Structural Integration...Improving Everything that is Connected
Structural Integration, developed in the 1950’s by Dr. Ida Pauline Rolf, offers a comprehensive and systematic form of holistic bodywork that is designed to address the entire being and the relationship of the fascial system to gravity. Her work has been expanded upon by many health professionals including Thomas Meyers who wrote Anatomy Trains and developed Kinesis Myofascial Integration (SI) which is the school that I attended. SI takes the basic Structural integration “recipe” developed by Dr. Rolf and applies it to the myofascial continuities outlined in Anatomy Trains.
Dr. Ida Rolf
Another way to look at the overall concept of Structural Integration is taking the term Holism and applying it to the intentions that Structural Integration is trying to achieve. Holism states, "systems function as wholes and their functioning cannot be understood solely in terms of their component parts." Structural Integration seeks to address this interconnected whole, the fascial network of the human body as it relates to gravity.
Structural Integration is a process of manual therapy techniques applied in a strategic manner over 3 to 12 consecutive sessions spaced out about a week apart. This philosophy of hands on bodywork differs from any other bodywork in that the client is not a passive recipient of the work but is a fully present participant in the process. The client is wearing comfortable clothing such as shorts, underwear, or bathing suit.
Each session consist of:
1. postural and pattern assessment
2. awareness education of your structure in gravity
3. certain movements cued by the practitioner (me) to enhance the appropriate placement of your fascial continuity and improvement of postural patterning.
4. protocol is followed to your specific needs and overall goals in the systematic approach to aligning your entire body
Session 1-4 are the superficial or "sleeve sessions"
Session l: The Superficial Front Line
Session II: The Superficial Back Line
Session III: The Lateral Line
Session IV: The Spiral Line
While relief of pain in a specific area, may be the goal in receiving a series, the ultimate goal is to create a greater sense of ease and balance within the whole body. Honoring the concept of holism, the pain in the neck is a symptom of a functional system that is not functioning quite as well as we would like.
The root cause may be located somewhere other than at the site of discomfort and the framework of Structural Integration allows us to explore the whole body patterns in which the neck exists as a small part. Often, once balance is restored to the system, chronic discomfort will resolve or ease on it’s own.
Session 5-8 are considered the deeper sessions or "core sessions"
Session 5: The Lower Deep Front Line (DFL)
Session 6: The Upper Deep Front Line (DFL}
Session 7: The Deep Back Line
Session 9-12 are the integration sessions
Session 9: Integrating the Lower Girdle
Session 10: Integrating the Torso and Breathing
Session 11: Integrating the Shoulders and Arms
Session 12: Balancing the Lines and Joint Tissues
Structural Integration is a process of manual therapy techniques applied in a strategic manner over 3 to 12 consecutive sessions spaced out about two weeks apart. This philosophy of hands on bodywork differs from any other bodywork in that the client is not a passive recipient of the work but is a fully present participant in the process.
WHAT MAKES Core Integration DIFFERENT?
Core Integration is a form of Structural Integration (SI). The other brands of SI - Rolfing®, GSI, Hellerwork, Soma, Core, etc - are all good schools with talented practitioners - so this document is not meant as a put down to anyone or any school. But each school / brand has a distinctive “flavor”, so the purpose of the next few paragraphs is to give a sense of the distinctive elements of CI.
• CI is system-oriented, not symptom oriented
• CI work is applied gently and sensitively, with full client participation
• The CI series unfolds around a logical and coherent map of the myofascial— the Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians
• CI practitioners welcome and value other inputs
• CI seeks client autonomy
1) ALTHOUGH MANY PEOPLE COME TO STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION BECAUSE OF SOME KIND OF PAIN OR RESTRICTION, THE INTENT OF THIS WORK, IS TO GET TO THE CONDITION BEHIND THE IMMEDIATE PROBLEM.
