Fascia as an Auto-Regulatory System

Author
Translator
Pages: 16-19
Year: 2014
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration ÔÇô Vol. 42 ÔÇô N┬║ 1

Volume: 42

Bruce Schonfeld: We?ve talked a lot about fascia research. How is Western medicine receiving all of the research and taking it into consideration?

Tom Myers: It is happening very fast. It is being received into the mainstream with speeds I would not have credited to happen in my lifetime. I have surgeons coming to me and saying, ?How can we do surgery with the fascial response in mind?? Of course these are the more innovative surgeons; who else would listen to a schlub like me? But it?s happening. I remember talking to [Dr. John] Upledger He said that the first couple of years he presented his pressure-stat model of how the cranial bones move at medical conventions, people would come by his booth and say, ?The bones of the head move? No, I don?t think so.? Then for a couple of years they would say, ?The bones of the head move? I?ve heard about that.? Then by the time a few more years had rolled by, people would be at his booth saying, ?Bones of the head move? Everybody knows that.? I feel very much that way about Anatomy Trains. When I first put the Anatomy Trains book out, it was this radical, heretical idea. Now people are attacking it as old hat and not sufficiently radical. I have watched myself go from being an innovator to being establishment in about twelve years. People are standing on my shoulders and saying this theory isn?t adequate.
These ideas are moving into physiotherapy, personal training, physical education, surgery, and the medical mainstream with great speed. If I may be so political, I would urge the members of the Rolf Institute® to come out and help that process by joining with people in the various medical communities to bring the word out. It is happening so fast that the structural integration (SI) world is under threat of being left behind. The fact is that fascia as a system and the importance of fascia as an idea are quickly and widely being accepted into society. We shouldn?t be hiding our light and resting on the laurels of Ida Rolf from 1979. We need to get with the times and be part of this. Tom Findley is a Rolfer involved in research, and many Rolfers have been involved in the fascial research conferences, but so are chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, and surgeons. It is time to join with the rest of the crowd and see how this thing really works.

BS: I agree. I went to the Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain in 2010 and it is a really good idea to see what people are doing in the evidence-based medical world.
It seems like the Pilates, yoga, and personal-training communities have really taken a shine to the fascial work. I am curious if you think there is something about those communities that has made them so responsive?

TM: I think they are very similar to our community. The idea of muscles working from origin to insertion doesn?t make sense to their experience either, so they are looking for something more inclusive. I would have to say that in those worlds fascia has become somewhat of a buzzword and everyone is talking about ?fascial stretch this? and ?fascial that.? What they are often talking about is how the whole neuro-myo-fascial web works. Sorting out what is neurological and what is fascial in some ways is really hard to do because organically and embryologically they were never really separate. The world of the fascia and the world of the nervous system grew together in your body. We only separate things for analysis with our minds but they never were separate. Where does the nervous system stop and the fascial system begin?
I do think ?fascia? is, as I say, kind of a buzzword, and some people don?t really know what they are talking about. When I see trainers or sometimes Pilates people and they say, ?Fascia, oh yeah, that?s the plastic cling wrap around the muscles,? well, fascia as a system as we have been talking about it here, is so much more complicated than that. It is an auto-regulatory biomechanical system. I think it is really incumbent upon us who understand the fascia system to go out and educate people as to what it is really doing. For ever so long I was trying to educate people that this is really important and doing a lot. Now, I find myself trying to tone people down a little bit. The fascia is not responsible for your thinking and your every movement or injury. Actually, most injuries are fascial injuries: there are very few muscle injuries. There are nerve injuries, but most of the injuries are in the fascial system. That is something that all of these communities really want to know, ?How do I treat injuries? How can I get injuries to heal faster? How can I prevent injuries from happening?? Injury treatment is where, perhaps, knowledge of fascia as a system is the most applicable.
When we work on the median nerve, we are aware that it is part of the larger nervous system. When we inject a drug into a vein, we know it will be all around the whole circulatory system in minutes. But physiotherapists and surgeons often work on the Achilled tendon as if it were a stand-alone structure without the realization that they are working with a body-wide responsive system. This idea has to change.

BS: What have you found to be a very nice user-friendly or good transitional way to discuss the fascial system and the growing body of research with more classically trained medical doctors? How would you try to get a nice conversation started with a neurologist about fascia and its relationship to the nervous system?

