My first ‘Aha!’ as a beginning student of Structural Integration occurred when I learned to shift my focus from massaging and stretching the body’s musculature to freeing the nonelastic fascial sheathing that encases our muscles. And for many years I prioritized freeing those envelopes that can limit the ability of the muscles to move independently from each other.
But as I gained experience, I discovered that mobilizing the body’s entire connective tissue matrix was exponentially more powerful than simply focusing upon a specific problem area. And I began to see the body’s fascial matrix more like a fishing net that changes its shape and overall tension in order to adjust to the load and movement of the fish contained within it.
With that awareness, I shifted from trying to fix a client’s specific problems to trying to support systemic changes throughout their entire body. I learned to feel where these facial envelopes had become adhered to the edges of bony segmentations, and to ‘unglue’ those adhesions to remobilize and align the segmentations.
As I focused on freeing bony segmentations such as the shoulder and pelvic girdles, the thorax and the head, I discovered that mobilizing and realigning them can not only affect a person’s posture, but can also impact the way gravity and movement ‘flow’ through the body. Aligning these bony segmentations is like unkinking a twisted garden hose in order to support the transfer of water through it.
The untwisting and aligning of these bony segmentations should not, however, be confused with the process of supporting the transfer of breath, movement and energy through the body’s inner vertical center. That would be like confusing unkinking a garden hose with turning on the water at the spigot so that water flows through the hose. So, I had to learn how best to support the transfer of breath, motion and energy through my clients’ untwisted and opened inner core.
The understanding of movement and energy flowing or not flowing through the body eluded me for many years. Even though my original study was in Chinese Medicine, I had never been able to feel the subtle movement and energy patterns that my teachers told me ‘move’ through the body.
So, I decided to focus on the movements and movements patterns that I could see and feel. To begin with, I could see and feel the movement of the respiratory diaphragm and of the plural dome of the upper thorax. And in time I learned to see and feel the movement of the floor of the mouth, the pelvic floor and the sphenoid.
And as I learned to see and feel the movements of these ‘diaphragms,’ my focus shifted more and more to supporting their movement and their ability to effect the transfer of breath and energy through the core.
As I look back on my own 40 year journey of discovery, I realize that Dr. Rolf and Structural Integration have always focused on supporting our clients’ journeys of discovery. On supporting their vitality and spirit as much or even more than their physical stability. And it is finally clear to me just how expansive Dr. Rolf’s vision was, and how big a gift her work has been to me, and to us all.