Dr. Ida P. Rolf, the founder of Structural Integration work, was known by her students and associates to have a sharp mind and tongue. She had an insatiable scientific curiosity and a gift for putting sometimes complex ideas into concise phrases. My teachers frequently used three of her aphorisms to remind us of the basic principles of Structural Integration. Here we will look at the first of them.
“Where you think it is, it ain’t.”
Dr. Rolf developed her work by focusing on the tough fibrous web which holds all the bits and pieces of the body into a cohesive bundle. It is called the myofascial system. Next to water, fascia, also known as connective tissue, is the most abundant substance found in the body. It forms a living matrix which is continuous throughout the body giving it form, strength, and flexibility. Extending to the cellular level, it is connective tissue which forms the cell walls and holds the cells together. Each muscle fibre is encased in a sheath of fascia in which its contraction takes place. The bony skeleton acts as a spacer within the system. It provides points of attachment for specialized fascia such as tendons and ligaments. Fascia determines the placement and alignment of the bones. Plastic in nature, manipulation of fascia by the application of pressure can change the alignment of the bones in the skeleton. Dr. Rolf saw the body as a balanced structure organized around a vertical line, supported by gravity. The integrity of the structure is maintained by balanced tensions within the myofascial system.
Fascia is the bodys memory storehouse. As we experience life our bodies are subject to stress and strains which are absorbed by the fascia sometimes causing damage to it. Damage can be caused by injury, emotional disturbance, or postural quirks. As it repairs itself, fascia contracts and becomes thicker, creating scar tissue and other compensations to facilitate healing. Loss of range of motion in the affected area can be a side effect of the healing process. Balance in the tensions supporting the body is changed so that chronic pain in a part of the body far removed from the original injury may be related to it.
An old injury to your calf has healed, but it has affected the articulation of that knee. The bodys compensation for that change has been a rotation in the hip girdle which created an imbalance in the muscle structures of the back. The resulting strain manifests itself as a pain in your neck. No amount of treatment to the neck will alleviate the pain until length is restored to the original trauma in the calf. Where you think it is, it ain’t.
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