Long Life Movement

Fascia + Tensegrity

Great movement scientists and thinkers are studying connective tissue called fascia. Seems like we are all talking about it, too. Understanding and appreciating fascia or ECM (extra cellular matrix) is changing the way we think about movement, pain, and how our body communicates.

One of fascia’s roles in our bodies is the balance of opposing forces also called tensegrity. With a tensegrity model, we may explore balanced action of opposing forces that reside in a constant state of tension and under compression.

Reads a lot like family dynamics to me. Who hasn’t felt tension and pressure from those with whom we are in relationship with? And relationships, inherently, have tension.

I know when I feel excess tension in my body that I am unable to relieve through my movement practices of yoga / pilates, I head to a trusted massage therapist.

Recently, following a great session of body work, I ran into a convenience store for more hydration (read: water). And, there on the doors was my tensegrity message of the day.

Push? Pull?

On a massage table, you can feel that it requires both a push and a pull to open tissue. In Pilates & Yoga work, we are constantly cueing our students to draw into center (pull or muscle energy) and extend or radiate out from center (push or organic extension). My senior Yoga teacher, Jenny Otto, told me a long time ago that everything in the body is either a push or a pull. 

Not only in our bodies, but also in other structures – there’s a balance of forces. This balance of opposing forces is why the world’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa in Dubai can rise over 2,700 feet.

white bridge spanning blue water with mountains representing a tensegrity model

Architects and structural engineers understand that it’s a balance of compression and tensile forces. Suspension bridges help us understand how the various parts support the whole. As well, bridges help us appreciate the beauty of a system that is able to respond to forces and also maintain its structure.

The incredible balance of push and pull is why the world’s longest bridge – Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge – can span beyond 540,000 feet.

world’s longest bridge

Choose your door.

So, I’m thinking Push Pull is all about life. 

When I met my husband 25 years ago at a business meeting in D.C., we walked out of the building together. Being a gentleman, he allowed me to go through the doors first. He quickly remarked, “I see you pushed the door open.” He then laughed and said, “I like to pull doors open.” 

That my friends is the story of our marriage:  the delicate balance of the person who pushes and the one who pulls.

The family joke is that when it’s time to leave… my husband is in the car waiting for us. My kids have even received a phone call telling them to get out the door because he is driving down the street. He literally PULLS us out the door by sitting in the car.  

The ability and strength to literally pull people along is valuable. We’ve learned it first-hand with our son as we understood his role as an ocean rescue lifeguard.

While my husband has taught our children the value of life’s pull, on the other hand, I have educated them on the push. I PUSH my kids out the door. In early childhood, they learned this lesson so well that they both would be sitting in the car waiting for me when it was time to leave. I’m regularly the last one out the door because I’ve pushed from behind.

How do you move forward in life?

In your life do you push more to get things done? Are you pushing forward? Leaning forward at the waist. Striving to get it done? Asking lots of questions? Constantly seeking?

Or do you pull more? Waiting for others to come toward you? Leaning back as you move forward. Do you listen more? Are you drawing energy off of other people?

What puts us in the middle in our bodies, our relationships, and the evolution of our life is the balanced action of both the push and the pull. So to find the balanced action you gotta figure out about you and know — do you push more or do you pull more?

Observe as you go through doors that can go either way. What do you choose?

To and from center.

Another convenience store where I buy gas has doors that slide automatically on tracks to and from center to open and close. This fundamental imagery cue for connecting to Center was first taught to me by Vicki Sullivan. Imagine at your frontal hip bones 2 sliding doors. As you exhale, these doors slide to the center line of your body.

It’s totally a Pull! And for a Pusher like me, it’s what I need!  Pull to Center and draw in. But even a Pusher can get too good at Pulling to Center. So, my second thought is “tack the sides of your waist back to the mat.” That is a Push or expansion from Center. 

My she-ro: Mabel Elsworth Todd.

If you are a mind/body teacher or serious student and have not read Mabel Todd’s work (1880 – 1956), take advantage of the recent re-publishing of her first book, The Thinking Body. You will recognize many current ideas that folks are making millions from — ideas that originated with Mabel. While she wrote the book in the 1920’s, her writing is clear, concise and current. When you read her words, you will feel like she’s sitting next to you today simply explaining how the body works.  

Over the years, I’ve recommended the book to many teaching colleagues as well as encouraged reading it in teacher trainings. All who have read Mabel’s words have been blown away! Mabel was ahead of her time.

Mabel’s work will give you a better appreciation of the balancing forces of Push Pull in the body. There are lots of ways to learn more about you, your body, how it works, and how to create balanced action. This is just one option.

So, pick your door. How do you prefer to enter a space? Now, learn another way.

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about the author

Lisa Long, M.A.

Lisa Long wants to live in a world where Love gives you a "permission slip" to drop the mask and be who you are. Known for her hearty and full-body laugh, Lisa meets people where they are in the present moment. She passionately believes in the healing potential of movement. As a teacher and producer/writer, her work has been featured on Good For You blog, CBS television station affiliates, and telelvision cable channel networks as well her print manual called "Home Practice: A Guide for Healing from Breast Cancer" was published by a 5 hospital health care network. When she's not helping others reach their fullest potential, you'll find Lisa hiking a trail to a waterfall or riding her bike at the beach. Her latest collaboration with an online classroom platform launched in 2020.

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