Today, I had a conversation with another graduate of the Guild for Structural Integration. One topic was how do we (or any hands-on practitioner, for that matter) know what layer in the tissue needs to be worked on? In the framework of the 10-series, the first 3 hours are “sleeve” sessions – meaning, they address the more superficial structures. The next 4 hours are “core” sessions, moving toward deeper work. The last 3 hours integrate the work.
Sleeve and core are helpful constructs. However, the terms don’t really explain to a practitioner how to find the right level in the body. Part of it is awareness – in the first hour, for example, I keep in mind that this is a superficial layer session. Generally, I let my fingers, knuckles, or elbow sink into the tissue. The place where I feel something like tightness, stuck-ness or resistance is where I pause to work and see what happens. Until the initial layer that drew my interest has released, I do not try to go deeper. By working in this manner, slowly and layer by layer, major discomfort for the client can usually be avoided.
Image of a cross section of a thorax and arms from The Visible Human Project by the US National Library of Medicine. Note the fascial layers and septa that separate muscles.