TM: It kind of depends on whether [he is] a surgeon or not. A surgeon looks at fresh fascia all the time. To try to explain what we are doing to an orthopedic surgeon is an easier job than trying to explain to a general practitioner or a neurologist. (If you are talking about a neurologist who prescribes drugs and hasn?t done any gross anatomy or looked inside the body since he did his anatomy labs twenty years ago with embalmed cadavers that were already prosected. Looking at prosected cadavers is a way to see how it is in the books but not a way to see how it is in the body.)
Fresh fascia, living fascia, responds so much differently than dead fascia. Dead fascia responds differently than fascia that has had formaldehyde put into it because the fascia is what gets fixed. If I say to a normal general practitioner, ?This fascia changes and it moves. It responds and it develops,? he may say, ?Oh, no it doesn?t. You can?t even move the stuff.? That is true if you are talking about a cadaver, but it is not true if you are talking about a human being. If you talk to orthopedists, they will be right there with you. They know that when they open up the back of the hip to do a hip replacement, all they have to do is touch the scalpel to the fascia and it parts like a spiderweb in front of them. And of course, they know a little bit about how it heals. Surgeons sew the layers one by one now, which doesn?t really help that much because in the process of cutting them and sewing them back together, they lose their serous lubrication and get stuck together anyway. But if they sew it back layer by layer, it is certainly easier for those of us who do this kind of work to get those layers to work separately again.
I think the dialogue is coming along. You talk about biological fabric. You talk about responsiveness. This is a system that has viscosity, elasticity, and plasticity. Some people are opening to hearing it and some are not. Geoffrey Bove and Susan Chapelle have demonstrated in the lab that visceral adhesions can be freed and ?disappeared? through manual therapy; that?s a definite plus in getting agreement from the traditional medical world.

BS: What are Rolfers or SI practitioners, in the most general sense, still missing that you have gleaned from your intense immersion in the research that is coming out and that you have been doing? Anything that you could entice us with or good pieces that we might not realize?

TM: Good question. This system really is an accommodating, strain-distributing system. Our understanding of how the fascia compensates, gets thicker, adheres and sticks layers together is really what is going on. A lot of people out there don?t know that ? even among bodyworkers, yoga instructors, the folks closest to us in terms of people working directly with the body in an educative, non-medical way ? and this message really needs to get out there in a big way.
One of the ideas Ida [Rolf] had very much explicitly in her talks was fascial planes and the interrelationship between fascial planes. Almost everyone in the Pilates, yoga, and training worlds will think of short or adhered fascia: ?What is too short, too long, too strong, and too weak?? But they do not think in terms of the interrelationships of fascial planes. It is not a question of which muscle is too short or which muscle is over active or which muscle is not active enough. It is that the fascial planes have gone out of relationship with each other. It is like draping a dress over a model or draping a toga over somebody. If you?re going out to dinner, you want the toga to fall nicely and sweetly over the skeleton in a balanced way. That is kind of my main message when I am out there talking to these groups. ?Look at this photograph and you will see that the front plane is pulled down and the back plane is pulled up.? I would talk about that in terms of Superficial Front Line and Superficial Back Line, but I don?t care what terms you use.
As Ida Rolf pointed out to us, most often the front falls and the back lifts up. All kinds of things happen after that. You compensate in any of a number of ways. Or in my own case, the head gets pulled forward. I was very short-sighted and had ?Coke-bottle glasses? when I was a kid. So, my head came forward to try to get to the light, to see clearly what was fuzzy. The rest of my body had to follow. The posture underneath my head had to accommodate my head-forward posture. The fascial planes go out of relationship to each other and then they adhere to each other in this new position. You can undo that with yoga. You can undo that with SI. You can undo that with exercise if you go at it long enough. But if you are not seeing the fascial planes being out of relationship to each other, you don?t really know how to work them. It is that kind of seeing that structural integrators really have a handle on and I think a lot of other people don?t.
You asked me what structural integrators are missing and I ended up telling you where I think our greatest strength and message lies. What structural integrators are primarily missing is not information but an outreach program. All kinds of professionals want the kind of information, visual assessment, and holistic treatment strategies that are Rolfers? daily bread. They just don?t know we are even here, because (except for a few of us who often get accused of ?dumbing it down? or ?selling out?) there has been very little outreach from the Rolfing® [Structural Integration (SI)] community into the wider professional communities. We are very small, and unfortunately getting smaller because we are not good at sharing. It?s too bad, but we are fast being left behind by the rest of the world. Rolfers arise! Write more books. Do more courses for physios, trainers, nurses, occupational therapists, in-services for hospitals. We just need to get out there, not stay small and inward looking.

BS: Over your almost forty years of doing the work, is there anything that has stood out to you that was once just dogma, just understood to be the way things work, that has been revealed to be otherwise?

