STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION CE/ SESSION 1 (11/2011)
So, massage therapists have to take a certain amount of Continuing Education credits in IL in order to maintain their license. In addition to a course in ethics, and one I’ve already taken in Myofascial Trigger Points- I have decided to venture into the new world of Structural Integration (SI). It is based on the work of Ida Rolf, and taught by amazing teachers at the Chicago College of Healing Arts. I am excited that this program also ties in Psychophysical Re-education- which is a blend of the seminal work of Moshe Feldenkreis, an amazing contributor to the mind/body-awareness fields, and Robert Masters, a pioneer in human consciousness/potential research. I love this work because it is more holistic, with regards to how a body is held in space, than any other body modality I’ve encountered. To learn more about Structural Integration, check out this link: http://www.rolfguild.org/aboutsi.html. There are many other sites to check out as well. To understand why posture and fascia are SO important to address in bodywork, check out the concepts: http://www.anatomytrains.com/explore/tensegrity/explained
I have just completed a weekend training on Session 1 of the 10 session format developed by Ida Rolf. Session 1 focuses on the superficial fascial “sleeve”. So our focus was on releasing all the fascial attachments of the superficial musculature from head to toe. The idea is to free up more space for the client to live in, and thereby creating more room to rearrange and “bring up the core” fascia and musculature. I loved the work because it was a lot slower and mindful. It is a lot more of a team effort between the client and therapist- there are a lot of techniques that require movement on the client’s part, and of course feedback is key to ensuring the work doesn’t venture outside of the client’s tolerance.
Apparently, “Rolfing” which SI is based on, has gotten a bad rap due to the “intensity” of the work. People have an association that it is painful work. Some people may even be attracted to it, as their mantra is “no pain, no gain”. In reality, I was told by a previous instructor that this reputation was created because a lot of Rolfers were not previously massage therapists. Therefore, their sense of touch and tissue receptivity wasn’t acutely developed. Obviously, this is not always the case- but is a reasonable theory, as training in massage therapy develops this sense dramatically. As does the experience of working with many bodies. Also, many massage therapy techniques can be described as painful if they are not performed at the tissue’s pace. Its all about working within the client’s tolerance.
More to come!
Meant to add:
I have a classmate chronicling her adventures too. Upon reading her entry, I realized I hadn’t included in my previous post my experience of session 1. Not only do we give the work, but we receive it. I would say I agree with my classmate in that the biggest take away from session 1 is the powerful effect of the diaphragm work. We are taught that this work has an emotional component- as we release the fascial restrictions, sometimes emotions are released or bubble up. For me, the effects of session 1 didn’t hit me until I had left class for the day and was out with a friend for dinner. I realized I felt giddy and exhilarated. I know that I hold my anxiety in my stomach, when I have it- so it was interesting to see that the other side of this may be that I was also holding back my joy. It makes me think about how when we are used to having anxiety, it becomes a way of being. It is hard then, to take the risk of opening up and letting go….which is where joy is. It is hard sometimes, to break out of the shell. I think this work will continue to help me reduce my “armor”.
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION- SESSION 2 (11/2011)
If you have foot problems- Session two in the Structural Integration progression is your remedy!! People who have lost their arches can have them restored with this work; it happened to a few of my classmates before my very eyes. Basically, session 2 focuses on aligning your foundation- your feet and lower legs, thereby freeing up all the fascia and tendons that have become glued down and immobilized over time. What I find fascinating about this work is how once people’s foundations are properly aligned, upper body postural imbalances REALLY pop or are exaggerated. Its almost as if one is unwinding musculature and connective tissue that takes up a lot more space but had to be crammed into a too tight outer weaving, losing its own beautiful shape- and is now being freed. That musculature and connective tissue will continue to find its way back to its original form and shape as the sessions progress. So, I guess the work can make a person’s posture look a little worse before it gets better– but is there any worthy process that doesn’t?
It was also pretty fun to focus on an area of the body that doesn’t get too much coverage in other body modalities. As one of my classmates mentioned, so often people come in for back and neck pain- and no one thinks of their feet!! But, I tell ya, it starts from the ground up.
