WILLETT WORDS OF WISDOM
BIOTENSEGRITY – A SHIFT IN HOW WE VIEW THE BODY
Fixed views do not serve us well in any capacity. They limit our thinking and our potential for further knowledge and learning. They actually limit what’s possible. And when it comes to the body, fixed views provide at best, a general framework. The body is like the universe – immense and challenging to understand. We have these models of the body, these pictures that we hold onto, using them to falsely assure us that we know what the body is all about. Though these fixed views do not take into account the individuality of each body. Nor do they take into account the vastness and complexity of the human body – with all the organs, the cells, the glands; the formation and function of each entity; the connectedness; all the water; the flow of lymphatics, blood, interstitual fluid; the movement of breath; or, the multi-species eco-systems that exist in us and on us – not to mention one’s emotional state and all that is occurring in one’s unique body at any given moment in time.
Many years ago, a group of doctors cut into the body and decided to name parts. The thing to note is that they chose the “parts” based on how they cut and differentiated the body. With my scalpel in hand, if I were tasked with naming parts, I may choose to differentiate differently based on how I was cutting and what I saw in the body in front of me.
With all this in mind, I have been studying fascia and biotensegrity for many years, seeing these paradigms as powerful shifts in how we view the body. I look at research and how it applies to everything from wellness (treatment and prevention) to manual therapy to cell biology and cancer research. For me, my personal passion is movement; and, in my own clinical work with clients one on one, fascia and biotensegrity make perfect sense.
For a while, sharing the concept of biotensegrity with clients yielded a deer in the headlights look and understandably so as I was asking them to change the way they see their bodies. Though recently, I am getting more individuals who are at least beginning to see what all this fascia and biotensegrity focus may mean for them personally. They smile when I pull out my tensegrity toys.
So what is biotensegrity? It begins with tensegrity which translates to tensional integrity. It is a concept developed by architect Buckminster Fuller and further enhanced by artist Kenneth Snelson beginning in the late 1940s which focuses on the interplay of tension and compression in structures. The Needle Tower in Washington, DC is an example of a tensegrity structure. Tensegrity structures are not dependent on their vertical position, though are stable regardless of their orientation to gravity. It was Stephen Levin, an orthopedic surgeon, unhappy with what he was being taught with the biomechanical model in the 1970s who brought the concept to the body – biotensegrity. Quite simply, biotensegrity applies concepts of self-organization and physics to the body; and most importantly with a holistic view (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). Levin realized that seeing bones as the foundation and viewing motion as a joint and lever system working in isolation just doesn’t fit. Instead, there is this continuous tension and discontinuous compression in the body whereby connective tissue is the architecture, the frame for all other body components; and, the bones are more like spacers. It explains how our bodies remain organized within gravitational forces, as well as how force is transmitted holistically throughout the body. Biotensegrity unlocks the fascia code as John Sharkey (a mentee of Dr. Levin) from Ireland says.
My mom had osteoporosis, my father had spinal stenosis, and a very good friend had scoliosis. No one ever mentioned to them that their “bone problem” could be so much more than that. When I work with clients – who range from serious athletes to those simply wanting to move through life with grace and ease – the biotensegrity model makes perfect sense. The whole body is involved in movement. And what’s in the “web,” so to say - whether it be trauma, stress, adhesions, holding patterns, or repetitive motion – plays a role. The key is to learn to identify what needs to shift, to understand the whole body is involved, and to make adjustments in movement and in life accordingly.
Think of one fixed view you may have about your own body that just may not be true. Breath with that thought… Now, ask yourself, “how would my life be different if I let go of that view… what would open up?” Embrace a whole new way of viewing your body, your movement, your reality. Focus less on fixed views and more on new discoveries. Step out that old world and into a new…
Stay tuned for more. Anne
©AnneLloydWillett November 2019