Of the many challenges facing students of Structural Integration, learning to work beyond individual muscles to affect whole body fascial envelopes and myofascial continua can be the most challenging.
In the early sessions, we have focused upon the space between layers of muscles, on differentiating the fascial envelopes that bind muscles together and on releasing these fascial envelopes. Students have learned to use two hands – one to anchor a muscle layer in place while attempting with the other to separate and move other muscles away from the anchored muscle.
And though it may have initially seemed a strange concept, it’s now apparent that most often if we simply anchor one muscle in place as the client rotates and moves away from the muscle we are anchoring, layers will separate.
This is also the point where we learn to work in partnership with clients and to use their movements to help separate the fascial adhesions that glue muscles together. We work slowly and ask clients to make ‘micromovements’ as we wedge and wiggle between muscles and tendons, and between muscles and bones they have adhered to.
And we’re learning that – perhaps counterintuitively – using too much pressure will generally compress layers together and limit clients’ ability to move, rather than enhance it.
Before accessing the body’s more intrinsic muscle and fascial envelopes, we’ve learned to differentiate and mobilize the body’s outer layers of muscle and fascia. And to do this using only enough downward pressure to anchor a layer in place before moving laterally. This understanding of when to use downward pressure and when to change direction and move obliquely is critical to future work.
In later sessions, we’ll expand our awareness and focus on the mobility of the body’s bony structures and of the structural core, because it is adhesion of muscles and facial envelopes to these bony structures that keep these structures from moving freely and shifting position.
We’ll also address fascial adhesion between tendons, and near their attachments at the edges of joints, because those radically affect the alignment between joints and therefore clients’ movement patterns. This means that to affect the alignment of a joint, and the radial alignment between joints, adhesion between tendons will need to be released and bilaterally balanced.
As more and more muscles and tendons are released and mobilized, the body’s larger myofascial continua and movement patterns are revealed, and we see that all these muscles, tendons and fascial layers are connected and continuous. Our ability to assess the mobility of these larger myofascial ‘chains’ and to mobilize and bilaterally balance them is what determines our ability to affect great change in our clients’ gait and movement patterns.
Our ability to feel beyond where our hands are working as our clients move helps us become aware of these larger interconnections. And our ability to anchor a muscle or fascial envelope at one end of a continuum as the client moves the other end, is what will make it becomes possible to ease rotation and strain throughout the entire body.
As more and more of the muscular attachments and fascial layers that surround the body’s structural components are freed, the alignment of these components and the translation of movement through the body’s vertical center, will also be radically affected.
Learning to differentiate the body’s structural components and the fascial envelopes that surround and contain them is our first challenge. Learning to organize them once they have been freed to move and shift position will be our next challenge. And learning to support the transfer of breath and movement through the core will be our greatest challenge!