I learned my trade at the Guild for Structural Integration. I chose the Guild for several reasons. One reason was simply that it was where my practitioner had studied. Another was that the faculty included the first two teachers whom Ida Rolf chose to provide training on her method.
The Guild recently revamped its website. Updated sections on the “about us” tab include a summary of Dr. Rolf’s career. Here is a nugget from the page about the process of structural integration that I hope you will also find a useful reminder about the work we do together.
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.
Several recent clients have been surprised by how tender the muscles at the base of their skull felt when we worked there. I also noticed this part of my anatomy on the last few miles of a recent ride on my road bike. I started feeling my neck getting stiff.
The muscles in question are the suboccipitals. There are four of them and they connect your skull to the spine and are also connected to your eyes. They help tip your head toward your shoulder, among other actions. When the suboccipitals are tight, you could experience headaches, neck tightness, or even back pain.
Common posture habits can contribute to issues with the suboccipitals. Typical culprits are forward head posture or habitually tipping your chin up (to look through bifocals or at a computer monitor).
Note how this rider’s head is tipped up to see the road.
To reduce tightness in the suboccipitals, some options to try include these easy things.
- Pay attention to your posture (Rolf Line) – if your head is forward, bring it back into alignment.
- Confirm that your computer monitor is at an ergonomic height. Usually, this means the top of the screen is at or below eye level.
- Notice if you tend to tip your chin up and bring it back to level.
- Make sure your glasses are properly adjusted.
- Avoid holding your phone between your head and shoulder.
For more relief, you can also use 2 tennis balls in a sock to massage the base of your skull. For instructions and photos, refer to this post by Strength on Demand.
I studied with David Davis when he used to teach at the Guild for Structural Integration. He is a gifted practitioner and instructor. Here, he talks briefly about integration, gravity and its effects in the body.
The first session in a 10-series of structural integration has a focus on increasing “vital capacity.” One element of that is working with the ribs and lungs to allow a person to breath more fully and freely.
Recent research has revealed another key role played by the lungs. Scientists at the University of San Francisco, using a new kind of imaging, found that the lungs of mice are a significant partner in producing components of blood. They learned that the lungs produced over half the platelets circulating in the mice’s blood. Platelets help the blood clot when you have a cut. Additionally, the lungs of the mice had a store of blood stem cells. The same could very well be true for people. Take care of your lungs so they stay strong and healthy, not just for strong breathing but maybe also for your blood.
UCSF News Release
Wanting to achieve a goal can be useful to get us motivated. However, “keeping your eye on the prize” does not give any clues about how to get to that goal. Whether it’s completing all 10 sessions of structural integration, walking 10,000 steps per day, or accomplishing results on a project, the path to success is often a more gradual process rather than one eureka moment.
Making a plan is an effective way to get to the eventual goal. Identifying steps needed to get to the goal and some milestones along the way is a good start. Thinking ahead about how to get around roadblocks that might come up and establishing routines for your project can be really helpful.
Obviously, things will occasionally come up that put us off track. No need to give up, just return to the process. Some advice I received is to follow the plan 80% of the time and ask for support or assistance when needed. I try to keep that in mind, be patient, and enjoy the moments on my way to the eventual goal.
A client asked recently about people unexpectedly experiencing strong emotions while receiving bodywork.
Why would strong emotions occur during a session of bodywork? One explanation is because of how your skin and brain are connected. When an embryo develops, it has three layers. The skin, brain and nerves all develop from the same layer – the ectoderm. These systems remain interconnected throughout life. Manual therapy such as SI affects your neuromuscular system. Nerves in your skin, muscles and connective tissue carry information to your brain. The limbic system in your brain contains the structures that regulate your emotions and form memories. It’s a back-and-forth conversation in the body.
In addition to manual therapy such as SI, exercise like running, yoga or lifting weights can also trigger such emotional releases. Ideas on why emotional releases occur during exercise include how brain chemicals like brain-derived neurotrophic factor are affected by a workout, or how amino acids called peptides flow through your body.
To learn more:
The Endless Web: Fascial Anatomy and Physical Reality by R. Louis Schultz and Rosemary Feitis
Experience Life article: Laugh, Cry Lift
With many types of bodywork, the therapist puts their hands on tissue and does something to it. What makes the Rolf Method of Structural Integration (SI) different from various kinds of massage therapies? Ida Rolf thought SI worked directly on the body’s fascia. Modern research indicates that the action is more indirect – changes in the body from manual therapy like SI are from its interaction with the neuro-muscular system.
SI works with the nervous system and connective tissue to modify the nervous system’s outputs to reset tension allow muscles to soften and lengthen. Additionally, the process of SI considers how you use your body in your daily activities and how the patterns developed over time affect tension and movement. SI works with the body’s whole structure. The 10-series covers all the major body segments so that the interconnected system of fascia is fully addressed.