Einstein wove gravity into the basic fabric of the universe. Rather than being imposed as an additional structure, gravity becomes part and parcel of the universe at its most fundamental level. Breathing life into space and time by allowing them to curve, warp and ripple, results in what we commonly refer to as gravity.”
Brian Greene, “The Elegant Universe”
Structural analysis requires that we comprehend and embrace the knowledge that gravity affects structure. Further, that we specifically identify gravity?s affect in the particular body that we are looking at. Structural analysis or body reading as it is more commonly referred to, is possibly one of the most difficult tools to master in all somatic practices and for all practitioners. Yet it is vital that we see what is happening to the body in the gravity field.
We can orient our senses inside ourselves or outward to the environment. The greater possibility is to use one sense to assist the other and move back and forth. That is what we need in bodyreading. Because of our history, culture and symbolic connections, the perception of our bodies and surrounding environment, such as the body we are reading, diverges from objective reality. This divergence can distort. When we reconstruct our perceptions of the body and the outside world into ones that are less divergent from our day to day reality, we restore our possibilities.
Structural analysis is at best the deepest acknowledging connection we can have with a client and even at worst, a beginning of the creation of individualized sessions by seeing their uniqueness. What we say to our clients about what we see in their body in present time can allow them to associate meaning with their experiences. They are often in pain and fearful or feel out of balance and confused.
I want to tell a story about the value of speaking about what we see in client?s bodies. I had a client come to me, and state: ?there is something wrong with my whole left side, but generally I feel pretty good.? I looked at her and confirmed that the left side from foot to shoulder was different from the other side of her body. I saw that something was going on in the left foot, but she stated that she hadn?t noticed it. So I worked very specifically on the outside of the left leg and noticed that the foot was exceptionally tight laterally. I had worked on this client previously, so I had an awareness of her tissue. I moved to the inside of the left leg and began with the medial foot, doing very specific work and requesting her to move the foot as I worked. I noticed that the medial foot was very open, which I had seen while she was standing. I brought her awareness into her foot with movement and verbal questions. I asked, ?Can you feel how much more open the inside of this foot feels than the lateral foot and lower leg? At that, she sat up and said, ?Oh, I completely forgot that I broke my little toe three weeks ago. Do you think that could have had a bearing on what?s happening in my left side??
Ah, the moment of connection! When we sense what feels unusual in our body, the healing process begins. For her, verbalizing the sensation connected her to her body without the fight or flight response. She stood up and her whole body stacked up again and was balanced. Ida P. Rolf stated: ?it is common knowledge that behaviour bears witness to a given structure. Structure, here, means relationship in space. And structure (relationship in space) on another plane, in another dimension, is behaviour.?(1) There is new research that indicates that stimulating a single neuron will elicit behavioural change.(2)
The model that we use to assist the body-reading process simplifies and begins the process. Soma uses a model to train students to see the body with more ease based on extensive research done by a Japanese physician named Dr. Kimiyoshi Isogai. In over forty years, working with eight assistants, Dr. Isogai worked with intractable diseases using mechanical bracing, splinting, touch and altering movement patterns with amazing progress in over 900,000 cases.
His work in many cases followed the principles of Structural Integration, as he spoke of the body being subject to gravity and other external forces. He documented various conditions showing signs of imbalance between the front and back, and left and right side of the body.(3) He extensively documents the differences in leg length, stating that leg length is a primary cause of ?dislocation of the hip,? the whole pelvis and spine, and most disease.(4)
Dr.Isogai noted ?that illness is nothing but a sign of dynamic imbalance.?(5) He used no drugs in his treatment, and sought to align his patients to their center of balance in gravity.
Dr.Bill Williams is a Rolfer who studied directly with Ida P. Rolf and developed the Soma Institute in 1977. He discovered this material, made contact with Dr. Isogai and purchased his book in 1982. Using this research and his Structural Integration training, Dr. Williams interwove this information into his basic understanding of tilt, shift and rotation patterns, and developed what he called The Holographic Body Reading. If we look only at one part of the body, and know that the body is totally connected through the living matrix continuum, we can predict what we will likely see in the rest of the body. If a hologram is cut into pieces, each piece projects the entire image. That is very simply how a hologram works. Dr. Williams mapped a model of what he called a typical random body that included tilt, shift and rotation patterns and the compressive spiral effects of gravity. I never see a face that is totally symmetrical, or a symmetrical body even in professional athletes or dancers. How could a pelvis held in bi-lateral anterior or posterior tilt be considered natural? I think the chaos of the body is more complex; however, that being said, I know that understanding symmetrical dynamics can equal balance. Based on Dr. Isogai?s research, the foundation of this model is the leg length?s influence on the pelvis and hence the spine.
Our theory is that this is a global pattern that occurs in utero. The body?s drive is for alignment and the global pattern optimizes this alignment in a complex way that allows great mobility through the joints. It is rarely symmetrical in nature. We know that the inside of the body is not symmetrical. The lungs are different left to right; three lobes on right and two lobes on left. The liver is on the right side and the stomach is on the left. Why would we expect the external body to be symmetrical? The goal is balance not symmetry.
Dr. Williams found that the left ilium is in anterior tilt and the right ilium is posteriorly tilted. Dr Isogai states; ?In both males and females, excessive length in the left leg is the most common???75% of males and 78% of females.(6)
We know embryologically that the enfolded fetus creates specific tensions that thicken fascial tissue and create support that is needed after birth, specifically to optimize support in a vertical stance. We also know that slight variations in utero create significant changes. With this in mind we see the root cause, or most important configuration in the pelvis, is leg length and variations in the psoas muscle that inserts on the lesser trochanter of the leg. The anterior tilt of the left pelvis causes a medial rotation of the leg to accommodate changes in the angular configuration of the femur in the acetabulum. Medial rotation of the leg is consistent with anterior tilt in the pelvis. The slightly shortened left psoas muscle and fascia pulls the pelvis medial and there is less space in the medial aspect of the pelvis for the femur to move. To balance this medial rotation the lower leg rotates slightly lateral which can create locking in the left knee. Our proprioceptive feedback senses a medial rotation in the position of the femur and makes an adjustment to the lower leg and foot to compensate. This supports the leg to track forward in most bodies.
The shorter right leg is more lateral in the acetabulum, which tends to lateralize the whole leg. This is consistent with posterior tilt and the need of the femur head to adjust in the acetabulum. If the leg is not well differentiated the whole leg will rotate laterally. The strong muscles acting on the lateral hip could create a functionally shorter right leg. If the leg is well differentiated from the pelvis, and there is an anterior shift in the leg, it will drop tracking forward from the pelvis to the ankle. The ankle will be more involved on the right. I?m referring to tibiotalar joint in which the talus forms a dome that interdigitates with tibia and fibula to form the ankle.
The theory of what causes this typical random pattern is that in the third trimester of pregnancy the fetus fills the uterus and is usually turned with its head at the lower left side of the woman?s body. The little legs in the fetus are wanting to kick and stretch into the right side of the uterus. The right leg can go deeply into the soft visceral organs, which allows the psoas muscle to lengthen and stretch; however, the left leg tends to hit the mother?s ribs which does not allow the left psoas muscle full extension and results in a bow string tension of the left psoas. This tends to cause a shortening of the left psoas which in combination with an anterior tilt of the left pelvis begins the whole process that we call the ?root cause? of the global pattern.
I have personally observed a number of babies that at birth or shortly after have a much more extended right leg than left. The little left leg is pulled up into the body and less comfortable in an extension equal to the response in the right leg.
Since 1986, by teaching this Holographic Body Reading model, observing many students with their models, and working with my personal clients, I have empirically confirmed and evolved this model in thousands of bodies. I have read articles representing differing opinions about leg length or dominant leg, but I have not seen any ideas substantiated by the body of research that stands behind the SNI® model.
The Holographic Body Reading pattern is the underlying global pattern in most random bodies, with compensatory patterns layered over. This is a very organized model for teaching body -reading that assists beginners to see the effects of gravity within the push-pull communication of the connective, fascial net. Analysing structure can become a very left-brain, intellectual exercise, often blocking the practitioner?s ability to perceive and produce results. The Holographic Body Reading encourages the intuitive and the analytical, facilitating a combined approach to seeing the body.
In this article I have introduced the most basic form of this model, with discussion. Points to notice:
<div class=’indented’>? When there is a tilt in the pelvis, the legs are carried into a shift with the pelvis if they are not differentiated from the pelvis; however, we want the legs differentiated from the pelvis, which would functionally have the leg in an opposite shift; i.e.: anterior tilt/posterior shift or posterior tilt/anterior shift. This is a balanced relationship.
? Scapula and shoulder follow the pelvis on the same side. We are looking for a cross lateral line through the torso into the arms and through the pelvis into the legs.This cross lateral from pelvis to shoulder supports spinal engine mobility by providing a globally balanced structure. We don?t move homolaterally, we move cross laterally. This pattern in balance optimizes cross lateral movement in the body.
? The compressive effects of gravity always create a spiral. The spiral starts at the left hip moving to upper torso on the right. There is a shortening of the torso under the right arm to posterior, across to the left shoulder which elevates to follow the left pelvic tilt.
? I consider this a global pattern, and therefore if the right leg is longer, the whole pattern will be switched to the opposite side. The right pelvis will be in anterior tilt/posterior shift, etc. I see this pattern about 75% of the time with anterior tilt on the left and 25% anterior tilt on the right.
? Once I see and confirm the global pattern and the root cause, pelvic tilt, – ASIS is higher (right) or lower (left) – any differences will then be overlying patterns, compensation patterns or imbalance in the global pattern. We can easily see what needs to be released for optimum balance throughout the structure.
