Hellerwork Structural Integration
What is Hellerwork Structural Integration?
According to the International Association of Structural Integrators: Structural Integration (SI) is a somatic practice utilizing fascial manipulation, awareness, and movement education. It is practiced in an organized series of sessions and individual sessions within a framework designed to restore postural balance and functional ease by aligning and integrating the body in gravity. Structural Integration is based on the work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf. It is practiced by persons trained in Structural Integration at trainings, schools and institutions in accordance with the standards established by the International Association of Structural Integrators.
The Importance of Structural Integration
One important principle of Structural Integration is that the body is significantly affected by the powerful force of gravity. In a misaligned state, the body’s valuable resources are used inefficiently, laboring to keep a person upright in the field of gravity. In addition, the stresses of daily life, physical injuries, unhealthy movement patterns and attitudes are things that can take a toll on one’s physical structure. Over time, the body will shorten and tighten to accommodate stresses, creating stiffness, pain, fatigue and lack of well being.
A Typical Session
During the Structural Integration process changes in posture and structure are achieved by manipulating the body’s myofascial system. The focus of Structural Integration is on the fascia rather than on the muscles (as in massage). The fascia is a protective layer of connective tissue that surrounds each muscle and muscle fiber. Fascia gives muscles and bodies their shape and support.
Structural Integration practitioners use a range of techniques to lengthen and reposition the fascia and the body. The amount of pressure used and techniques applied varies. A practitioner may use slow, deep, stretching movements, or constant applied pressure. You may also be asked to move as pressure is applied or to stand and move during a session.
As tissue is being released, you may experience a variety of sensations ranging from warm and pleasant to uncomfortable. Your practitioner will apply appropriate pressure during the session based on your feedback so the pace of the session is under your control. Sometimes, as the tissue is released and balanced, clients experience the release of emotions, memories or traumas that have been stored in the fascial tissue. Such releases can create the opportunity for change and/or resolution surrounding the issues presented.
Movement education may also be a part of your Structural Integration series. Your practitioner can help you become aware of your habitual and inhibiting movement patterns and help you change these patterns to achieve more fluid movement. Movement education can affect your level of daily functioning by helping to change unhealthy patterns in common activities such as sitting, walking and breathing.
Structural Integration is typically performed in a series of ten to thirteen sessions to systematically release the myofascial tissue. Each session builds upon the last, addressing layers of tissue throughout the process. The series is designed to balance your body in segments, with each session addressing a different aspect of your structure and movement. Though the Structural Integration series is designed to work in sequence, your practitioner will often recognize your unique needs and use their skills and experience to address those appropriately.
At the beginning of a series, your practitioner will often spend some time discussing your health and personal history. It is important that your practitioner know any information that has affected your physical structure, including major accidents, traumas, surgeries, conditions and diseases as well as any current medications. Typically, sessions are done with the client in underwear or a bathing suit. Your practitioner will observe you standing and moving to assess balance, alignment, mobility and movement patterns. In some cases, if appropriate, photographs may be taken for the benefit of you and your practitioner.
The process of Structural Integration is an individual and personal process with a wide range of effects and benefits. In general, a body that is aligned and balanced in gravity moves with more ease, fluidity, efficiency and grace. Movement is a pleasure, breathing is easier and good posture is more effortless.
In addition, more efficient use of your muscles allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more refined and economical patterns of movement. This can result in increased levels of energy and alertness. Feelings of stress can also decrease while your level of relaxation can increase.
Structural Integration aims to affect the whole person, emotionally, physically and energetically, by way of altering the physical structure. Our emotions and behavior patterns for instance, are often related to our physical being. As impediments to balance are removed and the body comes into greater alignment, aspects of the self may also become more aligned. An experience with Structural Integration may help release an individual’s potential, promoting positive change, lowering anxiety, improving sleep, increasing confidence, and maturing emotional expression. Finally, the Structural Integration series provides increased body awareness and presence allowing for a feeling of finally being—at home…in your body.
Who Benefits from Structural Integration
All types of people have benefited from Structural Integration. Some come to ease chronic pain and stress; others are hoping to improve their athletic performance. Children and older people alike can benefit from improved structural alignment. All people endure experiences in life that vary from trying to traumatic, and these experiences leave traces and residues deep inside of us. Anyone interested in clearing and healing these things which affect our experience of life are in for a great opportunity to lighten up and free themselves. This work is not passive and does require participation, and the results are the rewards.
