Structural Integration (SI) is a system of deep tissue body work and movement education developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf. The primary goal of SI is to restore the body to its natural state of alignment and balance by organizing the body along the line of gravity.
Why is SI important?
One important principle of SI is that the body is significantly affected by the powerful force of gravity. In a misaligned state, the body’s valuable resources are used inefficiently, laboring to keep the body aligned and upright. In addition, the stresses of daily life, physical injuries, unhealthy movement patterns and attitudes are things that can bring one’s structure out of alignment. Over time, the body will shorten and tighten to accommodate stresses, creating stiffness, pain, fatigue and lack of well being.
What is a typical SI session like?
In the process of SI, changes in posture and structure are achieved by manipulating the body’s myofascial system. The focus of SI is on the fascia rather than on the muscles (as in massage). The fascia is a protective layer of connective tissue that surrounds each muscle and muscle fiber. Fascia gives the muscles and bodies their shape.
SI practitioners use a range of techniques to lengthen and reposition the fascia and the body. The amount of pressure used and techniques applied varies from practitioner to practitioner. A practitioner may use slow, deep, stretching strokes, or constant applied pressure. You may also be asked to move as pressure is applied or to stand and move during a session.
As tissue is being released, you may experience a number of sensations. Physically, sensations range from warm and pleasant to feelings of discomfort or burning. Your practitioner will apply appropriate pressure during the session based on your feedback so the pace of the session is under your control. Sometimes, as the tissue is released and balanced, clients experience the release of emotions, memories or traumas that have been stored in the fascial tissue. Such releases can create the opportunity for change and/or resolution surrounding the issues presented.
Movement education may also be a part of your SI series. Your practitioner can help you become aware of your habitual and inhibiting movement patterns and help you change these patterns to achieve more fluid movement. Movement education can affect your level of daily functioning by helping to change unhealthy patterns in common activities such as sitting, walking and breathing.
SI is typically performed in a series of ten sessions to systematically release the myofascial tissue. Each session builds upon the last, unfolding layers of tissue as the series progress. The series is designed to balance your body in segments, with each session addressing a different aspect of your structure and movement. Though the SI series is designed to work in sequence, your practitioner will often recognize your unique needs and address these needs throughout the series.
At the beginning of a series, your practitioner will often spend some time discussing your health and personal history. It is important that your practitioner know significant pieces of your history including major accidents, traumas, surgeries, conditions and diseases as well as any medications being taken.
Sessions are done in underwear or a bathing suit. You will be observed as you stand and move to assess levels of balance, alignment and movement patterns. In some cases, if appropriate, photographs may be taken for the benefit of you and your practitioner.
The process of SI is an individual and personal process with a wide range of effects and benefits. In general, a body that is aligned and balanced in gravity moves with more ease, fluidity, efficiency and grace. Movement is a pleasure, breathing is easier and good posture is effortless.
In addition, more efficient use of your muscles allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more refined and economical patterns of movement. This can result in increased levels of energy and alertness. Feelings of stress can also decrease while your level of relaxation can increase.
SI aims to affect the whole person, emotionally, physically and energetically, by way of altering the physical structure. Our emotions and behavior patterns for instance, are often related to our physical being. As impediments to balance are removed and the body comes into greater alignment, aspects of the self may also become more aligned. An experience with SI may help release an individual’s potential, promoting positive change, lowering anxiety, improving sleep, increasing confidence, and maturing emotional expression. Finally, the SI series provides increased body awareness and presence allowing for a feeling of finally beingat home…in your body.
Who Benefits from SI?
All types of people have benefited from the process of SI. Some come to ease chronic pain and stress; others are hoping to improve their athletic performance. Children and older people alike can benefit from increased structural alignment.
SI is contraindicated for those with infections, fevers, acute inflammation and recent trauma. Some forms of rheumatoid arthritis, severe osteoporosis or osteomyelitis are also contraindicated.