After I received the work, I just had a much better awareness of my feet on the ground. It is grounding work. We did some psychophysical exercises that involved mobilizing and massaging the bones and tissue on our own feet and then taking in the new awareness and testing it by walking consciously. I will be excited to share this with my clients in the future. Apparently these exercises are really great for people who have bunions too! Later on in the day, as I tend to feel the effects of bodywork hours later, I think my knee adjusted.
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION- SESSION 3 (12/2011)
If you want to reclaim an inch of your height- session three in the Structural Integration progression may be your remedy! With its focus on pulling the ribcage up and off the pelvis and lengthening the “lateral seam”- or the sides of body, rather- many of my classmates literally reclaimed an inch of their height. Session three also acknowledges the body as three dimensional- not just back and front- and focuses on integrating this lateral aspect into the whole being before going deeper in later sessions. The integration accomplished in the first three sessions (though they only engage mostly superficial fascial structures) is a completion on its own for this reason.
Due to increased height and length in the body, the emotional component of this session can sometimes deal with whether or not we fill up our own space or shrink into ourselves. Funny enough, looking back, I did engage with this issue. Often, I don’t like to disrupt harmony between myself and others and will sometimes sacrifice my own needs or desires to maintain it. I think, well, as long as I am the one taking the brunt (silently suffering), I don’t have to worry or feel bad about anyone else’s discomfort. I had a revelation that I am included in what we call “harmony”; if I am part of a group, my well being is part of the harmony of the group; I matter and deserve to take up my own space. The issue came up loud and clear in two separate arenas of my life and continues to knock on the door of my awareness.
This personal experience really brought home to me again that the psycho-physical relationship (mind-body) is a reality and once we start to change our bodies, our minds and spirits inevitably follow suit. Fascinating. It is why I have fallen in love with this work. Ida Rolf’s book Rolfing illuminates this relationship from the very first page. I want to include an excerpt that exemplifies my meaning- bear with me; its long but worth it:
“At the age of ten, Johnny roller-skated down a flight of concrete steps, bumping down the last six on his derriere. Since he broke no bones, Mama thought no damage was done. But at eleven, Johnny could no longer keep up with his contemporaries in athletics. He couldn’t even sit cross-legged. By fifteen, his knees were hurting; by sixteen, he was getting very heavy-hipped; by seventeen, he was sent to a doctor to find out what ‘disease’ was affecting his knees and his walking. Eventually, the doctor obliged and gave it a name. At thirty-five, Johnny was trying to get rid of the ‘disease’ by psychotherapy. Pity the poor psychotherapist.
In the meantime, what has happened to Johnny’s personality? When a boy can no longer challenge his peers physically…what happens to his self-image? When he feels inadequate and insecure, both consciously and unconsciously, what kind of compensation does he make down through the years?
Endless psychological problems have been blamed on insecurity. Unnumbered mothers have wept on being told, ‘Johnny feels insecure; you didn’t give him enough love as a baby.’ This means that Mama must shoulder the guilt. But Johnnies without number have felt insecure because they were insecure, and no mama appeared in the picture at all, nor did any guilt. To Johnny, one leg felt longer than the other, not because the bones were longer, but because the time he fell down the stairs… he rotated his pelvis. One hipbone therefore is slightly forward of the other and/or slightly higher; one leg seems longer. In addition to the primary problem, compensatory distortions have occurred throughout the body- he is round-shouldered and knock-kneed. Papa’s communications to him are predominantly ‘For god’s sake, boy, can’t you stand up straight?’ In point of fact, Johnny can’t. He only knows that he doesn’t feel right. The psychiatrist will call him insecure, and that’s precisely what he is. For when your two legs are not properly under your body, you are insecure, and you’ll act like it and feel like it.
Inevitably, the bedeviled individual will cope with this insecurity by some kind of compensation. Whether he becomes brash, loud-mouthed, and resentful, or apathetic, withdrawn, and timid depends on other factors. In either case, the family may well send him to a gym or in some way try to build up his body. And he does get sturdier. He weighs more; quite possibly he can wrestle or box, though not very well. Perhaps the weight settles around his hips, as though the flesh wanted to splint the insecurity at the joint. Nonetheless, gym or no gym, at the deep level the joint is still no more secure than it was. Johnny’s dividend from the hated gym- his new potential for wrestling another kid down- does not change his subconscious realization of his own insecure stance. On many planes, his ‘I’ senses this.
