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Rolf Structural Integration by Wilhelm Heppe M.D.

Individuality is shaped by the forces of life: physical and emotional trauma and the resulting compensations, poor habits of posture and movement, mental and emotional sets, stress, infection and disease processes, rigidly held attitudes and the bio-mechanical wear and tear of daily living.  The accumulation of these recorded events shows in the fascia as all kinds of twists, rotations, thickenings, contractions and adhesions, or plainly stated a deterioration of overall balance and resiliency of the myofascial system.  The result is, that body movement is no longer economical and we use up too much energy for simply living.

Dr. Rolf also realized quite early in her practice, that bones are held within the soft tissue, they are "spacers" floating in a matrix of fascial tensional membranes.  If a muscle is chronically short, it will pull the attached bone out of place.  Repositioning the bone at that point will give short term relief at best. It is not enough, because there is no basic change in muscular function, and the strain above and below the area of the "lesion" is still the same.  The individual muscle and allied tissue must be lengthened, if the change is to be a permanent improvement.

In addition to that Dr. Rolf realized, that if one part is in "trouble", the body as a whole gets out of balance, due to compensation patterns.  The myofascial system is a  multicausal / multi-final system, i.e. local distortion causes a complex of changes in the overall system, and whole system distortions call forth local and regional conformity to the larger pattern.  Without skilled intervention this system is certain to become less integrated over time, a development that shows either as a postural deviation in its milder form, or as chronic pain at worst

Structural Integration is a way of reversing the process of increasing physical limitation and depletion of adaptive potential from the stress of daily living, that so far has been seen as the unchangeable fact of  "aging".  Life is a process of adaptive adjustments to alterations and stresses in the internal and external environments, and when there is a breakdown in the adaptive adjustment with inadequate communication, we see the manifestation of "ill-health" and family disease.

In a ten hour cycle of work the practitioner of Structural Integration - colloquially also termed "Rolfer" uses different angles and degrees of physical pressure to stretch and guide fascia to a place of easier movement.  Due to its thixotropy, collagen becomes fluid with the addition of energy and solid with loss of energy.  The applied manipulative pressure and the stretching are very effective ways of modifying the energy potentials in the tissue temporarily, so that s catalyzed shift of form can be achieved.

The ten session treatment sequence applies equally to all bodies, because it works with the body's inherent logic of optimum anatomic relationships between its parts.  it is important to note at this point, that the work is not an accumulation of specific new physical techniques of manipulation, but it is the unique premise that allow the achievement of different goals than those attained by other approaches. 

Structural Integration is not just about change because anybody can change anything , but it is the controlled change with predictability  and defined intention that gives the benefit of ease, uprightness and length. 

Understanding and embodying the underlying ideas is what creates a successful practitioner in this art, since the mastery of the highly attuned palpatory and manipulative skills by itself cannot do that. 

Techniques help but they are false securities. 

Understanding how each individual idiosyncratically  pulls and twists away form uprightness is what distinguishes this work form the mechanicalness  of today's common manipulative approaches, thus making it truly human.

Structural integration sees a painful area not as something to be eliminated, but to be integrated.  Nothing is taken out of the past to just establish mobility and make it "better" but a structure is put into the body which implies a higher overall balance.

Balance which is the primary goal of the work means the establishment of appropriate and equal tissue tone from front to back, between the right and the left sides, between top and bottom halves, and most of all between "intrinsic" and "extrinsic". 

These are functional terms unique to Structural Integration, relating partially to certain muscles, i.e. the large muscles in the extremities are "extrinsic", whereas the small muscles deep in the spinal grooves are "intrinsics".

This inside / outside balance is more important than the external symmetry because it introduces layers and depth into the body concept.  Structural Integration is unique in working with balance from the deepest layers near the bone to the most superficial fascial layers.  This creates a layered organized depth in the body that reflects in a similar  integration on the mental and emotional levels.  We all know how chronic physical tension or weakness translates into emotional irritability or dependence.  Releasing the physical component allows release through the system as a whole

This process is not intended to "cure" symptoms, its goal is to create a more resilient, higher-energy system that is free of inhibitions due to past trauma.  The organism is then better able to defend itself against pathogenic factors and does not accumulate stress, which sooner or later will create chronic dysfunction.

It is not so much the "acute" event that is of priority here but the "chronic" conditions that are not medically tangible, often labeled as "essential" or "idiopathic" disorders, from headaches to "chronic fatigue syndrome" or just plain "depression".

The initial ten step series is the beginning of this process of establishing a balanced structure as a whole.  There are instantaneous changes, as well as slower changes in the structure over periods of weeks and months.  The refinement of the balance, however, will take ongoing attention throughout the years, depending on the particular stresses the individual is subject to in their daily living. 

We are always working towards perfection not for it, because perfection is the remedy for linear problems whereas life as it is functions circularly or even spirally if we take time into consideration.

The validity of Structural Integration is creating permanent physical change and reducing stress by increasing the vagal tone has been recently established in a scientific study by J Cottingham. 

Some earlier research of physiologist, V.Hunt, was focused on the energetics of change during a session, as well as the reduction of stress parameters as evidenced in the chemical analysis of urine samples of different control groups of clients.  The study showed a definitely improved blood chemistry, an improved neuromuscular response, and marked increase in vital capacity.

 From an article written by:

 Wilhelm Heppe M.D.


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