Structural Integration

"One individual may perceive his losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in his back, another as the unflattering contour of his body, another as constant fatigue, yet another as an unrelentingly threatening environment. Those over 40 may begin to call it old age. And yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem, so ubiquitous in their own structure as well as in the fellow men that it has been ignored: they are off balance. They are all at war with gravity."

Gravity is one of the great organizing principles of our world. Our well-being depends, in part, on our ability to adapt to it. Unlike animals, we face the challenge of carrying our weight upright on a relatively unstable two-point base. This skyward orientation requires more sophisticated support and adaptability.

Evolution has seen to it that most of us are born with the prerequisites for a body that is well integrated into the gravitational field — that is, a body that carries its weight close to a central vertical axis. If we put our bodies to dynamic, non-repetitive use, most of us would enjoy good structural integration. But the way we live does not respect the integrity of the body's structures. The working world has most of us sitting at desks, making small, repetitive motions. Add to this the problem that many of us use our musculo-skeletal architecture inefficiently. Inappropriate body use creates structural and functional imbalances. When the body gets out of alignment, gravity becomes a destructive force. Its constant downward pull causes the imbalances to set and worsen over time.

Whether brought on by habitually poor body use or some kind of accident, the consequences of imbalance are broad. Small injuries turn slowly into complex patterns of compensation. A fall from a bicycle that twists a knee causes a limp for a few weeks. While the shifting of weight to the strong leg protects the healing limb and allows us to continue to walk, it restructures the coordination of neuromuscular effort, not only in the leg, but through the pelvis, up the spine, and eventually throughout the whole body. Some muscles get forced into chronic tension while others stop participating. Although the limp seems to disappear as the knee heals, the chain of compensations leaves an imprint in the form of shortened, distorted tissue patterns. To the extent that we have lost the length and elasticity of our tissues, we have built into ourselves not only a compromised way of moving but a compromised way of feeling and of responding to our environment. We get tired, anxious and irritated more easily. We find ourselves caught in cycles of degeneration.

Rolfing Structural Integration is a system of intervention that rebalances the body and restores its integration with the gravitational field. The tissue plasticity that allows the body to change shape in response to accidents, repeated mis-use, or emotional trauma is the same capacity that allows Rolfing to re-organize it. Following the principles of order that gravity dictates and that the architecture of the body so clearly calls for, Rolfers™ work to bring the body's major segments — head, shoulders, thorax, pelvis and legs — toward a vertical alignment. This is accomplished by gently manipulating the body's fascia, the connective tissue that envelops the muscles and gives the body its shape. Because disorganization affects every part of the body, Rolfers address specific imbalances in relation to whole-body patterns — indeed, in relation to the whole person.

Just as patterns of disorder tend to reinforce themselves, orderly systems tend to maintain order. Once the body is balanced and aligned, gravity's energy field can flow through it, creating a feeling and appearance of ease and lightness. With gravity's law reinforcing the body's structure, the results of Rolfing are relatively permanent, especially when clients make a conscious effort to replace old, destructive habits of body use with patterns of movement that support the body's reclaimed balance and order. Movement education is offered to those who are interested, and clients are always encouraged to examine how the various activities and influences in their lives support or diminish their journey toward health and wholeness.

"But he can make no progress with himself unless he becomes very much better acquainted with his own nature."