Structural Integration (SI) works in quite a unique way. Most often, if you have a pain somewhere, a therapist will work locally at the site of pain. This can be very effective, especially if it is an acute pain - meaning it has been recently acquired. However, when it comes to chronic pain; of the type that has been ongoing for many weeks or months, it can also be extremely valuable to consider the more global approach that SI can offer.
Essentially, what “global approach” means, is that rather than focussing on the site of pain only, the SI practitioner can take you through a series of sessions, specifically designed by Dr Ida Rolf, to take into account the entire structure. That means, given the specific sequence in which they are undertaken, the sessions allow for a body-wide reorganisation from ground to crown. (The work is also known as “Rolfing” when a practitioner specifically attended the Rolfing School of SI, since the name was trademarked). I was trained in SI by Tom Myers, of Anatomy Trains, first working with him in 1998, before the book of the same name, was published. Over the decades, the sequence of sessions and organisation has been somewhat restructured, especially since the advent of Fascia Research. Dr Rolf understood the profound impact of the fascial network on the living human system. It is the keystone to revealing structural integrity. It also acts as an interface between the physiology and the psychology, in that (according to Dr Rolf), a person that feels “at home” and at ease inside their structure, will naturally find themselves more at ease in their demeanour. While the sessions are not psychotherapeutic in nature, Tom Myers always describes the work as “changing the body about the mind”. After 20 years of experience, I can testify to the fact that releasing chronic tissue set or the structural contribution to pain, clients invariably feel better about themselves.
I guess it’s a little bit like wearing a really comfortable pair of shoes. You don’t think about it, you just enjoy walking in them. While they are in any way uncomfortable, they seem to take up unnecessary energy and concern, that simply falls away when it is gone. It sounds simple (in a way it is), however Tom warned me it would be 5 years of 15 clients per week, before my hands would know what to do. In the 20 years since I first “discovered fascia” and began learning SI, they have learned to “speak fluent fascia” and help people feel more articulate inside their own soft-tissue matrix or body architecture. For sure there are huge advantages, to health and human performance at every level, to improved physical literacy, release of pain and the removal of unnecessary compensatory patterns in the overall posture. What generally happens if there is pain in a body part, is that the body part in question goes into a state of Structural Isolation. It is the classic “bad back” or “bad knee” and we live as if it is a separate part of us, sabotaging us. The SI programme is designed to restore that isolated part, to its more original state of Structural Integration, wherein it just got on with being a part of you that you don’t have to think about. You jest get on with walking your path - you don’t have to second guess how your feet feel. Below is an overview to explain how the work works. I am qualified as a Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist and have additional skills in palpation, beyond those of SI. In practice, it is an appropriate blend of techniques, including but not entirely limited to SI, to help you move better and find ease and comfort in your human performance, whatever your age or stage of fitness.
STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION is designed as a 12-series, a 4-series or, if it is appropriate, one-off sessions if there is a particular condition that needs attention first, in preparation for a series. The following will make sense of this:
The 12-series is designed to treat the whole body, relative to itself. In other words, to re-establish balance and postural co-ordination, to optimise your ability to feel at ease in your own skin. Compensatory patterns occur over time, to everyone. Sometimes illness or injury can exacerbate the soft-tissues and leave a series of compensations elsewhere in the body. Most often, they are years old and long forgotten, but every scar, break or pattern leaves its trail in the growing and developing body. Wherever the primary, or even secondary, issue may be, in terms of chronic pain we have to go as far back as possible to find out the history accumulated in the system.
Once that history has been taken, the 12-series then begins with 4 sessions based upon the “sleeve” or Superficial Tissues. This is addressing the muscles and tissues of the whole Anterior Chain, Posterior Chain, Lateral Chain and Spiral Chain; that is from the ground to the crown. This has to be completed before we can really address deeper issues.
I explain it as being a bit like wearing underwear, clothes and a coat - each of which have a twist or a discomfort and the coat is not done up correctly. The first four sessions of the 12-series focus on the coat, so that we can do it up properly and reach what’s under it; the treating of which often helps deeper issues to unwind themselves. These first four, are based upon the muscles and “superficial tissues” immediately under the skin when you look in the mirror.
The next set of four sessions are the Deep Volume of the body; again from ground to crown over the four. These allow for the tissues deeper in the body, at the core of motion and organisation and breathing. These are the sessions that reach the natural posture and help it to be optimised.
The last four sessions are focused around organising the torso and limbs at all the depths, to optimise structure and improve function of the whole locomotor system. In other words, once the deeper issues have been addressed, we do all we can to help you move better. Tissues become inflamed and adhered over time, so just the fact of attending to that, can help you feel so much easier in how you move and go about your daily tasks.
The 4-series is basically made up of the last four sessions of the 12-Series; treating the whole body, from ground to crown and back again, to make the most difference possible in the time allowed. Ideally, the 4-series is designed for people who have taken the 12-series. Thereafter the 4-series is a bit like a “tune-up” programme. For example, an athlete undertaking the 12 series, will book an annual 4-series, just to keep in top form.
People who are generally fit and strong, but have possibly suffered an injury or sprain that is causing them difficulty, may opt for a 4-series. It is a matter of individual situations and this is discussed in the first treatment which is always 1.5 hours, to take a Medical History and the type of work required, is discussed at the time. As a client you will be given the best options for you, in a clear manner and left to choose.
Life happens and having S.I. in your toolbox can be a very valuable resource, to resolve chronic issues and maintain optimum performance, at any level. While the sessions have a series/sequence, they are individually tailored. It is also possible to have single sessions, as required.
It is possible to simply have sessions, that address a particular postural issue or condition that is affecting your posture profile. This is ideal if a series of sessions is not plausible for any reason. Plantar Fasciitis, or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, for example, can respond readily to S.I. treatment and be addressed directly in the number of sessions it takes to relieve the symptoms. If the issue is in the soft-tissue, the body will respond immediately in the first session and you, the client, will just “know” if it fits for you. There is no obligation to book the sessions all at once or decide in the initial introductory session, in which your medical history is taken.
Sometimes, the hardest aspect of S.I., is holding people back, taking time to allow the issue to be released from the tissue and more optimum patterns to be adopted, session by session. This tends to accumulate in the tissues over time and be released gradually and sustainably.