tree is indenting your hand, right?
KATY: Kind of like if you put the couch on the carpet how it indents the carpet?
KATY: But if you do that enough times, then your skin thickens so that that sensation isn’t painful. But in order to get that uniform callus that you find on tree climbers, is to do lots of different surfaces. It’s the variation of surfaces that brings about the uniformity of a callus. But when I was in the MovNat – I always thought about hands and feet, while the rest of me was clothed, you know – and never touching – never really touching the ground. I usually have my pants on when I’m out hiking –
DANI: One hopes.
KATY: I know. You, you – it’s not that I’m not a fan of the butt callus, I just don’t live in an area where it’s super kosher. But we were doing a lot of work transitioning from knee sitting, so I ended up being on my knees. But being on my knees in different variations: rolling to one side, being on one knee, just kind of scooting around and doing all this floor shifting, and by the end of 3 days I had a knee callus.
DANI: Well, and you - were you in the sand primarily?
KATY: I was in the sand, right. So it’s different than being – going, oh, yeah, I do that, you know, at my studio –
KATY: -- or wherever, like, that’s one level of callus in the same way that you get a certain type of callus with bars, but when you’re doing that stuff over natural terrain, it really changes the formation of the callus. So I just – there’s that: those calluses that develop in areas of repetitious loading. So anything that you would expect to be in contact with the surface more often. Hands, feet, butt, knees, would probably be thicker naturally. But then there’s all these other loads to the skin like, just, scratches, right? If you – we were just gone done doing a four-day gait workshop here, and a lot of it involved natural – natural walking. Natural meaning off of a trail, right? Because even if you’re in nature, if you’re on a trail, that trail isn’t natural. That trail is, again, it’s a man-made, repetitive-use kind of injury to the woods where you’re walking through. When you walk off, you get a lot more scratches – there’s many more loads to your skin through interacting with things that have not been removed for your ease of walking pleasure. And so those are loads to the skin. So your skin, you know, becomes stronger. I guess I’m using stronger in a maybe literal but maybe also not – it just becomes more used to – you become more used to having your skin um, scratched, and then you, you build in response to those regular loads. So there’s just – like, that’s the natural loads to the skin but then there’s also.
DANI: I actually started doing that, because you mentioned that once. I can’t remember if it was in a blog post or something else that you’d written or said, but you were talking about getting your legs scratched by brambles and all this stuff, and that it triggered an immune response, you know? It just kind of made you –
KATY: Well, it’s got to heal, right?
DANI: Yeah, exactly. And so I started doing that and the first couple times off the trail you get annoyed when nettles and all this stuff is scratching your legs, and dry grass. But pretty soon it actually kind of feels good. And like now I enjoy walking into the grass in shorts. I don’t get annoyed, I don’t get irritated. I just – it’s just kind of fun. So I suggest that everybody give it a try, at least a few times.
KATY: And that – I guess that brings – like, skin is lousy with – lousy meaning a lot – skin has a lot of mechanosensors because it’s a highly sophisticated sensory organ. I mean, you could tell the difference – I think this original article that I posted which was a research study was I was trying to figure out, like, skin – you can sense, like, the difference between the sizes of raindrops and whatnot. Like, you – there’s so many receptors there that your acuity –I think acuity is the best word – your acuity of sensation is very high relative to the skin. And so this brings up, for me, thinking of mechanotransduction which is how the cells are all going to alter their behavior based on loads – what is the role of sensory input in maintaining the health of the body. Not just of the skin, but of the entire body. And so then I – so then you start thinking about, there’s a lot of research on touch therapy, massage therapy. But it’s really hard to, when you’re looking at the benefits of massage, to break up what’s a benefit that’s coming simply from the touch to the skin, is there a deeper pressure that’s a benefit? Like, you’re doing it all at the same time, so as far as research goes, it’s hard to figure out exactly what the benefit is coming from. But touch itself, touch is a natural phenomenon, so that’s a natural load to the skin, not even thinking how hard or how soft but um, there’s a woman whose – I cannot think of her name, I’ll see if I can find it for the show notes – you know, being primates that grooming – like, all over grooming – this kind of all over touch is a normal load. It’s a natural load, and so what is the frequency of touch that we really require where – what is the location of touch that we require? So we think about, like, humans touch, we hold hands, like, there’s intimate touches. But over the course of the day, there’s very little touching, and then with subgroups of humans right now there’s even less touching. Like I would say right now that children get touched more than maybe adults, and that adult women, I think, there’s studies that show that – there’s a lot more, just touching – like if I’m talking to you, I’m going to be rubbing your shoulder or smacking your cheeks, kicking you in the knees.
