HOW STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION
INCREASES YOGA BENEFITS
AND IMPROVES OUR ABILITIES TO DO YOGA BETTER
by Lou Gross, School Certified Master
"fascial bunch-up." It's
what we need to "stretch."
The bunching up of the fascia shortens the available lengths of our muscles
and also throws our body sections out of alignment with each other and with the
continuous pull of gravity which we are under.
Misalignment & Hardness - the limitations to stretching. This hardness and the out of alignment sections makes stretching ourselves back out very difficult. Yoga stretching does re-lengthen the fascia, and therefore our muscles, somewhat. But usually, most people are too hard and out of line for it to stretch very effectively. And it’s sometimes too hard to stretch at all; it won’t give way.
Dr. Ida P. Rolf PhD (r), the
developer of Structural Integration was a physiologist and biochemist, and had
done yoga for many years. It is one of the practices she drew on when she
developed her Bodywork system. Then she added. If we can take the
principles and understanding of Structural Integration "back" into yoga, we can
make more people's yoga practice more effective.
Another common problem is that most people stretch to loosen their
joints. This is half the goal. Lengthening the soft tissue in the sets of
muscles between the joints adds a much greater range of muscle
movement, and an even greater range of motion and looseness at the joints. This
improved stretching increases arm and shoulder reach, and leg stride, and it
even increases our muscles’ power and our overall agility.
The Structural Integration approach. Here is what Dr Rolf (r) did. Her Structural Integration Bodywork manipulations were anatomically designed by her, as I said, a physiologist who also studied yoga and even some osteopathy. And she made the system to lengthen and balance the various muscle groups and bones of the body so that all the sections would be aligned and stacked vertically, in balance. Plus, the muscle sacks would be separated, and the tissue would become much more malleable and stretchable.
Therefore, being more Structurally Integrated, through the Bodywork process, enhances yoga practice in the following ways.
1.) Stretching is much easier, and it goes farther, because the fascia is softer and more malleable, and there is more differentiation between muscles since we’ve separated one muscle sack from another. The bodywork also works the deeper muscles, the muscle attachments, and the small muscles between the ribs, in the face and head, and the hands and feet. A major head fascial-bodywork release makes the entire spine stretch better. So more areas "join into the stretch" of your arms, legs and torso.
2.) Yoga is about alignment. This kind of Bodywork actually re-aligns your bones and muscles toward their optimal inter-relationship. This enables stretching and other yoga benefits to improve the whole body system better. When you stretch one part, all your parts from head and hand to toe will join in the stretch. We get longer, and easier, stretches. This, combined with the improved consistency of fascia and muscles, gives better alignment results from your asanas.
3.) This alignment and tissue softening helps to prevent injuries and discomfort. It prevents a lot of “stretching caused injuries” that happen when people try to pull a local part and the tight parts elsewhere hold it tight. This helps prevent back problems that many people get when they try to stretch. This improvement also prevents vertebrae from being pulled out when you try to stretch the legs and pelvis, and it prevents pulled tendons and ligaments in places like the knees. Glitches and "stops" people often feel in their thighs and shoulders are also minimized or eliminated. These kinds of local tight spots are common from both auto accidents and workouts such as weight lifting, running and intense walking or cycling.
4.) Yoga is about improving
our mind-body inter-connection. People who have had Structural
Integration gain better mental awareness of their bodies and more graceful
control of their movements. Also, the way the inner and outer muscles move
together with the bones becomes naturally more coordinated.
5.) Yoga emphasizes the breath, for both physical and meditative/awareness benefits. After Structural Integration Bodywork, even from just the first few hours, breathing is significantly fuller, deeper and easier because the treatment lengthens and opens all the muscles associated with the rib cage and their connections to the rest of the body, including the diaphragm and inter-costals between the ribs. Then, when you stretch the legs and arms as well as your torso, breathing capacity opens up easier and faster.
6.) Yoga is about health. Not just a stretching exercise, yoga is a method to balance and tonify the physiology of the body. The fascia of the muscles contains the blood capillaries and lymph ducts that nourish and remove waste from every cell. And in the fluid of the fascia we also have lots of immune cells. Softening and lengthening the hardened fascia that we all get, creates a better fluid flow between the cells and these blood and lymph vessels. So that improves the body's nourishment and elimination processes at a cell level, and it makes a clearer, bigger pathway for its immune cells to work in.
People who get regular massages know of this benefit, especially in the big outer tissues of their bodies where they get worked on. This more penetrating kind of Bodywork also brings these benefits into the much deeper tissues, all the way down to the bones. And since it is a method of fascial “spreading” through “every” muscle section, it even accesses areas like deep in the abdomen, and deep in the thighs and pelvis that aren't otherwise reached nor "spread" and softened, even with deep massage.
