“We can’t change the gravitational field; what we can do is to change the way the parts of the body fit together into a whole which can transmit the gravitational field through that body in such a way that it enhances its energy field”
– Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.
About Structural Integration
The Rolf Method of Structural Integration (S.I.), commonly known as “Rolfing” is a way of restructuring the body towards alignment for better organization and function. If physical structure is improved, function is improved. This includes all kinds of functions, psychological as well as motor. The goal is to create harmony for the physical body in gravity. We do this through means of manually manipulating fascia, which is a tissue that is elastic, stable, and moldable, and which accounts for a considerable proportion of the body’s outward form.
Fascia is the “packing material” of the body; it is an ordered elastic web that starts just beneath the skin and ensheathes and positions the various elements of the body in layers-muscles, bones, nerves, organs, etc. It is what Dr. Rolf calls the “organ of structure”: its ability to retain a shape and yet be malleable is what makes physical change possible.
Healthy connective tissue has a pliable, elastic quality, which allows muscles, tendons and ligaments to move freely and with ease. Unhealthy connective tissue tends to be short, thick, twisted, prone to injury and less resilient.
Fascia absorbs the forces of gravity as well as the impact of physical injury, accidents, illnesses and emotional stress. Even the cumulative tensions of daily living (such as repetitive movements or sitting for long periods of time) can create restrictive, habitual holding patterns in the connective tissue. Over time, these experiences become embedded in the body; they are recorded in the myofascial system like memory and can contribute to unhealthy tissue, limited joint mobility and impaired muscle potential.
“I am dealing with problems in the body where there is never just one cause. The body process is not linear, it is circular; always it is circular. One thing goes awry, and its effects go on and on and on and on. A body is a web, connecting everything with everything else.”
– Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.
Balance in Gravity
The body can change the make-up of fascia throughout life. Some changes seem almost permanent, like a sprained ankle that heals but with a slight thickening and twisting, where the twist might even go up into the knee. Because we move as a unit, each restriction will soon modify the whole.
The sprain “spreads” so it becomes less acute and we can get on with doing and being. In order to achieve stability and ward off stress, fascial tissue will shorten, thicken, and attach itself to neighboring structures. The resulting movement is no longer economical; we use too much energy for the simple business of living and shortchange ourselves of creative energy. We can liken this sprained ankle predicament to many other pains, discomforts, patterns, and stresses in our body.
Structural Integration reverses this process by contacting sensitive mechanoreceptors in the fascia, which cause change in the body’s autonomic nervous system, or the self-regulating systems(which are mostly subconscious). This neurobiological explanation has surpassed the Gel-Sol ideas of the first decades of the work, which inferred that the more pressure was applied, the greater the change.
Balance is the primary goal of the work. The goal to establishing balance is within the realm of gravity. Our bodies want to be comfortable, they have a natural liking for uprightness and ease. Insofar as they experience it, bodies try to live in a place of balance…we as Structural Integrators simply help them find an appropriate and optimal place to start from. Once this place is found, the energy of gravity can flow with, and not against, the energy of the individual. We then have more energy, more resiliency, and perform better when we come from this place.