Structural Integration: Making Friends with Gravity

By Margaret Ann Markert

Rolfing Structural Integration is a system of bodywork that focuses on reorganizing the fascial (connective tissue system) of the body. Dr. Ida P. Rolf, the developer of Rolfing, said that when a person’s connective tissue is organized their body will be upright and flexible and gravity then becomes the therapist.

The fascia is a web that interconnects everything in the body. Whether caused by the genetic matrix or from the experience of physical or emotional trauma, connective tissue can be damaged. When damaged it can cause our body to get out of alignment with gravity. This often creates pain, lack of flexibility, and inefficient movement patterns. When we start fighting with gravity it takes greater effort to perform everyday tasks.

With pressure and movement to the fascial system, a Rolfer can re-sculpt the body, creating an environment for healing to happen quickly. Changes can occur even after only one session.

Rolfing Structural Integration is done in a series of 10 sessions. Below is a quick overview of the series.

The Superficial Sessions

The first three are called the sleeve or superficial sessions. The first session opens the breath as free and open breathing prepares the body for the demands of the upcoming changes. A full breath provides support for the chest, shoulders and neck. Some manipulation can also be performed on the arms and hands for relief of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Opening the breath changes the physical demands on the feet, so that is the next area of concern. Session two is often called “Finding the Feet” and focuses on creating flexibility and adaptability in the feet so the whole body can feel supported.

The third session lengthens the sides, balancing the front and back. Opening the sides of the body and differentiating soft tissue of the pelvis from that of the ribs allows the pelvis more movement options.

The Core Sessions

The middle four sessions are referred to as the core sessions, affecting the deep tissues influencing the spine. The core begins from the base of the pelvis up through the roof of the mouth.

Session four is about finding support through the ankles up along the inner leg before accessing the core. Session five picks up where the previous session left off. It accesses the core from the front. The focus is on the deep tissues dealing with the front of the spine and core space to establish flexibility in the low back.

In session six the deep tissues of the back of the spine are manipulated to establish flexibility in the low back.

In session seven, in order to balance the head and neck atop the flexible spine, the Rolfing is done in, on and around the head.

Integration

The last three sessions are the sessions of integration. In the eighth and ninth sessions, depending on the needs that are presented by the client, solidifying changes in the upper and lower body is the goal. One of these sessions will focus on the upper body and the other on the lower with the intention of helping reprogram movements and make changes last.

The goal of the tenth session is to integrate the entire body, coordinating movement across multiple joints so that movement can be as unfettered and free as possible.

Once a person has completed the 10-session series, they can expect to experience a freedom of movement and ease in their bodies so they can better enjoy their daily activities.

Margaret Ann Markert is a certified Rolfer, in practice for 33 years. An advanced Craniosacral and Visceral Manipulation Practitioner, she has also been certified as a Pilates teacher and Gyrotonic trainer. For more information, contact margaretannmarkert1@gmail.com or visit her profile on LinkedIn.