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The musculoskeletal system as a
tensegrity structure
To summarize our arguments so far, we have posed the
fibrous system as a body-wide responsive physiological
network on a par in terms of importance and scope with
the circulatory and nervous systems. The myofascial
meridians are useful patterns discernible within the
locomotor part of that system.
Secondly, we have noted the frequent application of
the double bag (a sphere turned in on itself) in the
body's fasciae. The myofascial meridians describe pat-
terns of the 'fabric' within the outer myofascial bag con-
nected down onto (and thus able to move) the inner
bone-joint bag.
In order to complete our particular picture of the
fascial system in action and its relation to the Anatomy
Trains, we beg our persistent reader's patience while we
place one final piece of the puzzle: to view the body's
architecture in the light of 'tensegrity' geometry.
Taking on 'geometry' first, we quote cell biologist
Donald Ingber quoting everybody else: 'As suggested
by the early 20th century Scottish zoologist D'Arcy W.
Thompson, who quoted Galileo, who in turn cited Plato:
the topic of Nature may indeed be written in the char-
acters of geometry.' 8 8
While we have successfully applied geometry to
galaxies and atoms, the geometry we have applied to
ourselves has been generally limited to levers, angles,
and inclined planes, based on the 'isolated muscle'
theory we outlined in our introduction. Though we
have learned much from the Newtonian force mechan-
ics that underlie our current understanding of kinesiol-
ogy, this line of inquiry has still not produced convincing
models of movements as fundamental as human
A new understanding of the mechanics of cell biology,
however, is about to expand the current kinesiological
thinking, as well as give new relevance to the search of
the ancients and Renaissance artists for the divine geom-
etry and ideal proportion in the human body. Though
still in its infancy, the recent research summarized in this
section promises a fruitful new way to apply this ancient
science of geometry in the service of modern healing - in
other words, the development of a new spatial medicine
(Fig. 1.47A and B).
In this section we briefly examine this way of think-
ing about body structure at two levels - first at the
macroscopic level of the body architecture as a whole,
and then at the microscopic level of the connection
between cell structure and the extracellular matrix. As
with the hydrophilic and hydrophobic building blocks
of connective tissue, these two levels actually form
part of a seamless whole, but for discussion the
macro- / micro- distinction is useful. 8 9 Both levels
contain implications for the entire spectrum of manual
and movement work.
'Tensegrity' was coined from the phrase 'tension
integrity' by the designer R. Buckminster Fuller (working
from original structures developed by artist Kenneth
Fig. 1.46 Contrast the living reality of the myofascial continuity in
Figure 1.45 and 1.49A with the isolated single muscle pictured
here. No matter how much we can learn from this excellent and
unique depiction of the strange adductor magnus, the common
practice of isolating muscles in anatomies results in 'particulate'
thinking that leads us away from the synthetic integration that
characterizes animal movement. (Reproduced with kind permission
from Grundy 1982.)
Applying the Anatomy Trains scheme within this
vision, the myofascial meridians can now be seen as the
long lines of pull through the outer bag - the myofascial
bag - which both form, deform, reform, stabilize, and
move the joints and skeleton - the inner bag. The lines
of continuous myofascia within the outer bag we will
call the 'tracks', and the places where the outer bag tacks
down onto the inner bag we will call 'stations' - not end
points, but merely stops along the way. Some of the
intermuscular septa - the ones that run superficial to
profound like the walls of the grapefruit sections - join
the outer to the inner bag into the single fascial balloon
our body really is (compare Fig. 1.25 with Fig. 1.43, and
Fig. 1.41 with Fig. 1.42 and see the net result in Fig.
this topic defines the layout of lines of pull in the
outer bag, and begins the discussion of how to work
with them. Work with the inner bag - manipulation of
peri-articular tissues as practiced by chiropractors,
osteopaths, and others - as well as the inner double-
bags of the meninges and coelomic peritonea and pleura,
are likewise very useful, but are not within the scope of
this topic. Given the unified nature of the fascial net, we
may assume that work in any given arena within the net
might propagate signaling waves or lines of pull that
would affect one or more of the others.
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