I was very much looking forward to the second day of training at Jing as the topic of the day was Structural Integration (otherwise known as Rolfing). This idea of the body comes directly from the work of Ida Rolf, originally a biochemist, who discovered over 40 years of investigation into the human body that the bodies internal network of connective tissue (what we call fascia) actively adapts to patterns of use and misuse. She discovered that the steady application of moderate manual pressure could cause dense layers of tissue to melt, transform and stretch. Systematically applied pressure created flexibility, released people from old, rigid postures and improved their body’s segmental alignment with gravity.
Many years ago when I first started training as a massage therapist I came across a collection of papers written by people including Ida Rolf. I recall reading the book and being somewhat blown away by Ida’s use of language and the ways in which she described the body. She had a deep understanding of the relationships between physical form and motion, density and inertia, contour and resilience. In her writing, she had a deep kinesthetic continuity and resonance with the arts. She believed that living anatomy was a primal ‘plastic medium’.
Ida founded the Guild for Structural Integration in the mid-1960s. One of her students was Tom Myers who went on to develop Anatomy Trains, a form of structural integration which draws heavily on Ida’s original work.
I found the day to be very intense but very, very powerful. Again, the work was slow, involving intention and focus. Unlike indirect fascial work, where we manipulate the fascia and follow where it asks to go, direct fascial work moves the fascia in a set direction. The client plays a big role in this type of work by performing movements such as knee or hip flexion. The client and the therapist must, therefore, work together to create a safe, trusting space in which the fascial work can be done.
One of the most fascinating parts of the day for me was experiencing the connection that this type of work has to emotions, and also coming face to face with some of the deep-seated fascial tension that my body contains. I was grateful to have such skilled hands working on me during the parts of the day when I needed to let go, or found things hard to process. It is during these moments when I am listening to my own body and its story, that I feel most grateful to be a therapist and to be able to facilitate healing in others as so many people do for me. I don’t know where I would be without the therapists who open those doors for me to learn about myself! Its sounds rather crass to say that I started the day with one body and left with a different one, but that is exactly what the day was like for me. Big things shifted and it provided a reminder yet again of the power and importance of touch.
I am reminded of Ida’s own words when I think of this type of work: “It’s not how deep you go, but how you go deep”.