Some of the most recent breakthroughs in looking at the nervous system and connective tissues show how completely interconnected our body really is. Nerves, fascia, skin and muscles span huge expanses of the body. Top to bottom, front to back, left to right and inside to outside the human body is truly an interconnected giant spider web. Dr. Rolf recognized that in order to help a person achieve their most optimal and highest level of function we can’t just segment the body into small pieces and parts like Legos. What you do in one area of your body effects every region throughout the entire structure. As the body compensates to try and manage what you are doing with it and to it, the body’s resiliency and ability to adapt to the demands placed upon it become less effective and efficient. Long time frames of sitting or doing repetitive tasks can cause the whole body to adjust as well as possible by shifting, tilting, rotating, and contracting throughout the whole system.
The 10 series of Structural Integration offers the client an opportunity to explore and reconnect each region of the body in a focused way. As the SI practitioner and client work together through each session they systematically work every area of the body helping the brain and connective tissue get reacquainted.
The 10 series follows a similar an effective and efficient process, or recipe, of working with a client instead of just chasing after symptoms in an unorganized and random process. Each and every client is different and while there is a general recipe that we are following every session is very unique to each client. With each session we are working with a client’s reported symptoms and problems as well as looking to see how other areas of the body can be contributing to a heightened or over sensitized nervous system and locked down, hypertonic tissues. Here is how the sessions work with each other and build upon each other. We want to teach you to solve the problem and not just treat the symptom.
Session 1: The Hour of Vital Capacity
One of the main goals of the first session is to help the client achieve easier and more efficient breathing. By beginning to soften and free the shoulder girdle from the rib cage it allows for the rib cage to move with less stress and effort. As the body can now effortlessly breathe in and breathe out it can have a huge impact in every aspect of the rest of the body. Increased oxygenation is the key to a more efficient being in every capacity. As the big bulky muscles of the shoulder girdle soften their grip on the rib cage it also allows the neck and mid back to move with greater ease and resiliency.
Another goal of the first session is to begin establishing a more functional and level pelvis. As the pelvis losses its ability to function and move effortlessly this causes compensation and contraction through rest of the body. We can look at session 1 as the preparation phase of a construction site, or the prep work in the kitchen.
Session 2: The Hour of the Feet and Legs.
Session 2 is where we begin to lay the foundation of the structure to build upon. Helping the body reestablish more functional feet and arches allows for better movement of the knees and pelvis. As these regions are able to better move and support the pelvis we will continue to see the pelvis and spine become more supple, functional and happy. Without a solid and functional foundation it is hard to build a structure that can deal with the demands and stresses a person goes through on a daily basis. As the legs now can more efficiently carry the trunk, we will begin to see the muscles of the back lessen their hypercontraction from the low back all the way up to the head. As this tissue becomes softer we are able to help the client gain an even better connection to how much or how little the back muscles need to be engaging to support the body appropriately.
Session 3: The Hour of the Quadratus Lumborum (QL)
In the third hour of the 10 series we will be helping the client establish better connection of the lateral line of their body. Some of the muscles and fascia of the back can begin to migrate toward to side and front of the body causing the body to contract and work harder than it should. As we work through the third hour we help the client recognize which connective tissues should be where and how to begin to soften and relax the lateral line of the body so it is not playing tug-o-war with itself. This session is also a continuation of the work on the shoulder girdle that we began in the first hour. As the shoulder girdle continues to soften and become more organized, supple and functional the client gains better control of their spine, and torso allowing for range of motion, balance and coordination they have not had since they were teenagers.
Session 4: The Hour of the Adductors
One of the major goals of every session is to allow the pelvis to be has healthy and functional as possible. The fourth hour is thebeginning of what we call our intrinsic, or core, work. The strong muscles on the inside of the leg that attach onto the pelvis can cause a great deal of side to side imbalances of the pelvis and can contribute to the knee and foot not moving as well as they should. As this inside line begins to soften, we can see the knee begin to move in its more ideal plane of motion which allows the pelvis to function better.
