The field of Yoga and Structural Integration are much closer than many are aware of. Dr. Rolf herself practiced Hatha Yoga extensively in the 1920’s and 1930’s. She studied with Pierre Bernard who was a Yoga teacher in Nyack, N.Y. Dr Rolf used her Yoga practice as a means to address back problems she had as a result of a scoliosis. Dr. Rolf used much of the knowledge she gained from her practice of Yoga, Osteopathy, and Homeopathy to formulate Structural Integration. Structural Integration shares the common value with Yoga in that when the body is lengthened and balanced, the individual will achieve balance and ease both in body and spirit.
“In Structural Integration, we expect to give a cycle of ten sessions. There is a reason for this. We are not dealing with local problems. We are not dealing with the kind of thing that you can say, “Well, I fixed that, that’s all.” We are dealing with an intent to make a body more secure, more adequate within the field of gravity. This requires that muscles be balanced, and need to be balanced around a vertical line. And, when I talk about balancing muscles, I’m talking about balancing the right side against the left side. About balancing the front of the body against the back of the body, and finally, about balancing the innermost muscles against the outermost, the inside against the outside, this is the most important of those balances, and we start from the outside working in, and it takes us ten hours before we can get to the place where we can really balance the outside against the inside.” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.
For those unfamiliar with Structural Integration, Structural Integration as designed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf is a 10 session systematic process of deep bodywork that improves the structural and functional abilities of the human body in its relationship to the gravitational field. Through the systematic approach of reorganizing major joints, and body segments, while releasing the chronically held tension and torsion patterns we are able to achieve a rapid change in structural mechanics and correction of chronic musculoskeletal pain or dysfunction. Athletes perform better while stress is significantly reduced. Postural balance and flexibility are improved with each session. Professional athletes, dancers, and performance artists throughout the world have successfully utilized CORE Structural Integration. Business and professional leaders have found that the beneficial results have improved their focus and attention, their vitality, and their creative abilities. CORE Structural Bodywork can significantly balance the emotional and cognitive abilities of anyone who completes the 10-session series.
“This is the gospel of Rolfing (Structural Integration): When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.”
– Ida P. Rolf
When you consider the underlying intentions of both Structural Integration and yoga – to promote heightened self-awareness and optimized human potential by working towards flexibility and balance in the body – it’s easy to see why so many people have found these two practices to be a natural fit.
Many of the issues I’ve discussed in earlier articles about the physical ramifications of poor alignment become exaggerated in an individual who practices yoga. Flexibility, range of motion, strength, and balance are critical components of an effective yoga practice – so when these things are out of kilter, a yogi’s practice is not up to its best possible level.
Structural Integration enhances yoga practice in many ways, including the development of deeper, fuller breathing; the increased range of motion and flexibility that comes from releasing bound fascia; and the enhanced consciousness of symmetry and movement that results from every body part being realigned to its proper place.
Conscious, controlled breathing (pranayama) is a primary focus in yoga. My work to free the diaphragm to allow fuller breathing starts in the very first session and continues throughout the series of ten. This is one aspect of Structural Integration that becomes an ongoing benefit for yogis, who find that the greater lung capacity helps in all areas of their practice.
Another benefit is seen in the way Structural Integration empowers the yogi to achieve and hold postures (asanas) that were beyond his or her capability prior to our sessions. This happens for several reasons.
“After our session on Saturday I felt 100x better. I noticed a dramatic improvement in various yoga postures as well. My hamstrings felt amazing; I can almost do a full split! Also, my neck and shoulders in Downward Facing Dog, felt phenomenal, I felt like there was no tension or pressure in those muscles and joints. You’re a miracle worker!”
The first, most obvious, reason is when a physical complaint prevents the yogi from performing asanas correctly. For instance, back problems or pain in the feet or hips may cause the yogi to avoid certain asanas, or, worse yet, attempt them and worsen the problem that is causing the pain. My work that addresses these ailments will consequently free the person to practice yoga without concern for this pain.
If you can imagine how it feels to have a fluid, light, balanced body, free of pain, stiffness & chronic stress, at ease with itself and in the gravitational field, then you will understand the goals of Structural Integration.
Dr. Ida P. Rolf, PhD
The second reason that Structural Integration results in improved yoga performance relates to flexibility and range of motion. Just as breathing is a focus of my work from the first session on, so is manipulating fascia that may be restricting regions of your body from working effectively. As muscles are freed to do their appropriate jobs, and body regions are realigned to their proper places in relationship with one another and in relation to gravity, you’ll find that the muscles become stronger, your body feels longer, and your flexibility increases. With these results comes an increased range of motion. For the practitioner of yoga, this means an ability to attain postures that are critical to growth and development in one’s practice.
A third reason for this enhanced performance is related to the first two, but can be less readily apparent. The house-on-faulty-foundation metaphor I’ve referred to in earlier articles applies here. When your body is out of proper alignment, the rest of the body compensates for the ill-aligned part’s inability to function correctly. In yoga, this can mean that a person is using incorrect posture by avoiding certain areas of the body, or by unintentionally using body parts incorrectly. A result of the work I do throughout the 10 series is to realign each part to its correct place and function, and this restores the correct relationship among all major segments of the body returning balance and symmetry to the structure of the body. In short, when all body parts are where they are supposed to be, they function in the manner they were intended to. In yoga, this translates into asanas that are performed correctly and often with greater depth and ease.
These benefits also relate to practitioners of Pilates, Dance, Martial Arts or any other individual whose performance depends on balance, strength, and flexibility.