Pelvic floor physical therapist and Wild Feminine author Tami Lynn Kent, PT, is renowned for seamlessly combining evidence-based medical care with mind-body healing techniques similar to those used in traditional Chinese medicine. A pioneer in body-led healing, she also teaches other providers to recognize patterns in their patients' bodies and use hands-on techniques to release stored tension and trauma.
Carine Carmy, Co-Founder & CEO of Origin, recently connected with Tami to discuss what 'body-led care' looks like from the patient point of view, why fascia is integral to women's health, and the 'pelvic bowl' as a concept that stretches far beyond our anatomy.
Play the audio below or scroll down for the transcript.
A Champion of Mind-Body Healing
CARINE: Hi Tami, it's so good to meet you. Based on your book and TEDx talk, it's clear that you come to this work and to your field with so many different tools outside of just PT. I'm curious, what are some of the trainings or wisdoms that you bring to your practice?
TAMI: I was trained as a women's health physical therapist, so I have a foundation in anatomy and physiology. But I've also studied a lot of bodywork practices, cranial sacral, and myofascial release. So I've worked a lot with the body. It would be closest to maybe Chinese medicine or just understanding that the body has wisdom, if we can read it. For me, the body was the greatest teacher.
I took notes for about a decade, after every woman who came in, really trying to understand the medicine that was given in that session — and how could I translate it into different care practices. My goal was to impart new knowledge or bring that person closer to the knowledge that they might have been fractured from due to trauma, or difficult birth, or just living in a patriarchal culture.
CARINE: For me, it took me until I'd say even my early thirties to realize I had a body. I know that sounds absurd, but I was so disassociated — I always felt like my body was here to serve me versus being a part of me. It takes so long to rewire all of those beliefs, but it's so healing. And I get frustrated because so much of this work is scientifically sound and evidence-based — there are generations and generations of people doing this kind of work — yet it still gets relegated to the 'woo' in a lot of Western society.
I'm curious, who are the kinds of practitioners you're working with right now? Are they mainly PTs? And how are you supporting them in filling the gaps in their training or knowledge base?
TAMI: When I was trained as a women's health PT, I tended to work more with fascia. I wrote a lot about that because I didn't see it in the literature. And so when I made the choice to teach, I wanted to teach more broadly than PT because I thought there were a lot of different providers that could benefit from it. So I have MDs, I have DOs, I have chiropractors, I have nurses. Massage therapists.
I had a really fun experience where, at the naturopathic school here in town, some of the students started finding out what I was doing, so they wanted to study with me. So I was teaching them, and their clinical director, who is near retirement, said she saw them healing things that she had never seen addressed in any way and getting results. She wanted to come and study, and doing so gave her a new depth of understanding because the way I've learned to work with the body is so integrative and body-led.
When I started working this way with the body, I saw a lot of women feeling more integrated, more whole, more healthy, more connected, and resolving their symptoms. It felt like such a key part of healthcare that I wanted more women to have access to this healing through different types of providers.
Now I teach globally and it's so satisfying to be in different communities and different types of people and see them learn about the work, take it in, and then bring it to their communities.
What Body-Led Healing Means for Patients
CARINE: What does 'body-led healing' or 'body-led physical therapy' actually mean in practice for someone showing up for a session?
TAMI: It's personalized. So I think one thing we know about mechanistic models of care is they're kind of one-size-fits-all. When I say holistic, I mean it's centered on the person in front of me. What they're coming in for, what they're struggling with, what they need support for.
So it is very adaptive. There are some structures to it that give it a form and knowledge. And it's body-led in that I'm working with the patterns in that person's body. So I'm taking what their desire is for their wellbeing, for their care, and I'm matching it to what their body is showing. What are the trigger points in the pelvic muscles? What is the fascial restriction?
I'm also teaching the person in front of me how to care for their body. So I'm giving them anatomical knowledge, but it's all done in a kind of an honoring way of who that person is and where they're coming from. It's trauma-informed. It's definitely gender inclusive. There's also identity wrapped in there, there's culture.
It's very honoring. For example, women might come in after a traumatic birth and I'm holding space for the pain, but also the potential for their healing. And that's how I always walk with trauma. It, it's not just the trauma imprint. I wanna get all the way to the healing where they feel whole or honored or respected.
Why Fascia Is Key to Women's Health
CARINE: I'd love to double-click on fascia because it's something that we don't talk as much about. Why is the fascia so important and how do we start to use that in our day-to-day lives?
TAMI: Fascia wraps through every organ around every muscle. It is a communicative layer. It is a dynamic layer that gives structure, but it can get adhesed. So if you have falls, if you have inflammation, if you have an episiotomy, if you've had surgery, it can become restricted. And it can be the cause of pelvic pain. So when women have pelvic pain, it is often the fascia.
And so having really good hands-on skills and working with the fascia is critical. But my frustration is a woman may go to many providers and not get this care. And I would love for there to be more education around fascia as a potential root cause for pain, so that women aren't left wondering Is this just in my head? Is it my personality? Am I uptight?
Fascia is a real, dynamic part of our structure and when it gets adhesed for various reasons, it can not only cause restrictions and pain, it can impact the hormonal flow.
