Guest article by Wayne Still, Structural Integration Practitioner (Penticton and Kelowna)
Structural Integration---Influencing form to enhance function.
Often when I begin to talk with people about Structural Integration work they ask me what the work is about and why it is effective. My response is that I work with the whole body by lengthening and opening their connective tissue. The next question is usually some variation of “why connective tissue?”
Perhaps the easiest answer is “Because there is so much of it.” Dr Ida Rolf, the founder of SI work, was interested in how the function of the human body could be improved by changing its form. Because much of the bodys form is created by fascia or connective tissue, and because it is a plastic medium which can be molded she chose to develop a system of work which focussed on connective tissue.
Just how much of the body is composed of connective tissue and why is it so important? Next to water, the long chain protein molecule collagen is the most abundant substance in the body. This liquid crystal substance forms itself into a tough fibrous network which literally connects all parts of the body into the cohesive and recognizable form we know. It occurs as the ligaments which bind our bones together at the joints. Each muscle fibre is enclosed in a sheath of connective tissue which transfers the energy created by the fibres contraction to movement of a bone or other body part through another manifestation called tendons. Sheets of fascia line the bodys cavities and enclose its organs. There is a layer which lies just beneath the skin, pinch your skin and lift, the little “tent” you form is that subcutaneous layer. But it goes further and deeper. Individual cells are held together by this ubiquitous material meaning that it pervades every nook and cranny of the body from the microscopic to the readily tangible.
The importance of using connective tissue to change the bodys shape to enhance function lies in its being a largely self regulating system. What this means in practical terms is that it will respond to a stimulus or series of stimuli in a predictable manner. This takes place whether the stimulus is accidental as in an injury or deliberate as in receiving SI bodywork. In the case of an injury the system responds by creating scar tissue and/or shortening to address the issue at hand. Minor injuries such as cuts and scratches generally heal quickly with no lasting effects but in the case of larger traumas such as surgery or broken bones the effects of the healing process may impair the bodys function for a long time. In the same manner, the shortening which occurs when the body is compensating for a postural quirk which results in the body being out of balance can result in loss of range of motion. What Dr Rolf learned and passed on to her students is that connective tissue which is so compromised will open and regain its length when carefully applied and directed pressure is applied. The 10 series recipe which she developed uses these predictable results to work through the body in a methodical sequence to restore range of motion which reduces the pain from muscles being unable to move in their full range.
Structural Integration Bodywork