As we began another year-long Practitioner’s Intensive a couple weeks ago, I was once again reminded that the biggest challenge in learning Structural Integration is conceptual – not physical. I started class by explaining that SI practitioners aren’t working on muscles, but on the body’s fascial layers and envelopes. That these envelopes are three-dimensional and have functional integrity. And that the fascial envelope surrounding the extrinsic layers of muscles of the bony thorax, shoulder and pelvic girdles, head, neck, arms and legs is a single, three-dimensional envelope.
SI practitioners see the body’s deeper (intrinsic) layers of muscle and connective tissue (fascia) as an inner core that also has functional integrity – more like a cylinder within the body’s vertical center than an armature that we hang from. And we see the job of the inner core as supporting us structurally, energetically and emotionally!
We don’t see the different body parts in isolation, but as an integrated system that is in a constant state of change and adaptation. And we see the body’s fascial layers as one of the primary change factors in this process.
It is the fascial layers that differentiate structures from each other and allow muscles and bones to move independently. It is the fascial layers that suspend and hold everything in place. And it is the fascial layers that surround both the body’s outer ‘shell’ and it’s inner ‘core’.
SI practitioners, therefore, are focused upon releasing adhesions that have formed between fascial layers as a result of injury, overuse and emotional stress. When fascial layers adhere to each other, muscles lose the ability to move independently and bones lose the ability to shift position. When fascial layers adhere to each other, the body’s inner and outer envelopes are no longer able to move independently, and posture, mobility and functional integrity suffer.
This requires that we attend to the mobility and integrity of both the body’s outer fascial envelope and its inner core. We attend to their ability to move independently as well as their ability to support proper biomechanics. And we attend to the ‘fit’ between these inner and outer layers.
By observing what should move but cannot, we become aware of the presence and impact of these adhesions. And by attending to what could move better, we envision what is possible for our clients.
We see that when the extrinsic layers of fascia and muscle are free to move independently, our posture and movement patterns are affected. We see that when the intrinsic layers of fascia and muscle are free to move independently, the vertical core has mobility and functional integrity. And we see that when the body’s outer sleeve and inner core are both free to move independently, a higher level of structural and functional integration emerges.
Holding this vision in partnership with our clients and working to actualize it are the heart and soul of Structural Integration!