Structural Integration

I was very much looking forwards to the second day of training at Jing as the topic of the day was Structural Integration. Ida Rolf was originally a biochemist, and during 40 years of research she discovered 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 (myofascial manipulation or Rolfing as it is now called) 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 and 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.

The basic idea behind Ida's work was that the whole body needed to be integrated in order for it to work as it should. Her mantra was 'up the front, down the back, spread and sides and invoke the core'. She also firmly believed that many problems in the body started at the feet, hence starting her work at the feet and working up the body. 'Rolfing' usually involves 10-12 treatments during which time the fascia of the whole body is slowly and systematically aligned, balanced, opened and lengthened through the use of direct fascial 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 is 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 it's 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 so 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: "Its not how deep you go, but how you go deep".

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Claire Feldkamp

Claire Feldkamp MTI CNHC is on a mission to help people bring balance to their lives. She is passionate about yoga as a tool for self-enquiry, and believes that it has something to offer everyone. Her instruction blends together a deep appreciation of alignment with a fundamental love of movement. An avid rock climber, mountaineer, runner, hungry learner, anatomy nerd and archaeologist, Claire applies her adventurous experiences of life to her teachings, making classes accessible, fun and deeply inspiring. Claire loves to enable others to listen and respond to their bodies, and does so by blending together bodywork, yoga, mediation and mindfulness.