Folding is representative for movements where the existing balance is kept unchanged as opposed to locomotive movement. This means that the Line, which passes vertically through the gravity center of the body, remains in its place in space. Therefore the ?line?, the long axis of the body, must bend to make it possible for the foot-to-head distance to decrease.
Keeping the Line where it is demands that the weight of the body be distributed equally in front and in back of it. For anatomical reasons the knees cannot bend back but only forward and so form the anterior fold. The pelvis must compensate by folding back, and the upper body must tilt forward around the hip hinge. The gravity center of the body then descends on the vertical Line.
The body sinks naturally when muscle tone is reduced through the effect of gravity. The functional view then does not concern itself with muscle contraction but only with the question of which muscles must let go to achieve the optimal form of movement. The structural perspective identifies those parts of the fascial net which inhibit optimal Folding to work on them.
The average pattern of Folding keeps back the knees, refrains the pelvis from swinging back out, and also keeps back the upper body, shortening it in front. The aspect is that of someone crouching in the narrow gap between two walls in front and in back, compressing the core. But the theory of Structural Integration demands that the body lengthen in movement. This leads to the recognition that the folds must swing out far and easy, and in fact the correct movement in the structural sense not only keeps the ?line? long but actually opens the core. This happens successfully when the concave side of the folds does not shorten, which depends on the convex sides lengthening. Then the center line will also be longer.
The shopping bag model provides a vivid metaphor as the body stocking restricts the folds in going out when it is tight. For the knees there is a well-known image which favors relaxation of the convex side. The client is asked to imagine the bones which compose the knee to slide forward through the flesh.
In the physiological reality letting the body sink down in Folding is initiated by tonus reduction. But soon this must become selective, and some muscles are even tensed more. They control Folding and prevent the body from collapsing instantly. For the knees, it is exclusively the vasti which should monitor the movement. The rectus femoris should not be involved as it refrains the pelvis from sliding back once the thighs are in an oblique position. It is not infrequent that Tai Chi practitioners complain about pain in their quadriceps – and are astounded about its sudden disappearance once their pelvis is permitted to settle into an anterior tilt and the upper body is brought forward over the feet.
Another false pattern at the knee is given by active tension in the hamstrings and the gastrocnemii which hold back the proximal ends of tibia and fibula and the distal femur respectively. They should also be relaxed completely, especially as they obstruct the pelvis and the heels going back by their opposite attachments. Bending at the ankle should be monitored solely by the soleus, and the pelvis hardly needs any muscle activity to contain it: it is hampered enough by tension m the fascia.
Apart from the different arrangements of the body parts when experimenting with Folding, balance as the basic principle of movement should always be checked and reestablished intermittently. The folded body is slowly rotated around the ankle hinges from where the weight is clearly felt to be too much forward to where it is sensed too much on the heels. Somewhere in between it is balanced optimally. The subjective criteria for this range are the clear sense of the weight passing through the ankles into the ground and the relaxation of the muscles, especially those of the feet.
In the standard internal the pelvis is posterior and tilted anteriorly. As Folding is in the sagittal plane, front-to-back balance is the appropriate frame of reference for its description. Other aspects as left-right balance and rotation are less relevant. But as the pelvis is embedded in and dependent on overall structure, these and other factors modify of course the pattern and may even reverse the picture here or there. So although it is the pattern which is under consideration, it is granted that there are exceptions to it. Neglecting them is justified by the realization that their specification rests on the perception of the basic pattern. The dynamics of the structural internal pelvic type must be considered from at least four sides.
1. The type is maintained by gravity. Once it is established, the vector path of the weight of the upper body passes through the pelvis in front of its center and the hip joints. The weight pushes down the anterior part of the pelvis further, reinforcing the anterior tilt, and regarding the resistance from the block below, the thighs, it tends to shove back the pelvis more.
