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Structural integration is a transformative type of bodywork that supports patterns of health rather than just focusing on relieving symptoms. It was developed by Dr. Ida Rolf. The work is designed to restore a person’s musculoskeletal structural system to its optimal state of alignment. After you’ve experienced Structural Integration, you’ll see improved posture, flexibility, balance, and movement.


Structural integration produces better organization in the body through direct manipulation of the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds, penetrates, and supports all muscles, bones, nerves, and organs in the body. Over time, bodies can become less organized and more restricted. Stress, injury, trauma and poor postural habits contribute to these structural imbalances. As Structural Integration helps your body find relief from pain and restrictions, you’ll also see improvement to many other aspects of yourself. When the fascia is aligned, the body moves more efficiently and in alignment with itself. The result of Structural Integration is a body at ease and moving in peace with itself.


Ida P. Rolf, a remarkable woman, earned a doctorate in biological chemistry from Columbia University in 1920. Over the next decade worked at the Rockefeller Institute first in the Department of Chemotherapy and later in the Department of Organic Chemistry. She rose to the level of associate, a rare achievement for a woman in her time.


In 1927, she took a leave of absence to attend the Swiss Technical University in Zurich, where she studied atomic physics and mathematics. She also studied homeopathic medicine in Geneva. When she returned to New York from Europe in the 1930s, she wanted to address her own health concerns. From early childhood she had a marked swayback posture, and she also had a pre-diabetic diagnosis. Available medical treatment seemed inadequate, so she spent the next decade studying osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, the Alexander technique, and Korzbski’s work on the state of consciousness. But the cornerstone of her thinking was yoga, which she studied intensely.


In the 1940s, began using what she’d learned to treat a wide range of people. She worked with many chronically disabled people who could not find help elsewhere. When she relocated to Los Angeles, she studied with osteopaths and began to develop her own practice, which she called Structural Integration.


In 1964, Fritz Perls, the founder of gestalt therapy, invited Dr. Rolf to work and teach at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. This is where her work first spread to a broad audience. During her years at Esalen, she founded The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, and she trained several teachers of Structural Integration as well as more than a hundred individual practitioners.


Ida Rolf died in 1979 in New York City, at 83 years old.

"Go around the problem;get the system sufficiently resilient so that it is able to change, and it will change. Don’t force things. If you’ve done your preparation right you don’t have to force things."
Dr. Ida P. Rolf

Fascia is the connective tissue of the body. It is a tough covering, like a sausage casing, that surrounds every muscle and forms a supporting network throughout the body, continuous from head to toe. In some places the fascia is thinner than a piece of fabric, but in other places, such as the Iliotibial band on the outside of the leg, it can be much thicker. Fascia is extremely strong.


Fascia thickens and hardens in places where there is chronic tension. Like a coiled telephone cord, fascia holds imprints of our posture and old injuries. All of our nerves and blood vessels run through the fascia, so where the fascia is tight the associated tissues have poor nutrient exchange. This exacerbates any painful situation, because toxic metabolic waste builds up, further aggravating pain receptors. This vicious cycle leads to further thickening and hardening of the fascia, which further limits mobility.


Fascia tends dry out as we age, becoming stiff and tight. The manipulations of Structural Integration help to stretch, loosen, and rehydrate the tissue so it can be more supple and resilient. Regular movement of the fascia through exercise and bodywork helps to greatly reduce the fascia from stiffening, leading to better body movements and greater wellbeing.


The most common method for a person to incorporate Structural Integration into their life is through a sequence known as the Ten Series, also developed by Dr. Ida Rolf. In a series of ten sessions, the practitioner seeks to align, lengthen, and organize the fascia, focusing on a different parts of the body in each session. At the end of the Ten Series, good posture is effortless and breathing is easier; the body becomes more flexible and more coordinated; and athletic performance improves. Generally, clients are encouraged to go through the Ten Series at least seven times throughout their lives.


Because the fascia is continuous from head to toe, tension in one area of the body can impact other areas. The Ten Series works the entire structure in a systematic way to achieve lasting results, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Each session builds on the last, using manual manipulation to reorganize the fascia and educating clients about movement. The goal is to see the big picture, not missing the forest for the trees.

Structural Integration Russell Ditchfield Physical Therapy Physical Therapist in Montclair, NJ
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