Tensegrity's Similarity to Other Movement Systems
by Ewald Berkers

Tensegrity is not unique. There exist all kinds of systems deploying body movements and postures to enhance well-being (yoga, qigong). It is quite likely that Castaneda has borrowed from these other systems to create his Tensegrity passes. Here are some Tensegrity passes and movements from other systems that are remarkably similar. Also some alternative explanations for how the passes work.

A general principle that is at work in all the passes is meridian stretching. By stretching parts of the skin and body, the energy channels (meridians) are opened up. I usually feel this as freshness.

If you do a lot of different movements (Tensegrity or, e.g., dancing), a large part of your body will be stretched. The smoother energy flow consequently will make you feel better.

Castaneda, Florinda and Taisha are known to have been practicing martial arts for quite some time. One can see this influence clearly in the long forms, which are like martial arts long forms, usually called katas.

Particularly the Luhan long form and the Tiger of Intent are very much like katas.

Page numbers from Magical Passes refer to HarperCollins hardback edition (225 pages).


The Intent Series.

This walking in place opens up energy channels around the hips and ankles.

Found in Qigong for Health and Martial Arts by Yang Jwing-Ming.

This kicking high to the front and to the back is a common Chinese exercise.

Found in The Chinese Exercise Book by Dahong Zhou.


Typical Judo kick.

Enhances coordination between the two brain hemispheres.

This pass is similar to some BrainGym movements, like the "Lazy Eights." (While standing raise arm straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Slowly trace a large figure 8 or infinity symbol with your finger and follow it with your eyes.)

Opens up energy channels by stretching the skin of the arms. The circular movement of the hand above the head ensures that as many channels as possible get a treatment.

Many Chinese Qigong movements and postures use this positioning of the arm (without the circling) to open up energy channels. Some can be found in the online book at http://taichiworld.com/freebooks/CS.html


The passes where you "grab energy" and apply it to your "vital centers" seem to be rather unique.

There are Qigong movements though, that have something in common with them. In these passes energy is generated by tensing the fists in several ways, and after a sufficient build-up of energy letting it flow through the arms to the rest of the body. (Muscle/Tendon Changing & Marrow/Brain Washing Chi Kung by Yang Jwing-Ming, page 150 -159.)

It is my view that in the passes from the Intent series, no energy is taken from a luminous cocoon, but is generated by tensing the fists. This energy is then put into the body's energy system through the acupuncture points called Zhangmen ("System's Door") at the front of the body and Mingmen ("Life's Door") at the back. The arm movements in this process are not only for making the movements look more mysterious, but probably also for generating extra energy and opening up energy channels in the arms by stretching them.

The Westwood Series

In my opinion these passes are targeted at the thyroid gland, which is at the level of the V-spot. The thyroid hormones created here do not really have anything to do with decision making, but influence the energy level of the body at a cellular level. Most passes from this series somehow massage or stir the thyroid gland and thereby make it release more hormones.

The acupuncture point located at the V-spot also has nothing to do with decision taking. Castaneda claims that ancient shamans didn't want to touch this point. Although it's a tender point that has to be handled by an acupuncturist with some care, it's no problem to touch or gently massage it using a finger.

Replica Watches  Replica Watches

In acupuncture, decision making is related to the Gall Bladder meridian.

The movements where you bend over and inhale while putting your fingers on the ground, or your knuckles on your toes, are very much like some qigong movements for the kidneys. In the qigong variant, you bend over and touch your ankles or the floor with your hands, wait a few seconds and slowly come up again. (The Root of Chinese Chi Kung, by Yang Jwing-Ming, page 151-152.)

The Heat Series

The Heat Series is reported to be very similar to a number of movements in Teh Kenpo martial arts system (a karate-like art).

Like Yang Style Taijiquan - Golden Rooster Stands On One Leg (except for the speed and intention). There is a photograph in the June/July 1996 Qigong Kung Fu Wushu magazine on page 42 which shows this movement. [contribution of Linda Zoontjens, Daniel Lawton]

The principle is similar to some movements of BrainGym (e.g., Lazy Eights), where attention is repeatedly shifted from the left to the right side of the body to enhance coordination between the two sides.

This moving of the hands with palms directed outward to the sides, is a common way to stretch the Lung meridian in qigong (e.g., Qigong Empowerment, by Liang & Wu, page 45).

Passes for the Left Body

Third part Magical Passes page 177-180.

These passes are similar to part of "Yun Zhuan Qian Kun" (Inducing the Large Circulation of Qi) as described in the book Prenatal Energy Mobilizing Qigong--China Taoist Ancient Qigong (Guangdong Science and Technology Press 1992) (The movements in this book are also done on the right side.) [contribution of William Settee]

Passes with Teflon Balls

Normal acupuncture points are stimulated with the balls. These points are:

    Top of head - Baihui / GV 20 (clears senses, calms spirit, beneficial for several systems)
  Temples - Shangquan / GB 3 (for ear or sinus problems)
    Third eye - Yintang (calms spirit)
    Under the ribcage - Zhangmen / LIV 13 (beneficial for several systems)    

Acupuncture points stimulated are:

      1. Chize / LU 5
      2. Jianshi / PC 5 and Neiguan / PC 6
      3. not a point in TCM acupuncture, Master Tong's acupuncture or commonly 
          known extra point
      4. inside of wrist: Shenmen / HT 7 outside of wrist: Yanglao / SI6
      5. Quze / PC 3
      6. Xiaohai / SI 8
      7. Shouwuli / LI 13

The majority of these points are indicated for treatment of depression.

