Emergent Paradigm vs. Standard Model of Alignment
The Bowspring system is part of an emergent paradigm in postural alignment within the worlds of yoga, fitness, and biomechanics.
Throughout the 20th century ‘good posture’ was considered to be a vertical stacking of the head, shoulders, chest, waist, and pelvis when sitting, and also vertical over the knees and feet when standing. For the last few centuries western doctors and scientists examined the physical body using the key presumption that it was a solid, compressive, mechanical structure, which could be understood objectively without consideration of intrinsic consciousness within the material form. Mind and emotion have not been factors in the analysis of the mechanical function of the bones and muscles body. In fact, the standard model of alignment analyzes the body strictly in physical and Newtonian physics terms, often using mechanical analogies of levers, fulcrums, and pounds per square inch of force.
Today, in 2016, there are an increasing number of experts in posture, anatomy, and biomechanics, who are embracing the idea that the body is more of a visco-elastic structure than it is a solid, compressive form. With this new view of the body, a stacked upright posture is replaced with a curvy, dynamic shape in order to have optional dynamic functionality. Modern postural systems like the Gokhale method, Foundation Training, and YogAlign are advocating an anterior tip of the pelvis for good posture. This anteversion of the pelvis is not considered neutral alignment in the standard model. In fact, arching the lower back in normal posture was broadly agreed upon by physical health experts of the 20th century to be a harmful alignment and a leading cause of lower back injury and pain. Today, the radical idea of untucking the tail and deepening the curve of the lower back for more balanced postural alignment is emergent and gaining traction.
Along with the curvy spinal alignment foucs, there is a growing emphasis on developing strengthen on the back of the body, particularly the glutes. With the standard model of lengthening the lower back by drawing the glutes downward and reducing lumbar curvature, the back of the body actually weakens in its tonus compared to the front of the body. The old postural model reflects a tightening of the front, and a disengagement of the muscles and connective tissue on the back of the body. When the posture is straighter up and down, the active tonus on the front and the back of the body is not balanced. In the emergent paradigm of alignment, the glutes are actively mounded upward like in the Bowspring and the entire posterior chain of myofascia is engaged as much as the front.
Another emergent idea in the world of physical fitness, is increasing functionality by emphasizing curvy, animal movements instead of linear, mechanical repetitive movements. Some of the current leaders in this emergent movement paradigm include Ido Portol, and Cameron Shayne's Budokon.
A key understanding of the body within the emergent paradigm of postural alignment centers around the tensile strength and malleability of myofascia. Experts in the field of fascial health and functionality include Thomas Myers. The power of the Bowspring as a tensegrity structure is based on the dynamic balance of push-pull forces between myofascia and the skeleton. Once the body is understood not to be a solid, compressive structure in which the bones hold up the connective tissue, then the 'scientific' foundation, on which the standard model of postural alignment is based, falls apart.
The Standard Model of Alignment
In the standard view, the body is seen as a compressive structure like a brick building, in which the central parts are vertically stacked to minimize the shearing forces of gravity and to maximize stability. For centuries the skeleton was thought of as the main substructure of the body holding up the weight of the body. Consequently, the most common instruction for improving the alignment of the spine in the standard model is to sit or stand up straight. Holding the body upright is considered the best alignment for the healthy longevity of the skeleton joints. A well-aligned standing position is generally described in the common alignment paradigm as having the head, shoulders, torso, pelvis, legs and feet, all stacked vertically over each other.
Throughout the 20th century the prevailing alignment idea of an optimally neutral spine was one in which soft curves of the sacral, lumbar, thoracic, and cervical were maintained while the spine was lengthened by drawing its two ends apart. The spine was seen as like a flexible rope that could be extended to its maximum length by using the hips muscles to pull the tailbone downward and the rest of the back and neck muscles to extend the head upward. In order to decompress the vertebral disks and give the healthiest alignment, the spine was elongated by stretching its two ends in opposite directions. In the standard model, pulling the spine straight and long is to reduce “excessive” curvature, which is widely considered the main cause of painful compression in the back.
The tailbone is drawn downward and the top of the head is extended upward. A very common area of pain due to postural misalignment is the lower back, specifically at the top of the sacrum and the lower lumbar. Excessive curvature in the lower back, often referred to as swayback, is still widely considered a common culprit for back pain. A popular postural remedy for lower back misalignment is to strength the abdominals to shorten the front of the body in order to open up the compression in the lower back. Furthermore, instruction to draw the glutes downward to lengthen the tailbone down and open up the lower back is considered standard by postural experts.
Within this mechanical view of the spine as a tower of stacked bricks, there is the addition of some curvature to efficiently distribute forces of mass like an angular keystone in a stone archway. The downward-pointing triangular shape of the sacrum is compared to a weight-bearing keystone, providing a classic example of the widely accepted conception of the skeleton being the solid, compressive weight-bearing substructure of the whole body.
The standard model of alignment is based on hundreds of years of analyzing biomechanical structure and morphology by examining bodies at rest and even dead corpses. Each part was examined at its resting level for the most neutral readings and baseline measurements. From the most gross mechanical viewpoint the bones and muscles are the main movers and support of the central nervous system and internal physiology of the body. For centuries the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds all of the bones, muscles, organs, glands, nerves, and brain has been considered of least importance to the overall health of the body. Our outer flesh and fat has been thought of as a filler of our body space between discrete parts of the body like organs. This determination of the lower value of fascia compared to the other parts of the body, particularly the muscles and bones, myopically arose from dissecting the body into small parts without using a system’s view that every part of the whole is integral. Brute strength of the muscle is widely considered in current world cultures to be more important than fascial tone or even joint mobility.
The prevailing view of biomechanical alignment has been limited to looking at pieces and parts, bone and tissue without considering the body-mind as a living, integrated system of consciousness. Separate muscles and joints are analyzed independently as the keys to optimal functionality. In turn, the common alignment paradigm focuses on strengthening or stretching specific muscles like hamstrings, quads, glutes, abs, biceps, pects, or lats in isolation or in groups. A degeneration or chronic injury in a specific part or joint of the body is commonly addressed by medical therapists in isolation of the other parts of the body.
The standard model of biomechanical alignment is based on old school concepts and assumptions, which we now believe are highly questionable and will soon be proven incorrect. A paradigm shift is now taking place in alignment models of optimal posture that will soon replace the obsolete linear standard model.