? I see the global pattern as natural balance in the body. The Typical Random Pattern is not used for correction of the body, but identifies the underlying global relationships that keep our body balanced and reveals the compensation patterns. The compensation patterns from injury, trauma or abuse are what need to be addressed.
? Only when the global relationships are exaggerated or diminished do they need to be addressed. We think an extreme exaggeration in this pattern creates scoliosis. Global pattern exaggeration is most often due to intrinsic/extrinsic imbalance in the core or tonic system. Our postural muscles have more tonic muscle fibers. That means they are fueled by oxygen and are designed for endurance. If there is a contest between the tonic and phasic, the tonic will overpower since they can endure. These deep tonic muscle fibers tend to tighten more than the extrinsic phasic muscle fibers, and they support our breath and posture. The phasic muscle fibers are fueled by glycogen and are designed for bursts of activity in shorter periods of time. If the global pattern is greatly exaggerated then I must integrate the layers of tissue and restore balance through the tonic-phasic system. That could be initiated with some specific core attention before integration. As with all patterns balance is key.
? Dr.Isogai states, ?The majority of human beings show a greater or lesser degree of sloping in their pelvis. The length of the left and right legs is evenly matched in fewer than ten people in a hundred.?(7)</div>
Below is a summary of the model with bone, body parts, and fascial involvement broken down to the right and left sides of the body. This will assist you to look at a body and assess what you see specifically and if you can see the global pattern. Look at ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine) first to see which side is in anterior tilt. Look at the medial or lateral rotation of the leg – remember that an anterior tilt in the pelvis will likely have a medially rotated leg, and a posterior tilt in the pelvis will likely have a laterally rotated leg and/or engagement at the right ankle. Which shoulder is higher? Remember, the scapula will follow the pelvis, so look at the shoulder from the posterior view. Once you have identified the pelvic tilt pattern, you can assess the other landmarks to confirm what you see.
I want to include some photos for you. The man in Figure 1 is forty-eight years old who is an extreme athlete and has had Structural Integration several times. The left anterior tilt is quite easy to see in the front view, and the shortening of the right upper torso. You can see the spiral through the right torso. His legs are pulled together which make it more difficult to see, but he has whole foot issue on the right with an enlarged large toe joint. The left medial rotation of the leg is seen in the upper thigh and knee. In the back view, you can clearly see the elevation of the left scapula following the pelvis. You can also see that the right hamstrings are slightly shorter from the posterior tilt.
Figure 2 is a young man in his early twenties who is very athletic. The left pelvic tilt is quite apparent and the right leg is laterally rotated as is seen with a posterior tilted pelvis. He has had a severe injury to his right shoulder which shows as the right shoulder is more engaged with an upward pull in the clavicle and slight anterior rotation. He is a random body that has not had SI.
The woman in Figure 3 is thirty-nine and has scoliosis. She has had a number of sessions of SI, mostly Rolfing and recently Soma. You can see the exaggeration of the pattern in the front view with the spiral beginning on the left at the anterior tilt, moving up to the right torso and under the arm, then in the back view across to the left elevated scapula. You see the lateral right leg. She is pain free and works in her body with ease.
This woman is Figure 5 is 28 and again, you can see the anterior tilt in the left pelvis and posterior on the right, with the shorter upper right torso in the front view. In the back view you can see the elevated scapula following the pelvis. She rock climbs and has done extensive rowing so is a very athletic person. You can see the shoulder development from these two activities, particularly in the back view.
In Figure 6 is a twenty-nine year old woman that again displays the pattern I have outlined. The spiral moving from left to right upper torso, under the arm in the front view, and the back view shows the shortened right torso and elevated left scapula. You can see the spiral very clearly in this body. You can see the shorter hamstring on the right. The clearly defined slope of the pelvis indicates a more exaggerated global pattern. The lower legs are working to give the body a sense of balance that is not coming from the core muscles. She had much more grounding and stability in the whole body after her series of Structural Integration.
1. Rolf, Ida P., 1963, ?Structural Integration: Gravity, an Unexplored Factor in a More Human use of Human Beings?, The Journal of the Institute for the Comparative Study of History, Philosophy and the Sciences, Volume I, Number 1, June Issue, p.7.
2. <a href=’http://www.nature.com/news/2007/071219/full/news.2007.392.html’ target=’_blank’>http://www.nature.com/news/2007/071219/full/news.2007.392.html</a>. Thank you, Eric Root!
3. Isogai, Kimiyoshi, 1982, Isogai Dynamic Therapy, Tokyo, Japan: Lattice Co., LTD, Preface-p.1.
4. Ibid. p.7-28
5. Ibid. p.6
6. Ibid. p.13
7. Ibid. p.7
8. Part of Soma Neuromuscular Integration® theory trademarked by Bolesky Intention, Inc.
9. Living matrix is a term used by James L. Oschman in Energy Medicine.
10. Gracovetsky S. 1988, The Spinal Engine, New York: Springer-Verlag.
11. Thank you to Lanii Chapman and Sydney Culver for proofing and sharing comments.