The Cylinder Model – Part I

Pages: 30-32
Year: 2002
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration



In the study of anatomy and physiology, the significance of segmental relationships can easily be overlooked.

This is an attempt to visualize some of the underlying functional patterns of biological systems. The drawings in this work are not meant to be immediately representational or literal records of specific anatomical structures, although they should suggest some novel and non-obvious relationships to students of the more general issues in biological form, structure, and movement.


One of the most easily verifiable macroscopic or whole-system features of living organisms is their internal networking of tubes and cylinders. Dissection and microscopy have shown that these structures are formed from connective tissues that interrelate, unite and spatially organize local regions relative to each other and the whole. Connective tissues form about 70% of the body’s total protein content. They mechanically integrate and physiologically support the body via structures whose branching tubular networks extend from the gross, macroscopic level to the finest sub-microscopic levels of the cell. Chitin is the primary form of connective tissue used by insects/arthropods (cellulose performs the same function in plants). Views of these tubular systems have traditionally extended from cylindrical structures the order of size of tracheas, aortas, and bowels on down to capillaries, alveoli, and microvilli. Contemporary biology has found that microtubules in the nucleus of the cell have continuous paths of physical connection through the cytoplasm out to extracellular and macroscopic structures (see James Oschmari s article, “Structure and Properties of Ground Substance, American Zoologist, vol. 24, no. 1, 1984).

The myofascial system consisting of bones, muscles and connective tissues, spans the body’s full three-dimensional volume. When appropriately tensioned by muscular contractions, it responds with movement for breathing, postural balance, and active, normal behavior. Individual bones and muscles can be seen as embedded in local layers of tissues that are bundled by location and function within the connective tissue system’s fascial net.

Living structures may be characterized by their organization into layers (as sectioned tubes) and segments (as spanned by joint areas) of tissue; each layer forms a whole, topographically complex and continuous surface throughout the whole body. Organismic segmentation potentially complicates this view as individual layers in each body segment also relate to many layers and levels in all adjacent segments. outer tissue layers (the superficial fascia) span the entire structure and form a membranous cover for the internal framework. The inner fascial layers wrap individual or local structures (bones, muscles, organs, etc.), link regions together and provide structural support for more superficially located layers of structure.

This complex arrangement may be thought of as exhibiting an internal-core/externalsleeve relationship. In this model, movement or mechanical stresses are accompanied by torsional, rotational, or spiral forces across sheets of internal membranes that can span several or many local regions and ultimately connect with all other tissues in the body.

What is the general organizational pattern or principal functioning behind this design?

How can it be visualized?

How are tubular networks structured? What are the rules that govern their formation?

The drawings and descriptive text in this work are intended to be partial answers to these questions.

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A1. A set of stacked, adjacent cylinders. The segmentation shown here is functional (i.e., not necessarily structural or literal) and shows where the system tends to bend or hinge in movement.
A2. The addition of an exterior sleeve around the internal core of stacked, segmented cylinders. The two enclosed core cylinders may be seen here as comprising left and right sides.
A3. Addition of the sleeve creates new compartments or internal spaces that in this configuration may be seen as front and back.
A4. A twist in the front-back compartment. See figs. B1 and E.

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B1. A cross-section of a core without the exterior sleeve showing good symmetry left-to-right and front-to-back.
B2. A cross-section showing asymmetry. Note the boundary between left and right sides. The front compartment can be seen as housing the sternum and the back compartment as containing the spine. This type of configuration is seen commonly in individuals with scoliosis or other sub-clinical structural asymmetries. Strictly linear logic would seem to dictate that if the sternum were off to one side, then the spine would be off to the same side. This figure shows a mechanism for how this might not necessarily be the case.

C1. Other possible compartmental configurations within the core.
C2. Imagine this figure as three-dimensional (spherical) in configuration.

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D. A three-dimensional core/sleeve visualization of the basic human torso. Extensions above the plane of the shoulders could be front and back of the neck. Extensions below the plane of the hips could show pubic and tail bone regions.
E. A “Moebius Strip”-type of interrelationship between left/right and front/back structures. Note their common center on the midline.
F. A stacked set of cylinders in an off-balance position. Note the planes of stress along the midline and the varying angles of the relationships between individual segments.

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J. Two core structures that differentiate towards their ends.
K. A torso without the front compartment.
L. A figure without cranial structures. Note that (in terms of figures) J+K=L. Note that this is a core structure without the sleeve (corresponding here to the superficial fascia). Note also that this figure implies relationships between feet and hands that are not immediately obvious.

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M. The body seen from behind and unwrapped as if unzipped from in front. Note that the lines from the top of the ilium to the lower ribs are parallel to the lines of tissue that extend from the head to the upper ribs. These have predictive value (i.e., people often complain of pain or stress on one side of the low back that is accompanied by pain or stress on the opposite side of the neck). Tension on one indicated diagonal creates compression on the other diagonal.
N. A cross-section indicating compartments internal to the core.

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1. At the level of the cranial structures; the smaller compartments could contain temporal bones.
2. At the level of the neck (not to scale).
3. At the level of the shoulders.
4. At the level of the pelvis.
5 and 6. At the level of the feet. The small compartments could contain the exterior and interior malleoli.[

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