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Structural Integration- Session 5 (2/2012)

It has been said that session five is the heart of the Structural Integration ten sessions. It is fitting, it seems, on so many levels. Session five is all about the psoas muscle- which has been described in the session 4 posting. It is one of the most important muscles to address as it is what keeps our pelvis balanced from front to back, and side to side. Without balance in this muscle, and therefore balance in our pelvis- we cannot achieve true alignment. When the pelvis is rotated or tipped forward or backwards, it forces our bodies to compensate above and below. We may begin to have low back pain, which moves its way up to our necks. We may have one psoas that is too tight and pulls one of our legs higher in the pelvis, thereby making our footing uneven. It is also important to understand that it is the counterbalance to our abdominal muscles, and is the primary initiator in moving our legs to walk. When our abdominal muscles are too over-developed, say from repetitive crunches, our psoas can weaken, and stop picking up its proper load- thereby leading to pelvic imbalances and subsequent discomfort and misalignment. Also, after this session, the distinction between movement being intrinsic or extrinsic becomes more noticeable. Many people have weakened psoas’, which can cause other muscles not useful to walking to become involved. These muscles have less power than our deeper, intrinsic muscles (i.e. the psoas); and therefore, we spend more energy walking and further our imbalances as less powerful muscles try to compensate. Once psoas is released, one starts to notice the power and energy to walk and hold oneself upright comes not only with more ease, but also seems to initiate from somewhere deeper within the body- this is a good thing! In addition to these important functions, the psoas also houses an important nerve plexus that relates to the overall health of many of our vital organs. As Ida Rolf explains in her book Rolfing, “the lumbar plexus is a spinal plexus embedded in the psoas, permitting intercommunication between the lumbar plexus and the spinal nerves which emerge from the spine where the psoas attaches. Connections from the lumbar plexus to the autonomic system are extensive and intimate. Restricted movement or other mechanical interference in the psoas thus affects the general metabolic level, since this is monitored by the autonomic system as a whole” and the implications go on (pg 112).

Receiving this work had quite an effect on me. I would say that I felt small progressions and new, incremental awareness’ with each previous session. However, the change created in this session somehow made all the other session changes click in and finally settle. As if, they had been preparation leading up to and allowing this major change to happen. I have had chronic issues with the right side of my low back. I have a hip imbalance, in which my right hip rotates downward, causing a lot of strain and compensation patterns in many other parts of my body. I have done stretches, gotten chiropractic work, been obsessive about my posture and body mechanics- but nothing would work until my psoas was released. Suddenly, it was less energy to walk around and I noticed it the most in my massage work. I usually had the most pain after I gave massages, but after my psoas was released, I was able to hold my body in better positions, and spare my back. What a relief! Now, I just need to release the other muscles that have been hanging on for dear life trying to compensate! They are still not quite sure they should stop over-working. That will be the next session, I believe. In addition to the physical relief, there was a profound sense after this session of having entered and “taken a seat” more firmly into my body. I felt more empowered and like I could conquer the world. Big energy release. I felt really out of it that evening as I adjusted to the newness in my body. Weeks later, I can still tell my back is better than it was.

Structural Integration- Session 3 (12/2011)

If you want to reclaim an inch of your height- session three in the Structural Integration progression may be your remedy! 🙂 With its focus on pulling the ribcage up and off the pelvis and lengthening the “lateral seam”- or the sides of body, rather- many of my classmates literally reclaimed an inch of their height. Session three also acknowledges the body as three dimensional- not just back and front- and focuses on integrating this lateral aspect into the whole being before going deeper in later sessions. The integration accomplished in the first three sessions (though they only engage mostly superficial fascial structures) is a completion on its own for this reason.

Due to increased height and length in the body, the emotional component of this session can sometimes deal with whether or not we fill up our own space or shrink into ourselves.  Funny enough, looking back, I did engage with this issue. Often, I don’t like to disrupt harmony between myself and others and will sometimes sacrifice my own needs or desires to maintain it. I think, well, as long as I am the one taking the brunt (silently suffering), I don’t have to worry or feel bad about anyone else’s discomfort. I had a revelation that I am included in what we call “harmony”; if I am part of a group, my well being is part of the harmony of the group; I matter and deserve to take up my own space. The issue came up loud and clear in two separate arenas of my life and continues to knock on the door of my awareness.

This personal experience really brought home to me again that the psycho-physical relationship (mind-body) is a reality and once we start to change our bodies, our minds and spirits inevitably follow suit. Fascinating. It is why I have fallen in love with this work. Ida Rolf’s book Rolfing illuminates this relationship from the very first page.  I want to include an excerpt that exemplifies my meaning- bear with me; its long but worth it:

“At the age of ten, Johnny roller-skated down a flight of concrete steps, bumping down the last six on his derriere. Since he broke no bones, Mama thought no damage was done. But at eleven, Johnny could no longer keep up with his contemporaries in athletics. He couldn’t even sit cross-legged. By fifteen, his knees were hurting; by sixteen, he was getting very heavy-hipped; by seventeen, he was sent to a doctor to find out what ‘disease’ was affecting his knees and his walking. Eventually, the doctor obliged and gave it a name. At thirty-five, Johnny was trying to get rid of the ‘disease’ by psychotherapy. Pity the poor psychotherapist.
In the meantime, what has happened to Johnny’s personality? When a boy can no longer challenge his peers physically…what happens to his self-image? When he feels inadequate and insecure, both consciously and unconsciously, what kind of compensation does he make down through the years?
Endless psychological problems have been blamed on insecurity. Unnumbered mothers have wept on being told, ‘Johnny feels insecure; you didn’t give him enough love as a baby.’ This means that Mama must shoulder the guilt. But Johnnies without number have felt insecure because they were insecure, and no mama appeared in the picture at all, nor did any guilt. To Johnny, one leg felt longer than the other, not because the bones were longer, but because the time he fell down the stairs… he rotated his pelvis. One hipbone therefore is slightly forward of the other and/or slightly higher; one leg seems longer. In addition to the primary problem, compensatory distortions have occurred throughout the body- he is round-shouldered and knock-kneed. Papa’s communications to him are predominantly ‘For god’s sake, boy, can’t you stand up straight?’ In point of fact, Johnny can’t. He only knows that he doesn’t feel right. The psychiatrist will call him insecure, and that’s precisely what he is. For when your two legs are not properly under your body, you are insecure, and you’ll act like it and feel like it.
Inevitably, the bedeviled individual will cope with this insecurity by some kind of compensation. Whether he becomes brash, loud-mouthed, and resentful, or apathetic, withdrawn, and timid depends on other factors. In either case, the family may well send him to a gym or in some way try to build up his body. And he does get sturdier. He weighs more; quite possibly he can wrestle or box, though not very well. Perhaps the weight settles around his hips, as though the flesh wanted to splint the insecurity at the joint. Nonetheless, gym or no gym, at the deep level the joint is still no more secure than it was. Johnny’s dividend from the hated gym- his new potential for wrestling another kid down- does not change his subconscious realization of his own insecure stance. On many planes, his ‘I’ senses this.
Is the remedy for this particular Johnny to be found in psychotherapy? No, not at this time. The remedy can be found only at the level of the insecurity, namely in the structural deviation of the pelvis. New security accompanies a restorted balance in the pelvis. Nothing else does the job. When this has been done, Johnny within minutes reports, ‘Gee, I feel different.’ And within hours, the relaxation of his emotional personality becomes apparent even to the neighbors.” (Rolf, 25-26)

August 4, 2015 0 Comments