Most adults accept aches and pains and “that tired feeling” as a part of everyday life. To relieve this unease, some take a vacation, others explore psychotherapy. Relief is seldom more than temporary. Yet almost everyone is aware that they have the potential for a much fuller experience of life. The missing key lies in the neglected possibility of finding well being through the physical self.
A person is a total being, not just a variable feeling. Our body’s contours show the dramatization of our psychology. Our behavior is also an expression of our structure, exhibiting the relative freedom, openness and flow of our personality. Our physical body is the shape of our consciousness. A structurally well organized body is generally a centered and secure personality.
Structural Integration, the life work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf, (hence the alternative name “rolling”) proposes that the uneasy or “random body can be restructured in ten hours of carefully programmed work and can achieve significant improvement in vital function, balance, and well being. Dr. Rolf’s ingenious and systematic approach is based on the neglected fact that the human body is a mass organized in space and therefore subject to the forces of gravity. In the course of life, accidents and stresses of various kinds aberrate everyone’s body, resulting in a less stable structure with significant loss of energy and impaired function. The result is sensed as “that tired feeling.
Change is possible and the peeress of deterioration can be reversed because the body is, in part, plastic. The connective tissue; called fascia that becomes distorted by accidents and stresses can be released and re-patterned by systematic deep manipulation. Anyone in reasonably good health, at any age, can undertake rolf processing. The prerequisites are simply recognition of bodily unease, motivation to change, and commitment to ten hours of work at a cost of approximately $30 per hour.
The typical role client, call him Charley “pence, begins work with one of several American structural patterns. His body is leaning out over his feet, knees locked, pelvis tipped forward, belly hanging out, cheat caved in, shoulders drooping and head thrust forward. Charley got that way through a series of misadventures. He fell off a wall when six years old and sprained his ankle, displacing the bones of his foot and badly stressing his ankle muscles. Favoring the injured ankle distributed strain throughout his body. His chronically tensed leg muscles slowed the flow of fluids, compressed nerves and generated fatigue toxins. Muscles in the favored ankle lost tone from lack of use. The envelope of connective tissue around the damaged area thickened and toughened to provide support and attached itself to adjacent muscle systems for additional help. Charley’s whole body now developed a set of compensatory adjustments that limited his actions. The sprained ankle expressed itself in tension in his pelvis, shoulder and neck. Charley went on through high school football and a motorcycle accident to further distort his structure.
Charley?s father, a bully, did his bit by hitting or threatening to hit Charley often. Charley shrank away from. the blows, depressing his chest and drawing in his shoulders. He began to react to all other fears, real and imagined, with the same motion. Eventually he built this shrinking attitude into his body.
Charley is now chronically “off balance,” some muscles constantly committed to holding him in a position of approximate balance. These muscles are using undue amounts of energy simply fighting gravity, unavailable for other work or rest. Charley, the adult sum of all these aberrations and compensations, has a “random” body and experiences himself as not quite competent and often tired.
To release Charley’s body so its natural line of gravity runs through the ear, shoulder joint, hip joint, knee and ankle is no mean task. Ten hours of carefully programmed processing is required. The first seven hours will release the chronically stressed areas and, in general, open up his body. The last three hours will rebalance and integrate it. Each hour, by releasing bound and areas in a specific sequence, reveals residual tension in un worked areas or deeper levels of structure. The process may be likened to peeling an onion, layer by layer. Eventually the deep, slower moving musculature is freed once again to bring Charley’s body into balance. Within the overall design of the processing, each person’s work is different as his basic structure and compensatory pattern is unique to him.
Releasing Charley’s abberated structure is accomplished by stretching and loosening the fascial envelope that surrounds the muscle fibers, bones and organs. Tendons and ligaments are repositioned to their anatomically efficient position. The rolf practitioner will use fingers, knuckles and occasionally an elbow to stretch or reposition tissue while the client is directed to move in a functionally efficient direction. Rolf processing is a partnership in which the client benefits in proportion to the responsibility he takes for assisting in making the changes. The work is done on a floor pad or bed with the client dressed simply in his underwear.
The first hour works over much of the body, releasing the superficial fascia. Processing starts with the chest, freeing the rib cage to provide increased oxygen for metabolizing toxins. The large fascial sheath attaching the hip point is loosened, as are the hamstrings. This work begins the process of freeing the pelvis. The first of several manipulations are undertaken to move the head and neck back and to lengthen the back.
The second hour, in part a continuation of the first, works from the knee down, reforming the structural hinges of foot and ankle to make their virtual movement horizontal. The legs are brought to a better relation under the body, improving contact with the ground. ‘Ibis provides a firm foundation for future work.
All Structural Integration work is a process of lengthening. By the third hour, the principal short areas of the body are its sides. So the third hour concentrates on lengthening them, particularly the area of the large muscle between the top of the pelvis and the twelfth rib. Breathing and mobility of the trunk is improved and a functional midline is established to balance front and back.
The fourth, fifth and sixth hours form a unit devoted principally to freeing the pelvis. The fourth hour works to establish a midline alone the inside of the leg, releasing the muscle system that draw the pelvis down and the leg in. The fifth hour releases the abdominal muscles which tend to put stress on the front of the pelvis and also those of the front of the leg which tend to draw it down. Work is done to engage the deep muscle (psoas) that runs along the lower spine, across the pelvis, to the inside of the thigh. This muscle is critical to pelvic movement and articulates the upper part of the body to the lower in movement. The sixth hour releases the backs of the legs and the muscles of the buttocks which rotate the legs outward, affecting the position of the sacrum and coccyx.