Many shoulder injuries, for instance, are caused by the lack of support from the rib cage. Fixing the immediate problem should at the same time mitigate the root cause? The 12-series is designed to progressively build support, sturdiness, and balance throughout the structural system, so that there is a whole new ‘frame’ underlying your posture and movement, which can keep old injuries from coming back and help to prevent new ones from happening.
Ida Rolf used to joke: “If your symptoms get better, that's your tough luck”. A practitioner may or may not address right away the area where you are having pain or restrictions - the roots often lie at some distance from the presenting problem. It may take several sessions or most of the series to get to the specifics of the problem, since we must build up the supporting structure first.
In this way, Structural Integration resembles classical acupuncture or homeopathy or osteopathy - where the symptoms were secondary and building the ‘constitution’ and resiliency are primary.
2) SI WORK IS NOT IMPOSED ON THE CLIENT. THE WORK SHOULD BE ON THE LIGHTER SIDE OF THE PAIN THRESHOLD, AND THE CLIENT AND PRACTITIONER WORK OUT WHERE THE PRESSURE AND INTENSITY LEVELs are productive FOR MAXIMUM BENEFIT. NO GOOD WILL COME OF ‘GRINNING AND BEARING IT’ THROUGH AN ENTIRE SERIES. OCCASIONALLY, IT IS BENEFICIAL TO ‘EXPOSE’ PAIN STORED IN THE BODY, BUT ‘IMPOSING PAIN’ IS NOT A PART OF SI WORK.
Secondly, the client creates or participates in movement during the application of the manual therapy. If you are lying passively on the table for most of the session, you are not getting the best work you can get. SI follows Ida Rolf's pithy dictum:
“Put it where it belongs and restore movement.” Your movement
several benefits: it lessens the sensation by spreading it out,
it engages your proprioception (inner sense) that helps integrate
the work, and it also helps the practitioner stay on the right layer
of fascia during the release.
Thirdly, your SI practitioner wants to hear about how the process is affecting you – in real time. The physical, emotional, and response in your exercise or other performance activities should be collaborative. Letting your practitioner know what's up is very helpful in getting the best work for you.
3) THE SI SESSION SERIES IS BUILT AROUND A LOGICAL, COHERENT APPROACH TO THE MYOFASCIAL SYSTEM. THE ANATOMY TRAINS MYOFASCIAL MERIDIANS PROVIDE A WAY TO DEFINE THE TERRITORY OF EACH SESSION, ALLOWING THE PRACTITIONER TO BE BOTH CONFIDENT THAT THEY ARE GETTING THE PROPER results from the real estate. CREATIVE WITHIN EACH SESSION TO ENSURES THAT EACH INDIVIDUAL CLIENT IS GETTING THE EXACT WORK THAT HIS OR HER UNIQUE PATTERN REQUIRE.
4) THE SI SCHOOL, AND PRACTITIONERS, WELCOME OTHER THERAPEUTIC INPUTS TO YOUR PROCESS. SI is COMPATIBLE WITH OSTEOPATHY, CHIROPRACTIC, CRANIAL WORK, AND MOST FORMS OF MASSAGE, YOGA, AND EXERCISE.
We recognize that no way is the ‘one true way’ in manual and movement therapy, and there is always and combination of effective and learning from other disciplines and techniques. Sometimes we absorb what we learn into our work, sometimes what we learn tells us when to refer to the other competent professionals within the wide spectrum of healing available.