On another layer, it's crystalline. So it's kind of like that body-to-spirit layer. It's a very subtle layer, but it's very powerful. It holds a lot of information and it's sometimes where I work on unpacking trauma. How the body releases trauma is a little different than the mind.
I could go on and on about fascia. I mean, to me, it's the secret sauce in the pelvic bowl.
The Pelvic Bowl & HEaling Trauma
CARINE: I would love to talk about the language you use because everyone uses the phrase 'pelvic floor' and you've been talking about 'pelvic bowl.' What's the difference and why is it important?
TAMI: I think because the floor to me is just one part. By the time I got into Women's Health PT, I had so many anatomical terms for my female organs and my body that felt dissociative to me and not really relational. As I got more into the work with the body, I started to feel more creativity, more poetry — a depth of expression that I wanted to give voice to. And so, to me, the pelvic bowl is more... it's the organs, the ovaries, the womb. The whole experience — it's wrapped in things like identity, birth and birth loss, and all the layers that make up lineage.
So it's deeper and it's richer and also it's more earthy. We have been the bowl and basket makers in communities for generations. We're the containers and the glue that hold things together. And to me, that wasn't expressed in 'pelvic floor.' So I started changing my language. I talk about 'pelvic medicine' and 'root medicine' and 'pelvic bowl' to capture more of the potential and what's there in the body that feels connective.
CARINE: You were alluding to the ways that the mind releases trauma or grief or shock and I can totally relate to that. I was in talk therapy for a very, very long time, and then finally it was like, I'm not stressed anymore, I swear, but my shoulders are still up to my ears. And my pelvic floor is still clenched all the time. I ended up going down both the path of pelvic floor therapy but also somatic therapy, and it's been game-changing for me.
I would love to hear from you: What does it mean to actually release grief or trauma or shock?
TAMI: I do a lot of body sensing. Holistic pelvic care is designed to tap into not only the places where we hold things, but also where the medicine is. I don't remember if you heard this story, but I started writing Wild Feminine just the day after 9/11, and I was seeing several women the next day.
So that was 2001, and I'm here in Portland, Oregon — far from New York City — and there were eight women and every single one had a trauma pattern. And via trauma pattern, I mean trigger points. Fascia kind of constricts and it feels raw. Energetically, it kind of has a feeling like static. If you've ever been in a car accident or something, you might relate to that feeling. It's trauma that gets activated.
It was like that in every single woman, and I remember thinking, first of all, this is interesting — our bodies record trauma as women. We record a trauma event, like this is an active layer collectively going down in real-time. But then, we don't want to stop with the trauma, we want to get to the medicine, right?
So for me, that means massage, body sensing, orientation. When you are in a trauma state, you're usually disoriented and you're not quite present. So it's orienting literally to your body, feeling your body, feeling your feet on the ground, feeling your roots. So there's a body-sensing aspect to it.
I work with balancing exercises that have been developed over many years, working with bodies and understanding how to balance the bowl so that you feel more grounded and more centered.
So it's about bringing things up. Then it's recentering in a way that feels grounded and whole and in the moment and in the resources, not just the wounding.
Changing the Narrative
CARINE: I think — and you write about this — there are so many implications that can happen because of either the trauma or the grief or the shock that kind of sits with us. And it could be creative and sexual. Or it could be intellectual. I mean, it can play out in our lives in so many different ways. And I'm curious — I've been thinking about this also with my daughter now — how do we start young?
How do we, how do we both, not just heal the folks that need healing, but also ideally change the narrative, go forward?
TAMI: Yes, change the narrative! I will say it's a work in progress as I have, you know, older children that I feel like I thought I changed the narrative for, but then they have to live in an associative world. I think part of it is that connecting back to the body. So first, giving them a lot of touch, you know, being in our own bodies so that we are in-body with them.
The body is very simple in some ways. It likes rest, it likes play, it likes food, it likes to laugh. It seems simple, especially if you're in your head, but are we taking time for those things? Are we taking time for rest? Are we taking time for a good hug and really feeling it? If we do those things, we'll seed them through time to stay connected to their bodies.
And then, my niece was starting to bleed and she was on a soccer team and it was rainy cold in Oregon, and she was like, oh, I've got cramps. And I said, you know, you can go play soccer, and I want you to feel empowered to do what you want, but it is okay to also take a rest night. You can choose. And that to me is what being empowered in your body looks like. You have the information and then you get to choose.
Another thing to think about is medical authority. I tell my kids when they go into medical appointments 'You know what, you get to ask questions.' It's like not handing your authority over, which is a more patriarchal version of medicine, but really understanding what's being said. I tell them, 'If you're ever considering a procedure, you can ask questions because there are always options.' Or even with my college kids when they needed antibiotics, I tell them 'You can ask for a shorter course or other options.' That's all part of being centered in the body.
CARINE: And to your point, you have to start with yourself too, as an individual and as a parent, so you can teach authentically.
TAMI: It's an imperfect journey. I think there are a lot of messages in the world that tell you to ignore your body. So, it's about making space for a body-centered life, even if it's awkward.