Home - Fixing Backs, Pain,
Stress and Tightness
with Structural Integration
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Descriptive Table of Contents Section and Chapter Synopsis
HOW TO MAKE YOUR BODY WORK BETTER
AND DO MORE FOR YOU
Structural Integration Bodywork
for Increased Physical and Mental Well Being
THE STRUCTURAL "FASCIA" FORM -
WHAT IT DOES & WHAT IT CAN BECOME
Insights from the Book
Scanning: Read Bold
FIXING THE FIRST OF 2 BASIC THINGS
THAT GO "WRONG:" BUNCH-UP
As I said in the Overview, long periods of stress, tense effort and psychological distress appear in the face. The muscular shape we force our facial muscles into, bunches up the fascia in the face, just as intense effort bunches up fascia in the rest of the body. So we LOOK tense, upset or aggressive much of the time even if we aren't feeling that way inside. This can give other people a wrong impression and it doesn't allow us to feel as good as we'd like. A person's facial expression may embody tense eyes and brow, a clenched jaw or a hard, stubborn chin. If there's held in anger, for example, or there's been years of confrontation or stubbornness, the face may look like that. And it may exude negative energy even if the person is often caring and nice.
If a person's had to hold in sadness, and not been able to cry, that strain and feeling can show around the eyes. A therapist might say, "You look like you're ready to cry." And the person might say, "No, I feel fine. But, come to think of it, I have had problems expressing myself and I feel a lot of emotions stuffed up inside. In fact, my mother (or father) slapped me when I was four years old and told me not to cry or I'd get hit again. So I tensed up my face and belly to keep myself from doing it. I also couldn't bring myself to cry when she (or he) died just a few years ago, even though I then loved her (or him) and felt grief."
The face also develops masks. I worked on a woman who was sexually abused for many years as a child, and was physically abused if she complained about it. The only way to show her anger without being hit was with a non-verbal scowling expression, which she did often. When I met her, she'd been in therapy for a while and was doing well with it. In fact, she was positively oriented and usually had a big, genuine smile on her face. But whenever she totally relaxed, as in meditation and guided relaxation, that scowl appeared. The at-rest position of her facial muscles had been formed that way. She still had a lot of volitional control over her expressions, but a certain length of all those muscles was bunched-up into a particular shape. After Bodywork on the face and head, and another session of verbal therapy, her relaxed facial expression was exactly that: very pleasantly relaxed.
Tension held in the
muscles of the head and face will limit our range of facial expression.
And it can also limit the power of our sound. The inside of the mouth,
and the inside of the whole head, also accumulates tightness.
FROM CHAPTER 4:
OVERALL EASE &
Structural Integration Bodywork improves the function of people's whole bodies. How can we do that? Each muscle and bone is inter-related with all the other muscles and bones. So the Bodywork improves the way we function by improving how the different parts work together. This also improves how well each individual part can do what it's designed to do. So while the treatment lengthens shortness and breaks up tightness very fast and very thoroughly, it also treats the whole body in a way that makes its approach very different from that of massage, chiropractic, trigger point therapy, and the like.
While everything affects everything else, there are some significant interconnections where one part mostly affects a few other parts. This is because our bodies are organized into particular "planes," or networks, of interconnected muscle and fascia.
These layers are arranged like "body suits," in physical layers, from inside to out. They're also arranged in functional muscle groups that extend through large areas of the torso and out into the arms and legs. So tightness in one part of your body isn't just a local restriction. Tightness anywhere in a network constricts movement in all its other parts. All the bones and muscles are part of an interconnected line. Pulling from one place pulls all along the whole line.
FROM CHAPTER 5:
PREVENTING INJURIES BEFORE THEY HAPPEN
WITH STRUCTURAL BODY READING
Another benefit of Structural Integration is that well trained practitioners have the ability to visually "read" shortness in the body. By looking the way you are standing and moving around we can see non-lengthening muscle bulges, tilts to one side, limited and excessive joint positions, twists in the torso, and shortness of stride and reach. We can also see the major zig-zags of misalignment that I describe in detail in Section II.