Is the remedy for this particular Johnny to be found in psychotherapy? No, not at this time. The remedy can be found only at the level of the insecurity, namely in the structural deviation of the pelvis. New security accompanies a restorted balance in the pelvis. Nothing else does the job. When this has been done, Johnny within minutes reports, ‘Gee, I feel different.’ And within hours, the relaxation of his emotional personality becomes apparent even to the neighbors.” (Rolf, 25-26)
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION- SESSION 4 (1/2012)
Session four in the Structural Integration progression begins the journey into the deeper core muscles. Most of us, when we hear the word “core” only think about our abdominal muscles. However, our core truly consists of all the musculature and fascia that attaches above and below the pelvis- making the alignment of the pelvis key in core work. So, in addition to our deep abdominal muscles, we look at the muscles of the leg where they attach at the pelvis. Session four addresses these muscles- specifically the adductors (our inner thigh muscles) and the lower attachment of the psoas muscle which attaches to our lumbar vertebrae, passes over the brim of our pelvis and attaches at the top of our femurs (thigh bones). After, we work our way up from the inner foot, leg, and thigh, we move up to the pelvic bone- specifically working our way from the sit bones (ischial tuberosity) to just the middle of the inner thigh (at the ramus). The intention of the work is to release adhesions, giving more room and length to all the attaching musculature and fascia so they can go back to where they belong, work independently, and not be “glued” to their neighbors (which causes irregular movement, among other things). As one can imagine, this can be a sensitive region to work on for a person, physically and emotionally. Much care is taken to explain where we will be working in this session, the anatomy of the region, and the intentions. Very careful and slow work.
Interestingly enough, this session was much less painful than my partner and I imagined it would be. Afterward, I was amazed with how much my legs felt balanced from the top inner part of my thigh to the top outer part of my leg and hip. I actually felt like I was standing more squarely under my pelvis, and that my legs were more squarely under me. Some of the back pain I had that day- which is partially due to my hip imbalances- started to subside. Other classmates reported that their skin felt a little raw after the work- but that it went away within a few hours. My partner reported the next day that other parts of her leg- where we didn’t work- started to feel sore; as if they were either letting go of overcompensating, or finally learning to pick up more of their rightful load. My practice partner at home reported that he’d been working on trying to get his feet to splay out less for years, and that after this session, he noticed that they splayed out less.
Each body will integrate and feel differently, at its own pace, with each session. It is just important to be with and in our bodies as they go through the changes, noting any new awareness that comes along, and integrating it into our daily awareness of how we hold our bodies in space.
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION- SESSION 5 (2/2012)
It has been said that session five is the heart of the Structural Integration ten sessions. It is fitting, it seems, on so many levels. Session five is all about the psoas muscle- which has been described in the session 4 posting. It is one of the most important muscles to address as it is what keeps our pelvis balanced from front to back, and side to side. Without balance in this muscle, and therefore balance in our pelvis- we cannot achieve true alignment. When the pelvis is rotated or tipped forward or backwards, it forces our bodies to compensate above and below. We may begin to have low back pain, which moves its way up to our necks. We may have one psoas that is too tight and pulls one of our legs higher in the pelvis, thereby making our footing uneven. It is also important to understand that it is the counterbalance to our abdominal muscles, and is the primary initiator in moving our legs to walk. When our abdominal muscles are too over-developed, say from repetitive crunches, our psoas can weaken, and stop picking up its proper load- thereby leading to pelvic imbalances and subsequent discomfort and misalignment. Also, after this session, the distinction between movement being intrinsic or extrinsic becomes more noticeable. Many people have weakened psoas’, which can cause other muscles not useful to walking to become involved. These muscles have less power than our deeper, intrinsic muscles (i.e. the psoas); and therefore, we spend more energy walking and further our imbalances as less powerful muscles try to compensate. Once psoas is released, one starts to notice the power and energy to walk and hold oneself upright comes not only with more ease, but also seems to initiate from somewhere deeper within the body- this is a good thing! In addition to these important functions, the psoas also houses an important nerve plexus that relates to the overall health of many of our vital organs. As Ida Rolf explains in her book Rolfing, “the lumbar plexus is a spinal plexus embedded in the psoas, permitting intercommunication between the lumbar plexus and the spinal nerves which emerge from the spine where the psoas attaches. Connections from the lumbar plexus to the autonomic system are extensive and intimate. Restricted movement or other mechanical interference in the psoas thus affects the general metabolic level, since this is monitored by the autonomic system as a whole” and the implications go on (pg 112).
