Making the decision to embark on the journey of bodywork services like Structural Integration or massage is best done thoughtfully. The answers to commonly asked questions are here to shed additional light on this important process.
The two are mainly differentiated by their goals. While massage is generally focused on relaxation and alleviating acute stress on the body, S.I. is more process-oriented with the aim of aligning the body in gravity. A massage session tends to be a passive experience for the client, whereas an S.I. session is participatory: the practitioner calls for movements from the client and makes changes and adjustments to areas of the body that have been dominant.
S.I. sessions include dialog, feedback, education, coaching, validating, and encouraging as the whole body is integrated into optimal alignment with gravity. Our guide is Dr. Rolf’s method and her process of integrating the human structure through a ten-session bodywork sequence, the Basic Ten Series.
S.I. focuses on lengthening and shifting the connective tissue, called fascia, which surrounds the body’s bones, organs, and muscles. The practitioner addresses misaligned and unbalanced tissue using specific manipulations while calling for particular movements from the client. This interaction between client and practitioner encourages the retraining of old habits into optimal patterns of movement and results in greater ease.
During the Basic Ten Series the practitioner interacts with the fascia to align the body’s components along a vertical line, one that channels energy between the bottom of the feet and the top of the head. Think earth and sky and being/feeling connected to both simultaneously.
The work we will be doing together is at times intense, but it is short-lived and in a place of safety with an end goal of being easefully upright. At times the area being repositioned may present an intense feeling. That sensation should feel “just right somehow.” Often that strong but welcome feeling is followed by a pleasant feeling of warmth.
If you feel safe and supported and encounter specific strong sensations, allow yourself to ask, “I wonder why that’s there?” and explore it as a productive feeling rather than one that is good or bad. As a practitioner I strive to pay close attention to changes in your breathing and other subtle signs of tension and adjust accordingly. If the pressure is too intense, communicate what you’re experiencing in your body so that I can adjust to make broader contact, change direction or reestablish depth; these methods typically alleviate acute discomfort.
Aligning and balancing the body in gravity occurs through a thoughtfully administered progression of sessions to systematically balance and align the body from front to back, side to side, top to bottom and inside to outside. The Ten Series is a great place to start. Our first session is a starting point for assessing the body’s needs and determining goals. Below is a layout of the process and keep in mind, each body is different and adjustments will be made accordingly.
We begin by addressing the superficial fascia of the arms, hips, ribs, shoulders, legs and back with the goal of increasing vital capacity: to allow more breath to flow through the body more easily. This ease will support the rest of the process. We address the lower legs and feet, thinking about the body’s foundation and how it affects the length of the back. We begin working from the outside of the knee up to the ear, considering organization of the front and back, the left side and right side. We aim to take out superficial rotation and clarify the lateral line.
We go deeper during these sessions as we establish greater lengthening of the inside of the pelvis. Our work progresses from the table to include work on a bench where we utilize tracking exercises to increase awareness in gravity, develop optimal positioning and functional differentiation between flexion/extension of the joints. We continue to organize the tissue, working from the front of the knee to the clavicle, then from the heel into the sacrum with a focus on areas often responsible for low back or knee restrictions. We will also consider the way the head sits on the thorax and focus on enabling the head to turn freely without interference from the neck or shoulders.
These sessions take a closer look at the lower girdle and upper girdle, first individually then tying them together. The work progresses from the table and bench to the wall, always with an emphasis on vertical awareness. As the series comes to a close, we look to “put a bow on it” and achieve true cohesion of all the body’s components.
Yes. The awareness one experiences has been known to last a lifetime. Photographs taken of clients years after the Basic Ten Series show the changes are still present and the structure often remains improved. However, please keep in mind that as life changes, bodies change in response: injuries, accidents, pregnancies, lengthy illnesses and emotional stress experienced after our sessions may necessitate additional work. In general, I recommend “tune ups”.
Because of its effectiveness in improving coordination and enhancing athletic performance, many people choose to use this as a tool for injury prevention and maintenance. Once we make space the body integrates itself in gravity, some clients choose to roll with the new assimilation in movement before returning for further sessions.
In any case, the increased economy of motion made available through the Ten Series allows the recipient an opportunity to take ownership of these changes and incorporate them in an enduring and specifically meaningful way to his or herself. The more the client allows this awareness to permeate daily life, the more ingrained and lasting the changes will be. Feel free to contact me to discuss your goals and options to find the best direction for you.