“Tensegrity” is a word that combines 'tension' and 'integrity'. This is a concept that was developed by Buckminster Fuller, an Architect and Designer ( famous for the Geodesic Dome design ).
The basic concept is that architectural and biological structures are composed of tensile and rigid, structures to form a unit where by, if a force is applied in one area the whole structure flexes. Whether pulling or pushing, if one part moves, everything moves. The energy is sent through the entire form. Within the bio-mechanics of our bodies, the rigid structures are our bones, and the tensile structures, are our muscles, tendons and ligaments ( we can call this the myofascial ,or, connective-tissue network ).
Much of the myofascial network and tensegrity concepts were developed by Thomas Myers ( among others *). His major work is Anatomy Trains, a staple in Manual Therapy schools where connective tissue understanding is valued.
The idea developed is that our bones are floating in space; held together by the connective tissue web. The connective tissue of the tendons, muscles, and ligaments are always taught and create integrity for the 208 bones to align. While gravity pulls down, the web wraps and winds its way through our bodies. The tensile structures give integrity, alignment, and continuity to the whole; creating: erect posture, safe housing for our organs, and, give us the ability to move dynamically with the ability of taking loads and stresses that life demands.
In Bodywork modalities that work with connective tissue, such as, Myofascial release, Rolffing. Thai Massage, Tui Na, Shiatsu etc.., the goal is to reduce the overly tense tensile structures and reduce adhesion’s that limit the elasticity, in the clients bio-mechanics. It is a normal response of the tensile structures, to get tighter when injured or overloaded, unfortunately this creates a new dynamic and can be harmful if left untreated: the weight of the body instead of going into the ground can end up overloading joints, bones, and tendons, which can 'pinch nerves', create varicose veins, induce cluster head aches, and the list goes on,on and on.
This is why stretching, resistance exercise, and bodywork can limit restrictions in the tensile matrix, where the forces that we encounter everyday are transferred into the ground more easily.
The grounding ability of our bodies is natural and created by the earth itself – we lay, crawl, kneel, sit, stand, and finally walk/run. The tensegrity design of our bodies allows for the ability of rising and falling of growth and movement. Take our spine for instance; from bottom to top, like a tall building that needs to have each floor have independent movement and posses the ability to absorb shock waves; our spinal columns can expand/contract, twist, flex/extend, side flex, and take the upward and downward shock-wave forces. From level to level of the 24 spinal segments, thin and flat, muscle and tendon units unite the segments to form a contiguous unit. The rigid bits are the vertebral bones themselves, and the tensile structures are the multifidi muscles shown cross-crossing the vertebra. This allows the forces of living to distribute and dissipate, rather than buildup and break the rigid bones. The weight of our entire body is translated into the ground, while we are still ,or, in movement. If, however, our weight is only slightly forward, backward, or to the side, we are poised to experience a range of musculo-skeletal aches and pains. The tensegrity design of our bodies is efficient if cared for, and like a building, needs maintenance and care. We can not put all our weight on the upper floors if the foundation is unbalanced, or TIMBER!! So, balanced tension allows for integrity in the individual; excessive/deficient tension in the myofascial network causes a lack of integrity, resulting in: pain, discomfort, inflammation, and the possibility of nerve damage and internal organ malfunction, ( including the brain ). So, choose exercise and bodywork that considers a balanced approach to tension in the body, for it is the miniscule forces in our bio mechanics that can make or break our day and general health.
The Chakras and Ayurveda in Thai Yoga Massage by Rina Thibault
It's been very interesting to view how Prana (energy) affects the body during a Thai Yoga Massage session. Most of the flow of Prana is related to the person's awareness and body intelligence. Wherever my hands go, the person's mind goes too , but a lot of the time there are varying degrees of responses from therapeutic touch.
As a practitioner, there are 2 things that I look for in the quality of the energy from the different areas of the body- does it lack (deficient) or is the area sensitive (excessive)? As a receiver, you try to find a balance between these two qualities. By using acupressure along the sen (energy) lines, the body starts to become more expansive and flowing; more connected and grounded. There are also 3 kinds of Doshas (general quality) of energy in the Ayurvedic system, they correspond to:
earth+water (Kapha) → heavy, cold and damp
fire (Pitta)→ heat, hot and damp
and air (Vata)→ cold and dry or “empty”.
They can be felt in different parts of the body such as in muscles, joints and tendons and ligaments. These Doshas act “out” in these areas, or have a holding pattern that's been there for years.
There is an interesting relationship between Anodea Judith's Energetic Systems (Eastern Body, Western Mind, 1996) based on the Chakras and Dr. David Frawley's Dosha Principles (Ayurveda and Marma Therapy, 2003) which is akin to the functional biologic systems of the body.
Outside-in Systems (Principle of Movement or Propulsion : Vata 'that which moves or conveys things'): Symptoms that attribute to this system are: acutely aware of head and body with neither connected to the other and can be found in hypersensitive people (allergies, chronic pains, obsessed with their bodies, dieting/hypochondria). The reason for hypersensitivity is found in the middle of the body where it feels “empty” and lacks awareness of the organs, especially the digestive ones. Toxins begin to accumulate in the large intestines because it correlates to lacking the ability of letting go (constipation) OR letting go too much (diarrhea) . Upper Chakras are highly developed which can manifest as introversion.
Top-down system (Principle of Thermogenesis: Pitta 'that which cooks or digests things'): Symptoms are characterized as someone who is always living in the head. They deal with their physical world and their bodies when they need to. Athletes and highly driven individuals have this kind of flow and usually have a high pain tolerance. They live by the motto “Think first and act later”. Many of them experience early burn-out in their careers. Toxins begin to develop in the small intestines and deals with the conversion of food into heat, tissues and waste-material.
Inside-out systems (Principle of Digestion : Pitta 'that which cooks or digests things'): the energy is centered in the middle “ego center” and the growth process comes from extending energy downward and upward toward spirit and the intellect., which results in the upper and lower Chakras being balanced but poorly connected to either end. This trait can be seen in our mainstream culture where we usually take our bodies for granted and avoid introspection; unless a crisis arises and triggers a need for spiritual introspection. There is the same problem of conversion of food into heat, tissues and waste-material.
Bottom-up systems (Principle of Coherence or Cohesion : Kapha 'that which holds things together'): This deals with the energetic states of motion (water) and rest (earth) and this type of energetic quality correlates to people who like to stay in patterns and repetition, especially with the patterns of their lower Chakras. Problems begin to arise mainly in the stomach and accumulates in the form of mucus or phlegm, which then gets circulated to weak sites in the body, causing problems such as asthma, diabetes, edema, heart disease and obesity.
In a balanced system, one may find, that these are people who have been fortunate to work on self-healing early in life. Their balanced energy distribution is characterized with “groundedness” and in touch with their bodies. They are also fully aware of their feelings and don't get ruled by them because their communication of feelings and ideas ring with truth and clarity while being able to listen to others.
It takes time, patience and dedication to work out these imbalances, especially people with excess upper Chakras. They may be described as ' set in their ways', ' day dreams at work', 'stuck in the past', or ' head in the stars'.
Therapeutic touch helps distribute the Prana, direct its flow and act as a healing force outside the body. Our clinical assessment is based on physiological processes, and the way Prana flows. Most of our ailments are symptoms of stagnant, blocked, weak, excessive Prana flow in and around the body.
Stay Tuned for next month's article where I will be looking at the Doshas in more detail.