What is Rolfing Structural Integration, and how can it help me?
I’d like to share with you the goals of Rolfing Structural Integration. This bodywork modality has something to offer for everyone. It’s extremely effective at resolving long term chronic pain conditions. Beyond that I’ve helped orchestra players find more ease in their playing and Olympic athletes fine tune their art. It is a holistic approach to increasing range of motion, proprioception, strength, flexibility and grace.
We have all grown into wonderful bodies, bodies that didn’t come with an instruction manual. The modality of Rolfing Structural Integration (SI) in its entirety could be used as such an instruction manual. The benefits of Rolfing SI can include longevity, health and comfort in the body. In this post we will look at four important and intertwined aspects of Rolfing SI in order to get you acquainted with this way of addressing the body. These are: embodied presence, optimal range of motion, alignment, and foundational strength.
Embodied Presence is simply tuning into exactly what is felt in one’s body at any given moment. We live in a culture that reinforces an outward orientation, so much so that we are often unconscious of our felt-body sensations. Our bodies can be experienced as objects we move around in space to get from here to there rather than lived in as the medium of our experience of the world. The body is both our instrument of perception, and our medium for perceiving reality. Both in session and out, you will be encouraged to cultivate a continuous self-sensing and being with your embodied experience.
Alignment is the neuromuscular patterning and subconscious postural intelligence of the body. Rather than a static final result it is really a verb, aligning in each moment in relationship to reality. To pick this apart a little bit, lets briefly look at spinal alignment in sitting. When you sit, are you sitting on top of your sit bones, pelvis tipped slightly forward, knees lower than hips, allowing the spine to stack healthily, not craning forward at the neck, but elongating out of the crown of your head?
Optimal mobility is simply the capacity for each joint to enjoy its full range of motion (ROM). ROM can be either too loose or too tight. Most of us are well aware of areas of our body that don’t move the way they used to. Optimal mobility can be restored through the manual therapy used in Structural Integration alone, but if you are looking for movement homework, I will provide you with some ROM exercises to quicken the changes made during our sessions together.
Foundational strength starts with building functional core strength. Core strength is not achieved by doing sit-ups. Indeed core strength has become an umbrella term for many different philosophies. To keep things simple, let’s just say it’s your body’s capacity to respond to the needs of the moment with appropriate intrinsic muscular support and nervous system coordination, that you don’t injure yourself. This is accomplished by ones orientation in gravity (here we’re back to alignment and mobility) and the development of real strength.
How much strength is enough? The gold exemplar of the type of strength and mobility I’m talking about here is seen in the accomplished gymnast. Given we don’t all have the time or desire to train for this level of fitness, a general rule of thumb is to develop a level of strength and agility that allows you to do what you want to be able to do in your life. This of course varies with ones interests and stages of life.
If you are interested in this aspect of structural integration, I will tailor a quick and simple exercise routine you can do at home that works with any specific weaknesses you may have. For an example of a starting exercise for core strength please read my previous post, Structural Integration Helps Heal Low Back Pain.
Adam Persinger is a licensed massage therapist.