Machine or Garden

[The information from this post is highly borrowed from Eyal Lederman’s essay, The Fall of the Postural-Biomechanical-Structural Model.]

brave vs fix

Structuralism is a basic belief that structural imbalances, asymmetries, and misalignments increase the abnormal mechanical stresses imposed on the musculoskeletal system. These imbalances, asymmetries, and misalignments are causes of pain problems and of “faulty” movement.

When I think of structuralism, I think of Coldplay.

Antistructuralism is position rejecting the tenets of  structuralism. It is the belief that structuralism most likely invalid or false, but that it is restricting, dangerous, primitive, and offers no unique benefits. It suggests that structuralism is harmful to society and people, and that even if structuralism was true, it would be undesirable.¹

When I think of antistructuralism, I think of Sara Bareilles.

I find it strange that in a time when we’re encouraged to be ourselves and accept whatever imperfections we may have, we can’t accept the various asymmetries and imperfections of our movement system as variations of normal.

I think this way of thought occurs because of the common view of the human body as a machine.


This assumption is made because the body appears to be, well, mechanical. We have have a system of bones and joints that work as a lever system. We have muscles that act like motors to move these lever systems. I’ve referred these mechanical analogies throughout the blog.

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However, this assumption is simplistic. While at first glance our bodies may seem to be machine-like, with further inspection it becomes quite obvious that our bodies weren’t designed by well-educated, modern engineers. Our neurons are threshold elementsour muscles depend on nervous system signals and on it’s actual lengthour sensory receptors are confusing, AND we’re always working with outdated information.

We’re a biological mess. We’re so characteristically… human.

If our bodies were made by the best engineers of the day, perhaps they would contain the anatomical and functional “ideals” seen in various textbooks.

It may be more accurate to think of the body as a garden. Our bodies were tinkered by evolution, not designed by the best and brightest engineers.


However, it’s not inherently “bad” to view the body as a machine. The concepts discussed in the kinesiology section serve as useful heuristics that simplifies the complexity of movement. The problem occurs, however, when we go to far with our heuristics and assume they ARE reality.

Instead, we should view our bodies as predominantly a garden and marginally as a machine. Our bodies are primarily biological in nature. And, a feature of biological things is adaptation to the challenges faced in the environment to better survive novel conditions.

Greg Nuckols states it simply:

“Basically, your body feeds all of its stress, whether physiological or psychological, into a generalized pool of “adaptive reserves” that your body can use to elicit the specific adaptations necessary to respond to the stressors and strengthen the body against them in case the same stressors presents themselves in the future.”

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Our bodies adapt to the various stresses placed on it. This is essentially just the principle of specificity:  the body specifically adapts to the imposed demands paced on it. If anatomy isn’t perfectly balanced, symmetrical, or aligned, the body will compensate. This is not a dirty word; it’s useful.

Thus, the body has a surplus capacity to tolerate the various asymmetries, imbalances, and misalignments and can function. The system is capable of tolerating and compensating for these factors within the available surplus.²