TM: As with any teacher, Ida Rolf was a woman of her time. Her time was of the Edwardian era. She was born in the Victorian era and she really developed her work between the two World Wars. Ida Rolf, Joseph Pilates, and Moshe Feldenkrais, any of the innovators, were looking at their time. Ida Rolf?s process, in my option, works very well for people who have a lordotic spine, anterior tilt of the pelvis, posterior tilt of the ribcage, and then an anterior head. You have to modify it for someone who has a posterior tilt of the pelvis. We have been sitting in chairs working with computers and doing too much tail-tucking in our era, so I find more people these days have a posterior tilted pelvis. It is always difficult with your teachers to know what is ?the baby? and what is ?the bath water? in their teaching. What are you going to throw out and what are you going to keep? Everyone has an idea, ?If only Ida had known about SourcePoint Therapy®,? or ?If Ida had only known about gluten intolerance? ? or whatever your current fad is at the moment. This is a necessary process; I remember saying the same thing. One day a group of us in advanced Rolfing training got this idea that we should do this in water. Then you would be out of gravity and the client would be floating and the fascia could free itself! We came running to Ida. (We called her ?Dr. Rolf,? we did not call her ?Ida? to her face.) She said, ?Oh yes, we tried that back in 1956.? She laid it out for us why this didn?t work, what happened when you tried to do this work in water.
Sometimes your teachers have already considered what it is you are thinking about and have explored it and dismissed it, or explored it and incorporated it. Other times you really do have an innovation that you really do have to pay attention to. She told us, and I repeat it to my team, ?You have to stand on my shoulders.? She didn?t know, couldn?t know ? they weren?t even on the radar ? that there were cells inside the fascia that could contract and change the number of foot/pounds on the fascial planes. She had her intuitive sense of it. She was an amazing practitioner. She was a good scientist, but she was working essentially with the knowledge available in the 30s or 40s or 50s. Tensegrity was really something that came after her, and a lot of this fascial research came after her. It hasn?t changed the wisdom of her basic insight, but everyone is trying to find what the application of these scientific things is, and I think it is going to take the next forty to fifty years for it to shake out.
We have to realize that some of what she said is really going to be altered. Muscles don?t stick together, for instance. If you have seen ?The Fuzz Speech? by Gil Hedley you will realize that this idea was in Ida?s old film about Rolfing [SI] that was made in the early 70s. The muscles get stuck together and then we do some Rolfing work and then the muscles slide on each other. That is clearly not happening. Maybe we are making the fibers that go between the muscles stretch a little so that the muscles can slide on each other a little. I have done a lot of dissection and I have never seen muscles that slide on each other. I see tendons that slide relative to each other. You can see films of that at work by French surgeon Jean-Claude Guimberteau. But muscles are connected to each other and they are supposed to be connected to each other. They don?t slide on each other. They are not separate. That was an idea that was prevalent in her time that we just have to let go of.
And of course the social context changes as well. Dr. Rolf was heard to say that a good series of sessions could turn a homosexual straight. I doubt very much that that concept would have survived in her own mind and heart in this day and age. I shudder to think what statements I have made that will look ignorant or intolerant to my children?s children.

BS: In conclusion, where are we heading?

TM: Toward the understanding and application of fascia as the regulatory system of our biomechanics. It is one of the three holistic body systems and the least understood of the three.
If you look at the nervous system, it is an alarm clock. It records every sense impression and sets off alarms if things are different outside from our inner expectations based on previous experience. It is a system for forming a picture of the world and comparing the two worlds for novelty or threat. You simulate a world inside yourself. You take the information from your senses and you simulate a world outside yourself. You constantly compare the two. As long as they match up, you are calm. When they stop matching up, you get excited in one way or the other and export that excitement to the muscles as tension or movement or glandular secretion.
The circulatory system is a way of self-regulating our chemistry and adjusting hydration, a necessary condition for every living cell. Constantly, the circulatory system is regulating our blood sugar, the hormone levels from the glands, and a hundred different levels of chemistry circulating in our blood. It is constantly bringing things from the outside to the middle and bringing things from the middle back to the outside again, whether that is the lungs or the skin or the kidneys. In my opinion, emotions are stored, recorded, and released in this chemistry, but I can?t get many people to agree with me on that.
The medical community just hasn?t thought about this third system, which is the entire biomechanical regulatory system, the self-adjusting biological fabric of fascia. Where we are going, is that we now realize that every cell in the body has somewhere between hundreds or thousands of adhesive molecules that stick through the membrane that, like Velcro®, hook to the surrounding fascia matrix. When you stretch, whether by doing yoga or in an SI session, you are changing the biomechanics of a particular cell. It is now clear that mechanical tension or pressure on cells can change their epigenetics, change how the cell expresses itself in function.
The ancients had an idea that is expressed in the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. The head should be 1/7 of the body and the stretch of the arms should be the same as the height. They were looking for the ideal proportion of the body. The Greek sculptors and the Renaissance artists were looking for the ideal model of the human body. (Ida had the idea that the Sumerians had it about right; read Rolfer Hans Georg Brecklinghaus?s book [2002] on art and body structure for more ideas in this vein.)
We now can define the ideal proportion of the human body in cellular terms. We can say your body is in ideal proportions when all your cells are in their happy place biomechanically. That is a very general statement. How we get there is a more complicated thing. We know that muscle cells like a certain stretch. We know that nervous cells don?t like compression; they don?t mind stretch much but they don?t like compression. Epithelial cells can?t take too much tension. So each cell wants to be in its happy place. If a cell is too stretched, it can?t do its assigned job any more ? it instead uses its energy to reproduce and make more cells to fill in the gap because it is pulled too thin. If cells are compressed from every angle they say, ?There are too many of us here and I am going to commit suicide!? They pull up their apoptic gene and ?commit suicide? because if cells are too crowded they will form tumors. Better they die and get taken back to the liver to get recycled.
SI practitioners have been focused on the macro-biomechanics of posture. But a lot of the new information is coming from cellular biomechanics, and this is very important. Cells have to be in the happy, middle place in order to do their job properly. All structural integrators have had the experience of a client saying, ?Ya know, before I came to you I was really constipated and now I?m not any more. Did your work have any thing to do with this?? You want to say, ?Oh yes, of course.? But do we have any idea (other than the vague, ?Well, as you get the body more organized. . . .?) what the mechanism is by which that might happen? We didn?t really have any idea before, but now we do have some idea. When cells are crowded, they can?t do their job. When cells are over-stretched, they can?t do their job.
As we make the structural body happier by being more balanced and more in its comfort zone, then the rest of our cells say, ?Ah, yes. Now I can do my job.? We have all had the experience of clients? menstrual cycles normalizing or various physiological things that otherwise we would have no way of explaining other than just luck. But now we do have a way of explaining it: the cells are getting to their happy mechanics. That is what we really haven?t considered over the past fifty years. That is what Donald Ingber and his team are considering in ?The Architecture of Life? and all the subsequent research in parsing out the diseases of what we can now call the adhesome or mechanosome. People are doing a lot of work on cellular biomechanics and the adhesome, and it really behooves us to keep up with this work.

