Tensegrity, Biotensegrity, and Structural Integration

Of the many models we could use for looking at and understanding the human body in structural integration, tensegrity and biotensegrity offer us perhaps the most unique and valuable insights into how it all works and how to best care for and heal it.

Tensegrity and biotensegrity describe a concept of tensional integrity in various systems, structures, and nature (and specifically in human bodies). The concept, originally developed by Kenneth Nelson and Buckmister Fuller, means that the integrity of the systems depends on and is organized around the tensional framework or network of any system. These concepts have been further developed and articulated by Dr. Stephen M. Levin, M.D., modeled by Tom Flemons of Intension Designs, and suggested as a model for cellular structure by Dr. Donald Ingber, PhD. in Scientific American.

Tom Myers, a fellow structural integration specialist, in a youtube video below describes how analyzing a body using tensegrity is far superior to using other models such as a compressional integrity concept to describe the complexity of human movement, balance, and structure.

As Tom says in the video Dr. Ida Rolf of Rolfing fame would say that where you think a problem is probably isn’t necessarily it, and a biotensegrity model makes that infinitely clear. A difficulty or pain in the right side of the neck could originate in the right foot, the left hip, or somewhere else, and that is where it needs to be addressed for best results and longevity.

Since my training is Structural Integration some thirty five years ago I’ve been applying the principles of tensegrity and biotensegrity to help my clients make the best use of their bodies, whether they want to run a hundred miles, or get up on stage, or lead a team of executives in a boardroom, all the while looking, feeling, and performing their best.





Structural, Functional, and Behavioral Flexibility

I am working on a Blog Post about Behavioral Flexibility and changes in learning strategies in the structure and function of the body support overall behavioral flexibility , but couldn’t get it done in time for this email.


Behavioral flexibility refers to the adaptive change in the behavior of an animal, in response to changes in the external or internal environment. Ongoing behavior (which might include inactivity) is stopped or modified and new behavior is initiated. Adaptive changes in behavior can vary by degree, ranging from changes that are little more than reflexes or tropic reactions (i.e., reflecting a change in environmental conditions but without the involvement of cognitive processes) to behavioral changes that are anticipatory of environmental changes. Unlike impulsivity, which is responding without inhibitory control and can be maladaptive, behavioral flexibility reflects a change in cognitive state in response to the perceived environmental contingencies. from Springer

Although not stated in these terms Moshe Feldenkrais was a big fan of behavioral flexibility.



Further Study:
Neural circuits underlying behavioral flexibility

Multiple brain regions work together to adapt behavior to a changing environment.
By Stan B. Floresco




Continuity Fascia Anatomy, changing the way we use our bodies

The anatomy of connective tissue as a connecting, continuous material is in its infancy. This video offers a history of anatomy and anatomical exploration and beliefs. As with so many fields of study and understanding nothing is static and the same is true of anatomical exploration, study, beliefs, and view points. The word anatomy is derived from the Greek ἀνατέμνω anatemnō “I cut up, cut open”, which is in keeping with how the study of anatomy has evolved over the centuries namely from dissections. Much of anatomy can therefore be thought to be “designed” by the anatomists hand and view point. We are in a new realm of anatomical learning based more about the continuity of the structures of the body rather than the piecemeal way of anatomical thinking of the body.

The understanding of connective tissue as a continuous structure is integral to the work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf and her work of Structural Integration (Hellerwork, Rolfing, Guild for Structural Integration, KMI, to name a few schools of SI).

Below is a video called Anatomy Continues by Karl Jacobs, Lecturer of anatomy at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and anatomist at Amsterdam Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in which he describes anatomy in some interesting and novel ways. He points to some very interesting new, cutting edge thinking and research into fascia and connective tissue, which allows us very different and fruitful ways to reimagine the body, its structure, movement, pathology, and ultimately healthy functioning of the body.

