Tag Archives: tensegrity

Notes on Anatomy and Physiology: Getting the Feel of Tensegrity

We’ve spoken recently of how the body makes use of tensegrity to help hold itself together. We stretch out our soft tissues and they resist further expansion and create a sea of continuous tension that tugs on and supports the bones suspended within it. Soft tissue and bone working together.

Because the soft tissues resist further expansion, they supply an ever-present, wall-to-wall, continuous pull inward on the bones. The bones, by refusing further compression, push outward locally on the soft tissues surrounding them and prevent our structure from collapsing in on itself. We create a form that is less stiff, more resilient than one relying on continuous compression.

Thinking of the body’s architecture this way leads us to view the elastic, distensible elements of the body in a new light.

If we use the word “tendon” to mean any soft, elastic tissue that contributes to a web of continuous tension, we begin to see many structures of the body as tendon: the lungs that want to spring back once filled; the diaphragm, esophagus, stomach and intestine; the aorta, the great artery that leads freshly oxygenated blood out of the heart to all corners of the body; the veins, lymph channels and nerves, supplied as they are with walls that contain elastic connective tissue; the ligaments and capsule that surround each joint; the muscles and skin and the wrappings of the brain and spinal cord.

All are capable of elastic recoil. All are connected with one another. And all are prone to the ill effects of aging and disuse, and must regularly go through a full range of motion to maintain elasticity and avoid desiccation.

Building a tensegrity structure quickly give us a feel, Continue reading

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Notes on Anatomy and Physiology: Function of the Thoracolumbar Fascia, Part 2

In the last note, we learned that bending forward with the low back in Step Up and Punch or Push Needle to Sea Bottom reverses the normal lumbar lordosis, lengthens the thoracolumbar fascia, tautens its fibers and stores elastic energy. We saw that simply letting the weight settle in the don yu , tor yu and set causes the pelvis to descend and gently rotate backwards, serving as another mechanism for drawing out the fascia. And we discussed how the elastic recoil energy stored by this expansion of connective tissue can be used to return the body to an upright position.

But the muscles of the low back are equally capable of bringing the body up from a forward bend, albeit at a much greater energy cost to the body. So, why the redundancy? Why design two different systems for bringing the body to an upright posture?

To answer this, we need to briefly review the concept of viscoelasticity.

Collagen is the principle fiber making up all connective tissue. Its behaviour is fundamentally shaped by viscoelasticity – the tendency for loaded structures to deform over time. I say over time but, in fact, this happens remarkably quickly. Within 1/3 of a second of loading and then holding collagen at a fixed, lengthened position, it will begin to sag and lose its stored elastic energy. When this happens to the thoracolumbar fascia, Continue reading

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Notes on Anatomy and Physiology: Function of the Thoracolumbar Fascia, Part 1

Today we want to take another look at the purposes served by our thoracolumbar fascia during the activities of a normal day.

The first thing to point out is that western medicine has only discovered the functional significance of this fascial sheet over the last 40 years. And yet the ancient art we practice has made routine use of this aspect of our physiology for centuries. A reminder that what is seen as discovery is often actually rediscovery. And an indication of the sophisticated understanding of human physiology that guides us in the practice hall.

Many in our culture still do not appreciate the crucial role played by the thoracolumbar fascia and other connective tissues of the body. It is good to keep this in mind when discussing the benefits of the Taoist Tai Chi™ internal arts of health with western health practitioners.

We have already looked at the structure of the thoracolumbar fascia and how it links hands to feet, the back to the front, the outside to the inside. It is time now to examine how it adds both structure and power to the spine.

Let’s start with thoracolumbar fascia as structure, as scaffold of the spine.

In our world, things are either supported from above with  Continue reading

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