Structural support

Just like any other space-binding creature on this planet, humans have a body to move around. 206 bones float in a network of tendons, ligaments, muscles and connective tissue. The position of the bones determines your body shape, the tension network around it provide its integrity.

Tensegrity governs the permanent shape-shifting of the body. Each joint attaches to multiple tension elements. Antagonistic muscle groups allow for back and forward movement along hinge joints. Ball and sockets joints like hips and shoulders can come apart without activated muscles holding it in place.

Your tonic muscles maintain your body shape most of the time. These muscles use oxygen directly, and can sustain activation for a long time. If you would use only these muscles to stand, you could do so effortlessly for hours. As an experiment, just stand with your feet a shoulder-width apart and ask yourself gently whether you can do it easier. Observe what happens.

Just standing or sitting turns into an opportunity to discover your unique attitude to the world. Slow movement serves the same purpose. When done properly, mainly the tonic muscles facilitate the movement.

Most of the ‘large’ movements involve phasic muscles, which act faster and stronger than red muscles tissue. With impressive names like biceps, latissimus or gluteus and easy visibility this group seems more popular than the core. You don’t need to know the names of core muscles to give them a workout, learn to deactivate the large, phasic muscles and the tonic muscles take over.

Technology has influenced human movement quite significantly over the last few centuries. Laziness has been known for longer, yet only privileged people could avoid even moderate physical activity. The modern world has made humanity quite sedentary, which numbed the bodily feedback most people can perceive.

If you understand the technology of your structural support system (tensegrity), you can regain graceful ways of moving, even if your gait currently resembles a zombie shuffle. As an experiment, have a walk and focus on the constellation of your bones.

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Movement

For as long as the human body lives, it maintains movement within. Our breath moves our lungs, blood absorbs the oxygen by moving in bursts through its vessels, electrical pulses move along nerves, interstitial fluid flows along its channels, connective tissue is moved by breath and blood. This happens all the time, and you haven’t even moved a single muscle consciously.

You affect processes like breathing and heart rate to a certain degree by conscious means, but without necessary knowing to which effect. Usually, the way in which the autonomous systems work, reflects emotional states and/or the physical activity you engage in.

Unless you learn a new way of moving, like dance, martial arts moves or other physical skills, voluntary movement happens by executing habitual patterns. It took you a while to master the art of walking and talking, of reading and writing, yet now this activities requiring a complex set of muscular coordination happen by pure intention.

If you ever engaged in ‘ghosting’ (copying the way another person walks), you get an idea that the simple act of taking a step forward has quite a lot of individual variations of doing it. Hundreds of muscles acting on the 206 bones in a human body allow for many ways of doing something simple like walking.

The habits of voluntary movement affect the quality of the involuntary movements essential to keep you alive. A simple experiment can give you an immediate experience of this relation. Let your head slowly move towards the ground, curling your spine. When you can’t curl anymore without effort, try taking what you think of as deep breath.

You might have noticed that this bodily configuration restricts the movement of your ribs, and interfered quite a lot with getting much air into your lungs. Less air means less fuel for the metabolic processes happening inside your body, which in turn can limit what you intent to achieve.

Of course, it’s unlikely that this forward curl looks anywhere near how you usually move through your life. This experiment just illustrates that your voluntary movements interact with the involuntary movements, quite often in not beneficial ways. Luckily, no matter how you deliberately distort your body, it’s usually not immediately life threatening.

Transforming interfering habits into supporting habits pays off. Despite the majority of people using their body not really aligned with its design, the life expectancy averages at 69 years.  The way how you move through life will affect how long you live, and how happy you feel on your journey.