2. The structures in primary shortness can be identified by studying the geometry of the type. For front-to-back balance, these are primarily the fasciae of the rectus femoris/sartorius/tensor group, the abductors, the iliacus, and the lumbodorsal fascia. The last pulls up and forward – or doesn’t let sink down – the back of the pelvis by its attachment to the iliac crests and dorsum sacri. The others pull down the pelvis in front and push it back. The iliacus is especially representative. It is highly effective in tilting as it runs nearly on a semicircle around the anatomical axis through the hip joints. But it also aids in keeping the pelvis back by the force it exerts on the pubic bone which is from front to back.
3. Compensation (secondary shortness) is primarily by the abdominal wall and the hamstrings, whose tissue is chronically overstretched and rigidities in counteracting the effects of gravity and the structures in primary shortness.
4. The geometry of the fascial web determines the pattern of muscular tone. If it were assumed to be zero – and if the structure held up – the ?pure? structural situation would reveal itself. From this point, muscular activity, active tension, modifies the passive tension pattern as given by gravity impacting on the fascial web and therefore changes the geometry of the body in space. This can be in the direction of the actual passive tension preference as when one exaggerates one?s structural pattern. The tone of the muscles along the primary short tissues increases then. Usually the structure is modified posturally in the opposite direction automatically as it renders the situation more economical by arranging the blocks more ?normally?. This is by an increased tone of the muscles along the tissues in secondary shortness. So usually the tonus of the muscles tensing the compensations is higher than that of those along the primary short structures. In other words, the structural preference introduced by gravity is counteracted by muscular tension, which describes the starting point for the observation of the structural going more into its aberration when muscular tone is reduced.
Gravity and primary shortness are closely related in that the second is caused by first and vice-versa reiterates and consolidates the structural preference induced by the first. The tissue is chronically shorter than it would be in a normal structure. As it is also less – and less often – stretched, it adapts to the decreased distance between its attachments to bone and other fascial tissue by regulating its neutral state at the lower level of demand.
Secondary shortness and muscular tone are related similarly but in the opposite direction, in counteracting the other pair. So while on the functional level active muscle tension counteracts gravity, the situation is mirrored on the structural level by secondary shortness, in unison with muscle tone, counteracting primary shortness which acts on gravity’s side.
The movement of the internal pelvis in Folding is initiated and actually carried out simply by generally reducing the tone of the muscles acting on it. If they do so in proportion, the difference between the higher tone of those compensating gravity’s effect and the lower one of their counterparts will tend to level out. The resulting imbalance will manifest the effect of gravity on the pelvis by moving it back and at the same time tilting it more anterior, which is in this case the desired direction. Formally speaking, gravity is the ?prime mover,? for the movement.
This works well with many people in practice. But not infrequently there arise complications in that they involuntarily change the tonus pattern selectively. This means that they don t reduce – or even increase – active tension in compensating tissues. This shows for the abdominal wall by keeping the contents of the belly in and back, which is a frequent and unconscious habit. Clients must then be encouraged to let the belly come out. The automatic inhibitions can sometimes be bypassed by concentrating on the pubic bone: it should be allowed to sink and swing back loosely between the legs.
Concerning the hamstrings it must be realized that they act more or less in concert with the glutei, the rotators, and the pelvic floor. Release of the whole group is often easiest when the clients are encouraged to relax the pelvic floor, letting it drop down and swing to face back. Usually the space in the back is the least known and ?owned? in consciousness of all the six directions, and there are often strong hesitations to ?take that spacers, expanding backwards. As sexual connotations are always present, they may just as well be addressed openly and used to experiment playfully. This usually helps to override deeper fears which are associated with this movement and which to treat verbally seems neither productive nor appropriate.
The state of affairs is decidedly different with the external pelvis which is anterior and tilted posteriorly. Here it is not a question of simply letting the pelvis go into its structural aberration by unspecific muscular relaxation. The tilt and the position of the center of the pelvis with regard to the Line must first be reversed in their direction. Energetically the movement is uphill first, then over and down the other side.