Session 5: The Hour of the Psoas
The large abdominal muscles on the front of the trunk connect to the pelvis and the large quadriceps on the front of the legs. These muscles can cause a tremendous amount of stress and increased sensitization of the nervous system causing the body to contract at levels and in ways that make the spine and pelvis more rigid and less efficient. As we work from the diaphragm to the knees, encouraging the body to soften and engage at the appropriate levels, we address the body’s front to back imbalances. Many people find a great deal of improvement in knee pain, hip, pain, low, mid and upper back pain as well as neck pain lessening and softening as we work through the fifth session.
Session 6: The Hour of the Sacrum
Session 4 addressed side to side motion of the pelvis, session 5 addressed front to back motion of the pelvis, and now in session 6 we are working towards how the spine connects with and fits into the pelvis. The powerful muscles of the posterior pelvis (the glutes, hamstrings, deep hip rotators) can all cause a tremendous amount of stress and tension when they are engaging at excessive rates to try and fight what is happening on the front side of the body. As we work from the foot through the calf, hamstring, pelvis, low back, mid back upper back and neck it helps the client realize that the back side of the body has been holding on for dear life to try and fight all that happens on the front side of the body. As the adductors from the fourth hour and the quads/psoas from the fifth hour soften, it allows the hamstrings and posterior side of the body to soften and come back to its more appropriate level of tension and position.
Session 7: The hour of the Head and Neck
Now that we have everything below the head and neck much more stable, functional, balanced supple and mobile we can focus our attention on the head and neck doing our detailed neck, head, face and jaw work. Imagine the idea of putting the cherry on the cake, or a ball on a table. If the cake or table is crooked it would be more difficult to have the ball sit on the table without falling off, or for the cherry to sit in the center of the cake. The intricate workings of the shoulder, neck and head require a person to really improve their ability to be aware of and how to encourage muscles and the nervous system to soften so they can have this area be as functional as possible. Many people get neck work week after week, year after year, always having the same issues over and over. This can often be related to the fact that when everything below the head and neck are more contracted it makes it difficult for the head to be in a place of ease on top of the body.
Sessions 8 & 9: The Balancing Sessions
In sessions 1-7, we focused on working to help our clients begin the process of differentiating the glued together, rigid, and contracted parts from one another. Helping the nervous system and connective tissues to soften and down regulate so the body can move more easily, freely, with less restriction and tug-o-war compensation. In sessions 8 and 9 we are looking to help the client balance, connect and relate the upper body and lower body together. In one of these sessions we will focus on balancing and relating the upper girdle to middle and in the other session we will do the same for the lower girdle. In our balancing sessions we begin to dynamically change how we work with the client getting them into gravity by putting them in different positions on the table and in seated and standing positions to continue to encourage the nervous system to realize that it can move and function without so much hypertonicity and contracture.
Session 10: The Hour of the Joints
Session 10 is graduation day. Our aim is to help our clients be able to move effortlessly and freely within and through their joints. Over time, as a body and nervous system become rigid and hard, it can cause the connective tissues to lock out joints; decreasing a person’s ability to move easily and effortlessly. As we bring greater awareness to how our clients are moving through the major joints, it dramatically brings them to a place of contentedness, balance, coordination, ease and gracefulness that we are all seeking to have. At this last stage of our 10 series, we have given our clients a tremendous amount of self-care tools and education to encourage them to address issues as they happen instead of only relying upon a healthcare provider to fix them.
NMI is Structural Integration for the 21st century. Utilizing the core principles of Structural Integration, created by Dr. Ida P Rolf, but updated with current pain science, fascial and neurological research, NMI is a system of working with the human body that is unparalleled in helping clients meet their health goals. These benefits are a direct result of the client and therapist creating a system that focuses on client education and self-care tools to manage issues as they happen.