Receiving this work had quite an effect on me. I would say that I felt small progressions and new, incremental awareness’ with each previous session. However, the change created in this session somehow made all the other session changes click in and finally settle. As if, they had been preparation leading up to and allowing this major change to happen. I have had chronic issues with the right side of my low back. I have a hip imbalance, in which my right hip rotates downward, causing a lot of strain and compensation patterns in many other parts of my body. I have done stretches, gotten chiropractic work, been obsessive about my posture and body mechanics- but nothing would work until my psoas was released. Suddenly, it was less energy to walk around and I noticed it the most in my massage work. I usually had the most pain after I gave massages, but after my psoas was released, I was able to hold my body in better positions, and spare my back. What a relief! Now, I just need to release the other muscles that have been hanging on for dear life trying to compensate! They are still not quite sure they should stop over-working. That will be the next session, I believe. In addition to the physical relief, there was a profound sense after this session of having entered and “taken a seat” more firmly into my body. I felt more empowered and like I could conquer the world. Big energy release. I felt really out of it that evening as I adjusted to the newness in my body. Weeks later, I can still tell my back is better than it was.
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION- SESSION 6 (2/2012)
In session 6 of the Structural Integration progression, we “speak” to the nervous system more directly than in previous sessions due to its focus on the sacrum. The sacrum has been called the “seat of the soul” due to the fact that it houses a vital nerve plexus which has major effects on the autonomic nervous system (again implicating that any aberration here can effect the ANS). In session 4, we started the core work by coming up into the pelvis from below, in session 5 we released the major pelvic muscles, and in session 6 we begin to move out of the core and into how it relates to the upper body via the spine. According to Ida Rolf, the sacro-lumbar junction is key to how a spine will function. Any aberration here, and the rest of the spine is affected. One of the most common aberrations at the sacro-lumbar junction is found in the anterior pelvic tilt posture (the psoas is also involved with this posture, and release of it can greatly reduce it). In this posture, not only does the pelvic basin lose its ability to properly contain abdominal contents (often causing a “potbelly” look), but there is also increased pressure at the sacro-lumbar junction. It seems to be a common place for disc failure- as it can become quite compressed. Session 6 frees the sacrum and elongates the spine in such a way that compromised discs in the vertebral column can heal themselves. In releasing the sacrum, we address the gluteal muscles which can rotate the sacrum, the hamstrings which can pull the pelvis and therefore the sacrum from below, the tissue surrounding the coccyx, which is at the very end of the sacrum, and lastly our spine, which connects at the top of the sacrum. When the work is done, we should see movement ripple from the sacrum up through the spine as a person walks via the erectors (the large muscles that run parallel on either side of our spine and suspend us upright).
The biggest take away from session 6, for myself and my classmates, seemed to be the incredible lift in the trunk of the body via the spine elongation. Many of us literally looked taller and leaner, as if somehow our abdominals were pulled in. I noted within the next few days that my belly looked pulled in (seeming to finish the psoas work from session 5) and the vertical of my body was more obvious. I also felt greater lift and ease of movement. A lot of focus was given to how to walk in a more integrated way in this session also. I literally am learning how to walk again- picking up my thigh/knee and placing my foot on the ground, heel, ball, toes, and feeling like I can glide more instead of stomp. Before, it was a lot of work to get myself to walk properly, stand properly, sit properly. As the days pass, I can feel my body becoming more aware of itself in space, and how it is learning to re-settle itself properly back into alignment naturally (which I notice most in static postures), as if remembering a whole new consciousness that maybe it just forgot, or never learned. It is helping to restore a faith I didn’t know I lost in my body. I, like many, became so used to my body’s shortcomings, the things I felt it couldn’t do- yet struggled to make it do- and blamed myself when it “failed” me. I realize now I couldn’t have achieved that perfect posture no matter how hard I tried- because my body literally wasn’t free to. With proper function gradually being restored, I realize it is something I didn’t even “know” I had lost. Something so overlooked in our culture and undervalued, and yet fundamental. But my body knows, and it is happy.