BS: Anything that seems outstanding or needs to be spoken to in terms of this interview in making it more complete?

TM: The only thing I haven?t said is that water is magic. We have not figured out what water does. Water is so amazing. Scientists just think it is H2O, but water is so much more complicated than that. The Achilles tendon is 63% water. These non-Newtonian, rheopectic gels ? the glycoaminoglycans or GAGs ? that hold us together have really amazing properties. To bring this back to connective tissue, I will reference the work of Gerald Pollack who wrote Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life. It is very likely that the membranes, not just the cell membranes but all the membranes, made by the fascia and the collagen and films made by these hydrophilic proteins are going around and organizing the water in the body into a liquid crystal.
We kind of used to talk about liquid crystal. We all got off on Jim Oschman?s metaphors that were way out there. It turns out that he was right about that. The connective tissue is a liquid crystal and it is organizing the body?s water (maybe all of it, certainly most of it) into a liquid crystal. This is what is called ?bound water?. It is bound into the connective tissue in a highly ordered way. We can imagine that in disordered connective tissue, it is bound in a much more disordered way. As we put what Ida Rolf used to call ?pattern? in the body, then we may be ordering the water in the body and thereby ordering the consciousness in the body. But that is way out there and I am just speculating.

BS: I have heard Robert Schleip talk about that also in the context of the research; that maybe a lot of what we are doing is hydrating the matrix and allowing water to get in there and do its job more fully.

TM: Yes, but to do its job in a very orderly way. Water in an ordered pattern is capable of storing information; we don?t know exactly what kind of information, but it is capable of storing information in a way that disordered water is not.

BS: It is like looking at microscopic images of fibers that are orderly, compared to those that have been discombobulated for one reason or another where they just look like they are out of order.

TM: We now know and can demonstrate that movement orders fascia. If a client comes and you are putting pattern into the body and [he is] going back and sitting on the couch, the fascia will start to disorder itself quite rapidly. Healthy load, by which I mean movement or exercise, induces ordered fascial architecture. Sedentary living makes for fascia that is more like felt. ?Sitting is the new smoking,? as they say. As structural integrators, are going in there and finding those ?felty? places and ordering them, but unless the person keeps moving properly, [he is] going to lose what we do. We can create pattern, but movement is necessary to maintain it. In this way I can recommend cross-referrals with the movement teachers in your community; Tai Chi, martial arts, Pilates, yoga, well-trained personal trainers, Aston Patterners ? any and all of these and a hundred other categories I left out can all be useful partners in maintaining posture, bounce, and balance.

BS: Totally. That is the part where clients need to embody the work, inhabit their bodies.

TM: So it all comes back to awareness ? but awareness exists on many levels, not just the conscious awareness, but the subconscious intelligence of the body, the instinctive awareness that is so much faster than our conscious thoughts.

<i>Tom Myers was certified as a Rolfer in 1976, and remains a member of the Rolf Institute. Author of Anatomy Trains (2014) and co-author of Fascial Release for Structural Balance (2010), Tom directs Kinesis, which offers continuing education and SI training worldwide, from his home on the coast of Maine.

Bruce Schonfeld is a Certified Advanced Rolfer and Rolf Movement Practitioner in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, California. He teaches continuing education classes in Fascial Integration: Structural-Visceral Approaches through the Rolf Institute and International Alliance of Healthcare Educators. </i>

Bibliography

Brecklinghaus, H.G. 2002. The Human Beings Are Awoken, You Have Set Them Upright: Body Structure and Conception of Man in Ancient Egyptian Art and the Pre s ent Day. F ri b u r g , Gr m ayLebenshaus Verlag.

Ingber, D. 1998. ?The Architecture of Life.? Scientific American 278(1): 48-57. Available at http://time.arts.ucla.edu/Talks/Barcelona/ Arch_Life.htm (retrieved 11/18/2014).

