The Body As A Self-Supporting Structure: Pressure, Fascia & Tensegrity

I talked last week on my blog about developmental movement patterns, and how, in JoyRide, we’d been working on both the head push and the mouthing pattern. Together, these patterns:

  • Facilitate the movement of the hard palette off C1
  • Facilitates the rocking of the head on the jaw
  • Are the beginning of hip extension

For those of you interested in catching up on that, you can read the blog here.

The purpose of playing with these patterns beyond those just mentioned, however, is to further encourage the body to become a self-supporting mechanism.

What exactly does that mean?

In a healthy system, where the fascial trains are hydrated and mobile, our body moves and operates in a way where distribution of weight and pressure is evenly dispersed throughout our entire structure.

For example: Say I am standing on both feet, and I lift my right foot off the ground. Now I’m balancing on my left foot alone. Technically speaking, there should be no more pressure down through my left foot than there was with two feet down, but for most of us, this is definitely not the case.

And what’s more, an equal number of us having trouble believing this is even a possibility.

So how can it be that shifting from standing on two feet to one doesn’t result in an increase load down on the supporting foot?

Well, that’s all down to our magical fascia. Again, when our fascia is hydrated and mobile, it redistributes force and pressure and helps “suspend” our boney structures against gravity, so they don’t all collapse down on each other. If I’m living in a body where this is the case, force and pressure are re-distributed evenly and equally.

If we are living in a body where our system has been operating more often in fight flight than not, however, our fascia will be dehydrated and lack tone. Then, when we do start to shift around then, it lacks the ability to suspend the bones in ways where space in maintained, and we experience an increase in force pressure down because of positioning and gravity.

Back to the movement patterns. There are a few conditions required for fascia to begin to hydrate and increase tone again (namely being out of fight flight), and one of those is pressure stimulation. When I apply pressure to the outside of the body, my fascia (ideally) would respond with an equal and opposing pressure, allowing my body to support itself from the inside out.

As adults, we rarely apply pressure to the body in unique and novel ways, and the top part of the body rarely gets stimulated. Applying pressure to the head and encouraging extension and flexion through the head and tail push (read: in ways that encourages openness in the vertebral bodies) stimulates all the fascial trains and promotes structural patterns where the head is no longer creating a compressive down onto the shoulder girdle and beyond.

And when it comes to our riding, the effect of this is magical. Take the trot for instance. If I’m posting or rising to the trot, the force I apply down through my stirrups need not change no matter whether I’m sitting or rising. But of course, in practice, this is rarely the case.

If we CAN get to the place where that is actionable, the amount of force we apply down through our horse’s shoulder girdle is greatly reduced, which directly affects not only their movement and performance, but more importantly, their comfort and well-being.

It’s a cycle of ever-increasing benefit.


❤️ Jane

If you want to join me and explore this work more, consider joining my membership! The recordings of the mentioned sessions are available already on the membership platform, ready for you to adventure through!