FROM CHAPTER 9:
FIXING THE SECOND OF 2 BASIC THINGS THAT GO "WRONG:" MIS-ALIGNMENT
This improvement in the way the body functions is a result of how the structure has changed. We say function and structure are two sides of the same coin. The body can now do more with the least amount of energy. In athletics, this is called an improvement in the economy of effort. Bodywork creates an improvement in our "intrinsic" economy of effort that is not dependent on any particular kind of activity. That improvement can benefit coaching in any activity, from gymnastics and throwing a baseball to singing or playing a musical instrument. Because we use energy better, and we have a lot less tension in our movements, the economy of effort also helps increase endurance and shorten recovery time. And other people can sense that we're performing with less tension and effort.
By removing the
restrictions of deeply embedded shortness and misalignment, we are
actually creating something new for us, with some qualities we never felt
before. Our bodies are biologically designed with the ability to work in
an integrated way, but most of us haven't been able to function like this
very much because of the shortness we've had since childhood. In fact, I
haven't met anyone who was aware of how MUCH shortness and tightness
they'd been carrying around with them for years.
Athletes tell me that they can now do things with their bodies that they've known about all along, but now the body does them much better, like being able to push off with the toes, combining great strength with a lot more flexibility, getting better coordination on a more intricate level, and relaxing better in the midst of running which immediately lets them run faster.
FROM CHAPTER 12:
CREATING A VERY EFFICIENT AND STRESS RESISTANT BODY STRUCTURE
In the first few chapters, I described the benefits of making our body muscles longer and less tense. In the last few chapters I introduced the concept of whole-body structural alignment and integration. Now I'll take the discussion a step further and describe an even bigger effect of these whole body changes.
The purpose of Structural Integration is to create the most efficient form humans are capable of being. This form is known. It is also our biological birthright, but we don't grow up with the full use of it. Through the Bodywork process all bodies can be brought toward this optimum function; many very close to it. Here is a description of that form and what it can do.
Our bodies are structures, like buildings. In each structure there are forces of compression and tension. Almost all the man-made structures we see around us function mainly on compression. The heavy pieces of roof and walls all press down on each other, pulled together in that downward direction by the constant force of gravity. Each part is compressed by the weight of all the elements above it. Even the weight of the molecules on the top of the roof push down on the molecules of roof below them. When we look at the building we see that all of these elements in compression structures touch one another. The compression is what holds the elements together.
Compression structures are very solid and quite stable when everything stays connected through the weight of compression. Compression structures can also function as independent parts. For example, we can remodel part of the house, or add on a room, without disturbing the rest of the structure.
Inventor Buckminster Fuller devised structures functioning more on the force of tension. Geodesic domes are the most famous. He named these "tensegrity" structures. The roofs of some enclosed sports stadiums work on tensegrity principles.
The human body is bio-mechanically designed as a tensegrity structure, but when fascia is bunched up and we're misaligned, we function more like a compression structure instead. For people, being a tensegrity structure is much more enjoyable and more effective than being a compression structure.
In tensegrity structures, the hard elements do not touch each other, but are held together in a geometric form by guy wires that pull them toward each other. The hard elements act as spacers that resist this pull and at the same time, keep the guy wires taught. The key to tensegrity is that the lengths of the hard elements and the lengths of the guy wires are balanced, so that the forces of push-away compression by the spacers and the forces of pull-together tension by the guy wires maintain each other.
By varying the lengths of the guy wires but keeping the forces balanced, we can move the rigid members around and change the shape of the structure without breaking it apart. This requires a coordinated change of lengths throughout all the guy wires in the entire structure. Please note that all the wires have to change length, even a little bit, in order to move any part of the structure. This means that the structure behaves as one whole organism, not as a bunch of independent parts.
In a human body, the bones are the rigid elements that provide spacing and the muscles are the dynamic guy wires that put them into position with each other. Our bones do not rest one on the other; there is soft tissue space between them in the joints. This soft tissue allows the bones (including the vertebrae) to move. They aren't held rigid like a building's walls.
As we stand still or move around, our bones don't change length, but the muscles do. It is the movement of muscles that position our bones. As I mentioned in the chapter on alignment, our nervous system "programs" coordinate our whole body movement when we reach out, take a step, open our mouths, and so forth. Putting in these programs is often called "body learning." That's how infants learn to walk without falling down and how professional athletes have gotten better and better as they've continued in their sport.
Being tensegrity structures, we change our shapes without destroying our basic inter-related form. Skyscrapers can't do this.