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION- SESSION 7 (2/2012)
Session 7 in the Structural Integration progression focuses on aligning the upper body, bringing about a second completion within the 10 sessions- that of the core. The upper body within this session consists of the shoulder girdle, which is made up of our clavicles and scapulas (shoulder blades as most people know them), our arms, the sternum to which the clavicles attach, and then the neck and head. The shoulder girdle is literally like a yoke placed over our ribcage and imbalance here not only greatly affects our upper back and chest, but also moves up to the neck and head. For example, some people are very “glued” down in the pectoral muscles, which are attached at the clavicles. This drags the clavicles down, which then in turn drags the anterior neck, and the rest follows. The neck and head placement is also greatly affected by our thoracic (the spinal section where our ribs attach) spine, as many neck/head muscles attach here- some going all the way down to the pelvis (the erector spinae longissimus). If there is an aberrated curve in the thoracic spine, it is bound to aberrate the cervical curve, putting lots of strain on the neck muscles. Also, it is important to note that the cervical curve mimics the lumbar (low back) curve- aberration here translates through the whole spine. So, in earlier sessions, the lumbar back was addressed, bringing it more into alignment and changing the relationships between the spinal curves- oftentimes clients will start to feel discomfort in their necks between sessions because their lumbar spine has been moved into alignment, while the cervical spine is still hanging out there. Session 7 completes the work, bringing the head (the top of the vertical column) into alignment with the pelvis (the bottom of the vertebral column).
Perhaps the most fascinating (and perhaps notorious) hallmark of this session is the inner mouth and nose work. There are many important muscles within the skull, affecting the alignment of the head/neck, that cannot be released other than from the inner skull outward. For example, releasing the root of the tongue effects the hyoid muscles under our jaw, which is closely related with our cervical vertebrae. Building on that, there are muscles on either side of our jaws called the pterygoid, which, if they are too tight, can pull the jaw out of alignment and cause TMJ. We can release the pterygoid through manual manipulation within the mouth, but can only release the other end by entering the nose and releasing it indirectly via the sphenoid cranial bone. Entering the nose in this way also releases our third diaphragm (the first is within our pelvis, second is the one we breathe with), which then allows the head to “float” up into alignment. Lastly, after the oral and nose work, the facial muscles in general just have a new energy about them and are allowed to express more freely.
It is hard to avoid how personal this session was for me, as it has been the most revealing. I am not sure if it is due to the culmination of the other sessions it represents, revealing the depth and profundity of the work, or the fact that it was the most healing for me to receive it. During this session, I had an emotional release, which allowed me to go deeper into healing an old trauma I had experienced. It was profound to me that not only did my partner sense and know what the trauma was (intuitively/energetically) way before I did, but also that my body knew- way before my mind caught up. It wasn’t until I was standing up after the session for postural analysis did I start to cry and at that moment had no idea why. Afterward, I was struck by the accuracy of my partners insight, that she picked this message up from my body, and that my body spoke this truth in the first place. It was as if my body got in the drivers seat in that moment and said, I know its scary to speak this verbally, so let me; I will tell the truth. It seems the truth of our wounds are in our bodies, and in one way or another, they will find a way out. I guess we choose if it will be in a healing way or a destructive way. Later on, as I processed the content of the release, I felt a supreme gratitude to my body for, again, restoring my faith that it is on my side. It was right there for me, ready to help me heal, keep me on that trajectory, reminding me that always, always we move toward healing if we just let ourselves. It is as natural a trajectory as a plant moving toward the light. It is part of our make up; it is in our cellular intelligence. And for me, this is profound. I feel blessed to be learning a modality that can bring people into such deep healing.