Pollack, G. 2001. Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life. Seattle, Washington: Ebner and Sons.[:de]Bruce Schonfeld: We?ve talked a lot about fascia research. How is Western medicine receiving all of the research and taking it into consideration?

Tom Myers: It is happening very fast. It is being received into the mainstream with speeds I would not have credited to happen in my lifetime. I have surgeons coming to me and saying, ?How can we do surgery with the fascial response in mind?? Of course these are the more innovative surgeons; who else would listen to a schlub like me? But it?s happening. I remember talking to [Dr. John] Upledger He said that the first couple of years he presented his pressure-stat model of how the cranial bones move at medical conventions, people would come by his booth and say, ?The bones of the head move? No, I don?t think so.? Then for a couple of years they would say, ?The bones of the head move? I?ve heard about that.? Then by the time a few more years had rolled by, people would be at his booth saying, ?Bones of the head move? Everybody knows that.? I feel very much that way about Anatomy Trains. When I first put the Anatomy Trains book out, it was this radical, heretical idea. Now people are attacking it as old hat and not sufficiently radical. I have watched myself go from being an innovator to being establishment in about twelve years. People are standing on my shoulders and saying this theory isn?t adequate.
These ideas are moving into physiotherapy, personal training, physical education, surgery, and the medical mainstream with great speed. If I may be so political, I would urge the members of the Rolf Institute® to come out and help that process by joining with people in the various medical communities to bring the word out. It is happening so fast that the structural integration (SI) world is under threat of being left behind. The fact is that fascia as a system and the importance of fascia as an idea are quickly and widely being accepted into society. We shouldn?t be hiding our light and resting on the laurels of Ida Rolf from 1979. We need to get with the times and be part of this. Tom Findley is a Rolfer involved in research, and many Rolfers have been involved in the fascial research conferences, but so are chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, and surgeons. It is time to join with the rest of the crowd and see how this thing really works.

BS: I agree. I went to the Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain in 2010 and it is a really good idea to see what people are doing in the evidence-based medical world.
It seems like the Pilates, yoga, and personal-training communities have really taken a shine to the fascial work. I am curious if you think there is something about those communities that has made them so responsive?

TM: I think they are very similar to our community. The idea of muscles working from origin to insertion doesn?t make sense to their experience either, so they are looking for something more inclusive. I would have to say that in those worlds fascia has become somewhat of a buzzword and everyone is talking about ?fascial stretch this? and ?fascial that.? What they are often talking about is how the whole neuro-myo-fascial web works. Sorting out what is neurological and what is fascial in some ways is really hard to do because organically and embryologically they were never really separate. The world of the fascia and the world of the nervous system grew together in your body. We only separate things for analysis with our minds but they never were separate. Where does the nervous system stop and the fascial system begin?
I do think ?fascia? is, as I say, kind of a buzzword, and some people don?t really know what they are talking about. When I see trainers or sometimes Pilates people and they say, ?Fascia, oh yeah, that?s the plastic cling wrap around the muscles,? well, fascia as a system as we have been talking about it here, is so much more complicated than that. It is an auto-regulatory biomechanical system. I think it is really incumbent upon us who understand the fascia system to go out and educate people as to what it is really doing. For ever so long I was trying to educate people that this is really important and doing a lot. Now, I find myself trying to tone people down a little bit. The fascia is not responsible for your thinking and your every movement or injury. Actually, most injuries are fascial injuries: there are very few muscle injuries. There are nerve injuries, but most of the injuries are in the fascial system. That is something that all of these communities really want to know, ?How do I treat injuries? How can I get injuries to heal faster? How can I prevent injuries from happening?? Injury treatment is where, perhaps, knowledge of fascia as a system is the most applicable.
When we work on the median nerve, we are aware that it is part of the larger nervous system. When we inject a drug into a vein, we know it will be all around the whole circulatory system in minutes. But physiotherapists and surgeons often work on the Achilled tendon as if it were a stand-alone structure without the realization that they are working with a body-wide responsive system. This idea has to change.

BS: What have you found to be a very nice user-friendly or good transitional way to discuss the fascial system and the growing body of research with more classically trained medical doctors? How would you try to get a nice conversation started with a neurologist about fascia and its relationship to the nervous system?

