The Dr. Ida P. Rolf Method of Structural Integration is a system for balancing the human physical structure by means of fascial connective tissue manipulation and education. Structural Integration reorganizes the body-as-a-whole by releasing the tensions involved in chronic holding patterns. The work of Structural Integration systematically moves tissue back toward the symmetry and balance that are so clearly required by gravity and the architecture of the body.
Our Structural Integration Practitioner studied his art at the Guild for Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is devoted to sharing Dr. Rolf’s gift with the world.
The Basis of Structural Integration
- The body is segmented. These general segments include the head, neck, shoulders, thorax, pelvis, thighs, legs, and feet. When these segments are “vertically aligned,” with one positioned directly above the next, gravity is able to support the structure. However, when these blocks are not centered, the body is under constant strain to keep upright. Most people are not balanced around this vertical line.
- Gravity is a constant. We are in constant relationship with gravity. In every moment, we are either moving towards greater balance with gravity, or we are gradually increasing our struggle with it.
- The body has a plastic quality. It can be moved to a more imbalanced state. It can also be reformed to allow more balance in the body. The primary medium of this plasticity is the fascia, which is a kind of connective tissue mainly composed of collagen fibers. By affecting the fascia of the body, we are able to participate in reforming the human structure.
About Structural Integration
Structural Integration is a unique form of body work. Unlike massage, Structural Integration focuses not on the muscles but on their protective and supportive layer, which is the fascia (a specific kind of connective tissue). Muscles, which are tissues that contract, give physical movement to the body and organs. The fascia supports the organs and viscera, and surrounds all the major systems in the body – circulatory, digestive, nervous, and musculoskeletal. It gives muscles their shape and the body its structure. Structural Integration aligns and balances the body by lengthening and repositioning the fascia. As fascia is lengthened it allows the muscles to move more efficiently.
The practitioner applies pressure to the body, working the entire fascial system in a systematic way. When restricted fascia is released and lengthened the body is able move to its structurally optimal position. The stress of daily activities and physical injuries, as well as the continuous pull of gravity, can pull the body out of alignment. The fascia gradually shortens, tightens and adjusts to accommodate the misalignment. When the body is out of alignment, it creates inefficiency and imbalance. This results in stiffness, discomfort, loss of energy, and most noticeably pain. A body which is aligned and balanced moves with greater ease and requires less energy to function. Good posture is effortless and breathing is easier. Athletic performance improves as the body becomes more flexible and more coordinated.
What Will I Experience in a Structural Integration Session?
Structural Integration is performed in ten sessions. Each session is approximately sixty to ninety minutes in length. Most often, sessions are received once per week for ten weeks in a row. However, scheduling is flexible and depends on the clients and practitioners availability. The ten sessions are administered progressively; each session builds upon the last until complete integration of the body is achieved. The process of Structural Integration includes balancing the body segments. Vertical alignment is achieved by balancing the body from front to back, side to side, top to bottom and inside to outside.
At the beginning of the first session, the client completes a health questionnaire and spends some time speaking with the practitioner about specific goals and intentions for the work as it applies to the client’s unique situation and structure. A male client wears underwear or running shorts to receive the work. A woman wears a bra and underwear or a 2 piece swimsuit. The practitioner observes the client, including how he or she stands, walks and performs other general movements. Digital images may be taken to assist with the evaluation. The specific goals of the session are discussed.
A massage table is used and the client participates in the session often by breathing into the area being worked or by making small, specific movements. During the session the client may experience a warm, pleasant sensation from the area where the practitioner is working. Some individuals do not experience any sensation while others may experience momentary discomfort. Sensations vary depending upon past injuries to the area being worked, chronic stress, and other factors. Based on the client’s needs and feedback, the practitioner applies the appropriate pressure. The practitioner uses hands, arms, and sometimes an elbow to carefully apply pressure to the myofascial tissue.
During most sessions, the practitioner helps the client become aware of habitual patterns of movement and imbalances in his or her body. The practitioner then helps the client work toward making changes to these patterns in daily life. The goal is to make each client’s experience one of self-empowerment. This process is yours – not the practitioner’s. The practitioner works together with you at your level and pace.
Benefits of Structural Integration
Structural Integration is a very personal process. It is important to remember that because no two people are alike, their experiences and the benefits they gain will never be exactly the same. People usually appear taller and slimmer as a result of the process. Some actually gain anywhere from half an inch to over one full inch in height. Chronic feelings of discomfort or pain are commonly alleviated. Other benefits regularly experienced include greater flexibility, a feeling of lightness and fluidity, better balance, increased breathing capacity, increased energy and greater self-confidence.
While Structural Integration is primarily concerned with physical changes in the body, it affects the whole person. In addition to our physical being, we are made up of emotions, attitudes, belief systems and behavior patterns. All are related. When the physical structure is aligned it opens up the individual’s potential. Clients frequently report lower stress levels, greater self-confidence and an improved ability to handle life’s changes. Such benefits have been reported in all age groups.
Structural Integration Lasts!
Yes, it does! Photographs taken of clients years after the Basic Ten Series show that changes are still present. Oftentimes, the structure even continues to improve. Keep in mind, however, that bodies change in response to life’s changes. Injuries, lengthy illnesses, imbalanced exercises, repetitive movement strain, and emotional stress may necessitate additional work.
Post Ten Series
After completion of the Basic Ten series is completed, I recommend that a client allow a period of six months to a year to pass before scheduling more work. (This may be different for athletes.). The waiting period allows time for integration of the body to further occur. A client may then return for more advanced work, dealing again with balance, movement, and awareness.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
If you’re looking for a practitioner of Structural Integration near you, we have a list of searchable databases at this blog post.