To weave in another piece, I had also just read a chapter in Ida Rolf’s book that reinforces this idea of a healing trajectory, as it discusses why and how this work seems to shift people into a deeper state of being. In it, she posits that perhaps we have an indestructible blueprint of an energy body in addition to our physical body, around which our matter can be organized and draws its intelligence from. When our bodies are misaligned and disorganized, there is a confusion that expresses itself on a molecular, energetic level in our bodies and translates into how we hold ourselves in space (and it seems to be relational- that how we hold ourselves also translates to the molecular level). She posits further that, Structural Integration, in releasing the fascia to return to its natural place of balance, seems to allow our matter to re-organize itself around this energy body- blueprint, thereby allowing us to come more deeply into balance or beingness. I have found that my experiences (and many of the experiences of my classmates and practice partners) speak directly to this hypothesis and confirm not only the depth of this truth, but also brings forth the question of what is made possible through harnessing this great capacity of ours to heal, grow, and live more fully. In closing this note, I thought this quote appropriate:
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you”- Gnostic Gospel
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION- SESSIONS 8 & 9 (3/2012)
By Session 8 & 9 in the Structural Integration progression, the core is finished being unraveled, and it is time to begin integrating all the information the client’s body has received over the past seven sessions. While some integration was started in previous sessions, 8,9, and 10 make a point of it. Many questions are asked, and the resultant work of the sessions seeks to answer them. First, it is important to decide upon postural analysis, gait analysis, and other movement analysis if session 8 will be an “upper” or a “lower” (upper body or lower body). Session 9 will be the opposite of what session 8 turns out to be; i.e. if session 8 is a lower, session 9 will be an upper and vice versa. At this point, the analysis is global, taking into account the client’s entire body system and asking the question, where is there still a hang up, and what is the root of it? Which regions or parts still look like they are not communicating with the whole? Where is the client not moving with integrity, that is, from the core? By session 8, more often then not, it is the client’s lower body (below the lumbar-dorsal hinge) that still needs attention, especially when working from the understanding that it may need to be more integrated if anything above it is to hold. Once this is decided, the rest of the sessions seek to answer the question, what needs to be done to allow the client to live more fully in the body they were intended to have? What’s possible? It is important to note that perfection is not the point, but rather, the emphasis is on speaking to the way a client lives and moves in the world, and helping him/her to do this more fully. Because of this, the sessions involve a good deal of education regarding what integrated movement looks like and feels like in the body. It is imperative that the client be very engaged and present in his/her body during this session (as in all) so, with the help of the practitioner, he/she can become aware of aberrated movement, better understand the relationship of limbs to core in movement, and work to re-educate the body on what integrated movement feels like. The hope is that, now that the (superficial fascial) sleeve and core of the body have been unraveled, the client has a greater capacity for this integrated movement, whereas before, it may not have been possible because his/her structure was literally obstructing this. It is interesting to note that often integrated movement will feel strange or almost “wrong” at first when a client takes it on, as the body is still used to aberrated posture and movement. It takes a bit of faith and an adventurous spirit to keep experimenting with and seeking out this new balance.
Ultimately, though the previous sessions’ work is not any less profound, it is the last three sessions that set Structural Integration apart from other bodywork modalities. This is because it truly takes the deep tissue work to the next level in helping to foster a new consciousness within the client. Structural Integration doesn’t just create a new capacity within the body, it also assists the client in using this capacity. It assists the client in learning to own and independently further his/her intrinsic inquiry into what it means to be more aware and conscious within the body. The last three sessions, moreso than the previous seven, really bring it home how 50/50 this work is; success is half reliant on how well the practitioner executes the session work, while the other half is reliant on how aware the client chooses to become in the process.
My experience giving and receiving these sessions felt very exploratory; playful at times, intuitive at others. The sessions are very free-form in that one can start with a plan and then ditch it for a new one once discoveries are made. There is a way in which the practitioner is like an artist developing an eye for what integrated movement is, what is possible, and then helping to “sculpt” the body into alignment. A lot of these sessions tend to involve brief work on the table, and then getting up so the practitioner can look at how the work effected posture/movement. It can also involve the client sitting and/or standing while the practitioner works on two joints at a time, and asks the client to experience what certain movements felt like. If movement is not coming from the core, it is important to gain awareness and then practice movement until it is. All of my practice partners, and myself, ended up being “lowers” for session 8- so much of the work focused on relating pelvis/core to legs and then pelvis/core to the upper body. Session 9, then, resulted in being “uppers”, which focused more on how the arms and head related to the core, and vice versa. Part of the fun was in using any number of techniques to accomplish these goals of relating.
Lastly, it was really brought home to me, that in order to teach others what integrated movement is, I would have to continue my own journey with it. While some of the psychophysical work has already been interwoven into our coursework, I have decided to take the work deeper and attend additional continuing education in May and July. In the meantime, I will also be learning the in-depth five-body system (developed by Robert Masters and evolved by my course instructor Althea Northage-Orr) the psychophysical work came from. It is my hope and excitement that this additional work will deeply inform my Structural work as I go along.