TM: It kind of depends on whether [he is] a surgeon or not. A surgeon looks at fresh fascia all the time. To try to explain what we are doing to an orthopedic surgeon is an easier job than trying to explain to a general practitioner or a neurologist. (If you are talking about a neurologist who prescribes drugs and hasn?t done any gross anatomy or looked inside the body since he did his anatomy labs twenty years ago with embalmed cadavers that were already prosected. Looking at prosected cadavers is a way to see how it is in the books but not a way to see how it is in the body.)
Fresh fascia, living fascia, responds so much differently than dead fascia. Dead fascia responds differently than fascia that has had formaldehyde put into it because the fascia is what gets fixed. If I say to a normal general practitioner, ?This fascia changes and it moves. It responds and it develops,? he may say, ?Oh, no it doesn?t. You can?t even move the stuff.? That is true if you are talking about a cadaver, but it is not true if you are talking about a human being. If you talk to orthopedists, they will be right there with you. They know that when they open up the back of the hip to do a hip replacement, all they have to do is touch the scalpel to the fascia and it parts like a spiderweb in front of them. And of course, they know a little bit about how it heals. Surgeons sew the layers one by one now, which doesn?t really help that much because in the process of cutting them and sewing them back together, they lose their serous lubrication and get stuck together anyway. But if they sew it back layer by layer, it is certainly easier for those of us who do this kind of work to get those layers to work separately again.
I think the dialogue is coming along. You talk about biological fabric. You talk about responsiveness. This is a system that has viscosity, elasticity, and plasticity. Some people are opening to hearing it and some are not. Geoffrey Bove and Susan Chapelle have demonstrated in the lab that visceral adhesions can be freed and ?disappeared? through manual therapy; that?s a definite plus in getting agreement from the traditional medical world.

BS: What are Rolfers or SI practitioners, in the most general sense, still missing that you have gleaned from your intense immersion in the research that is coming out and that you have been doing? Anything that you could entice us with or good pieces that we might not realize?

TM: Good question. This system really is an accommodating, strain-distributing system. Our understanding of how the fascia compensates, gets thicker, adheres and sticks layers together is really what is going on. A lot of people out there don?t know that ? even among bodyworkers, yoga instructors, the folks closest to us in terms of people working directly with the body in an educative, non-medical way ? and this message really needs to get out there in a big way.
One of the ideas Ida [Rolf] had very much explicitly in her talks was fascial planes and the interrelationship between fascial planes. Almost everyone in the Pilates, yoga, and training worlds will think of short or adhered fascia: ?What is too short, too long, too strong, and too weak?? But they do not think in terms of the interrelationships of fascial planes. It is not a question of which muscle is too short or which muscle is over active or which muscle is not active enough. It is that the fascial planes have gone out of relationship with each other. It is like draping a dress over a model or draping a toga over somebody. If you?re going out to dinner, you want the toga to fall nicely and sweetly over the skeleton in a balanced way. That is kind of my main message when I am out there talking to these groups. ?Look at this photograph and you will see that the front plane is pulled down and the back plane is pulled up.? I would talk about that in terms of Superficial Front Line and Superficial Back Line, but I don?t care what terms you use.
As Ida Rolf pointed out to us, most often the front falls and the back lifts up. All kinds of things happen after that. You compensate in any of a number of ways. Or in my own case, the head gets pulled forward. I was very short-sighted and had ?Coke-bottle glasses? when I was a kid. So, my head came forward to try to get to the light, to see clearly what was fuzzy. The rest of my body had to follow. The posture underneath my head had to accommodate my head-forward posture. The fascial planes go out of relationship to each other and then they adhere to each other in this new position. You can undo that with yoga. You can undo that with SI. You can undo that with exercise if you go at it long enough. But if you are not seeing the fascial planes being out of relationship to each other, you don?t really know how to work them. It is that kind of seeing that structural integrators really have a handle on and I think a lot of other people don?t.
You asked me what structural integrators are missing and I ended up telling you where I think our greatest strength and message lies. What structural integrators are primarily missing is not information but an outreach program. All kinds of professionals want the kind of information, visual assessment, and holistic treatment strategies that are Rolfers? daily bread. They just don?t know we are even here, because (except for a few of us who often get accused of ?dumbing it down? or ?selling out?) there has been very little outreach from the Rolfing® [Structural Integration (SI)] community into the wider professional communities. We are very small, and unfortunately getting smaller because we are not good at sharing. It?s too bad, but we are fast being left behind by the rest of the world. Rolfers arise! Write more books. Do more courses for physios, trainers, nurses, occupational therapists, in-services for hospitals. We just need to get out there, not stay small and inward looking.

BS: Over your almost forty years of doing the work, is there anything that has stood out to you that was once just dogma, just understood to be the way things work, that has been revealed to be otherwise?

