Dr. Rolf used to say that it’s not the bones which hold the muscles or the muscles which hold the bones but rather that the bones should float inside the flesh.
She thus illustrated the biotensegrity model. And this is where her claim, that the fascia – the connecting tissue – forms a kind of complete fabric from which the body is built, gains validity. Extending and shortening one area in the fabric changes the entire structure – and precisely in that way the biotensegrity model functions as you saw in Dr. Stephen Levin’s clips.
One of my most memorable experiences to do with a perfect expression of this model, was watching a flamenco performance some 10-12 years ago.
On stage was Neta Sheizaf who later invited her elderly teacher to join her in a dance.
It was a tearjerker for me mainly because of the perfection of tension distribution throughout the body – this dance, flamenco, requires this correct organisation as otherwise you cannot perform the task and impress the audience without hurting your own body. Only a perfect distribution of tension allows for such a high level of bodily presence with the correct emphasis for the dance without hurting the overall tension, and without creating pressure that would threaten the lower back and other parts of the body.
Unfortunately, I don’t have an example of such dancing but I would be very happy to get one from one of my readers.
What I am trying to explain in words and later illustrate with the video clip is the combination of these two models.
Let’s start with the meaning of the biotensegrity model in our body. The meaning is that there is a connection between the level of tension of all body parts and that the body relates to gravity and all forces applied to it as a complete structure and not as separate parts or units.
This is exactly where the problematic nature of how we use our bodies comes in to play!
Our tendency is to divide it into parts and to dismember that which is whole!
Who of us can’t relate to the tendency to lean on one leg with a strong diversion of the hip in that direction?
Who of us doesn’t know the tendency to move the pelvis slightly forward while leaning strait on the heals, and at the same time the upper part of the body leans backwards (counterbalancing the forward movement of the pelvis), it is a very common pose, we sometimes call it walking or standing like a “Punk” but that is just a term we use, the stance is used by all human groups without distinction of religion, race, gender, nationality or any other social group characteristic.
We at times characterise the posture of the “Depressive” – in which the chest collapses inwards so that the structure doesn’t rely on its own front, as if in our reclining we skip over it downwards to rely directly on the buttocks and legs. This naturally goes together with shoulders slumped forwards and touching the chest, like leaning on in from the front. The neck and head have two styles: one which attempts to hide this model and compensates with a high neck arch which allows the eyes to look forward and upwards; the other is a continuation of the model with a downward gaze – the “Complete Depressive”.
What other models pull apart the body, and create pressure points – points of leaning inside the body instead of the pressure being distributed all throughout the length and width of the structure?
Witness the “Show-off” walk which expresses a rigidity between hips and ribs, as opposed to the natural state in which they rate to one another with movement. The waist area is chronically constricted and doesn’t allow movement to one side when the hips balance the pressure of standing on one leg during the process of walking. Instead, the person wobbles from side to side from one leg to the other.
This model is very close to the “Duckling” model which we all know, only that in the “duckling” model there is an added element of pointing the feet outwards (like Charlie Chaplin).
Every one of these models, and obviously there are others, contains over-use of certain muscles and under-use of others – a lack of balance in the system-wide tension.
Sadly this is the condition for most of us, which is why it was so exhilarating to see a performance in which there was perfect tension distribution throughout the entire body!
Imagine seeing a stride where the internal tension is uniform, so that it relates to the ground and acts to it and not one in which one part leans on another and the other is the one separately relating to the ground!
That is exactly what happens when the Iliopsoas starts working correctly! In fact, for it to work correctly during walking, the foot must work correctly – it needs to push the ground backwards – a push which allows the waist vertebrae (to which the upper end of the Iliopsoas is connected) to elongate and remain in the back of the structure and not arch forward, and at the same time the thigh (to which the other end of the Iliopsoas is connected) moves forward with the muscle’s contraction.
This tension caused from the foot pushing all the way through to the backwards elongating waist vertebrae continues to flow upwards along the structure and sends the top of the head to get support from the ground with an elongation of the neck, and not to lean directly on the neck!
In a person walking this way the relation of the his entire body to the ground is apparent and not just his foot or thigh or knee, not to mention the lower back or chest that tend to relate separately to the ground.
As they say, a thousand words can’t explain what one picture can, so you are invited to watch a clip in which I will illustrate some the incorrect models contrasted with the one which connects the biotensegrity one with the model of correct movement according to Dr. Rolf.
As usual I welcome any comments.