The Unique “Systems” Concept of This Method and The Far Reaching Transformational Benefits it Creates.....
PLUS, How It’s Vastly Different From Massage
Athletic Performance Enhancement Booklet - Part 2 of 3
by Lou Gross, School Certified Master Postural Integrator,
massage is primarily designed to move waste fluids and stagnant material out of
the muscles and encourage fresh, nourishing blood into them. It also stimulates
nerves and growth hormones, removes pain from workouts and does a lot of other
very healthy things, including stimulate acupressure and reflex points which
help our inner organs as well as make our muscles relax. And it can induce a
lot of relaxation. Some massage strokes can even make parts of the muscle
less bound up and a little longer.
Again, Structural Integration sessions are not a “series” of deep massages. It is a single process that re-lengthens the accumulated shortness in the various areas of the body, in a well worked out step by step manner. It’s just done in a series of visits to allow the body to better incorporate the changes created in each area. Each time we make one part of the body a step better, the whole body will rearrange even more parts of its structure for the better, too, and just in the course of our moving around.
This re-lengthening is a rather big “housecleaning.” As I mentioned, it erases years, and even decades of build-up. Shortness accumulates both in the surface muscles and in the ones deep down that position the bones with relation to one another. All of this shortness distorts the bones’ proper positions and makes the body operate in an “un-organized” manner. So besides creating looseness, this process creates more “organization” in the way our muscle, bone and joint system works. And that’s why the bodies work so much better. People feel it. And they even look more organized. The arrangement of our parts is made better and that better arrangement works better. Others even say we look better.
The Structural Integration process also removes the “gluing” that has developed and binds one muscle body to another. So besides making the tissue longer, we have to restore the independent movement of each muscle so the whole system can move us around as articulately as our nervous systems already know how to do. This, too, brings the body’s abilities up, closer to its full neuro-muscular potential, a potential that was hidden under the shortness and gluing of the soft connective tissue system. Since most people accumulate lots of tightness and distortions in the course of their lives, we are actually restoring what would have developed if this “side effect” of muscle activity hadn’t built up.
The step by step procedure improves the functioning of one muscle group and body part after another. And then we interconnect them so that the whole body’s bone and muscle alignment, and its integrated operation are significantly improved. Alignment of the structural system means all the bones, joints and muscles are where they’re supposed to be and integration means they all work together in a more coordinated and “congruent” way.
All the parts of the body can then deliver more power and articulation to each movement, whether it’s with the arms, or legs or a bend in the back or neck. And the movement is easier and the person feels lighter.
Proper structural alignment also turns out to make posture better. People stand up straighter without having to make the effort to hold themselves up. One way to explain this is that we simply made the short muscle areas longer and the body’s innate design took over; we’re supposed to stand up straight, and easily. It’s like we’ve made a damaged building straight again, more like the way it looks in the architect’s plans.
In Structural Integration, we also point out that a properly aligned muscle system is then working in harmony with gravity instead of having to pull against it. This gives us another economy of effort. Gravity is a very big force that’s always with us, and it’s always pulling downward. When one part of the body is short, another part has to tense up or we fall over to the short side. And that uses up energy and can make us sore. When we make all the tissues longer, no part has to always tense up against another.
But unaligned bodies have their bones and muscles arranged at angles to the downward force of gravity. (This is what their soft connective tissue shapes have grown into.) Different areas of these bodies zig-zag instead of balance one on top of the other. So the body has to use a lot of muscular effort to hold that arrangement in place while gravity is pulling straight down on each of the parts.
Many people actually feel tired because of this; they have to use up
a lot of energy and tense their back and neck muscles just to stand up.
They’re trying to lift up their chest, neck and head against what they feel is
pulling them down. But the short tissue in the front of their bodies doesn’t
really spread longer that way. It’s just temporarily pulled longer,
like a rubber band,
and it’ll return the person to a slumped position when he or she stops
remembering to keep tensing.
An aligned body acts differently. Because of all the muscular length we’ve restored, the centers of gravity of each of its big sections (like legs, thighs, pelvis, abdomen, chest and head) are now arranged one on top of the other. The different parts are not zig-zagging to each side and we don’t have to use our own muscular effort to hold them in a balanced stack. Instead, the weight of the body from the head down to the feet simply goes straight down through the bones and joints, just like it shows in the architect’s plans. Gravity isn’t being “fought.” The person’s muscles have only to use just enough force to keep that erectness in balance. All the rest of the muscles’ potential is available for performance, for power and a much wider range of movements than before.