The structures in primary and secondary shortness are roughly opposed to those in an internal pelvis. Muscle tone must be reduced selectively only in the tissue in primary shortness, the abdominal wall and the hamstring/glutei/rotators complex. This minimizes the posterior tilt and the anterior displacement of the pelvis. In general the external configuration seems to be less strongly fixed tensionally and determined more by gravity, with collapse more apparent than the dynamics of conflicting active and passive tension. It is sometimes possible to just reverse the trend by maximal relaxation of the rectus abdominis and the pelvic floor, especially when the upper body which is posterior is brought in front of the Line, in this way supporting the intended direction with its weight. Otherwise, active tension must intervene. The choice candidate for the task is the iliacus as the most intrinsic muscle available.
This highly differentiated movement is not easy to evoke. Fortunately, it can be sensed and controlled easily in the pelvis rock when sitting on the bench, which is usually done early on in the series. There, the pelvis is turned around from rolling back down, propelled by gravity, to going forward over the sitting bones to in front of them exclusively by the action of the iliaci.
Figure 4 – Initiation of Folding in external with pelvis anterior and tilted posteriorly; -1 erect stance, -2 unspecific general relaxation increasing anteriority and posterior tilt of the pelvis; -3 specific relaxation of abdominal wall and hamstrings brings pelvis closer to ?normal?; -4 additional increase of tone of the iliaci brings pelvis in back of the Line and tilts it anteriorly, ready-ing it for Folding by gravity.
But as the main intention is to have the client experience the direction of tilt and sagittal shift, one should not hesitate to involve the extrinsics at the cost of compressing the core. So to get a very clear sense of the situation the erectors/quadratus and the rectus femoris/adductors can be used to produce the experience of ?the tail of the diving duck,>. The client can then be asked to release the lower back and the knees slightly, decompressing the core, while maintaining the direction of the pelvic tilt and position. If all fails, the proved method of going in both directions alternatingly to their maximal range will usually bring about a sense of what it is all about. But by then it should have become evident that what is needed most is structural change facilitating the movement.
The Upper Body
The considerations for the pelvis postulate that the abdominal wall be relaxed. This runs cross to an ?instincts most Rolfers share, if not in theory at least in practice. For, it lets the pelvis sink down in front into an anterior tilt. But it is also in conflict with values shared by large segments of modern society which call for the belly to be flat and hard. It is however in tune with ancient aesthetic preferences which are still esteemed in wide parts of the world. And it suits the author, for whom one of the greater pleasures lies in resting his head on the soft belly of a friend. A sounder argument is the fact that horizontalizing the pelvis is in Rolfing meant in a structural context and does not extend to postural correction, which moreover leads to pulling the chest down.
Experimenting with letting the pelvis tilt posterior in Folding shows that the front of the body shortens invariably. It is only with strenuous contraction of the muscles of the back that the chest can be held up. The abdominal wall is the main structure which must be relaxed if the concave contour of the pelvic fold should remain long. The ?line? in front of the spine lengthens and the lordosis of the lumbar spine diminishes in Folding when the front is let go maximally and the back doesn’t shorten. The deep muscles of the back must keep some tone to prevent the spine from bending forward above the LDH.
Encouraging clients to let the belly go soft results often in the undesirable effect of the chest sinking down but the pubes still being held forward and up. It must then specifically be asked for the lower abdomen to relax. Still, the chest very often collapses, which is partly due to a resistance against bringing the whole of the trunk forward over the feet. In many cases a three-step procedure helps to at least give an idea of what is meant:
1. The client is encouraged to pull back his shoulders forcefully to push his chest up high and far forward. The trunk so comes over the feet. The chest is held in a hero’s pose by the muscles of the shoulder-girdle from pectorals to serrati anteriores. The client is then asked to keep the posture but relax the pelvis and the knees which have tended to go into hyperextension. This brings the pelvis back under the upper body and into the anterior tilt.