7.) This can help people lose weight. The fascia also
contains lots of fat cells. It's difficult to lose fat when the fascia is hard
because there's not as much blood flow accessing this fatty tissue. There’s not
much metabolic “avenue” to dissolve it away
8.) Chi (or Ki) energy flow is better...not only because the blood flow and breathing are improved, but also because the channels of energy that flow through the acupuncture meridians and circulate in the Chakra energy centers are also freed up. This improves physical health and breath meditation benefits. And it makes these energy flow increases from the yoga class do more, every time.
9.) The Bodywork helps us know more about what the asanas are doing for us. The treatment greatly increases “mind into body” sensing abilities. So when we direct our attention to a part of the body we’re stretching, we get an increase in our sensory awareness about what’s happening there. We get better mental information; there’s more of it, it’s more complete, it comes to mind easier, and it’s even more articulately described. And we get emotional and physiological information, as well as structural.
In addition, the experience of being Structurally Integrated allows
us to understand how the different parts of our bodies affect each other.
When we're frozen tight in the form of hard connective tissue, that's the only
physical positioning we can have. As our bodies are loosened and lengthened,
especially into the deeper layers, we then have the ability to tighten our
muscles to compare different short positions to our new opened and aligned
11.) Yoga also helps us develop peace of mind and improved
spiritual awareness. The Bodywork goes a long way in supporting this, as it
removes old stressful energies and trauma out of the tissues. Getting
the Bodywork helps yoga do more of this, too. Old
memories of trauma and pain are actually stored in our bodies, within the
tissues that are short and tight. These memories repeatedly keep giving us the
same old patterns and tapes of behavior. Even when we develop a stronger
emotional center of balance, these tapes keep popping up...because they're real
energies that got stored inside us during past traumatic experiences.
I, myself, am trained
and experienced in “unconcious mind” emotional release therapies. These not
only release trauma from the body that Bodywork alone does not do, but they also
remove trapped unconscious belief systems that have been stored inside these
energy packets in the body, often for years.
This allows people to break the
repetitive cycle of their old tapes and
addictive patterns. It also removes a lot of the energies that keep forcing us
back into the same old physical tightnesses, that even keep repeating between
11.) Yoga helps us increase our emotional centeredness and
maturity. The Bodywork itself actually improves the frequency of the
muscle-fascia tissue, it improves the strength and clear-ness of the body's
energy field, and it increases many parts of our physiology & metabolism.
All these improve our emotional, psychological and even mental
qualities, immediately right in the session.
Conclusion, and where to find practitioners. Thus, Structural Integration Bodywork directly helps yoga practice in a number of ways. And it also enables other kinds of body-mind therapies do even more for us, including massage, chiropractic and acupuncture. So that increases their benefits for yoga practice, too.
The original system of this Bodywork, developed by physiologist and biochemist Ida P. Rolf PhD, became colloquially known as Rolfing. Rolfing developed a bad reputation for being very painful and emotionally traumatic because of the way the physical manipulations were, or are still, applied. But since the initial development of the bodywork system, a number of schools and individual practitioners have developed non-traumatic and non-painful ways of doing the manipulations, including taking into account how the person's mind works along with the body tissue releasing.
I, myself, was originally trained in Postural Integration (P.I.), which combines Reichian and Bioenergetic techniques, Gestalt and Acupressure with Structural Integration. I have also been trained in the release therapy I mentioned, and in acupressure, kinesiology, energy balancing and other body and bodymind methods. I use them, along with my very adept psychic and intuitive skills, to make my bodywork and release practices work much better.
P.I. also includes some movement education techniques. A training called
Movement Enhancement includes this to a large degree and Hellerwork includes it
to some degree. The Rolf Institute also trains people in another course,
specifically for in-depth movement education. You can find the names of some
practitioners on the internet, on health food store bulletin boards, in various New Age periodicals and at New Age trade shows. You
can also write, call or e-mail the different schools to find the names of practitioners
in your area.
Personal and Professional Development programs include my "Successful Directions" analysis techniques and a host of my management and interpersonal-spiritual practice skills. And I offer free in-depth phone consultations about how this, too, can help you.
Lou Ryoshin Gross has been a Postural Integration practitioner since 1982, and massaged friends
and clients for 11 years before that. He began practicing Zen breath
concentration meditation in
1969 and has practiced yoga in various systems along with some Tai Chi.
He has over 2000 hours specialized training in bodywork and body-mind therapies
and has been in practice for over 20 years. He is also
trained and very experienced in natural health and diet methods that can make
the Structural Health better and enable the bodywork do do more.
Copyright 1995, 2002 Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved