An Open Universe
Structural integration (SI) is the culmination of a body of work developed by Ida Pauline Rolf--a true Renaissance woman who changed the field of bodywork and the way we perceive ourselves, perhaps, forever.
Rolf looked at the human condition as it related to the environment and chose to look into the relationship of parts to the whole. Rather than working on symptoms, she evolved a series and sequence of manipulations to change how structure relates to the planet. The gravity of this decision led to developing a sequence of manipulative sessions known as the 10-series.
This series of 10 sessions organizes the body in the field of gravity. Fascia, the collagenous protein matrix of connective tissue, is the medium of manipulation in this sequence and series. SI is a process of organization, bringing order to the connective tissue through structural alignment with Earth's gravitational field. Establishing this proper relationship, the energy of the client is reinforced by this field and gravity becomes the therapist.
In Alignment with Gravity
The primacy of gravity plays an essential role in how we age, collapse, and compensate the hologram of structure from the macro to the cellular level. We grow up under the electromagnetic pressure of the planet. All living things and beings are subject to magnetic compression and its exaggerating influence upon structural patterns. But only humans have the potential to evolve in vertical intention. We receive support by organizing around a central vertical axis. Understanding this line of intention is central to Rolf's work.
The line refers to the gravitational influence moving from above one's head, down beyond one's feet, to the center of Earth. It does not stop at one's head or at the feet, but implies larger spatial relationships and polarized energies at the ends of the spine. From the ground up, the line passes through the floor of the pelvis, rising anterior to the spine, up through major body segments, passing through bone only at the crown of the head.
Alignment in the gravitational field integrates the human structure with the planet by being upright at a right angle to Earth. Earth is the horizontal plane, and we can unify in the vertical. "Verticality" is its own virtue in balance of form. The segmented nature of the human body and its joint system renders us vulnerable to falling out of balance. Joints need to work like horizontal surfaces, but none of them are horizontal or flat. The narrow aperture of the ankle acts like a ball bearing distributing weight laterally, medially, anteriorly, or posteriorly.
That base of support may be quite different relative to the structure above and from one leg to the other, depending on rotations and weight distribution right to left. Imbalance in the base strains segments above, requiring fibrous knitting to splint, hold, and stabilize unstable relationships. Tilting or tipping of joint surfaces accompanies rotation at the joint and counter-rotation in the joint above and below. Rotation and strain are reflected throughout the joint system. Holding transmits up and around the spine, transferring into the ribs and myofascia, stabilizing the pattern through the thorax up into the cervical spine and cranium.
Rolf recognized that a body is organized in concentric layers, and that body function can be understood only by realizing the interrelationship of these layers. By addressing layers, the series has a cumulative effect greater than the impact of one session or another. Each session generates a wave of change to the fascial network, affecting all systems of the body simultaneously. In sequence, each session predicts the need for the next, inviting random disorder to surface, unwinding years of habituated compensation that has become painfully normal and all too familiar. Every session addresses the necessity of bringing the pelvis into a horizontal state by organizing, stabilizing, and mobilizing that most central of segments.
Three Powerful Allies
After the basic series, reinforcements arrive in the form of time, space, and gravity. These three allies continue curing what has been initiated. Posture through alignment continues to improve for a year or more.
One of the gifts of this series is an expanded sense of acceptable experience, awareness, and relation to what is happening inside as feelings of health and well-being move to vitality. The basic series is a profound excursion integrating and balancing structure with the electromagnetic ocean all around us. Structural integrity overcomes postural insecurity during a journey from the inside out. We begin to have a glimmer of becoming the center of the cyclone. The series is a profound personal educational experience, orienteering and aligning with nature. We walk toward new opportunities and choices, embracing movement through life.
David Davis is a native Coloradan who was transformed by the work in 1973, trained at the Rolf Institute in 1976-1977, and received advanced training in 1985. He is a founding member of the Guild for Structural Integration.