See the section of the video starting at 17:34 about the gleno-humeral joint. From this I’ve been reimagining how the shoulder joint works and how to help my clients with Frozen Shoulder. When I think of the biceps brachii long head and the triceps brachii long head both attaching to the labrum forming a continuous structure not three separate structures it offers me avery different point of view. So, helping a Frozen Shoulder make some changes (structurally) might involve some fascial work on the biceps and triceps at the same time and focusing the work indirectly into and through the labrum and then on to the other side. What a wonderful way to mobilize the glen-humeral joint in a very different way. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Since these structures connect through the labrum in that way I can then offer my own shoulder and my clients some very useful new ways of thinking about how the glen-humeral joint and how it moves and how to keep it healthy. In addition to the biceps and triceps depressing and elevating the humerus, respectively as Karl Jacobs points out, I can imagine the biceps and triceps working together to encase, stabilize, and perhaps almost lift the humerus away from glenoid fossa (like a hammock). So a relaxed shoulder would want to move very differently than a slightly engaged biceps/triceps pair and again differently than a fully engaged biceps/triceps pair.

With similar thinking in the area of the menisci and joint capsule of knee and it makes me wonder about how the biceps femoris and semitendinosis might form a similarly related pair with the knee joint. Off hand it seems a bit far fetched, but I’ll have to look into the anatomy and maybe some dissection to find out more. But, if it did then perhaps there is a connection through the joint capsule or the menisci and causing a lifting of the femur off the tibia when both muscles are engaged, maybe freeing the knee joint or adding some sort of stability. The minimum it does is offer some differing ways of thinking about knee motion, limits, and stability. It changed my morning hike for sure. How fun.

The Goal of Structural Integration (Rolfing, Hellerwork,…)

The goal of structural integration is balance of the body in the gravity field (I will add in the field of effort, be that gravity for humans and/or the field of effort (i.e. direction of movement) in all creatures); the principle of the treatment is, in brief, that if tissue is restrained, and balanced movement demanded at a nearby joint, tissue and joint will relocate in a more appropriate equilibrium. Rosemary Feitis 1973, in the Forward to Ida Rolf’s 1977 book Rolfing; Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being.

Kegel Pelvic Floor Exercise for Men

Kegel Pelvic Floor Exercise for Men (and Women). A bit ago I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle suggesting that Kegel Pelvic Floor Exercise, which is well known for helping women with continence and sensuality, is also brilliant for helping men. Kegels for Men, SF Chronicle, and Wikipedia/ Kegels. I am so pleased that it is coming out in the news like that.

For years I have been introducing clients to the benefits of Kegel Pelvic Floor Exercise. Kegel exercises help engage and foster the muscles, fascia, neurological control, and breathing in the pelvic floor region. Kegels tend to be taught like lots of exercises with lots of bravado and not very much finesse. But, there is so much more to be learned and gained from doing them (and all exercises) consciously, slowly, and with a high degree of attention, precision, finesse, learning, and integration. So instead of just turning pelvic floor muscles on and off, Kegels can be practiced slowly, gently, in a graduated attentive manner. Then you get all the benefits of true physical vitality.   male-pelvic-anatomy

male pelvis rt side

Female pelvic pictures

Kegel Pelvic Floor Exercise routine

I generally have clients start off using strength with Kegel Exercise so they can sense the muscles and the bones of the pelvis, often for the first time. Then we taper off strength to using less and less force, almost to the point of imagination. With less force and lots of imagination we can guide more refined movement to areas that are generally unconscious, bringing conscious awareness and life to the region. The result is obviously greater awareness. Awareness guides understanding and fluency of movement. Fluency of movement offers greater sensitivity, control, pleasure, behavioral flexibility, and learning. I have heard it also helps maintaining erections and avoid premature ejaculation, perhaps it is also good for massaging the prostate and keeping it vitalized and healthy. Further Kegel pelvic floor exercise lessons involve engaging and tightening only limited areas of the pelvic floor. Start with the back of the pubo-coccygeus (which go from the pubes to the coccyx or tail bone and think of pulling the tail bone forward. After that engage the pubo-coccygeus in the front by the pubic bone, probably feeling it more in the genital area. Then lift and lower the anus (the pubo-coccyygeus is also called the levator ani). Then alternately lift and lower the genitals. Okay now engage only the left side, then only the right side of the whole pelvic floor. Do it all without engaging the lower abdomen or the buttock muscles if you can. It will take a bit of practice, but soon you will be quite fluent. You can do it.