TM: As with any teacher, Ida Rolf was a woman of her time. Her time was of the Edwardian era. She was born in the Victorian era and she really developed her work between the two World Wars. Ida Rolf, Joseph Pilates, and Moshe Feldenkrais, any of the innovators, were looking at their time. Ida Rolf?s process, in my option, works very well for people who have a lordotic spine, anterior tilt of the pelvis, posterior tilt of the ribcage, and then an anterior head. You have to modify it for someone who has a posterior tilt of the pelvis. We have been sitting in chairs working with computers and doing too much tail-tucking in our era, so I find more people these days have a posterior tilted pelvis. It is always difficult with your teachers to know what is ?the baby? and what is ?the bath water? in their teaching. What are you going to throw out and what are you going to keep? Everyone has an idea, ?If only Ida had known about SourcePoint Therapy®,? or ?If Ida had only known about gluten intolerance? ? or whatever your current fad is at the moment. This is a necessary process; I remember saying the same thing. One day a group of us in advanced Rolfing training got this idea that we should do this in water. Then you would be out of gravity and the client would be floating and the fascia could free itself! We came running to Ida. (We called her ?Dr. Rolf,? we did not call her ?Ida? to her face.) She said, ?Oh yes, we tried that back in 1956.? She laid it out for us why this didn?t work, what happened when you tried to do this work in water.
Sometimes your teachers have already considered what it is you are thinking about and have explored it and dismissed it, or explored it and incorporated it. Other times you really do have an innovation that you really do have to pay attention to. She told us, and I repeat it to my team, ?You have to stand on my shoulders.? She didn?t know, couldn?t know ? they weren?t even on the radar ? that there were cells inside the fascia that could contract and change the number of foot/pounds on the fascial planes. She had her intuitive sense of it. She was an amazing practitioner. She was a good scientist, but she was working essentially with the knowledge available in the 30s or 40s or 50s. Tensegrity was really something that came after her, and a lot of this fascial research came after her. It hasn?t changed the wisdom of her basic insight, but everyone is trying to find what the application of these scientific things is, and I think it is going to take the next forty to fifty years for it to shake out.
We have to realize that some of what she said is really going to be altered. Muscles don?t stick together, for instance. If you have seen ?The Fuzz Speech? by Gil Hedley you will realize that this idea was in Ida?s old film about Rolfing [SI] that was made in the early 70s. The muscles get stuck together and then we do some Rolfing work and then the muscles slide on each other. That is clearly not happening. Maybe we are making the fibers that go between the muscles stretch a little so that the muscles can slide on each other a little. I have done a lot of dissection and I have never seen muscles that slide on each other. I see tendons that slide relative to each other. You can see films of that at work by French surgeon Jean-Claude Guimberteau. But muscles are connected to each other and they are supposed to be connected to each other. They don?t slide on each other. They are not separate. That was an idea that was prevalent in her time that we just have to let go of.
And of course the social context changes as well. Dr. Rolf was heard to say that a good series of sessions could turn a homosexual straight. I doubt very much that that concept would have survived in her own mind and heart in this day and age. I shudder to think what statements I have made that will look ignorant or intolerant to my children?s children.

BS: In conclusion, where are we heading?

TM: Toward the understanding and application of fascia as the regulatory system of our biomechanics. It is one of the three holistic body systems and the least understood of the three.
If you look at the nervous system, it is an alarm clock. It records every sense impression and sets off alarms if things are different outside from our inner expectations based on previous experience. It is a system for forming a picture of the world and comparing the two worlds for novelty or threat. You simulate a world inside yourself. You take the information from your senses and you simulate a world outside yourself. You constantly compare the two. As long as they match up, you are calm. When they stop matching up, you get excited in one way or the other and export that excitement to the muscles as tension or movement or glandular secretion.
The circulatory system is a way of self-regulating our chemistry and adjusting hydration, a necessary condition for every living cell. Constantly, the circulatory system is regulating our blood sugar, the hormone levels from the glands, and a hundred different levels of chemistry circulating in our blood. It is constantly bringing things from the outside to the middle and bringing things from the middle back to the outside again, whether that is the lungs or the skin or the kidneys. In my opinion, emotions are stored, recorded, and released in this chemistry, but I can?t get many people to agree with me on that.
The medical community just hasn?t thought about this third system, which is the entire biomechanical regulatory system, the self-adjusting biological fabric of fascia. Where we are going, is that we now realize that every cell in the body has somewhere between hundreds or thousands of adhesive molecules that stick through the membrane that, like Velcro®, hook to the surrounding fascia matrix. When you stretch, whether by doing yoga or in an SI session, you are changing the biomechanics of a particular cell. It is now clear that mechanical tension or pressure on cells can change their epigenetics, change how the cell expresses itself in function.
The ancients had an idea that is expressed in the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. The head should be 1/7 of the body and the stretch of the arms should be the same as the height. They were looking for the ideal proportion of the body. The Greek sculptors and the Renaissance artists were looking for the ideal model of the human body. (Ida had the idea that the Sumerians had it about right; read Rolfer Hans Georg Brecklinghaus?s book [2002] on art and body structure for more ideas in this vein.)
We now can define the ideal proportion of the human body in cellular terms. We can say your body is in ideal proportions when all your cells are in their happy place biomechanically. That is a very general statement. How we get there is a more complicated thing. We know that muscle cells like a certain stretch. We know that nervous cells don?t like compression; they don?t mind stretch much but they don?t like compression. Epithelial cells can?t take too much tension. So each cell wants to be in its happy place. If a cell is too stretched, it can?t do its assigned job any more ? it instead uses its energy to reproduce and make more cells to fill in the gap because it is pulled too thin. If cells are compressed from every angle they say, ?There are too many of us here and I am going to commit suicide!? They pull up their apoptic gene and ?commit suicide? because if cells are too crowded they will form tumors. Better they die and get taken back to the liver to get recycled.
SI practitioners have been focused on the macro-biomechanics of posture. But a lot of the new information is coming from cellular biomechanics, and this is very important. Cells have to be in the happy, middle place in order to do their job properly. All structural integrators have had the experience of a client saying, ?Ya know, before I came to you I was really constipated and now I?m not any more. Did your work have any thing to do with this?? You want to say, ?Oh yes, of course.? But do we have any idea (other than the vague, ?Well, as you get the body more organized. . . .?) what the mechanism is by which that might happen? We didn?t really have any idea before, but now we do have some idea. When cells are crowded, they can?t do their job. When cells are over-stretched, they can?t do their job.
As we make the structural body happier by being more balanced and more in its comfort zone, then the rest of our cells say, ?Ah, yes. Now I can do my job.? We have all had the experience of clients? menstrual cycles normalizing or various physiological things that otherwise we would have no way of explaining other than just luck. But now we do have a way of explaining it: the cells are getting to their happy mechanics. That is what we really haven?t considered over the past fifty years. That is what Donald Ingber and his team are considering in ?The Architecture of Life? and all the subsequent research in parsing out the diseases of what we can now call the adhesome or mechanosome. People are doing a lot of work on cellular biomechanics and the adhesome, and it really behooves us to keep up with this work.

