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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently received a news update from my school, The Guild for Structural Integration. A quotation in the message was from one of the founders, Emmett Hutchins. Emmett was also a primary teacher for my SI training. I thought his words were a good reminder and inspiration for the new year:
Structural Integration is about the whole person.
It is about fascia and feeling.
The sensation of moving from weakness into strength,
the exhilaration of owning a new part of oneself,
the immediate and simultaneous reeducation of one’s being and action,
the joy of self-empowerment,
these are the experiences of Structural Integration.