Happy April! Many companies see April 1st as a chance to grab headlines with silly PR stunts, but today I’m seeking to provide clarity rather than confusion. I reflected on some of the ways bodywork has been misunderstood and here are my thoughts on five misconceptions about Structural Integration with my suggestions for better understanding the concepts.

The setting sun reflects in the water of the Mississippi River near Newport, MN.

Misconception #1: I don’t need Structural Integration because I see a chiropractor or massage therapist.
Instead consider: Structural Integration can provide benefits for any body.
There are many modalities of healing touch, and various bodywork practices can certainly be complementary. Consider your ailments and goals, and which focus is the right fit: I generally say that chiropractic is for the bones, massage is for the muscles, and Structural Integration (S.I) unwinds the connective tissue through the entire body to provide long-term results. Structural Integration and Rolfing are certifications that have a different therapeutic impact/mechanisms and in some states a different licensing process. When looking for this modality make sure your practitioner is certified from an International Association of Structural Integration (IASI)-approved school.

Misconception #2: The body’s structure can’t change.
Instead consider: The body’s structure CAN change.
This is an undisputed fact from physics and biology, yet many people seem amazed when they get length from bodywork. Mechanical forces can change the shape although the nature of the change in connective tissue is not well understood. Stasis between facial (skin) planes due to gravity or injury dull sensory cells and cause the fascial network to change, become rigid, and lose resiliency. Shearing angles and localized listening is essential for changing the structure. Recent fascia research explains it’s the nerves and fascia together that make the change, not one or the other. Yes, it is possible to look, feel, and BE taller once rigid fascia is released and lengthened.

Misconception #3: Structural Integration is only a hands-on therapy.
Instead consider: Structural Integration involves hands-on therapy and movement.
While manipulations that take place on the table with a practitioner are instrumental to reshaping the fascia, practicing movements from small to large is also crucial to re-learning optimal movement patterns and discouraging movement that is negatively impacting the body. Being present with the internal felt sense is a great way to explore what feels fluid and encourage what’s called embodiment education. I recall a fun class where a I laid on the floor moving around pretending to be an octopus. Feeling the spaciousness of the invisible tentacles changed my perception. You could try it, too.

Misconception #4: Bodywork is for when I’m in pain.
Instead consider: Bodywork is helpful when I’m in pain AND as a preventative modality.
Similar to how when you cut holes for windows and doors in your house and need to introduce something to regain structural integrity, the body changes in a geometrical sense after a fall or injury. Over time, bumps and bruises shift and move things around, leading to compensation patterns and restricted movement. Before you know it, you can’t sit normally. Preventative bodywork can do wonders for avoiding getting to a place of chronic pain.

Misconception #5: Deep bodywork is painful.
Instead consider: Brief moments of intensity in deep bodywork can lead to lasting change.
It’s not the depth, but how fast you go deep. The fascia changes extremely slowly. With enough time you could watch the paint dry as you sink into the deeper layers of tissue. Also, consider that pain could be an output from your brain rather than an input. If it hurt going in, it may hurt coming out. How much it hurts could depend on how long it’s been there. In my experience, you have to get to the deeper layers to address chronic tension. The pace is up to you and your practitioner. With trust, communication, and in a place of safety you can have a positive, productive experience with deep work.

I hope that these explanations from my professional and personal point of view help you to have a better understanding of the transformation that can come from Structural Integration. It’s sensible to be skeptical of what we may hear or read on April Fools’ Day, and it’s worth taking the time to examine other notions we may be misunderstanding.