5) THE SI SERIES IS A SEQUENCE, WITH A BEGINNING, A MIDDLE, AND AN END. THE IDEA IS TO CREATE THE CONDITIONS WHERE THE CLIENT IS INDEPENDENT AND STABLE ON THEIR OWN, NOT TO CREATE A LONG-TERM DEPENDENCY ON THE THERAPIST OR CONTINUED WORK. OF COURSE, PEOPLE COME BACK FOR MORE WORK, BUT NOT ON A CONTINUOUS BASIS. THIS WORK DOES ITS BEST IN SHORT, INTENSE PERIODS OF WORK, FOLLOWED BY LONGER PERIODS OF ABSORPTION. WE WANT YOU, WITHIN A REASONABLE PERIOD OF TIME, NOT TO NEED US ANYMORE.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM SI SESSIONS
SI is a wonderful ‘tonic’ for your posture and movement, but it is no panacea. Do not undertake SI without medical permission and if indicated, or if suffering from a ‘hot’ (inflammatory) disease, provide diagnostic evaluations on a regular basis. SI can be remarkably effective for chronic pain patterns of a structural nature, but is not designed as a ‘cure’ for any disease, or as a ‘first aid’ remedy for recent injury. Check with your practitioner if you are unsure whether SI is contraindicated.
You can certainly ‘try out’ a session of SI to see if it suits you, but the best, most permanent and progressive results are obtained by undertaking the whole series. You can do the 12-session series within 6 weeks, and spread it out over three. Spacing the sessions too close together does not give your body time to process the information, and results. Whereas drawing the process out too long means you risk losing the momentum essential to the process.
Different SI practitioners have different styles, so be sure your practitioner ‘fits’ with you, and feel free to bring any issues you have with the work up to your practitioner.
Typically, the SI process will begin with a fairly extensive interview about your history and current habits. Most SI sessions are done in underwear or a bathing suit, without draping. Your practitioner will usually want to observe you standing and walking before the sessions start, in order to assess your current structural patterns. Your practitioner may take photos in order to give you a visual sense of the ‘before’ and ‘after’, since there can be some dramatic changes in your shape.
SOMETIMES THERE WILL NOT BE DRAMATIC VISUAL CHANGES – JUDGE the SI EXPERIENCE BY HOW YOU FEEL RATHER THAN HOW IT LOOKS.
SI work is done on a massage table, or for certain moves on a stool or bench. The practitioner will use his fingers, hands, or arm to contact certain tissues, and then ask you to move in specific ways while he or she opens and repositions those tissues. The process of opening these tissues can involve some burning, like a yoga stretch or exercising some long unused muscles. The pain, if the sensation gets that far, should be short and bearable. Please converse with your practitioner to find the right level of depth for you that allows the maximum value for each session consistent with your comfort. The idea is to achieve a balanced body that is pain-free. You may have to feel some of the stored pain as it leaves your body, especially in traumatized areas.
Traumatized tissue can also contain emotional pain. Although we are not trained psychologists, your SI practitioner has been trained to sensitively work with you around these issues as they relate to your body structure. Feel free to work with your practitioner again to find the right level of work for you.
Each SI session deals with a different fascial plane or set of relationships in the body, progressively working around the body, and from superficial to deep and back again. Your practitioner may not work where you are reporting the symptoms, as the patterns that feed that problem are body wide. A whiplash, for instance, is a problem of the neck for some days, a problem of the whole spine within a few weeks, and is linked to a whole-body pattern within a few months.
It is not unusual to have odd feelings – physical or emotional – between sessions. Please contact your practitioner if they are cause for concern. Often, old long-forgotten pains will resurface for a time – this is a positive sign that the process of unwinding is well underway. Your practitioner has a short pamphlet, “Getting the Most from Your SI Sessions”, which can be helpful.
View your SI series as a project, with a beginning, middle, and an end; not an on- going and endless therapy. The initial 4 sessions deal with the superficial layers, the middle 4 sessions with deeper structures, and the last sessions of the SI process integrate the two layers and bring it into everyday movement. Results will continue to accrue after you have finished your final session.
Clients often return once a twice a year for a ‘tune up’ session, to ease the effects of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Others simply go on to some other maintenance routine such as yoga, Tai Chi, Alexander, a workout routine – whatever is appropriate to them. Still others return periodically for a shorter series of sessions, advanced work designed to take the process deeper into your body and your experience.
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