Biotensegrity-Anatomy for the 21st Century Informing Yoga and Physiotherapy Concerning New Findings in Fascia Research
Faculty of Medicine, University of Chester/NTC, Ireland
Submission: January 27, 2018;Published: August 28, 2018
*Corresponding author: John Sharkey, National Training Centre, 15-16a St Joseph’s Parade, Dorset St, Dublin 7, Ireland,
How to cite this article: John Sharkey. Biotensegrity-Anatomy for the 21st Century Informing Yoga and Physiotherapy Concerning New Findings in
Fascia Research. J Yoga & Physio. 2018; 6(1): 555680. DOI:10.19080/JYP.2018.06.555680
This short article addresses the question “is knowledge of human anatomy generally and fascia specifically, important to the Yoga teacher and physical therapist”. The science of human anatomy is changing. Anatomy has entered a new chapter in the understanding of human structure and form and this new vision entitled “Biotensegrity focused anatomy” is informing all disciplines of biomedicine, movement and manual therapies. The current multidisciplinary focus on fascial tissue is poised to have an impact on the work of surgeons, massage therapists, pain specialists, manual and movement therapists including Yoga teachers and practitioners worldwide. Therapeutic improvements in our patients and clients are better understood in the context of this oft forgotten human connective tissue matrix. Modern science may now be catching up with the natural and ancient wisdom of our unbroken, unified, ubiquitous fascial fabric that research is demonstrating may be the bridge between mind and body. Unique human dissections with a special focus on the fasciae are shedding new light, new explanations and new theories on the changing face of anatomy, biomechanics, pain, motion and e-motion.
The word “Yoga” is rooted in the Sanskrit “yuj,” meaning “to join” or “to unite”. Essentially, yoga has come to describe a means of joining the mind and body. Yoga is an art and science embracing wholistic health related movement. Research coming from Biotensegrity focused dissection provides a unique educational experience whereby the Yoga practitioner or body worker can better appreciate the inner reality of our soft matter architecture. Through the study of anatomy via dissection it is appreciated that variation is the norm. No two bodies are the quite the same. No two patients/clients are the same. The cartoon-like images provided in anatomy textbooks showing the architecture of structures are a far remove from the reality that one witnesses in dissection. A false appreciation of our soft tissue architecture, due to the simplification of muscle fibers described without mention of their surroundings, investing fabric (the myofasciae) and its many roles based on its three-dimensional continuity, has promoted a misrepresentation of our connected self (Figure 1). In 1957 research by Stillwell  demonstrated the rich sensory innervation of fascia confirming ten times as many sensory receptors in the fascial tissues compared to muscles.
Research arising from a new approach to dissection influenced by the work of anatomist Jaap Van der Wal , as seen in (Figure 1 & 2) calls into question the long held traditional model of origins and insertions. The belief that one muscle is responsible for one specific action must now be erroneous. The flexors of the forearm are too numerous for all to attach to the medial epicondyle of humerus. The fascia provides the scaffolding for muscle attachments and force transmission. The myofascial system (if we can use such a term) provides a vast ocean within which the bones float. This ocean can be large or can trickle down to the smallest stream or brook. During a biotensegrity focused dissection the fascia can seem to vanish  as it becomes infinitely delicate (Figure 3) while in other locations fasciae merge to form a denser relationship eliminating glide such as seen on the palm of hand or the arcuate line which is a visible to invisible transition from thick to thin fascia .
These myofascial laminae vary in thickness and thinness
dictated by the tensional forces acting upon them and they are
intimately connected with these forces working against gravity to
produce or reduce movement. Inventor, artist, sculptor, theorist,
mathematician and naturalist Leonardo Da Vinci was fascinated
with the form of spirals (found everywhere in nature) evidenced
by his further fascination with the movement of water. Leonardo
devoted a significant portion of his life to understanding the
phenomena of nature, the natural laws and the cosmos (Figure
This led Leonardo to write, but never complete, treatises on
anatomy including humans, animals, plants and trees. Da Vinci’s
use of the Divine proportion or golden mean is evident in many
of his completed and uncompleted works. Leonardo’s Vitruvian
Man, was constructed based on the golden ratio (or divine
proportion) and like all things science based even Da Vinci’s
work can be improved upon as evidenced in (Figure 5) depicting
a more wholistic and complete representation of Da Vinci’s
Vitruvian Man a concept by clinical anatomist and surgeon Dr.