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION- SESSIONS 10 (5/2012)
Now that the client has the full capacity for alignment, session 10 in the Structural Integration progression is about helping the client to find his/her vertical and own it. As a culmination of the work, session 10 addresses the body from the ground up, focusing on the multiple diaphragms and joints of the body. Yes, we have more than one diaphragm. The diaphragms addressed in this session are the arches of the feet, the pelvic floor, the thoracic diaphragm (the one we breathe with), the hyoids (the chin), and the top of the head. The joints are put through tracking techniques to observe, educate, and get the body to feel what proper flow of movement in alignment feels like. The idea is to get the client’s energy moving freely through these diaphragms and joints. Lastly, if there is any small “clean-up” work to do, or any last little hold-up in the system, that can also be addressed in this session. It is interesting to note that emotional releases are still possible in this session, as sometimes, the one last little thing that is holding up the system is discovered- that which is not serving the whole- and is hopefully freed.
The movement of energy through the diaphragms especially seems to be what ultimately gives the vertical lift once all else is released (I would wager a guess that this is because the body is hydrostatic). Conscious, full breath, now has the capacity to expand into our pelvic floor and up into the top of our head. Upon inhalation, all of the diaphragms pull down, while the diaphragm at the top of the head pulls up. It follows that the vertical created upon inhalation, from pole to pole, nicely corresponds and/or creates an appropriate visual as to what our spine should be doing upon inhalation, and perhaps in general. I have noticed now that if I can’t get a full breath, it is usually because some part of my spine and/or pelvis and head are not in alignment. There truly is an ease of standing upright and breathing once this vertical is found- this ease, and feeling that everything has just “let go” being an indicator that the vertical has been acheived.
The word “found” is used because not all people know what standing vertically feels like, as the habit has possibly been quite the opposite. Again, part of the 10th session is education so the client can feel what “vertical” is in the body. Again, the fact that the client has to choose to truly seek out this verticality and to own/take up the work of the 10 sessions becomes very apparent. I realized that some people may not ultimately be ready to (or want to) inhabit this new way of being, as it means stepping, not only into an unknown space, but perhaps a more empowered way of being. There can be frustration and resistance. There is no judgement in this as all people must make journeys at their own pace, and maybe the Structural path is ultimately not the one to be chosen. Others, on the other hand, will be more ready or certain, and so will consciously continue the process of integrating a new posture and way of moving in the world into the nervous system. This usually takes the form of being able to better catch when out of alignment and to be able to find the way back to vertical again, and again, until hopefully, it becomes the default way of being. Either way, it is a personal process, one in which we should be gentle with ourselves. There can be a tendency toward wanting to be perfect and getting upset with ourselves when we aren’t. My teacher has often encouraged a sense of humor and curiosity in this process, as it goes a long way.
A few classes back, my teacher stated something to the effect that maturity is expressed through order. As the sessions progressed, I understood what she meant as I began to see/feel a beautiful maturity expressed in my classmates and myself- a wholeness perhaps, or a container, through and upon which deeper inner work could be expressed and grounded. In her book, Ida Rolf mirrors this sentiment saying, “Evolution is matter moving toward more effective order.” She goes on to say “True verticality, the goal of Structural Integration, is more than a figment of the imagination. Indeed, it is very real; it is a functional phenomenon, a line around which the body’s energy force fields balance. Again, these energy forces are not abstract; they manifest in real myofascial material structures. Through its vertical stance, the organism is no longer earth-bound; the vertical expresses an energy relation between earth and sun. In its own way, the vegetative world also glorifies the polarized vertical; its upward striving is material evidence of vital polarity. Whenever life differentiates toward a greater, more complex degree of order, the upward thrust becomes more apparent and more significant. As order evolves, a gravity/antigravity structural organization defines itself, and this basic polarity, rooted in the earth, expresses in terms of vertical lift. (Rolfing, 285-289)”
It seems that through the work of Structural Integration, we learn, energetically, how to be more grounded, while we reach toward the heavens, or rather, our true potential. It is helpful to have a solid foundation in our physicality as we strive to experience our life in subtler forms. The power of the ten sessions, therefore, lies in its invitation, and its ability to support whatever it is that we reach for.