Structural Integration is a profound undertaking for those wishing to be free from posture-related pain and discomfort, to have greater ease in movement, and a deeper sense of embodiment in the present moment. Structural Integration is a 10-session format designed by Ida Rolf that aims to realign and balance the bony structure of the body in the gravitational field via soft tissue manipulation. This soft tissue is called myofascia, which surrounds and invests all of our muscles, bones, and organs, systematically holding our body upright- and is therefore our entry point for creating postural change. Structural Integration looks at the body as a global, holistic system and operates on the understanding that all of the parts affect the whole.
In addition, it acknowledges that in order to create lasting change, the entire body system must not only be addressed from the ground up, but also that the entire body must be able to support the change.
The 10-session format hopes to therefore resolve not only the presenting pain, but all of its compensatory patterns as well. Re-alignment and balance is also accomplished, and retained, through re-educating the body on economy and ease of movement, which often endows clients with a renewed sense of well-being and reservoirs of energy.
For more details on what each session is like and what a client may experience, please feel free to visit my blog where I chronicled my journey through the 10 sessions as a first-time student/client/practitioner.
IS STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION A TYPE OF MASSAGE?
Structural Integration is not considered massage, but rather a style of bodywork. Massage therapy is useful for relaxation, quick tune-ups, and/or muscle-specific work, whereas the intention of Structural Integration (SI) is to balance and align the physical body so that it is supported and maintained by gravity in three-dimensional space. SI does not focus on individual muscles as much as the fascia that surrounds them. As mentioned, SI is a 10-session process and is more of a time and energy commitment on the client’s part.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT WHEN I COME FOR STRUCTURAL SESSIONS?
After an initial intake interview, and if the client is comfortable, the client will stand, walk, or perform general movements before the practitioner in bra and underwear, a two-piece swim suit, or well-fitted shorts for postural assessment. This occurs most often before and after a session, and if comfortable, the client wears the same clothes for both the session and postural assessment.
For the practitioner, a postural assessment is done to see how the client holds him/herself in space, thereby allowing the practitioner to gain an understanding of where any postural deviations and compensatory patterns may have arisen and the opportunity to create goals for the sessions. Also, the postural assessment serves as a kind of measuring stick for both the client and the practitioner, as it allows both to assess any changes that may have occurred within the session. Most importantly, they are an opportunity for the client and practitioner to engage in the process of discerning what changes feel like in the body, and to discuss how to encourage further organization within the body as the changes and sessions progress.
Receiving structural work is somewhat like receiving myofascial release in that it does not use lotion and focuses more on connective tissue rather than musculature; however the intention and some of the techniques are different. The client will lie on a bodywork table and often participates by breathing into an area being worked on or by performing small, specific movements. The sensations a client may experience may run from warm and pleasant to momentary discomfort, however all pressure and techniques will be modified to fit client feedback and comfort.
Most importantly, a client should come prepared to fully engage in each session with the practitioner as part of a team. It is beneficial for the client to be as fully conscious and present as possible in body and in mind.
WHAT IS SCHEDULING LIKE?
The sessions are grouped into three parts. Sessions 1-3 release the superficial fascia, sessions 4-7 release the core, and sessions 8-10 accomplish integration. It is recommended that when progressing through each part (1-3, 4-7, 8-10) sessions should occur once a week until that part is completed. It is ideal to do all ten sessions once a week, for ten weeks. If a break is needed, it is recommended that it not occur until a part is completed, i.e. only between 3&4 and 7&8.
LIFE AFTER STRUCTURAL 🙂
Many people ask if structural work lasts- a great question for the amount of time and money invested. The answer is, yes! Years later, people report the changes lasting. This seems to be due to the fact that Structural Integration teaches a client how to hold and move the body in an integrated way, which in turn keeps the body in balance. Structure and function are mutually reinforcing. The body must first have the structural capacity for integrated movement. Once this is accomplished, and if the body is used in a balanced way, the structure will continue to reflect balance.
Usually after the 10 sessions, and on their own time, clients allow a period of time to adapt and fully integrate the changes. After this, it is encouraged that clients return periodically for tune-ups or for help with achieving particular goals.
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