Developing a deeper appreciation and understanding of
the helical nature of human anatomy through dissection is now
further supported by modern day imaging techniques including
ultrasound, MRI, and tensor magnetic resonance linking
morphology and function to the true nature of our structure.
New imaging techniques allow us to see what is not always
possible to visualize immediately with the naked eye. We know
bacteria exist however we cannot see them with the naked eyes.
The same can be said for the most delicate of fascial laminas
visible only (initially) by modern day imaging technology.
Understanding fascial planes leads to less invasive medical
and surgical clinical procedures. This results in faster recovery
and retained functionality. With appropriate knowledge of
fascia the Yoga teacher can also play an important role in pre
and post operative care of patients ensuring a return to normal
functionality and pain free movement (Figure 6).
Debate continues among the recognised international
committees responsible for defining fascia. (Figure 6) provides a
staircase visual representation showing the skin, as surface, with
the next morphological change at the depth of the superficial
adipose tissue containing fat lobules and strong retinacula (or
skin ligaments) connecting the deep fascia to the undersurface of the integument. The deep fascia surrounds and penetrates
the muscle, nerves, blood vessels and eventually ligaments.
Therapists can appreciate how forces generated by the muscle
fibers act upon the fascial system tensioning the bones to
move while stiffening joints and specific myokinetic chains .
Importantly biotensegrity focused dissection demonstrates
how the myofascia provides structural integrity effecting blood
supply and venous return and neural entrapment. Dense fibrotic
fascia stifles the gliding relationships of superficial to deeper
structures resulting in tethered tissues and, possibly, pain.
Currently many hold the opinion that wrist pain (carpal tunnel
syndrome) often involving numbness, tingling, weakness, pain
and other problems in your hand are exclusively because of
pressure on the median nerve in the wrist at the carpal tunnel.
The reality is that the nerve can be compromised anywhere along
its length due to fascial insults. While it is important to move the
wrist it is vital to move the entire upper limb in connection with
the body as a whole. Cutting the transverse carpal ligament does
not address the underlying cause of the problem and should
represent the choice of last resort.
If one intends to become a car mechanic can the mechanic
be truly informed without getting under the hood and
deconstructing the engine? The topic of continuity, layers,
stretching, fascia release techniques, friction, gliding, sliding,
connections, disconnections, compartments, spaces, and
movement are put into perspective by this dissection approach.
This new paradigm suggests that our current model of anatomy
falls short of reality. A new theory needs to be challenged and
tested, rebutted and ridiculed. If the new model or hypothesis
cannot stand up to scrutiny and provide undisputable answers
and better explanations, it does not deserve recognition. While
still in the stages of organic evolution, Biotensegrity focused
dissection has passed much rigorous scrutiny with flying
colors. In contrast, the old biomechanical model of levers, joints
and laws developed from observation made in the sixteenth
century by pantheons of great scientific minds, scientists and
mathematicians of antiquity including Galileo Galilei (1564-
1642), and René Descartes (1596-1650) have come up short
in providing adequate explanations of living mechanics.
Considering the body exclusively as tissues and bones does not
do justice to the wondrously complex and miraculous construct
that makes us human beings .
The study of anatomy has led to a reductionist view of what is
ultimately a global or holistic organism. Historically, anatomical
study concentrated on specialties, a focus on specific processes
or applications. Anatomists viewed their role as the scientific
discipline that investigates the structure of the body including the
form of structures, microscopic organisation and the process by
which they develop . Biotensegrity, similar to Yoga, promotes
a language of “Whole” (a global view) while recognizing that a
language of “parts” can be helpful, even necessary, at times. When
discussing Biotensegrity-Anatomy for the 21st Century, classical
anatomy provides a foundation upon which we can discuss the
part and then place it in the context of the whole. The language
of Biotensegrity is tension and compression with continuity. The
premise of Biotensegrity is non-linear continuous matter that is
self-generated, self-organizing, self- stressing, hierarchical, load distributing and low energy consuming . There are no shear
moments, no bending moments, no levers and no joints. This
new vision will have significant impact on clinical practice for
all Yoga teachers moving from a one muscle does one movement
model to Yoga based full body kinetic chain movement.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If
a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion
galaxies, you will not find another.”– Carl Sagan