The First Session |
The intent of the first Structural Integration session is
considered superficial by most Structural Integration practitioners but “superficial” has a special meaning. The session’s goal is to systematically release the body’s “stocking”,
or the fascial sheath that lies just below the skin’s surface. Some lengthening of the trunk up and out of the pelvis is also anticipated, as well as a relaxation of the legs below the
hip joint. Most people appear to be jammed into the pelvic structure from both above and below.
After the initial session, clients often fell longer and experience freer movement in the pelvis.
The breathing pattern of the client is also affected by this session. Most of us employ only the
upper rib cage when we breathe instead of using the bottom of the cage and the diaphragm. By skillfully working with
the superficial fascia as it spans the ribs, shoulder joint and costal arch, the Structural Integration practitioner can help fashion a breathing pattern
which uses the diaphragm and the front, sides and back of the rib cage to create one smooth, bellows-like motion. Breathing becomes deeper and easier as the session goes on, more oxygen
is available for metabolic and anabolic activities, and the client feels an
increase of energy.
The end of the first session often involves some freeing of the fascial planes around the neck and shoulders, a lengthening of the
structures on either side of the spine and those covering the lower back. Finally, the client is asked to walk and
describe what changes he or she feels. Reports of a “lightness” and ease, and the strange sensation that one is
taking up more space are common.
“Homework” is often assigned after sessions in order to reinforce the session’s results. The
Structural Integration practitioner might suggest that the client imagine a string hanging from a helium-filled balloon and tugging on the top of his or
her head as he or she walks. Or the client might be told to allow his or her breaths to press against the side of
the ribs or to both rise toward the head and drop to the navel.
The Second Session
The second Structural Integration session centers around the legs and, especially, the feet. Most
people carry their weight on the outside edge of each foot, even thought the inside appears better able to support the stresses of body weight.
In addition most people walk by allowing the legs to pull the upper body along after them. This habit puts to much pressure on the heels and can reduce flexibility
in the toes at metatarsals. If, on the other hand, the upper body initiates a step by “falling” lightly forward, the
legs can easily swing forward in response, the body’s weight “caught” on the whole foot. To teach this behavior, the
second session begins with the feet.
After one leg has been worked with, clients are asked to walk and compare the action of the two legs. Invariably, they report that the leg which has been released feels
stronger, more secure. Often they notice that the weight travels on the inside of the released foot and
that there seems to be less pressure on the heel. The other leg will then be released and some work done on the
back and neck to complete the session.
The Third Session
The third Structural Integration session is an integrating one. It ties the first two sessions
together into a complex whole. It is the last of the “superficial” sessions and a crucial point for both Structural
Integration practitioner and client. If, for any reason, either one wishes to delay their series, it is
advantageous to do so before the fourth Structural Integration session, which begins to deal with the deeper structures of the pelvis.
Fundamentally, the third Structural Integration session deals with what’s called the “lateral line” from the head of the humerus, or
upper arm, to the greater trochanter of the femur, or thigh bone. The client lies on his side as the Structural Integration practitioner works to arrange the shoulder, ribs and
pelvis into an even stack. He or she tries to differentiate the rib cage from the shoulder girdle on top and the
pelvis underneath. The Structural Integration practitioner’s goal is to set each structural body part in its own
space without crowding of the structures.
Typical homework after the third session might be to imagine that the pelvis is hanging from the rib cage like a swing hanging from a tree
The Fourth Session
The fourth Structural Integration session represents a change in the Structural Integration practitioner’s intention and commitment.
The focus is no longer on the superficial fascial planes and is now concentrated upon what’s called the body’s “active core”. Structural
Integration Practitioners define “core” structures as those that lie close to the spine and the body’s midline: the core is differentiated from the “sleeve”,
consisting of the shoulder and pelvic girdles, and the “lateral” structures of the legs.
The agenda of the fourth session is deceptively simple. The inside of the legs, from the ankles to the pelvic floor, is released, followed by work on the hamstring
muscles and some “organizing” of the back and neck. The goal of the session is to establish improved support for the
structures that make up the pelvic floor. Although most of the work is on the legs, a client will also often feel a “lift” throughout the torso. The
fourth Structural Integration session seeks to establish an inner pillar from which the limbs can be hung. That is,
the Structural Integration practitioner wants to hang the body’s “sleeve” from the supportive “core”.
The Fifth Session
The fifth Structural Integration session is a continuation of the fourth. It is recommended that
two days or not more than one week separate these sessions. Its providence is the relationship of the
superficial abdominal muscle (the rectus abdominis) to the intermediate level transversis abdominus muscle and the deep-seated hip flexor (the iliopsoas). Most people
wrongly use the wide band of external stomach muscles (rectus abdominus) to do the work of the intermediate and deeper-lying muscles. During
this session the Structural Integration practitioner slowly lengthens and separates the outer structures to allow room for the inner structures to reassert themselves.