2. The shoulders are let go slowly to come down and around forward for the arms to hang loosely along the sides without changing the pose of the thorax. Holding is now transferred to the muscles of the back, and it is usually necessary to release the pelvis again. This goes with some lightening of the load for the erectors and activation of the deeper muscles of the back. The chest is still held high, up, and forward.
3. I then touch the client on the sides, going up the thorax and the neck to in front of the mastoid processes, asking him to imagine feeling a mast there. When the picture is firmly in his mind, he should let his sternum and the ribs hang down from the mast without bending it. I use the image of a flag hanging from a strong flag-pole.
The special status of the feet in Folding derives from their being fixed to the ground. They cannot tilt or slide forth or back. By definition the support point of the body is always on the vertical through its gravity center, the Line. If the gravity center shifts, the support point by necessity shifts exactly along with it. Mechanics limits clearly the range of where the support point – and with it the gravity center can be geometrically. For standing on one foot, it has to be in the area covered by the foot. Otherwise one falls irretrievably notwithstanding any muscular efforts or equilibrist abilities. When standing on two feet, the range is given by the area covered by the two feet and the one in between bound by two tangents. The fact is illustrated by the popular children’s trick of asking a portentous adult to stand straight with feet closed and sideways to a wall. It is impossible.
For standing on both feet, the support point is usually virtual, between the two feet, and it is replaced for physical considerations by the support point of each of the two feet. By the ingenious design of human structure, the two are also virtual: in a place where the feet do not contact the ground. Their lateral projection is on the same vertical which passes through the gravity center, on the Line. Furthermore, according to the theory of normal structure, the point which is the lateral projection of the ankle hinges is also on the Line. As the segment of the foot is immobile with respect to the ground, its gravity center is also on the Line. With the exception of the gravity center of the body, the respective projections on the frontal plane are also on two vertical lines through both legs. But these cardinal points may move on the vertical, seen from the side, without impairing balance, and indeed they have to if the criteria of balance are to be met. This means that the feet have to adjust their shape in order for the critical points to stay in line and for balance to be kept.
The physical considerations are simple. Initially in Folding the body accelerates negatively, it falls, lessening the pressure of the weight on the feet. In going up the pressure increases in the beginning. When the movement becomes linear the pressure is constant. These changes are small but essential to be felt clearly, as learning is almost entirely by kinesthetic cognition and images, not by explanation of reductionist theory. Learning means for Folding concretely that the ?random? mechanism of contracting the feet – to safeguard against shifts of the gravity point of the body – while letting down the ?rest of the body? is suppressed in favor of pure relaxation. It is easy to experience this physical side in an elevator. When starting down, pressure on the feet becomes less – one IS lighter – and vice versa with going up.
The dialectics of balance demands that the weight of the body be let down to the ground completely for the arrangement of the blocks to be able to induce lift. But in going down the weight on the medial arch which keeps it spread in the sagittal dimension is reduced and the arch tends to contract. As not losing contact with the floor – or keeping the sense of physical grounding – is essential for balance, the physical tendency must be minimized and counteracted. The first is helped by folding in extreme slow-motion, in this way reducing the loss of grounding. Experimenting with the opposite sharpens the sense of it, too. So it can be tried to let the gravity center of the body do a free fall for 5 to 10 centimeters with the legs going completely slack. This is more difficult than it seems because of motoric patterns which want to jump up first or pull up the legs actively. Extending the body maximally, whereafter only letting go is possible, provides a semblance of the sensation – and develops discrimination for feeling grounded.
Physiologically, the physical tendency is counteracted by letting the feet go as soft as they can. The client imagines the feet spreading in front and the heels sliding back as his weight brings down the arch. The foot spreads like a sucking cap which is pressed to the floor. The practitioner’s fingers under the arches which the clients tries to squash with letting the weight bear down on them facilitates the movement greatly.