By the seventh hour, the structure of the legs and trunk is mobile. Residual stress is now evident in the neck, which generally appears oddly thrust forward. Work in the seventh hour concentrates on the muscles of the neck and head, letting the cervical vertebra move back and positioning the head over the shoulders. A person with his head on straight gives the appearance of firmness and presence. Some of the work of this hour is one inside the mouth and nose. Since facial areas are often associated with repressed emotions of fear and anger (clenched law, constricted throat) much emotional release is often experienced.
“Decompensating compensations” or releasing chronically stressed areas is not enough, in itself, to accomplish the integration suggested by Structural Integration. A substantial effort is made in later hours to re pattern the mayor fascial planes and to rebalance the segments of the body. The eighth and ninth hour begin this process of organization and integration. The eighth hour usually balances and horizontalizes the Planes of the lower body. The ninth hour does the same for the top. The tenth and final hour completes the balancing of the body from toes to head, moving broad areas into equilibrium. This hour may be seen as one of “sculpting” the body into the planes in which it will eventually function.
The changes induced by Structural Integration processing are permanent. Once a processing hour is completed it need not (cannot) be done again. It is important that the body be worked on in progressive steps through the ten hour sequence. The body has its own wisdom of balance and, under professional guidance, will move toward its natural gravity line as stress is removed. Partial processing may permit habitual patterns of aberration to reestablish themselves.
By the end of ten hours o° processing, Charley is aware of a number of striking changes in himself. He is standing erectly, head up, chin in, looking the world straight in the eye. He has a clearer awareness off his center and a feeling of lightness in his body. His movements are freer, particularly pelvic movements. Dancing is a pleasurable physical experience rather than a stiff exercise. His skin tone is healthier, bowel functions regular, and a nagging lower back has disappeared. He has an exciting awareness of what is happening in his body at all times. Most significantly, he feels an increase in available energy and can finish each day with plenty of reserve.
Beyond the ten hours, the rebalancing process of the body can be augmented by a series of movement patterns t’-at are taught to clients by specially trained practitioners. These patterns are designed to emphasize and reinforce centered and balanced movement. Some people also elect to undertake a short series of advanced work after six months to one year. These hours tend to unwrap deeper layers and move tine body to a higher level of organization.
Structural Integration processing puts considerable stress on the body. A minimum of two days between hours in advisable. An ideal pattern might by one hour per week with a longer break between some hours (1,2,3…4,5,6…7…8,9,10). Increased awareness of his body and of the changes taking place often leads a client to explore improvements in diet toward increased vitamin and protein intake. Voluntary reduction in the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco is often experienced.
The deep manipulation of tissue required to effect changes is often painful and the experience of pain is much discussed by clients. For some people the anticipation of pain a deterrent to being rolfed. In most of the areas touched by the practitioner, pain is experienced as intense but bearable. It ceases after the manipulation stops and generally leaves no soreness. Pain in areas associated with emotional trauma often recalls and takes on some of the quality of the original experience: fear, grief, loneliness. The original traumatic experience may be relived in fantasy and resolved as the body’s armor is penetrated and dissolved. It is Dr. Rolf’s hypothesis that some of the emotion is evoked by the sense of unbalance temporarily experienced during the processing. The aftermath of the emotional release is often great relief. The feeling is one of casting off an obsolete burden, bringing the body more into the present. Awareness of how one handles vain and learning to move with it is a maturing experience, perhaps a vital part of the changes Structural Integration produces.
Like any intensive therapy, Structural integration produces changes in the total human system. Clients experience charges in muscle and skin tone, breathing patterns ant capacity, fluidity of movement, centering, an increase in available energy, decrease in chronic fatigue level and a general sense of increased well being. Recent exploratory research y Drs. Julian Silverman and Valerie Bunt indicates significant changes in blood chemistry muscle electrical potential, and personality patterns. Pr. Hunt’s electromiographic studies indicate that the relied subjects performed actions with a shorter, more efficient use of muscles and have a lower level of stress-indicating muscular static while resting. Further research is planned.
The remarkable woman who developed Structural Integration with herself as her first client is witness to the effectiveness of the process. Now in her mid 70’s mar. Rolf regularly puts in a nine hour day training practitioners and teachers. Long after students nave gone to dinner and rest she will be found with he” personal staff working as a long plumed book on Structural integration. Dr. Rolf, a Columbia PhD, worked for many years for the Rockefeller Institute doing biochemical research. The insights gained from her interest in yoga and the necessity of dealing with her arthritis led her to a more systematic approach to physical change which emerged as the present methodology.
Dr. Rolf presently concentrates her energies on research to validate her methods and on training. Practitioners with the required background in anatomy and the sciences are required to submit a lengthy paper as a qualification for training. The twenty practitioners that are trained each year must first audit a six week course and then work through another six week course of instruction in the specific manipulations of the rolf system. Advanced courses are held for experienced practitioners as the art is expanded and extended. At present, there are over fifty practitioners in the United States, mainly on the West Coast, and several In Canada and England.An Introduction to Structural Integration