Sometimes clients become anxious about this particular session, especially when they know a bit about anatomy. They fear manipulation deep in the body and
in the area of the internal organs. However,Dr. Rolf discovered an ingenious and remarkable safe method of examining these
deep structures with a minimum of discomfort. Only a properly trained Structural Integration practitioner should
attempt this method, and with the right education and experience, the fifth Structural Integration session often becomes more enjoyable and produces less
discomfort than those preceding it.
The deep stomach muscles (iliopsoas) have certain properties that make them a unique in the body. They are the only muscles that extend from the legs to the trunk.
All other muscles of the leg or trunk attach directly to some part of the pelvic girdle. As a result, the proper training and toning of these leg and stomach
muscles are usually better for bad backs than traditional sit-ups.
In fact, traditional sit-ups are likely to eventually exaggerate back problems by shortening the front of the body from the
collarbone to the hip joint. But the balancing therapies of Structural Integration are designed to bring health and
vitality to the under-used deep structures, and they can do much more than the surface muscles to cure weak backs. (Ask your Structural Integration Practitioner about safer,
more effective ways to strength your abdominal muscles.)
A healthy, active psoas muscle also helps other conditions. The nerve fibers located near the psoas become stimulated as the muscles respond to new movement. Menstrual cramping, constipation and excessive
gas are often lessened as a result. A satisfying feeling of the leg-trunk connection of these muscles often emerges
as the client learns to move his or her legs from the lumbar spine rather than
from the hip joint. The holistic nature of the body become physical reality rather than an intellectual idea. The Rolf “pelvic lift” is sometimes taught
during this session to give the client a way to practice moving the psoas at home. (Ask your practitioner about the Rolf “pelvic lift”.)
The Sixth Session
Contemporary Structural Integration 11-session series, each session focuses on some aspect of the pelvis. Even in the second session, work on the legs and feet are
designed to establish support for the pelvic basin. However, the sixth session is very specific in its’ approach to
the pelvis. The muscle structures that are the keys here are the deep rotator muscles under the buttocks. If the client’s legs are unable to function
smoothly while walking, balancing the “rotators” deep in the buttocks will usually even out the operation.
By this time in the sequence, both the Structural Integration practitioner and the client have become aware of the balancing of
the pelvic structure. As the body becomes more symmetrical and organized around a vertical line, disparities
between the right and left sides become less apparent. In the sixth session, this symmetry is
enhanced and extended above and below the pelvic girdle.
A sense of “bigness” and space are often reported, as well as an ability to breathe through to the spine; that is, the spine appears, and
may feel, to undulate during respiration in a wavelike motion. People who have decreased or eliminated
chronic back pain through Structural Integration can often point to the sixth session as pivotal in their progress. Others, who come suffering from anxiety, may also sense a great easing
of emotional distress after this session.
The Seventh Session
Referring to the seventh Structural Integration session Dr. Rolf often remarked: “The seventh session is the last change to ‘horizontal’ the pelvis”, but in fact, the work
of the seventh session is directed entirely toward balancing the neck and head on the spine. During the seventh
session, the Structural Integration practitioner works on the fascia of the neck, opens the connective tissues around the skull and face and helps to improve
breathing further by opening constricted nasal passages. Elective mouth work is also available at this time.
The Eight, Ninth and Tenth Sessions
In each of the first seven sessions of Structural Integration, the Structural Integration practitioner has focused on generally
one area of the body. With eighth, ninth and tenth sessions, the approach is broader, more comprehensive and more
client participation is encouraged. These last three sessions are highly individualized and are called the
In the last three sessions, the practitioner prepares the client’s body to feel its’ “core line” and be able to move in any direction
with equal ease. Large fascial sheaths are related one to the other, and a “silky” quality in the muscle tissue is
sought. Some work may be done with the client sitting or standing, because the relationship of a particular body part
to gravity is a most important goal in these sessions.
The Eleventh Session (optional)
It is widely acknowledged that the traditional ten sessions often do not allow for adequate release of the arms. In
today's busy world, repetitive computer use, yoga practices (upper body esp.),
arm-related expressive needs of the emotional heart, etc., all necessitate that the neck, shoulder, arms, wrists, and hands receive extra care and be maintained in as free, open and relaxed
a state as possible.
The eleventh session is designed to accomplish this goal.
After my sessions of Structural
Integration, how do I continue my work?
After the basic sessions, clients may choose to let the work settle into their body for a while or continue on with additional Structural Integration, or Integrative Massage. The choice is up to the client depending on how they feel, and what their goals are. The Structural Integration practitioner will also be able to offer an choice of treatment options once he understands the client's personal goals and health ambitions.
The follow-up sessions often include single session emergency/maintenance "tune-ups", three and five session advanced Structural Integration series.
Please ask Bruce Andrews any further questions you may have.
It is an honor and a privilege to provide you with Dr. Ida P. Rolf's Structural Integration bodywork.
Dr. Bruce Andrews