What is Structural Integration?
Rolfing or Structural integration is a soft tissue approach to re-establishing natural alignment. Dr. Ida Rolf was the innovator of this process and held that when a body is aligned in gravity it works properly. Integration of the body in a gravity field reveals the fluid and natural movement and offers an ease of being.
This practice boils down to a pretty simple premise, our bodies are organized around a central vertical axis or the line. Through my studies in human dissection I can tell you I’ve never seen a line but it is a very real thing. The line is a meditation and a reference point. A place that you can explore when standing or sitting, and offers a guide to alignment.
For every action there is a re-action. A body at rest in gravity feels weightless, supported by the very thing that pulls it down. It’s something of a paradox, but a puzzle worth solving. From a practitioner standpoint, I have a goal of making a less complicated body. A front and back, side to side and up and down all working together. This integrated body feels fluid, capable and in a way fearless.
We want to be known. Patterns, emotions, and injury can be held in tissue. Imprinted by trauma or repetition these things tell the story of our lives. 15 years ago if I had read that, I may have thought those words were overreaching, but my experiences are that Rolf Structural Integration brings together the physical body with this feeling body. Integration not just in space, but within ourselves.
The process is classically done in 10 sessions. The first 7 focusing on the structural phase and the final three being integrative sessions. The work itself is a hands on, soft tissue approach and clients can expect to participate in a way that is different from a massage. A practitioner may call for movement or conduct parts of the session seated or standing. Bodies are for living and often times a rolfing session will be moved off the table.
Sometimes clients seek this work when they have pain or discomfort in their body, and occasionally report about the process being painful. I think pain is a misnomer as it implies causing harm or injury. That is never the goal or purpose of this work, as I always want the experience to be a pleasurable one. However, the session can be dramatic. Uncomfortable places may lurk undetected in the body until I hold a mirror to them. I sometimes hear that clients had no idea an area would be so sore. It’s often because of the bodies compensating mechanism. Acute pain or discomfort in an area may not be the culprit, just the loudest victim.
Tactile experiences can be hard to put into words. I am recently back from my Advanced Rolf training in Hawaii where my teacher, Emmett Hutchins, has been sharing what he learned from Ida Rolf for 50 years. Even with his experience and eloquence, I could see that he still struggles with finding the right words to express the work.
My first experience with this work was that if felt like the “smartest massage” I ever had. I knew right then that that’s what I wanted to do and have spent the last 14 years practicing. Like any art, Rolf Structural Integration will take a lifetime of study and dedication to be a capable practitioner. There are many wonderful forms of bodywork out there, and I feel privileged to bring this special kind to our community.
The 10 series:
This is an abbreviated outline of each session:
Session 1. Open up the front of the body. Superficial layer fascia
Session 2. Lower body and feet. Relationship with ground, stability.
Sessions 3. Hip and shoulder girdle relationship.
Sessions 4. Inside of the legs and pelvic floor stability.
Session 5. Core and abdomen
Session 6. Back and spine
Session 7. Face, head and neck
Session 8. Lower body integration
Session 9. Upper body integration
Session 10. Whole body integration
While this is the framework or recipe, each session will vary greatly for different bodies and people. For those interested in experiencing this work, the first session is an excellent stand alone session. It is your choice to do this work, and our honor to do it. You will find there is no pressure to do all 10. It is simply a framework that has been successfully employed in the past. Phone consultations are welcome and encouraged prior to starting the work.
Tensegrity and Natural Balance:Tensegrity is a system of tension and compression that allows dynamic and supported movement. Tensegrity is widely used in nature as the architecture of life. From the simple cell wall to the complex movement of a ballet dancer, static engineering would not allow for complex and dynamic movement.
The human form has a natural relationship with gravity. We are born and live our entire lives in this force, and our bodies have evolved into mechanisms for coping with the stress of movement and action. This sense of balance in inherent in all of us, but is different for every body. What may work for a linebacker, may not work for a ballerina.
Who is this For?
Each person’s body has developed to accommodate what the body had been asked to do. In this way each person has a different and unique body segment, organization and relationship to gravity. It is the goal of this work to re-establish natural alignment and restore vitality and well being.