"Where It Is, It Ain't": The Connectivity of Dr. Rolf's Structural
By Jessica Silver
jessica in her vancouver studio
In the first yoga class that I took, the teacher explained the meaning
of the word "yoga".
Its literal English translation is "union". This word and
its meaning grew to have profound meaning for me over time as I searched
for a means to bring together the body, mind and spirit. My search brought
me to Structural Integration.
The concept of union was central to the studies of Dr. Ida P. Rolf,
the creator and founder of Structural Integration. She developed a systematic
way of changing a person's structure over a course of 10 sessions that
would change a person's relationship with his/her environment. The focus
of the 10-series is on the development of the whole body rather than
an examination of parts. Dr. Rolf received her PhD in biochemistry from
Columbia University in 1920 and worked as an associate researcher in
organic chemistry at the Rockefeller Institute for 12 years. She later
studied mathematics and atomic physics at the Swiss Tech University
in Zurich, Switzerland. In addition to academic study, Dr. Rolf studied
yoga, homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, the Alexander Technique
and transformational mysticism.
Most of us are familiar with the expression, "everything is connected".
The human body with its many related systems and parts is no exception.
Structural integration (SI) regards a pain free body as a structurally
balanced body. When people come to Structural Integration for the relief
of a particular symptom, the SI practitioner examines and works on the
whole body and not just the area experiencing pain. To an SI practitioner,
any symptoms of chronic pain or discomfort are the results of imbalance.
The pain may be experienced locally (such as a sore shoulder) but it
has its origins elsewhere. In the famous words of Dr. Rolf, "where
it is [the symptom], it ain't".
People often come to Structural Integration for the treatment of lower
back pain. An SI
practitioner studies the body carefully to see where there is evidence
of imbalance that
could be contributing to tightness and strain in the lower back. For
example, lack of abdominal tone can cause undue strain on the lower
back. In this case of front and back imbalance, the SI practitioner
might work to ease and lengthen the lower back and "wake up"
the underlying deeper muscles in the front of the body. This approach
would progress slowly as the SI practitioner worked at various depth
levels to elicit length and movement.
Imbalances can develop from many different sources. Sometimes they are
the result of
everyday habits such as slouching at a desk, carrying a heavy bag over
one shoulder or using a computer mouse. Imbalances can also be the result
of minor falls or accidents that may not have seemed serious but affected
the structural equilibrium of the body. A seemingly insignificant accident
such as falling off a bicycle for example, can leave effects that are
experienced later in life as a "bad knee" or one leg that
feels predominantly longer. The true source of the bad knee or uneven
leg might actually be a rotated pelvis or a displaced tailbone.
Even old injuries that were thought to have healed properly may affect
the body's balance. For example, in the case of a sprained ankle, the
body shifts as much weight as possible onto the uninjured side of the
body to protect the injured ankle from experiencing further pain. Thus,
the uninjured side of the body compensates for the injured side's vulnerability.
This shift creates an imbalance on one side of the body as there is
an uneven distribution of weight. As the ankle heals, the body does
not automatically shift back to its original balance. Since the body
has learned a new way to support itself, it will retain the new pattern
and continue through life standing and walking with excessive weight
on one side of the body. Although this pattern may have been formed
by a sprained ankle early in life, it can affect the body many years
later in the form of a sore hip or tight lower back. We can begin to
comprehend the complexity of the body by recognizing the relationships
that exist within the body's structure. When one part is out of alignment
it affects another part. Chronic pain or excessive tightness is one
method that the body has of calling attention to this unbalanced relationship.
Bringing a body to balance through Structural
Integration does more than simply relieve a pain. It provides the body
with a more efficient way to stand, to move and to breathe so that the
body's total energy reserve is available to be accessed.
Note: Dr. Rolf's work was originally called Structural Integration.
It later became popularly known as "Rolfing". Since then the
term "Rolfing" has been service marked and Dr. Rolf's original
work has reverted to being called Structural Integration.