This is a client who completed the 10 Rolf Structural Integration sessions.
Structural Integration is a process of re-educating the body through movement and touch. It systematically releases patterns of stress and impaired function. The primary focus of Structural Integration is facilitating the relationship between gravity and the human body.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines gravity as “the pull on all bodies in the earth’s sphere toward the earth’s center.” The earth’s gravitational field is the most potent physical force the human body has to deal with. Although most people realize this tremendous force exists, they somehow believe that they are immune to it! Gravity’s constant effect on any soft, pliable mass is to make it a formless, chaotic and spherical unit. Since the body has a great deal of plasticity and is much broader at the top that at the base, it is greatly affected by gravity when imbalances exist.
Most bodies are in a state of imbalance. As we grow older, we often “shrink” in height and slowly lose flexibility. Our bones stay the same length and our muscles can still function, but the connective tissue is what changes the most.
What is connective tissue?
Connective tissue is a very tough, strong tissue, otherwise known as the myo-fascial system. Connective tissue is the support system of our body. All of the major systems in the body – circulatory, digestive, nervous, musculoskeletal, and organs – are ensheathed in connective tissue. A healthy and balanced connective tissue system’s characteristics are flexibility, elasticity, length and resilience. The tissue absorbs and responds to gravitational force, illness, injury, emotional trauma and plain everyday stress. Any of these factors will immediately, or over a period of time, cause an imbalance in the tissue system. When imbalance exists, the system’s healthy characteristics are affected. The imbalance is identified as a shortening, thickening, dehydration of the tissue which impairs joint mobility and muscle function. This is usually felt in the body as chronic pain, discomfort, stiffness, or decreased flexibility and impaired movement.
Connective tissue has memory
Any imbalance in the body – no matter what the cause – is imprinted as change in the internal structure and has a long-range and cumulative effect. The body may attempt to return to its original state but without assistance it remains misaligned. For example, when someone sprains an ankle it is only natural to protect it by keeping as much weight as possible off the injured ankle and compensating with the other ankle by shifting as much weight as possible to the uninjured side of the body. The natural response to the injury changes the entire body’s relationship to the gravitational field, and the neuromuscular system is re-patterned as part of this process.
By patterning we mean that patterns of neural activity, blood and lymph flow, and muscular contraction are altered. When the ankle heals and pain subsides, the person assumes that he/she is returning to normal movement and function; however, this is not the case. That new pattern created from the shift of weight has been recorded in the internal structure and remains there as part of that person’s movement and holding pattern, and remnants of the injury will be maintained in the structure and function indefinitely. Although we have used a sprained ankle as an example, this change in the inner system and re-patterning can take place from something as simple as the habit of carrying a heavy bag on the same shoulder or holding the telephone receiver between one’s shoulder and the ear. In order to remain upright the entire body has to compensate and some muscles are forced to shorten. When a muscle is chronically shortened it loses its ability to relax which then results in a constant state of tension. When these changes and patterns occur, the connective tissue needs assistance in order to return to its normal, healthy state. Structural Integration is of particularly great benefit at this point.
How does Structural Integration Work?
By lengthening and opening the patterns in the connective tissue. As a result the thickened, toughened tissue becomes soft, rehydrated and more pliable, thus allowing movement and flexibility. Structural Integration changes the body’s compensations because it organizes the imbalances in the tissue. The systematic approach to relating gravity through the myo-fascial layers aligns the body and improves posture. The body lengthens allowing muscles the space to work and joints the freedom to function.
What Are the benefits?
Structural Integration is a very personal process. It is important to remember that because no two people are alike, their experience and the benefits will never be exactly the same. As a result of the process people often appear taller and slimmer. Some actually gain anywhere from 1/4″ to over 1 inch in height. Feelings of discomfort or pain are often alleviated. Other often experienced benefits are greater flexibility, a feeling of lightness and fluidity, better balance, increased breathing capacity, increased energy and greater self- confidence.
Are There Psychological Benefits?
While Structural Integration is primarily concerned with physical changes in the body, it affects the whole person. We are made up of emotions, attitudes, belief systems and behavior patterns as well as the physical being. All are related. Align the physical structure and it will open up the individual’s potential. Clients often report positive changes, stating less stress, greater self-confidence and improved ability to handle life’s changes. Such changes have been reported in all age groups.
How does Structural Integration Feel?
Or in the words of so many, does it hurt?!! We find it interesting that most people who have opinions about Structural Integration being painful have never experienced the process. Much of this reputation for pain came from the early days when Structural Integration was first gaining public recognition. Since that time, the process has greatly evolved. As far as the actual experience is concerned, the area being worked will vary in sensation and feeling depending upon injuries to an area or holding of chronic stress as well as other factors. Feelings can range from pleasurable release to momentary discomfort. Our goal is to make each client’s experience one of self-empowerment. The process is yours, not the practitioner’s. The work will proceed at your level and pace.
The Basic Ten Series
The Basic Ten Series consists of ten sessions, each one building on the last. Each session lasts approximately one hour and can be scheduled anywhere from one a week to one a month. At the time of the first session, the client is asked to complete a questionnaire. The client undresses down to underwear to assist with evaluation as the series progresses. Then while the client lies on the table, the Practitioner begins the fascial work. Applying pressure to the myo-fascial tissue, the Practitioner will use hands, arms, and sometimes elbows to carefully move the tissue. The relationship between the tissue, the rhythms of respiration, nervous system responses and organization in gravity is all part of the Practitioner’s work. The client is a participant, often being asked to breathe into the area being worked on, to make small movements through a joint, and to discuss patterns of movement and the use of gravity through that movement. Time is also spent discussing the changes and how to incorporate them into the client’s daily life.