Structural Integration – How it works & What it does
Structural Integration is a scientifically validated body therapy. Unlike massage, Structural Integration focuses not on the muscles but on their protective layer, called fascia (also known as connective tissue). The practitioner will apply pressure to this tissue system in a systematic way to release stuck stress and to re-educate the autonomous nervous system with micro movements by the client, so the body can return to its structurally optimal position.
Muscles are contracting tissues that give the body and organs physical movement, fascia gives the body stability as well as adaptability. The fascia is a fluid-based, seamless, 3-dimensional network which is the environment all other body systems live in.
It contains great amounts of nerve receptors which make it intelligent and adaptable. This extracellular matrix is made up cells (fibroblasts – which produce all other elements of the fascia), protein fibers (collagen, reticular, elastin) and fluid-filled microvacuoles (adaptable space holders in between fibers containing various proteins etc.). The health of this environment is of utmost importance for the overall health of all body systems and their proper functions!
The continuing pull of gravity, repetitive daily (in)activitiy, physical injury, even emotional stress can cause misalignment. The fascia gradually shortens, tightens and adjusts to accommodate the misalignment which becomes the new “normal” for the autonomous nervous system (ANS). When the body is out of alignment it creates inefficiency and imbalance resulting in cellular dehydration, stiffness, discomfort and inefficiency of the ANS. Structural Integration aligns and balances your body by enhancing body sense, cellular hydration and release of stuck stress. This allows your ANS to readjust to efficiently support functional posture and movement.
When a body is aligned and balanced it moves with greater ease. It requires less energy to function. Good posture is effortless and breathing is easier. The body becomes more flexible, more coordinated and athletic performance improves.
The goal of structural Integration is to re-structure the body and it’s parts by releasing life long patterns of tension, bracing and subsequent pain.
Imagine a tent pole held up by guide wires and draped with a cover. The overall system is balanced when all guide wires as well as the cover execute the same force on the tent pole AND gravity as the outside force can pass through all parts in equilibrium – a tensegrity system. As soon as other forces and movement come into play and there is a weak link the whole structure is affected and looses its delicate balance. Over time the stress and strain of imbalance will tear the seams, weaken the guide wires and eventually the pole will collapse.
Now, the tent pole is your bones, the guide wires are your connective tissue, the fibres in muscles, ligaments, tendons – is your fascia, and the cover is your superfiscial fascia. When your body or mind experience trauma throughout life, lasting changes remain in your tissues, interrupting the balanced flow of energy, fluids, metabolism and natural healing. In order to respond to every day stresses the body develops compensatory patterns that often lead to pain, further stress and eventually degeneration.
The intention of the myofascial tissue manipulation and movement education during a 10 session series of Structural Integration developed by IDA P. ROLF is to re-establish equilibrium in the body in relation to the gravitational field so it can release painful chronic patterns and gain new access to ease of body and mind. The new found freedom in a balanced body allows a person to live life to its fullest and meet challenges more skillfully through additional resources enhancing overall ease and performance.