The Various Schools of Structural Integration
The field of Structural Integration began with the genius of Dr. Ida P. Rolf, whose students have both maintained and evolved the essence of her work, as was her expressed desire in her later years. Through that evolutionary process, several SI schools came into being, including the school she founded—the Rolf Institute—and others created by her students and followers, such as the Guild for Structural Integration, Hellerwork Structural Integration, Aston Patterning, Soma, IPSB, and KMI (Kinesis Myofascial Integration), to name a few.
All of these schools differ to some degree in perspective and technique, but most are based on Dr. Rolf’s fundamental Ten Session methodology—‘the recipe’, as we like to say in our profession. These schools make excellent training available, and continue the lineage of Ida Rolf’s concepts of SI. Most of the SI schools are involved in an organization called the International Association of Structural Integrators, which is collectively influencing general awareness of the field and the profession itself.
Your journey to studying the art and science of Structural Integration need wait no longer. If you feel the calling, then press the link below and begin your journey now!
Dr. Ida Rolf founded the field of Structural Integration. She was a scientist, and a graduate of Cornell University in the field of biochemistry. Her early influences, which provided the context for her work, were many. Much of Rolf’s work was influenced by Hatha Yoga, Physio-synthesis, the Alexander Method, and Osteopathy. Although Rolf’s work began in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s, her modern form of Structural integration, which came to be widely known as Rolfing, emerged in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Rolf was surrounded by a wide array of original thinkers, from noted psychologists, physicians, mystics and hippies. Although she was described as a deeply spiritual person, she always presented her work in a straightforward way, teaching the method while acknowledging the mystery. When Rolf questioned about energy, mysticism, and psychology, she would always come back to the fact that we are slow-moving three dimensional objects living in the field of gravity. Rolf had a profound understanding about the way human bodies deviate from their design. She said, “there is a pattern that the body knows. When the body and the pattern are made to coincide, the body understands this.” This perspective guided Rolf as she developed a method to help the body reach and optimal pattern of structure and function.
Joseph Heller, a Cal Tech graduate and former NASA aerospace engineer who was also deeply interested in the body/mind realm, left is aerospace career in the early 1970’s to train with Ida Rolf. In addition to combining movement integration within the Structural Integration sessions, Joseph was also influenced by Consciousness work, which he began to also use with SI. That aspect of what later became Hellerwork was influenced by Brough Joy MD and Carolyn Conger PhD- teachers of energy and consciousness work- and from Hal Stone MD and Sidra Stone’s Voice Dialog method, an offshoot of Gestalt therapy. Rolfing became popular in the throws of the human potential movement of the 1970’s. this was a time of encounter groups, tough love, the sexual revolution, bioenergetics, the Esalen Institute, Werner Erhard’s EST, and many other branches of the human potential tree. Joseph studied and worked on himself using many of these methods. Instead of being confined to one modality, his field of vision extended across many. His understanding of how all of the parts of life come together was progressive, and his commitment to helping people become who they really are continues to be the driving force of the work. Joseph Heller is now retired from formal teaching.
The three major components of the approach in Hellerwork are Structural bodywork, Movement, Education, and Self Awareness Dialogue.
Ida Rolf (Joseph Heller’s teacher) describes the body as a ‘plastic medium’—it is adaptable and changeable. Bodywork in the SI context is the direct manipulation of the myofascial system. The methodical release and structural balancing of the body is typically performed in an eleven session series. Each session focuses on a different project, resulting in the systematic realignment and the release of chronic tension patterns held in that functional sector of the body. When tissues are balanced around joints, and tensions are released from within, and an individual can feel the flow and grace of life. To achieve this rebalancing, a practitioner will skillfully use fingers, knuckles, and elbows to work on your connective tissue at very specific depths, pressures, angles and speeds.
Integrating Movement Work with Bodywork
The Movement Integration work is educational in nature, and takes place both on and off the table. The way we move has a pro- found effect on our bodies. Awareness in movement helped clients of SI take the work off of the table and into their lives. Heller’s recognition that movement work is essential to the longevity of SI results fostered the union of these two powerful modalities.
