I first ran into this concept during my pilates certification training in 2003 – and to be honest it took me a while to wrap my head around the concept. Basically, it is understanding that we are not built like a building. Yes, everything is connected and you probably learned the song “The Skeleton Dance” “the foot bone is connected to the leg bone…” The biotensegrity model explains that our bones actually act as “spacers” in our body. So, if our bones aren’t holding us upright in the same way as a building, how then do we sit, stand and move?
Biotensegrity is a concept that explains that we are built in a way in which the muscles around our bones distribute the load as opposed to the joints themselves. If your muscles are strong and flexible, they will absorb more of the load instead of your bones and joints individually. The biotensegrity model explains that the bones are suspended or appear to be floating supported by our connective tissues (muscle and fascia). The myofascial connective tissues in our body are a continuous web of tension and compression suspending the bones and are holding us upright against gravity.
This concept was first introduced with sculptures using struts and tension tendons. If you have been to MÜV over the past couple of years, you have probably seen a funny little wooden structure that is actually a tensegrity model in my treatment room. The concept of tensegrity is fascinating when you look at it closely, and the little model is able to hold up a fair amount of load just like the human body (see picture above).
My pilates mentor used to say: “claim the right to your height”. Basically if we place ourselves in optimal alignment, we are the “tallest” version of ourselves.
I think we can agree that slumping is not the best posture. It negatively affects our breathing and creates muscular imbalances around our spine and other joints in the body. This can contribute to pain and injury. But we also don’t want to over-correct and become too tense or stiff (think of a soldier standing at attention).
Our ideal is to be tall, supple and be able to move with freedom and ease. However, we also need strength to be able to withstand loads for heavy lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, walking, running and jumping.
So you might be wondering what is a great way to work on achieving this biotensegrity concept in our bodies? One answer is Physical Therapy and Pilates at MÜV. We work on helping our patients address postural imbalances in the body and learn to improve the way they move. Our manual therapy, pilates rehab and pilates classes are an excellent way to work on optimizing alignment, improving posture, improving strength and feeling better in your amazing body!