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Fascia Part 2: Tensegrity & The Structural Body

Updated: Mar 6, 2023


In the last post, I mentioned that the fascial network holds the body's structure together.

Let's dive deeper: The fascial system can be thought of as one organ. It is the 'filler' in the space between all other organs.

Despite it being the unified substance of the entire body, there are certain connected trains within it. Think of these like long sausages: the sausage skin being the fascia, and the chain of sausage meat being the muscles held within the fascia. These chains of connected tissue are termed 'myofascial meridans' by fasical researcher Tom Myers, and they link muscles, bones and organs together. There are 10 primary chains which act as a scaffolding structure for your body.

So, think of your body structure held together by a series of interconnected support wires (fascial chains). When one becomes tight, the whole interconnected-chain thus is pulled upon and the whole structure is then effected.

The chains integrate the body and allow it move as a whole. When there is tightness, blockages or weakness in one part of the chain, it affects the whole chain and subsequently any other chain link into it. ⁠

‘Tensegrity’ is a structural principle coined by architect & systems theorist, Buckminster Fuller as a combination of the words “tension” and “integrity”.

The image below shows a 3D tensegrity model: a geometric shape made up of segments that are held together by continuous tension.

This offers a clear illustration as to how your fascia and internal structures work together: the wooden sticks represent the bones & the bands represent the fascia. Internal force (from muscle) and external force (gravity and ground reaction) are transmitted and dispersed within the body primarily via the fascial network.

Fascia helps prevent or minimize localized stress in a particular muscle, joint or bone, and it helps harness momentum created from the operating forces mainly through its viscoelastic properties. This protects the integrity of the body while minimizing the amount of fuel used during movement.

In this way, the tension of our movements, especially oft-repeated movements, allows 'remodeling' of our connective tissues, including the bones and ligaments, when it is 'plastic' - it can be reformed in response to skilled bodywork, stretching and awareness.

Fascia & connective tissue always has intrinsic tension whilst under the force of gravity. This passive pre-tension has been called human resting myofascial tone. This tone provides a low-level stabilizing component that helps our posture and allows us to perform movements without thinking about them, and with less fascial strain as compared with constant muscle activation and energy expenditure.

Thus, bones in your body float in a sea of soft tissue – they are held in position by tension from your muscles and fascia. The shape of your body isn’t maintained by rigid joints and compression like a house, but by this balance of tension across your entire structure. Donald Ingber explain it so:

“The compression-resistant bones of our skeleton are smaller elements of a larger supporting framework, the musculoskeletal system, which is comprised of an interconnected network of bones, muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and fascia. This is a physically integrated framework that supports the weight of our bodies, allows us to rapidly adjust to resist external forces, and permits us to move freely in our environment. But without the aid of surrounding tension-generating muscles and tension-resisting tendons, ligaments and fascia, bones and cartilage would do little to support our upright forms.”

So in fact, the human body is not a lever system where force is generated from muscles around a joint. The tensiegrity system shows us that the human body is a self-organising system of load distribution created by tension and compression; it's a multi-level movement & stabilization system fueled by energy, cellular adaptations and gravity.

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