Tensegrity Model: Understanding the “Structure” in Structural Integration Massage

Tensegrity Model: Understanding the “Structure” in Structural Integration Massage

What is structure? How are you held up in space?…and what does any of that have to do with massage?

Do you feel light and move through the world with ease? Or do you feel like you are efforting to hold your head and sit up? In either case, why? Why does moving through space have ease or have effort?

It’s about how we balance our structure within gravity.

A nice model for understanding this idea is the tensegrity model. This is a model first used by Buckminster Fuller to describe physical structures, but we can use it as one way of understanding how the human body maintains structure in space. In the tensegrity model, there are tension members and compression members. In a physical structure, like a bridge, the compression members are represented by the rigid structures, the rigid metal rods and beams. The tension members are the cables strung between the rods that create what we see as the structure.

In our body, we could see the skeletal system, our bones, as the compression members. The muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia are the tension members creating the structure by connecting our bones in space. If these elements are held in gravity without any extra stresses, then there is ease and stability in our structure.

But, imagine the tensegrity model if stress is placed on one point in the model. The whole structure is impacted and everything is at least a little out of its ideal place. With this stress on the model, some of the tension members (the cables) have gotten longer and some have gotten shorter.

This is one way of understanding what happens in the body when we acquire postural habits from everyday activities, like working at a computer, driving a car, or typing on a phone. By repeating activities with our body, we train it to hold the patterns used in those activities.

However, if these acquired patterns are not serving us, we can change them.

This is the work of connective tissue therapy and structural integration. It is also the work of yoga asana practice. Our postural patterns can even be impacted just by being intentional about how we move during our daily activities.

Ready to address some of that head and neck tension from all that time stuck responding to email on your phone?

Try this:
Next time you start to look at your phone, sit up first. Take a moment to find your shoulders balanced over your hips. Now adjust the position of your head so that it sits balanced over your shoulders. Finally, bring the phone up to your eyes, rather than letting your head fall forward to look at the screen. Feel different? Little adjustments to regular movements that we make during the day can have an impact on how we form postural patterns. What other small movements could you adjust in your day to feel better in your body?

Do you have an experience with posture that you want to share or a question to ask? Leave a comment below.