Structural Integration

Your actions build your body

Over the years, we develop postural habits and compensation patterns that are built around the way we live, work, and play. Our actions (or lack thereof) get hard wired into our bodies, and in a sense begin to define who we are. Soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia) in our bodies respond and build themselves around the demand that we put on them. The more we physically do something whether it be practicing Yoga or slouching in front of a computer, the more our bodies will mold around that demand. For example, Yoga (if done correctly) can encourage lengthened muscle tissue, deep and full breathing, flexibility, and a sense of 3 dimensional movement.

Sitting in front of a computer (if done incorrectly), can encourage a collapsed chest, shallow breathing, rounded shoulders, a forward head posture, and will most likely be a ”pain in the neck".

The integrity of our structure and its function lies in a proper balance between the tensional forces of our soft tissues. If there is an area that holds a high level of tension, not only will the local tissue in the area hold that thought” and adhere itself to that tension, but it will also effect the surrounding neighbor tissues and boney structures. Over time, compensations form on top of compensations and the tension becomes a body-wide issue. When tension is a body-wide issue it is a structural issue. Since structure and function are intimately related, a structural issue is also a functional issue.

Functional issues in the body result in more than just physical pain and discomfort. Our ability to move through the world, to respond to the stressors of life and to carry out our life’s work are effected in a big way by how we inhabit our bodies. A more balanced and resilient body will result in a more balanced and resilient person.

OBJECTIVES OF STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION

Structural Integration (SI) releases and unwinds inefficient postural and movement habits. It encourages an integrated and orchestrated body that is more comfortable and able to respond to the demands of modern life. Over a series of sessions (usually 12), SI / Rolfing works to elevate the whole body to a higher level of functionality and economy of effort by working with the structure in a systematic and strategic way. SI / Rolfing is deep, lasting, and significant work, applied with anatomical precision, blended with movement and sensitivity to the individual experience.

KMI (Kinesis Myofascial Integration) springs from the pioneering work of Dr Ida P Rolf, as developed, by Thomas Myers. KMI consists of a multi-session protocol (usually 12) of deep, slow fascial and myofascial manipulation, coupled with movement re-education. KMI is one of a number of schools that train practitioners in ’Structural Integration’, Ida Rolf’s name for her own work. Structural Integration is practiced as an old-world craft with a 21st century comprehension of how your body structure works.

The KMI ’brand’ of structural integration concentrates on doing deep, lasting, and significant work, with anatomical precision, blended with movement and sensitivity to the unfolding individual experience. The KMI ’recipe' for structural integration is based around the ”Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians”, which are explored in a book by Thomas Myers, published in 200] by Harcourt Brace.

The design of KMI is to unwind the strain patterns residing in your body’s locomotors system, restoring it to its natural balance, alignment, length, and ease. Common strain patterns come about from inefficient movement habits, and our body's response to poorly designed cars, desks, telephones, and airplanes, etc. Individual strain patterns come from imitation when we are young, from the invasions of injury or surgery or birth, and from our body’s response to traumatic episodes. Beginning as a simple gesture of response, movements can become a neuromuscular habit. The habitual movement forms one's posture, and the posture requires changes in the structure - the body's connective tissue ’fabric'. In other words, a gesture becomes a habit becomes a posture and eventually lodges in our structure. These changes are rarely for the better - anything that pulls us out of alignment means that gravity works on pulling us into more misalignment or increased tension to counteract the force. Compensation begets compensation, and more symptoms. KMI is designed to unwind this process and reduce structural stress. The method depends on a unique property of the body’s connective tissue network.

Connective tissue is a remarkably versatile bit of biology. It forms every supportive tissue from the fluid blood to the solid bone, and a host of sheets, straps, and slings in between. The muscular tissue moves us around, but it works through the connective tissue fascia, tendons, and the ligaments at every turn, and it is the connective tissue complex that holds us in the shape we are in. When we are injured or stressed, no matter what the source, there is a neuromuscular response - usually involving some combination of contraction, retraction, immobility, and often rotation. These patterns put some muscles under strain (where they develop painful trigger points) and also pulls at this fascial fabric, requiring it to shift, thicken, glue itself to surrounding structures, and otherwise compensate for the excess sustained muscular holding. Especially for chronic and long-held patterns, it is not enough to release the muscular holding, though that is definitely a good start. Freeing and repositioning the fascial fabric, along with re-integrating the movement patterns so that they stay easily in their proper positioning, is the job of KMI. In this sense, KMI could be seen as a companion to osteopathic or chiropractic care, but instead of thrusting the bones back into place, we adjust the fascial 'guy- wires’ so that they stay in place - the new alignment simply becomes part of who you are, not something you have to work at or repeatedly see a practitioner to maintain.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Each KMI session deals with a different fascial plane or set of relationships in the body, progressively working around the body, and from superficial to deep and back again.

Your practitioner may not work where you are reporting the symptoms, as the patterns that feed that problem are body-wide. A whiplash, for instance, is a problem of the neck for some days, a problem of the whole spine within a few weeks, and is linked to a whole body pattern within a few months.

It is not unusual to have odd feelings - physical or emotional - between sessions. Please contact your practitioner if they are cause for concern. Often, old long-forgotten pains will resurface for a time - this is a positive sign that the process of unwinding is well underway. Your practitioner has a short pamphlet, ”Getting the Most From Your KMI Sessions”, which can be helpful.

View your KMI series as a project, with a beginning, middle, and an end; not an on-going and endless therapy. The initial 4 sessions deal with the superficial layers, the middle 4 sessions with deeper structures, and the last sessions of the KMI process integrate the two layers and bring it into everyday movement. Results will continue to accrue after you have finished your final session.

Clients often return once a twice a year for a ’tune up’ session, to ease the effects of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Others simply go on to some other maintenance routine such as yoga, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais, a workout routine whatever is appropriate to them. Still others return periodically for a shorter series of sessions, advanced work designed to take the process deeper into your body and your experience.