Initiate Breathing from the Pelvic Floor

Begin your exhale from the pelvic floor, slowly exhaling from the bottom up. Inhale from the top down until the last bit to expand with the breath is the pelvic floor. Breathing from and through the pelvic floor is obviously the deepest one can reach with the breath, getting full, enlivening inhales and exhales.   For men: Draw in the penis. Let it extend slowly, smoothly. Pull up the right and left testicles separately, and then lower them. The only limit here is imagination. For more information about engaging the whole body with true grace you may want to go to BodyBeliefs Home.

Breathing From the Pelvic Floor

Until you initiate your breath from the pelvic floor you may not have really understood the awesome vitality of breath. Each breath can be initiated from any location in the body. Initiating from the pelvic floor adds depth, volume, awareness. Practice every day for a while. Initiate the beginning and end of each breath from the bottom of the pelvis. Notice an increase in vital capacity and a new sense of your body. It takes a while and a bit of practice. Massage your internal organs with your breath; your prostate, bladder, genitals, anus, coccyx, sacrum, sigmoid colon, small intestines, uterus, ovaries, testes, kidneys, etc., etc. Unmoving fluids, organs, muscles, and tissues only the body leave the body open to infection, stagnation, and disease. Practice keeping everything fluid and vital.

The Pelvic Diaphragm – The Bottom of the Core

Many exercise disciplines pay lip service to the core, but most don’t realize that the deepest and most essential core starts with the pelvic diaphragm on the bottom, follows the transvesus abdominus up the front – along the sides – around to the spine in back, then travels up the rotatores, the multifidus, and the semi-spinalis along the back, and peaks in the breathing diaphragm on top. The deepest core offers the most profound support for all actions in the body and movement, and it is critically important for sensory development and integration with the vision, hearing, proprioception, posture, learning, and vestibular systems. When this deep core is strong and fluid (not rigid) humans have the best chance for superior sensory development and integrity. This leads to a balanced body and posture, which leads to coordinated action and learning strategies throughout life. Such balancing of body, core, and sensory systems has helped many learning, emotionally, and posturally challenged individuals.

Results and Benefits

The results are many and far reaching: An alive awake pelvic diaphragm that moves and breathes. A pelvic diaphragms that communicates with the other body diaphragms. Get rid of a rigid, restricting pelvic floor. Ease any injuries to the tail bone. A sensitive, strong, flexible pelvic region that moves easily and adapts. Decreased incontinence and enhanced elimination. Enhanced sensuality, sensitivity, feeling, enjoyment, sexuality, and pleasure. Strong, stable, and flexible support for the pelvic boney structure. Decreased pelvic pain and better blood and neural flow.


I have recently been introducing Therapeutic Listening (Vital Links Therapeutic Listening), Therapeutic Vision (OptoRehab Laurie Chaikin), and Therapeutic Vestibular (Astronaut Training Vital Links) activities in my structural balancing and movement integration practice. Lots of great changes with people. Therapeutic Listening uses core stabilization as a necessary requirement for body, visual, auditory, vestibular, balance, and sensory integration.


Here is a new piece just in. I haven’t read it yet but am curious.  Smart Kegel Exercise Aid


If you are curious how to gain fluidity in your whole body and get rid of pain, limitation, and dysfunction now click here Contact Me or phone 510 684 3173.