BS: Anything that seems outstanding or needs to be spoken to in terms of this interview in making it more complete?

TM: The only thing I haven?t said is that water is magic. We have not figured out what water does. Water is so amazing. Scientists just think it is H2O, but water is so much more complicated than that. The Achilles tendon is 63% water. These non-Newtonian, rheopectic gels ? the glycoaminoglycans or GAGs ? that hold us together have really amazing properties. To bring this back to connective tissue, I will reference the work of Gerald Pollack who wrote Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life. It is very likely that the membranes, not just the cell membranes but all the membranes, made by the fascia and the collagen and films made by these hydrophilic proteins are going around and organizing the water in the body into a liquid crystal.
We kind of used to talk about liquid crystal. We all got off on Jim Oschman?s metaphors that were way out there. It turns out that he was right about that. The connective tissue is a liquid crystal and it is organizing the body?s water (maybe all of it, certainly most of it) into a liquid crystal. This is what is called ?bound water?. It is bound into the connective tissue in a highly ordered way. We can imagine that in disordered connective tissue, it is bound in a much more disordered way. As we put what Ida Rolf used to call ?pattern? in the body, then we may be ordering the water in the body and thereby ordering the consciousness in the body. But that is way out there and I am just speculating.

BS: I have heard Robert Schleip talk about that also in the context of the research; that maybe a lot of what we are doing is hydrating the matrix and allowing water to get in there and do its job more fully.

TM: Yes, but to do its job in a very orderly way. Water in an ordered pattern is capable of storing information; we don?t know exactly what kind of information, but it is capable of storing information in a way that disordered water is not.

BS: It is like looking at microscopic images of fibers that are orderly, compared to those that have been discombobulated for one reason or another where they just look like they are out of order.

TM: We now know and can demonstrate that movement orders fascia. If a client comes and you are putting pattern into the body and [he is] going back and sitting on the couch, the fascia will start to disorder itself quite rapidly. Healthy load, by which I mean movement or exercise, induces ordered fascial architecture. Sedentary living makes for fascia that is more like felt. ?Sitting is the new smoking,? as they say. As structural integrators, are going in there and finding those ?felty? places and ordering them, but unless the person keeps moving properly, [he is] going to lose what we do. We can create pattern, but movement is necessary to maintain it. In this way I can recommend cross-referrals with the movement teachers in your community; Tai Chi, martial arts, Pilates, yoga, well-trained personal trainers, Aston Patterners ? any and all of these and a hundred other categories I left out can all be useful partners in maintaining posture, bounce, and balance.

BS: Totally. That is the part where clients need to embody the work, inhabit their bodies.

TM: So it all comes back to awareness ? but awareness exists on many levels, not just the conscious awareness, but the subconscious intelligence of the body, the instinctive awareness that is so much faster than our conscious thoughts.

<i>Tom Myers was certified as a Rolfer in 1976, and remains a member of the Rolf Institute. Author of Anatomy Trains (2014) and co-author of Fascial Release for Structural Balance (2010), Tom directs Kinesis, which offers continuing education and SI training worldwide, from his home on the coast of Maine.

Bruce Schonfeld is a Certified Advanced Rolfer and Rolf Movement Practitioner in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, California. He teaches continuing education classes in Fascial Integration: Structural-Visceral Approaches through the Rolf Institute and International Alliance of Healthcare Educators. </i>

Bibliography

Brecklinghaus, H.G. 2002. The Human Beings Are Awoken, You Have Set Them Upright: Body Structure and Conception of Man in Ancient Egyptian Art and the Pre s ent Day. F ri b u r g , Gr m ayLebenshaus Verlag.

Ingber, D. 1998. ?The Architecture of Life.? Scientific American 278(1): 48-57. Available at http://time.arts.ucla.edu/Talks/Barcelona/ Arch_Life.htm (retrieved 11/18/2014).

Pollack, G. 2001. Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life. Seattle, Washington: Ebner and Sons.

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