DANI: Are you just talking touch like human to human or touch like you’re going through, you know, the woods and stuff’s rubbing?
KATY: No, I’m talking about human to human touch –
KATY: - that there’s a human to human – can you hear my cat?
DANI: You have a cat?
KATY: I have a new cat. I got – the cat somehow got locked in my door – hold on. Give me one second. Sorry! I think it needs to go to the bathroom, hold on. I’m letting you out, come on!
KATY: These are new rescue cats that we took off someone’s hands. I’m not a fan of pets, but I’m hosting them for a little while, and one just came out of the bed after 2 days and decided in the middle of a podcast that it has to go to the bathroom.
DANI: It was my fantastic newscaster voice that drew her out.
KATY: It’s like, what is this? Something is clearly significant and important going on.
DANI: Kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty.
KATY: Um, okay. So let me go back to – what was I talking about? I was talking about human-to-human touch where there is actual – you know, like brambles, those give you scratches. But I think of – when you’re trying to figure out the benefit of touch and you think of your body, like, a carpet that has to be vacuumed, when you vacuum a carpet you don’t leave anything ungroomed. But if you’re looking at other primates, primates groom like that, right? They are grooming - so much of your skin is being touched. I’ve always been interested in the fact that mammals, when they’re born, you know the mothers will lick the other – the babies clean so that I’m going, oh, I wonder if there’s an initial kickoff or benefit to this interaction, that it’s not only about them being, getting clean, but that it’s kind of like a vacuum stimulation between two organisms, right? There’s nothing – there’s no fake or artificial thing in between the two, so these are all the questions that I constantly hold in my head regarding skin, because it’s so – it’s so involved in the natural world. It’s significantly less involved in the modern world. And then given the newer research on just how loads to the skin and to the hair – so then now we talk about the shaving, what about someone shaving totally? How is that going to affect the loads? If I’m going to be –
DANI: We got so many questions about hair removal.
KATY: I know, hair! Like, that’s the big thing. Hair removal is a totally modern thing and it’s coming from a place of maybe not considering that hair um, is going to move the skin. And when you remove the hair, you’re removing even more loads. Like, if you imagine – say you’re not even being touched, and you’re not walking through brambles, but a breeze comes through and blows your hair, that is a load to the skin. In addition to – I’m not even talking about a response to the temperature. I’m just talking about the bends of the hair, like blades of grass or a stalk of wheat being deformed. So you think of the hairs on your body constantly being moved back and forth because of a breeze, and you shave – that’s going to be gone. If you think of moving through the water, and all those bends and loads to the hair being gone means a decreased input to the skin. The wind is still going to blow on the skin, so there’s that. But your hair follicle was also an independent load to the skin outside of the wind blowing directly on the skin, so that’s missing. And I was just reading an article today on bats, you know, and they’ve figured out that there’s – that bat hairs – I think it’s on their flying membranes – not that you have to know that anatomy – but that the hairs are airflow indicators, and that they – so as the bat is flying, or moving through the air, they’re being bent in a particular way, then is communicating directly with the brain of the um, uh, I wanted to say mouse – bat – in the same way that we are bending our hairs and moving our hairs communicates directly with our brain. And that if you shave, man, what we do for science. If you shave those bat hairs, it can’t fly. Or it flies, it flies in an altered, poor way. So think about that, you know?
DANI: I am, it’s fascinating.
KATY: Yeah. It’s kind of one of those things where we don’t even know what our body does, but we’re good at eliminating large chunks of it, you know?
DANI: And then there’s the alternate absence of movement is just say you keep your hair and you don’t shave it, but you’re never out in the elements, you know. So there’s no wind brushing by your hair or –
KATY: Yeah, I know. I think that, you know, again, we try to separate it. It’s all separated for the purpose of investigation but we’re already talking about, like, being inside is already affecting the loads to your whole body including your skin, including the muscles that regulate your temperature by lifting and lowering the hairs of your skin. So hair is part of your heat – believed to be part of your heat regulation process, but it’s not that it’s just there. I think that people think that I have hair, so it keeps me warm. But it’s really that – you know, about the air being trapped under the hair, and also that those hairs are moveable, that there’s muscle moving the hairs up and down to optimize your heat saving geometry. And then also, is there heat that comes from the movement of those hairs, right? The shunting of blood to the trillions of muscle that you have throughout your skin.
