The last three hours of the 10-session series are integration hours – the work of the previous sessions is wrapped up in a coherent way. Again, the framework below provides the general idea for each session – your session may be somewhat different based on your individual needs.
Eighth and ninth hours
Focus area(s): One session will focus on the lower half of the body and the other will focus on the upper body.
These sessions are more big picture – we look at relating the top and bottom halves of the body at the middle. Continue working toward movement coming from the core. Develop a sense of expansiveness or a feeling of extension in movement.
Focus area(s): Work broadly over torso and legs
Balance and stabilize the system so the body is ready to go out into the world.
Optional post-10 work
You may find the ten sessions are all you need and your body feels good on an ongoing basis. However, if you place a lot of demands on your body at work or play, it can be useful to get SI sessions now and then. Post-10 sessions maintain the benefits of the series and help prevent new issues from getting worse. Some people like to come in on a regular schedule; others make an appointment only when they feel it’s necessary. See also my previous post on this topic.
Another option after some time has gone by is to repeat the entire series of ten sessions. The starting point is different and the experience of the series will be, too.
In my last post, I discussed the first three sessions in the ten sessions of structural integration. The next four sessions in the series are “core” sessions that consider a deeper level in the tissues. These sessions typically include work to differentiate muscle groups so that the groups can perform their own functions appropriately and also that we learn to avoid recruiting them when they are not needed.
The framework below provides the general idea for each session – your session may be somewhat different based on your individual needs.
Focus area(s): Inner side of leg, back of thigh
Improve length of functioning of inner side of leg, especially the adductor muscles. Continue to work to improve the position of the pelvis, the stability of low back, and the knee and ankle joints.
Focus area(s): Front torso: abdomen, chest/shoulder, neck.
Look for balance and ease in the upper, front torso. Work with the rectus abdominus muscle (“abs”) and psoas muscle. Continue to work to improve the position of the pelvis and the stability of low back.
Focus area(s): Back side of leg, low back
Continue to work to remove strains from legs and low back. Think of the relationship of the tissue from the bottom of the feet all the way to the head.
Focus area(s): Arms, upper torso, head, neck
Ease strains in neck, head and face. Want the head to turn freely on its axis.
Structural Integration is a series of sessions that help you find ease of movement, improved physical performance, and less pain. I like how systematic and organized the process is (still an engineer at heart!). The series covers the body from head to toe, so all major areas are addressed. This also means that the origin of patterns or strains can usually be tracked down. Sometimes, where it hurts is not where the problem is located!
The first three sessions comprise the base for the remaining ones. They focus on the “sleeve” or surface tissues of the body. The framework below provides the general idea for each session – your session may be somewhat different based on your individual needs.
Focus area(s): Torso, upper arms, thighs
This session looks at the surface tissue of the body, with a view to easing strains and improving breathing. Allowing the ribs to move freely is a key element. Think of breathing as a primary movement of the body. Start to consider how the major segments of the body relate or stack up. Develop an awareness of where the top of the head is.
Focus area(s): Lower leg, ankle and foot, back
This session helps establish a good base of support in the feet, ankles, and legs. Back issues are sometimes foot issues. Start to address the movement of the knees and ankles. Consider the idea of extension through both the top of the head and the bottom of the feet.
Focus area(s): Sides of the trunk
Thinking about the back while working on the sides. The third hour helps define the front and back of the body by working along a line on each side of the torso. Start to address the movement of the shoulder. Build integrity in the lower back.
Clients sometimes ask me whether a particular technique “works.” Often, I have to say that there is limited science on massage and bodywork. On the other hand, there is anecdotal information that people find bodywork to be beneficial. I entered this field because Structural Integration helped me when conventional medicine and PT had not resolved my issues after an injury. Like me, many people are willing to invest time and money in bodywork because they feel better when they receive it.
If you want to explore more about scientific research into massage and bodywork, here are a few sources.
Manual therapy such as Structural Integration can help release tension in your body’s tissues. Outside of your manual therapy sessions, you can be good to your body with stretching. Stretching can reduce pain and stress. Stretching can help improve flexibility, balance, and posture – which help us avoid falls or injuries.
Research indicates that stretching may also reduce inflammation. Chronic (long-term) inflammation is a factor in a number of serious diseases. So, it seems like a good idea to incorporate things that reduce inflammation into our routine.
Here is a link to a short stretching routine that you can start with. If daily stretching feels like too much, try for at least twice a week.
Healthline’s “The 5-minute Daily Stretching Routine“
We all have a preferred learning style. Do you tend to understand and retain information better when you experience something visually, by hearing it, or when you’re moving?
Structural Integration sessions often include verbal cues and movement. To improve the visual aspect of the ten series, I will add a posture grid to my office.
How will we use the grid? We can document the changes in your body by taking before and after photos in front of the grid. This seems to really help people recognize how manual therapy helps their bodies shift to a more balanced and aligned structure.
Usually, articles in scientific journals are pretty dry. However, I ran across one about fascia and scars that had rather poetic phrasing. Here are a few of my favorite quotations from Skin, fascias and scars: symptoms and systemic connections by Bordoni and Zanier.
The skin surface is a means to communicate with the nervous system, to understand it, and to give therapeutic information.
The fascia is the philosophy of the body, meaning each body region is connected to another, whereas osteopathy is the philosophy of medicine: the entire human body must work in harmony.
They also say what Ida Rolf did, but more technically, that everything is connected and where the pain is may not be where the problem is.
When there is a fascial injury, there is a fascial dysfunction. A physiological alteration in any part of the body will affect, as a result, everything that is covered by the connective sheet: the symptom will arise in the area concerned with the alteration or, in contrast, in a distal area, when this is not capable of adapting to the new stressor.
The article also talks about other concepts that are part of of the thinking around Structural Integration, such as the theory that skin and fascia have an impact on emotions and viscera (internal organs). I am glad to learn about some of the examples in this article that support what my experience has been with clients in SI sessions.