Nature doesn’t move as one. A myriad of elements form and reform in every moment, in complex, ever-shifting patterns. Every leaf on a tree flutters and dances, influenced by the wind… every moment, unique and complete as it is.
To take in the whole, we soften our gaze. We soften our hands. We soften our mind.
What does a spiderweb sound like?
Our bodies are a complex, arachnid world within, entwined in the neuromyofascial web comprised of strands of glycogen that stretch and contract with every movement, every breath, with every heartbeat. We share the spider’s sensitivity to the vibration and sound of it’s web. Only, our inner web departs from the single plane of the common spider web and forms connections in every direction. Myofascial mechanoreceptors note every complex movement, in a system that responds faster than the nervous system.
There are far more sensory receptors in our fascial system than any other sense. Robert Schleip says this about fascia…
“It plays a crucial role in muscular force transmission and is a sensory organ. Actually, our richest and most important in terms of body perception.” -Robert Schleip
Much of our knowing of self, our proprioception, our interoception, our kinesthetic observation of the body, comes from this continuous, intertwining soft tissue.
There’s this word kicking around the massage field that’s redefining how we look at the body. The term tensegrity comes from a contraction of “tensional-integrity”, popularized by Buckminster Fuller, an architect who designed the first geodesic dome structures. Though, Kenneth Snelson, a sculptor, had insight into the concept of “floating compression” a few years before ol’ Bucky.
Tensegrity has sway and recoil, vibration, shape and strength, created by prestressed tensional and compressional elements, kinetically linking all in the body, from the macro scale to the micro scale. Donald Ingber calls this mechanotransduction. Mechanical movement on the gross has an affect on the intracellular.
From Ingber’s abstract on Tensegrity and Mechanotransduction:
“Cells sense mechanical forces and convert them into changes in intracellular biochemistry and gene expression – a process called “mechanotransduction”. This work has revealed that molecules, cells, tissues, organs, and our entire bodies use “tensegrity” architecture to mechanically stabilize their shape, and to seamlessly integrate structure and function at all size scales. Through use of this tension-dependent building system, mechanical forces applied at the macroscale produce changes in biochemistry and gene expression within individual living cells. This structure-based system provides a mechanistic basis to explain how application of physical therapies might influence cell and tissue physiology.” -Donald Ingber
Every level interacts with every other level, reaching deep to the cellular. Fascial connections interact with the integrins surrounding a cell, creating a mechanical deformation of the cell. This has an influence on intracellular biochemisty and gene expression?! Freakin’ cool! This is stuff we just didn’t know until very recently. 30 years of reseach on fascia is beginning to reward us with a clearer abstract of the body’s biomechanics.
My mentor, Til Luchau, says we work with “intelligent tissue.” This extra-cellular matrix, our fascial network, holds a wisdom of adaptability, function, beauty, memory, emotion, pain, trauma, memory, grief, joy. We are creatures of thought, perception and compassion. The totallity of our life’s experience is reflected in our gestures, our smile, our triumphs and shame… our posture, our walk.
We create shapes. New possibilities. Through dance, through movement. Through breath. Through the variability of combinations available to us within our tensegrity system.
And, we’re just beginning to understand how this applies to our bodywork.
Just finding First of Nine: Tensegrity Blog? Deep dive with massage articles, photography, video and music in Stumptown’s Massage and Bodywork Zine!
psst… Like First of Nine on Facebook!
psst… psst… Follow Hamid on Twitter!