Muscles like this have what is called better ongoing muscle tone. Tone means how tight or flaccid a muscle is. Most everyone, even fat, flaccidly looking people have tight muscles. Theirs are in there just like the rest of us, located under the outside layers of what we first see. When our structures are zig-zagged, muscles all over the body get bunched up into shortness. And our physical efforts just add more tightness. These muscles are hyper-toned. And the flaccid, out of shape ones are hypo-toned.
But when the body’s parts are in balance with each other, the tone of
the muscles is more “just right,” like a properly tuned automobile engine.
Then we can quickly shorten or lengthen them to move as we wish. When we stop
moving around, the momentary tightnesses can relax and we go back into our
properly adjusted “idle” and with very little, if any, accumulated bunch up.
What’s happened is that the structure is so much more organized and
freed up that if we move any of it into temporary tightness, the rest of it will
try to pull it back into the better organization and looseness.
Plus, the tissue is now more pliable; it stretches better, both as we move in
general, and when we purposely do stretches.
The bones and muscles in this kind of integrated structure are in a different kind of relationship to each other than they were before. Because of all the length that’s been restored, they are now operating as one whole, mutually supporting system.
Our bodies are, all the time, one whole unit. Every bone is connected to different muscles that are connected to other bones, and so forth. But when various parts are bunched up, the many parts of the unit can’t work together as a system. They’re either too tight to operate properly or they’re pulling against many other short parts that are pulling back against them. Shortness makes the shape change, of course, but it also changes the internal relationship of the muscles and bones.
We develop shortnesses all over the body, so there are a lot of pulls that distort our shape, all the time. Our at rest maximum shape has a lot of parts in a lot of tightness that are always pulling against each other and the bones are pulled way out of position from a lot of different angles. Sometimes the bones rub on each other at the joints, they pinch nerves and bulge disks in the back, and even tendons get pulled on more than they’re supposed to be, so they hurt. Always, the ability to move around, feel light, and perform well is diminished.
This we call a disorganized and misaligned structure.
What we do in Structural Integration is remove these misalignments and restore the organization by making the muscles long again and thereby putting the bones back into their proper relationships with their muscles. As we do this over the whole body, even distant parts like head and feet are brought into a better internal relationship of muscle and bone position and better muscle and bone movement when we want to lie down, sit up, stand or run around.
Bodies are designed to operate on a principle called tensegrity. This means that the tension of all the muscles holds all the bones in their proper shapes. And the solidity and length of the bones keeps the muscles in their particular locations. None of the bones actually touch each other, or rest on each other as they meet across joints, so they can move around to various angles when the muscles contract and lengthen. Note that the contracting and lengthening of the muscle fibers is what changes the tension on the bones.
And it’s the length of the soft connective tissue in the muscle, that determines the maximum length for each individual muscle, and the maximum length of whole groups of muscles in each part of the body.
This putty-like tissue surrounds all the muscle fibers. When we're bunched up, the muscle fibers can't extend to their maximum length. So it turns out, that when the putty is finally made as long as the maximum lengths of our muscle fibers, the bones and muscles are back to their "designed" organization. And the body actually feels uplifted and operates in a “light” manner. At the same time, it still delivers the maximum amount of power and agility its muscle strengths can provide. The tensegrity design of the human body enables the combination of forces from the different balanced soft connective tissue muscle lengths to lift more weight and apply more power than we’d think it could, based on the size of the muscles.
Even the spine gets an uplift if the muscle-bone forces are in balance. And it’s been discovered that our organs sit better inside our torsos when we’re aligned and in tensegrity; the ligaments that hold them get a boost from the proper balance of structural forces. If we were a bunch of separate parts, our bodies wouldn’t be able to do all these things. It’s the architecture of the upright, 2-legged human body structure that makes them happen, the way the bones and muscles are arranged and interconnected.
This relationship of all the body parts is what Structural Integration aims to create for each person. The potential is there in our biology but the shortnesses we grew up with have kept it from happening. Remove the shortnesses properly, and tensegrity appears.
Copyright 1995, 2002 Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved