Brian Hodgson Certified ROLF METHOD Practitioner London Ontario


What are the goals of Structural Integration?

Structural Integration (S.I.) was developed as a means of manually releasing and re-aligning the fascia or connective tissue in the body to promote optimal balance, mobility and functionality.

More specifically, we are aiming to establish both vertical and horizontal alignment, bringing into balance the front and back of the body, the left and right sides, the upper and lower segments and the inner structures (i.e. core) with the outer (i.e. sleeve).

When the body is properly aligned as such, it is able to move and function with greater freedom, fluidity and ease.

What is fascia?

Fascia is what basically holds and connects our bodies together – hence the synonymous term, connective tissue. It is the tough, fibrous and inelastic tissue, which wraps around the muscles and bones and literally every structure in the body including organs, nerves, blood vessels and even each individual cell. It can range in structure from thin, broad and sheet-like to forming thick ropey or strap like structures, as is the case with the tendons and ligaments.

It is important to note that the fascia in the body is always continuous. In other words there is no beginning or ending to any fascial structure in the body. For example, the fibres of fascia, which encase a muscle, will converge to form the tendon, which in turn attaches that muscle to a bone. Those fibres will continue on to the bone blending in with the periosteum (the fascial layer which enwraps each individual bone) and eventually blending in with another tendon from another muscle – and on and on it goes throughout the entire body.

Because of this fascial continuity, we begin to understand how tension in one area of the body can effect the alignment and function of other areas – both directly and indirectly by causing misalignment and resultant compensation.

The fascia is mostly comprised of collagen fibres, which are embedded in a gel like ground substance. When healthy, this ground substance will also contain a certain amount of water, although when under chronic stress it can dry out, becoming stiff and inflexible. Structural Integration helps to restore the proper level of hydration to the fascia thereby increasing its’ suppleness and flexibility.

Since all of the nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels also run through the fascia, abnormal tensions in the fascia can restrict the flow of nerve impulses as well as the delivery of oxygen and nutrients and the removal of toxins and waste products to and from the tissues.

Why ten sessions?

S.I. was originally developed by founder Dr. Ida P. Rolf, as a process consisting of a series of ten sessions. Most practitioners will recommend the ten series initially as a way of engaging the whole body in the process of re-alignment.

While it is possible to use S.I. as a means to “fix” problems in specific areas of the body, Dr. Rolfs’ ultimate goal was to systematically encourage each recipient’s body to reach a higher level of functionality and integration. Also, understanding that the fascia is continuous throughout the body, we can begin to see how certain problems in the body may originate from areas - other than where the symptoms eventually show up.

Structural Integration aims to treat the whole body. Each session of the series builds upon the previous one while simultaneously preparing for the next step – gradually promoting proper support, integration and mobility of the body’s segments.

Once a recipient has completed the ten session series, s/he is encouraged to allow some time for the body to integrate the work. This can take as long as six months or so as the body continues to change due to the fact that it is functioning differently. After this period there are various options available, depending on individual needs, for ongoing maintenance work. These options can be discussed between the practitioner and client.

“where you think it is… it ain’t”

“put it where it belongs… and then get it to move” Dr. Ida P. Rolf"

What can I expect in a typical session?

Each session always begins with a brief discussion of how the recipient is feeling, followed by an assessment of the individual’s alignment and movement. The practitioner does this simply by observing the standing posture and breathing pattern from different views (i.e. front/back/side) and also by watching the recipient walk. This allows the practitioner to determine where the fascia is restricting movement and pulling the body out of alignment and thereby, formulate a treatment plan according to the goals of that particular session. The recipient is then asked to lie on a massage table to begin the manual work.

During a typical session various positions are used to access specific areas of the body and the recipient may be asked to perform certain movements to assist in the release of the tissues as the therapist applies pressure. Pressure may be applied with the hands, knuckles, forearm or elbow depending on which tool is appropriate. Some technique may be applied with the recipient in the seated or standing position as well.

One of the ultimate goals of Structural Integration is to encourage increased bodily awareness. As a way to facilitate the achievement of this goal the practitioner is trained to assist the recipient in becoming more aware of postural and movement patterns and to provide advice as well as techniques towards improving their awareness and movement efficiency. This could involve stretching and strengthening exercises or simple strategies for correcting dysfunctional postural and movement patterns.

Is the work painful?

Although this is a very common question, it is not a simple one to answer. Every person’s experience varies considerably and different practitioners may have different philosophies around this. Most people would say that the sensations experienced during a typical session can range from being relaxing and pleasurable to an intense burning like sensation when getting into areas where the tissues are quite dense and chronically contracted. It is important to note of course that the recipient is always in control of how much pressure is applied and practitioners will always aim to work well within a person’s level of comfort.

My own philosophy is that I believe there can be great value in experiencing discomfort associated with chronically held tension in the body, when it is done with awareness and a clear intention to release and allow healing. Pain is communication from the body and can help us to become more aware of where and how we hold on to tension. I like to encourage my clients to frame the sensations experienced in a way that they understand that the techniques applied are going in to their body and making contact with the pain and contraction that is chronically held and producing an opportunity for them to release, rather than experiencing the work itself as the “cause” of the sensation.

Most people are surprised that the areas where they do experience the most intense discomfort during a session are not the areas where they normally experience pain on a day-to-day basis. This is due to the fact that their day-to-day symptoms usually arise in the areas that are compensating for the underlying deeper imbalances and restrictions. Structural Integration aims to get at the root of the problem and not just treat superficial compensatory symptoms.

Does the work have an emotional impact?

Though Structural Integration aims primarily to treat the physical body, many people report that they also feel noticeable improvements in their mental and emotional health as a consequence of receiving the treatments. There are a number of reasons for this. One of the more obvious reasons relating to those who suffer from chronic pain is that chronic pain can severely drain a person’s vital energy leading to severe fatigue, malaise and sometimes depression and general negativity. When relief of chronic pain is achieved through Structural Integration a person can begin to regain their vital energy and become more active, which inevitably leads to a healthier state of mind.

It is also well documented that our bodies carry emotional memories from our pasts. Emotions are meant to be experienced and expressed in the moment. Occasionally, we will suppress our emotions when we feel that expressing them might be inappropriate due to our conditioning or other external pressures. When an emotion is suppressed, it is always accompanied by a physical contraction in the body. When that emotion is chronically suppressed, it will over time, lead to a chronic contraction in the fascia. So, you could say at this point that the fascia is “holding” the emotion. Releasing that fascia will allow that particular emotion to surface and give the recipient an opportunity to release it – assuming that they are now in a place where they feel safe to do so. This usually will not occur as a sudden cathartic emotional breakdown but rather most people would describe it as more of gradual trickle of a particular emotion over a certain period of time following the physical release. In some cases if this process seems overwhelming there may be a need to seek out professional counselling as an adjunct to help process more difficult or painful emotions.

What do I wear during a session?

The practitioner needs to perform an assessment of your structure and movement patterns before each session and this is generally performed with the recipient wearing underwear (including bra for women) so that the practitioner can see enough of your body to do an accurate assessment. Other options if you are not comfortable with underwear include sports bra and running shorts (preferably not too baggy) or a swim suit (two piece for women). If for some reason you are uncomfortable with this you may discuss it with your practitioner.