Structural Integration is a type of manual/movement education that focuses on the connective tissue, or fascia, of the body. Fascia surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, organs, and nerves, binding some structures together while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other.
Fascia is designed to be elastic and move freely with muscles and bones. Injury, stress, work-related repetitive movements and the effects of aging can cause fascia to lose its elasticity and become shorter, tighter, and more dense. Tightened fascia pulls our muscles and skeleton out of efficient alignment and posture, which can cause pain, discomfort, and fatigue.
Structural Integration works to alter the density or soften connective tissue to restore postural balance, ease of movement, and a feeling of being more at home in your own body. It is practiced in an organized series of sessions or individual sessions within a framework that is designed to restore efficient movement by aligning and integrating the body in gravity. Structural Integration is based on the work of Dr. Ida Rolf (see below). It is practiced by persons trained in Structural Integration at schools and institutions in accordance with the standards established by the International Association of Structural Integrators (IASI).
Who is Dr. Ida Rolf?
Dr. Ida Rolf
The Force Behind Structural Integration
Ida P. Rolf earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1920. During the ensuing 12 years, she worked at The Rockefeller Institute in the Department of Chemotherapy and later in the Department of Organic Chemistry. During her time at the Institute, she took a leave of absence to study atomic physics at the Swiss Technical Institute in Zurich.
Dissatisfied with existing medical care in the 1930’s, Dr. Rolf continued to search passionately for answers to family health problems. This led her to study many systems including Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Yoga, Homeopathy, the Alexander Technique, and Korzybsji’s work on states of consciousness. Throughout her explorations, Dr. Rolf was grounded in the scientific point of view, and also acknowledged the value of solutions arrived at intuitively.
By 1940, Dr. Rolf was working with people seeking help. The work she developed during this time and to which she devoted herself until her death, came to be known as Structural Integration. During the 1950’s, she spent summers as a guest of John Bennett, a prominent mystic and student of Gurdjieff. In the mid-1960’s Dr. Rolf began training practitioners and instructors in Structural Integration at the Esalen Institute in California. Shortly before her death in 1979, she published Rolfing: Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being the primary text documenting her investigation and intervention with the human structure.