The tendency for contraction is furthermore counteracted by the relaxation of the anterior compartment of the leg in flexing at the ankle. At least the tibialis anterior gives up its important contribution to holding the arch up. And this is not matched by a comparable increase in the stretch on the tibialis posterior and the peroneals as they don’t take the long course around the convex contour, the back of the calcaneus, but run down much more anteriorly behind the malleoli. The minimal passive tension imposed on the flexors makes it possible that the calcaneus can slide back between them – if the short Achilles tendon does not prevent it.
So the result for Folding – if it is in the extension mode – is for the feet that the physiological and structural effects reverse the tendency introduced by the physical one. The foot lengthens in coming down forward as well as back. It is generally more difficult for the heel to slide back – which roots the obsession of some Rolfers who insist that the client must ?have heels? in a severe and real problem. Help comes sometimes from explaining that if the leg rotates forward around the ankle hinge, then what’s below must rotate back.
And of course in going up the client’s attention should be focused entirely on extending against the ground, spreading the ?sucking capsize even further.
Sitting down/ Standing up
The problem becomes most evident when someone is asked to stand up from the sitting position without using his arms. Especially with deep, soft armchairs the task can almost be used for a party game. If the easiest way is sought instead of contortions and energetic jerking up, Folding may be tried.
Sitting down is made easier by putting one foot in front of the other with the hind leg touching the chair. Then, a slight shifting of the weight in the sagittal dimension can easily be compensated by redistributing it on the feet. The procedure is less hampered by contractions with which the less expert tend to counteract imminent imbalance. It also seduces them to shift the weight back! So once the movement is established, it should be tried with the feet parallel beside each other.
The movement is in two phases. In the first, the gravity center of the body is lowered strictly on the Line until the sitting bones touch the surface of the chair. It can be experimented with continuing Folding until most of the weight is on the chair. This then starts to act as a lever point and bends the upper body forward down more when the movement is led farther.
It is easy to experience that in Folding the tuberosities have to swing back out, the pelvis going back and tilting forward at the same time, for the buttocks to land in front of the tuberosities. For the second phase it is important that the pelvis stay in front of them. It is often necessary to instruct that the upper body rotate back around a transverse axis somewhere through the lower lumbars, with the pelvis being drawn along only reluctantly. Due to the omnipresent shortness of the hamstrings, the lower lumbers must be as anterior as possible for the pelvis to be able to rest in front of the tuberosities in sitting anyway. But it must be seen to it that it is exclusively the iliacus which holds the iliac crest forward actively and with it the lower lumbars passively, and never the psoas which would pull the upper lumbars forward and down. The tilting back of the upper body is partly by the elastic energy stored during the lengthening in Folding, the rest should come from exerting pressure against the floor through the soles of the feet. Later, when the tissue has become more resilient and the body stays securely in front of the sitting bones, the trunk may of course simply rotate back around the hip hinge. Attention should then be focused entirely on the sitting bones sliding back at the same time. This, the going back of the tuberosities through slight pressure through the feet against the floor while the trunk bends forward and lengthens, is also the initial focus for standing up.
The principle of lengthening in movement is very evident and conscious with sitting down, as everbody strains to reach far back with the pelvis to land securely on the chair. It can be accentuated when Folding is initiated by Bending. When the trunk with the pelvis is near to horizontal, movement is stopped. Alternating with focusing on balance, the pelvis is let out more in back and the head with the parietal area leading reaches forward. The chest may be held up and out a little to achieve maximal length in front, from the pubes to the Varietals. The back, from coccyx to the top of the head, is then released to become longer, and the center line in front of the spine is as long as it can possibly be. The reduction of axial pressure in Bending permits this maximal lengthening of both front and back. Only then the knees are allowed to go forward, and the whole of the trunk is lowered slowly without shortening until the tuberosities touch the surface of the chair.