“Human beings are complex emotional configurations. There is no perfect form, ideal type, or one structure that is better than any other. The shapes seen … are the consequences of human attempts to love and be loved. They represent the fulfillment or the betrayal of individual attempts to be human, to have control, to be cooperative. Shape also represents the immediate present, how we view the world and try to interact with it for contact, intimacy, and accomplishment.” Stanley Kelleman.
Tension has become a bad word. It is a physical negative that we want to change in our body. However, tension is necessary to our structures. Our bodies are what is known as a tensegrity system, which means the bones are spacers and the muscles are balancing and moving those spaces. A certain amount of tension is required to keep the structure in integrity. To be upright, adaptable, and flexible. Picture a suspension bridge. If its support lines are strung too tightly, the bridge won’t be able to maintain balance and resilience during a storm, for instance. Our bodies run on the same model: bones, muscles, organs and spaces are all parts of the system holding us up, together, and balanced. The body requires a certain amount of tension to be upright and achieve the tasks we want to. The integrity of the structure is derived from the balance of each component.
Because we are the complex individuals that Kelleman describes, the events of our lives can affect our natural tension in ways that become unhelpful to the entire system. For example, in situations that might stop digestion (deadlines, family upset, anniversaries) the heaviness of the intestine will pull on the lumbar vertebrae, often causing low-back pain. Conversely, low back pain, which may stem from over-wrought hamstrings, can block digestion. So often the shoulders will be a tell-tale of how we are experiencing an uncomfortable situation; they might pull up or in, or might recruit the jaw into the response pattern, ending in a headache or migraine.
Sadly, the body doesn’t just recover from these situations and return to ease and balance automatically, and the effects of that build up. If we just keep getting tighter and tighter, we won’t be able to do what we need to in our lives; there has to be some capacity for release and relaxation. Our physicality must be able to expand and contract like the suspension bridge. If unaddressed, the changes can be exponential, and the next innocuous game of tennis, or lift of a child, becomes the breaking point.
Being aware of how the natural tension works in our bodies, as well as the effects on that natural tension, is so important. If we don’t know that an occasion is going to produce certain physical effects, and then don’t know how to undo that list of symptoms, the entire system will ultimately be affected. We need to understand the chain of events that happens in the body to successfully unwind the effects and recover balance. Again, there is no perfect form and yet there is an inherent, known balance for each individual system. Tension, physical and emotional, is a part of being in a live system that is constantly responding and calibrating internal and external pressures. At Studio Evolve, we combined the Pilates, Gyrotonic®, and SPRe® bodywork to help recover your emotional and physical tensegrity system.