First Video

Turns out is very similar to Yoga exercise in Yoga with Swami Sarasvati (Cornerstone Library, N.Y.,1973); page 26 under chapter dealing with face and neck, exercise #2 the photo of the placement of the hands is identical to the video. In Yoga they don't add that "release" movement (the fingers flick out after pressure being applied--in the Yoga exercise the fingers don't pressure, they gently massage in circles, but the hand position is the same, down to the thumbs under the chin--for convenience!). [Contribution from William Settee]

Acupuncture points stimulated are Tongziliao / GB 1 and Taiyang (adjacent to the eye). The points under the chin do not seem to be acupuncture points.

The major hand position (middle, ringfinger and thumb joined) in The Antenna is the Apan Mudra, also called Energy Mudra. (See also below, p. 63 from The Sorcerer's Crossing.)

In some photocopies I made over ten years ago, I've no idea from which book, I found a whole collection of hand positions. These mudras are from a Japanese text from 1272 called Shi-do-in-zu. In one of the pictures, called "Deities represented in the form of mudras," the Energy Mudra is seen combined with the other one from "The Antenna." The left hand has thumb and small finger connected and the other fingers pointing up.

In another picture from the same book is the hand position from "The Axis Breath."

Not-Doings: Unbending Purpose.

Targeted at the Small Intestine meridian, which lies on the outside of the arms, from pinky finger to shoulders. The Small Intestine in Chinese Medicine is concerned with the separation of the Pure and the Impure, and works mentally as well. I found that by pressing points on the SI meridian I could elicit a mental state that was very much like the one from doing "Unbending Purpose."

Luhan Long Forms

Howard Lee is currently teaching long forms that are extremely reminiscent of the forms that Castaneda attributed to the Nagual Lujan.
[contribution from Corey Donovan]

Tiger of Intent

The tiger claws are as such found in many martial arts, including what Howard Lee teaches. [contribution from Daniel Lawton]

Works on the lungs, using several principles known from qigong. The hissing sound is known as the "healing sound" for the lungs. The claws stretch the lung meridian somewhat (it runs from the shoulders to the thumbs, roughly).

The vigorous movements counteract the emotion that is most damaging to the lungs, namely sadness.

Warm ups

It is reported that Castaneda's warm ups (e.g. armswings) are the same as Howard Lee's. As Castaneda attended Howard Lee's classes for 10 years and Howard Lee has never been to Tensegrity workshops, there's not much doubt who's got what from whom.

Passes from The Sorcerer's Crossing

At http://www.nagual.net/ixtlan/notes/spasses.html there is an exerpt from Taisha Abelar's book The Sorcerer's Crossing, just descriptions of all the passes. Page numbers refer to those in this text.

Many of Clara's passes are of Chinese origin. This is not explicitly acknowledged in the text, but it is stated that Clara has studied acupuncture and martial arts in China.

So Taisha Abelar quite likely has had considerable knowledge about Chinese chi manipulating techniques.

The breath where one sits and grasps the knees is Hatha Yoga exercise "Pavanamuktasana", description with photo can be found in Shri Yogendra's Yoga Hygiene Simplified, Pyramid Books, 1969. [contribution from William Settee]

Taisha is to move energy along the midline of her body from her vagina, over her back, her head and further down to her vagina again.

This is called "Small Circulation" or the "Microcosmic Orbit." It's a very common and basic qigong exercise.

Taoist. Used to clear energy blockages, to smooth the energy flow. (You do not have to do it naked.)

The training of the Small Circulation is actually a bit more elaborate than described here and is not without danger.

The hand position where you put your thumb on the tops of your middle and fourth finger, as also used in the last pass on the first video ("The Antenna"). It is called Apan Mudra or Energy Mudra.

On the webpage http://www.acupuncture.com/Acup/AIDS.htm I found the following text:

"Guan Yin, the Buddha of compassion is sometimes shown with her hands held in a specific mudra, or meditative posture. It is interesting to note the energetic effect of this position which has the tips of the middle and ring fingers touching the tip of the thumb. The index and little fingers are extended outward. The central energetic point to this mudra is that Qi is circulated back toward yourself, and extended out at the same time. In this way, we are reminded that Compassion is loving yourself, and recognizing yourself in another."

In the book Qigong Empowerment (by Liang & Wu) I found an interesting variation called "The Golden Light Hand Seal." After putting both hands in this position, you gently press the index and small fingers of both hands together (this seal is part of a longer pass).

To breathe like an infant. This is exactly how Taoists describe abdominal breathing.

Palms on the ears, fingers behind the head, the middle fingers touching. Tapping on the skull by putting the index fingers on the middle fingers and then snapping them.

This is common Taoist Qigong (e.g., Chi Self-massage, by Mantak Chia, page 81).

Swallowing saliva and following it going down is a common Taoist exercise to reduce unnecessary thinking.

Facial massage, using the fingers. Clara uses it to prevent the forming of wrinkles.

There are all sorts of variations of these movements, they are quite common (e.g., Chi Self-massage, by Mantak Chia).