The Body is Not a Compressive Structure
For centuries it has been a common belief that the skeleton holds up our body and is the main support for the weight of the body. Therefore, the best alignment for the skeleton as a compressive structure would be to vertically stack the head, thorax, and pelvis over the legs in the gravity line to dismiss shearing forces and to efficiently distribute the weight. This is essentially the logical basis of the cultural ideas of good posture as standing and sitting ‘up straight’. Furthermore, this old belief that the bones hold up the body is still the basis of alignment theory in much of modern postural yoga, the fitness industry, and the medical world!
However, the fact of the matter is that the body is not a compressive structure like a building made of solid materials. It is primarily water, up to 80% in the myofascia (muscle and surrounding connective tissue). The body is more of a fluid structure, rather than a solid mechanical structure. The spirally fibers of our visco-elastic myofascia flow in orderly patterning (lines, ‘trains’, chains) around all bones in the body. In actuality, it is the inherent tonus in the myofascia, which lifts up and holds our bones in position, instead of the bones holding up the connective tissue. The bones are effectively spacers, which push out against a continual pulling net of myofascia. The balanced result of this dynamic push and pull relationship between the bones and myofascia makes the body a “tensegrity,” in which there is integrity in the tension of the connective tissue with the resistance of the bones.
In contrast to the standard model, the emergent paradigm of biomechanical alignment sees the body as a visco-elastic tensegrity form. In the new view, the body is not as a solid, compressive structure. Instead of our bones holding us up, it is the dynamic tonus of the connective tissue, primarily the fascia, which pulls and holds up the skeleton. In fact, it is the outer shape and qualities of our myofascia, which give us the broadest definition of our physical posture.
Instead of vertically stacking sections of the body and straightening the spine to counter the force of gravity, the emergent paradigm of postural alignment focuses on creating balanced curves in the spine, particularly in the lower back. Attempting to flatten or greatly reduce the curves of the spine so that the body is more efficiently stacked against gravity relaxed the posterior chain of connective tissue, which runs from the underside of the toes to the top back of the head. This myofascial disengagement on the back of the body causes the whole body to become more compressive and less efficient in its healthy functioning. With more curvature, there is more capacity to engage the myofascial tone on all sides of the body, particularly the back of the body, which provides ‘anti-gravity’ and lightness to the body.
The active engagement of the back of the body—the posterior chain of muscle and fascia—is gaining increased emphasis in the sectors of the fitness world and professional sports. The strength of the glutes in particular is becoming more increasingly valued for optimal performance of any athletic endeavor. A “superior posterior” is becoming more desired among both professional athletes and the average weekend warrior. Other current systems of posture, and fitness including the Gokhale Method, Yogalign, Foundations, and Ido Portal’s movement system tip the pelvis forward to enhance the position of the pelvic floor, the hip sockets, and the muscular functionality of the glutes. All of these alignment systems emphasize an anterior tip to the pelvis and more of a lordotic curve in the lower back, which challenges the common paradigm of neutral pelvic tilt.
Bio-tensegrity explains how all animals move so gracefully on relatively small toes and thin legs compared to the size of the rest of the body. Large, weighty animals like horses, tigers, or elephants have a horizontal spinal alignment when they walk, run or are at rest. This is not a structural problem for any animal since the balanced tonus of their connective tissue with their skeletal alignment gives them tremendous lightness, agility, and strength. Animals do not need to stack their bones to counter gravity! There is no other species on Earth, except for humans, that has an upright posture.
Once we release the old idea that we must counter-balance our posture against the shearing force of gravity by stacking our skeleton, then we open our minds to embody powerful curves in our lower back and neck. Healthy length of the spine and space between the joints is not created by straightening, but by dynamically creating a spring-like effect in the myofascia that surrounds the bones.
The tension lines of myofascia between every movable joint in the human body, particularly in the toes, feet, knees, hips, and the lumbar, provides the springiness to walk, run, and jump. The curves of the body serve to create dynamic movement and optimal functionality for all sizes and ages. A waveform alignment of the spine facilitates increased dynamism for the posterior chain of connective tissue running seamlessly from the pads of the toes to the top of the head. The glutes, which are the big springs on our backside, can have optimal power when the pelvis is tipped anteriorly and the tailbone is lifted. When we let go of the old alignment paradigm of stacking bones, then we can stop pulling our glutes and tailbone downward!
The Bowspring allows for a balanced tensegrity between the pull of the connective tissue (myofascia) and the inner push of the bones and the will of the heart. Balanced action in the muscular tone on all sides, and particularly the back of the body. The posterior chain of myofascia can be balanced to lift the bones up away from the Earth with the power to cause an experience of anti-gravity lightness. The double-S curve on the back of the body gives the capacity to load the spring of the glutes, and the power of the back of the head into the fullness of the heart in the center of the ribcage.