By following the basic alignment and movement methods in the BODY MASTERY SYSTEM, you can increase ease and fluidity, learn to release pain and tension on the go—and ‘clean as you go’, as they say in the kitchen. Rolf believed that SI creates a ‘self-organizing system’—as SI processes are learned, the body becomes self-adjusting and self-organizing. In other words, the work of Structural Integration is designed to move the body towards self-organization. As events and circumstances take us out of alignment, the body’s restorative mechanisms bring us back into alignment.
Self-awareness dialogue involves release and integration of old emotions, beliefs, body image issues and energy patterns. This work also involves an inquiry into your general self-awareness. The SI process is aimed toward personal evolution—being an evolving being in an evolving body. Joseph Heller found that without this type of personal work, results of the series are not as long lasting, and that with the inclusion of self-awareness dialog, SI can become personally revolutionary. Using a computer analogy, we could say that SI work changes the hardware—the body—while the movement and personal process work change the software—the mind—from which our bodies receive instructions. Hellerwork works with the client to help discover and release barriers to change and evolution.
I often think of driving a car as a useful metaphor for this work. When you get into a car accident, the resulting damage is usually very clear. You get a dent, a scratch, or even frame damage. You take the car to the body shop. The technician removes the dents and makes the car like new again. Perhaps you need to learn to be more careful— more conscious—about your driving. Those improvements will require concentration and a willingness to be present and aware. Sometimes you must learn about yourself at a deeper level to reduce distraction and become a better driver. Driving your car and being in your body are similar in these aspects, but your body is the vehicle in which you move through every moment of your life—and you only have one body—so how you treat it and how you maintain it deserve your attention.
For more information about Hellerwork, go to www.hellerwork.com
And read all about it in Align for Life, Journey to Structural Integration. Align for Life will teach you how to rearrange your body to create new patterns that are more fluid and less expensive energetically. Since the body is always adapting and customizing around the way we use it, new awareness and improved use will create less stress throughout the body.
SI can completely change and transform you and your body in a relatively short amount of time. Aligning yourself with Gravity (the most powerful force in the universe) will give you the gift of renewal and regeneration. To begin changing your fascia and aligning yourself with gravity, it’s time to begin your personal Journey to Structural Integration.
Fascia is the key element of those that hold the body together.
Fascia is the connective tissue that plays the most central role in holding the entire body together. A major component of soft tissues, fascia runs throughout the body in planes that tie together the entire network of body parts. It wraps around muscle fiber, bundles of muscle fibers, organs, and bones, etc. The body’s fascial system functions as a multi-layered matrix, whose sheaths wrap around tissues as they weave in and out of layers through the body. In that sense and manner, everything in the body is connected to everything else. There is no part of the body that is on its own—all parts are wrapped together by fascia and have the potential to affect other parts. Recent scientific findings indicate that Fascia is so continuous with every cell in our bodies that we can truly consider it, the One Fascia. Fascia is involved in communication and transmission of signals, it transmit light and sound, it has a role in Hormone production and delivery, it is a major part of our immune system, it protects us and is our major tool for sensing and navigating life and expression, and it it gives us our shape.
Fascia has fluidity and is stress-responsive.
Although fascia has a pronounced fluidity, it is also phenomenally stress-responsive. If a particular part of the body is under severe stress, the fascia supporting that area will harden to accommodate the demand. Over time that fascia toughens and binds body parts closer and closer together so that the structures become tighter and tighter. Since fascia runs in planes, if one part of a fascial plane becomes bound up, it pulls on and shortens the rest of the plane much as a snagged place on a piece of stretched cloth distorts the adjoining area of the fabric.
Fascia— your body’s fabric — Can all be improved with Hellerwork Sessions and by purchasing Align For Life and The BODY MASTERY SYSTEM- Go to the Shop Tab and order now.
Align for Life and THE BODY MASTERY SYSTEM will truly transform your fascia, your body’s fabric. This fabric is integrally connected— with imbalances, snags, asymmetries, rotations, twists, and tensions throughout. Each of our bodies has a unique set of adaptations. When ‘normalized’— Rolf used this term to represent the normal ideal function, not to be confused with the poor function that most people have—we can have more energy, ease of movement, and range of motion. Those gains can enable us to feel and look good every day.
‘Fascia is the connecting line between the psyche and the soma’ — Ida Rolf
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