DANI: Wow. So, like, if somebody did, you know, laser removal versus – because isn’t laser removal – I’m not entirely educated in this, but it does something to the follicle, I think?
KATY: I don’t know, I don’t even know. I have no idea.
DANI: But then you’ve got that vs. shaving, you know? There’s so many different variables on how you can be affecting your sensory input organ.
KATY: Yeah, there’s – it’s organs! It’s organs! And you know, humans have been, you know, messing with their body, you know, for as long as National Geographic has been out, so, and probably before. So it’s just – it’s just one of those things where, you know, we are attempting to solve lots of problems. Not you and I. But mankind, right now, is thoroughly investigating – they’re looking for solutions but I – I don’t know where – maybe it was on this podcast – where Diane Fossey is like, if you’re trying to figure out how to save – she was talking about gorillas – you have to know their baseline of behavior. You have to know what they’re supposed to be eating, how they’re supposed to be mating, what is their communal living like, you have to know all these things before you can start troubleshooting why they’re not doing so well. And we’ve kind of jumped to troubleshooting, but we really don’t spend much time investigating the actual baseline requirements, and so we talk about humans as social creatures, creatures that touch, creatures that have hair, um, creatures that eat a particular way and move a particular way. There’s all of these questions that are really part of establishing a baseline for what it is that humans need, and that’s what I’m most interested in.
DANI: If you – if you remember the article or the author of that article about the human touch thing, let me know so we can try to get it in the show notes. Because that’s – I think that’d be good.
KATY: Yeah, and also – just, I guess so our faithful listeners know, we keep talking about show notes. They are coming.
DANI: We’re totally not making this up.
KATY: We’re just talking – just put it in the show notes! They’re in the cloud! What’s the cloud? We don’t even know. That’s another show. But, um, the show notes are all in the process of being transcribed, and then we will have them on our new website that will be up later this Fall 2015. So once they’re up you’ll have full transcripts of all the shows that you have listened to, links to your heart’s desire, so we – we apologize for not –
DANI: Oh, no. Everybody’s been patient, and we get lots of emails about, uh, these show notes! Where are they?
KATY: They’re like, in my house, just drive on over. And that’s why you keep moving! You keep moving so that no one can catch up with the show notes.
DANI: I don’t have to deliver.
KATY: I’m in Colorado now! Oh, wait – I’m in New York City. No. Do not move to New York City.
DANI: I’m moving to Turkey next month. Um – please don’t ask me about the show notes again.
KATY: They’re packed up.
DANI: Curious about calluses – back to calluses if we may for a second. Um, did you – so you were fascinated with your knees after Hoobidydoobidy and the MovNat thing. Have you attempted to kind of keep that going on?
KATY: No. No. Because – I mean, I just – it’s not part of my, you know, anything I do, the movements I do them fine, still, but I don’t do them on sand. Like, I’m not seeking – I’m not actively seeking knee calluses. It’s just not on my priority list, but I am actively seeking, um, hand calluses, and I think my foot calluses are good because I just got a massage, I don’t know, a couple weeks ago and she’s like, rubbing my feet, and she was like, um, she’s like, something tells me you spend a lot of time barefoot.
KATY: And they were clean, so I know it wasn’t the filth. So yeah, it’s just that weird kind of – should I actually tap, should I tap my callus so you can hear it?
DANI: Do your best, yeah. Don’t knock the mic over.
KATY: I won’t. Hold on.
DANI: (audio garbled)
KATY: Could you hear that?
DANI: I could.
KATY: Yeah. So they’re tappity tap. They’re like tap shoes.
DANI: Didn’t your husband get accidentally lose all his –
KATY: Oh, my goodness. Yeah. He didn’t accidentally, like, where’d my calluses go?
DANI: Dangit, are these in Dani’s closet in Turkey? What’s going on here?
KATY: He was in Thailand.
DANI: With the show notes.
KATY: Trying to find the show notes, and he was actually at – he was at a Thai massage school, and so they – part of it was receiving a lot of massage, and so he had gotten an appointment and had had a full massage and they also do, like, they put pedicure foot health is a big deal. So he had a massage and he was kind of asleep, and she was working on his feet and he was just kind of like, ohhh, and then he got up to realize that she had cut off all of his calluses. Then he’s been – I mean, he had been walking barefoot –
KATY: - since he was a teenager. So on – on
DANI: That must have been a deep sleep!
KATY: Oh, the guy sleeps. The guy totally sleeps. Yeah. I can’t even – I can’t, like the cat meows from five rooms over I’m like, what is it! Wha? He’s like, he just had his whole foot removed, he had a quarter inch of his foot removed and he just had no idea. That’s the difference between us. But yes, and so he – he couldn’t – his gait was altered. That was the biggest thing. When I was writing Whole Body Barefoot was when he was telling me that story and he said it was – I mean, it was crazy because he had had calluses – this callus had been growing since he was like 16. So adaptation – adaptation is the addition or removal of body parts. So, like, if you have a callus it’s because you have added more parts to your foot. Those parts, while he just lay down over 45 minutes were removed. So his whole gait pattern depends on those, the whole way he carries his weight depends on the sensation of the weight, and the calluses were part of his gait, and they were instantly removed, and it was like, he was hobbling because now the bones were pressing this brand new, soft part into the ground and it was like all of a sudden walking over glass. It would be like the equivalent of someone being shod to unshod. He went from callused to being uncallused, and it took him over a year to get back to walking where he was walking before.
DANI: So – if calluses form, you know, we’re talking about the points of pressure and you change your shape to accommodate those points of pressure, remember in the fashion show when we talked about how clothes push in on our bodies?
DANI: And if somebody wears – say a man wears the same, black pair of dress socks every day for his working career of 40 years, and every night that he comes home and takes them off there’s an indentation from those socks, how come a callus doesn’t form with that kind of pressure?
KATY: I don’t know is the easiest answer. It might have something to do with load, meaning, like, you’re weight bearing. You know, it’s not just about pressure. It’s about the amount of pressure. So, like, if you take your hand, if you look where the calluses form – you look where the calluses form right there at the base – you can just push on it all day, that’s different than hanging your full body weight from it. So if something underneath your foot, underneath your full weight is different, you know, than lightly squeezing a little bit. So that it probably has less to do with just the fact that the load isn’t enough to warrant – like, your body’s always making an energetic cost, right? If it didn’t have to grow and support more tissue on the foot, it would opt to do that. But there’s a certain point in which coping with the load is easier just by adding more mass. It’s energetically less expensive to grow and maintain the mass and whatever else it has to do with the discomfort. So I imagine with socks it’s just not – the tradeoff isn’t there.
DANI: That makes a lot of sense. Okay. Yep, just was curious about that. Wow! Look at that, we’re almost at time.
DANI: I know. It’s time to shape shift! We’re almost at time, and there’s so much.
KATY: Well, we should definitely do another talk on – I mean, we could talk more about hair as best as we could, but it’s just kind of the same thing, I mean, the answer to most questions are, I don’t know. You know? And it depends, but as far as – I think it’s just to open the discussion – it’s to open the wonder. It’s to open the wonder in our own minds! You know, it’s just – we’ve written so many things off as, oh, we’ve got this. We know. But there’s so much to anatomy –
DANI: There is. You know that question, the trick question, “what’s the largest organ in the body?” and people are like, “my liver!” and then the answer says, “it’s your skin!” and you’re like, “what, what, what?!” And that’s a mind-blowing thing, but then when you really give credence to what everything that is involved with the skin, that’s the wonder maker or whatever you called it. Open wonder? Create wonder? Wonder maker? That’s – that really, I guess would be a good purpose of this show is just, start thinking about your skin.
KATY: Yeah, and – and don’t think of it –
DANI: And think of its role in movement, I guess.
KATY: Well, yeah, right, like, just – just – and also your role in other things, right? Like those studies on massage and the benefits of touch aren’t really movement related. They’re happiness related. They are anxiety related, to show that there’s a change in your, you know, not just in your physiological state, but your psychological state. Again, those are two separate words that like, it’s your body. Your body is changed for these things, so if you are – if you’re not feeling well, you know, keep your mind open to be investigating many of these channels to, you know, potential improvement.
DANI: Oh. Thank you for making us think about skin.
KATY: You’re welcome!
DANI: Should we call it?
KATY: Let’s do an air high-five. Gimme some skin!
KATY: All right. Let’s call it.
DANI: Let’s call it. Thanks for listening. For more information, books, online classes, etcetera, you can find Katy Bowman at KatySays.com. You can learn more about me, Dani Hemmat, movement warrior and former dreadlock wrangler at MoveYourBodyBetter.com. See you later!
We hope you find the general information on biomechanics, movement, and alignment informative and helpful – but it is not intended to replace medical advice and shouldn’t be used as such.
Touching a Nerve
Disclaimer: While we have not researched the validity of these two articles, they do provide some food-for-thought and are a rather interesting way to consider the importance of hair and skin in proprioception.
Horse Whisker article
Native Americans/ Scouts/Hair story