Structural Integration Story

Dr. Ida P. RolfDr. Ida P. Rolf: Dr. Rolf has been credited with designing not only a new therapy, a new manual technique for manipulation but also a new way of seeing the body as it lives and moves within the gravitational field.  Rolf’s work is based on the belief that the body is more at ease and will function more effectively with its structure is balanced along the invisible vertical line of gravity.  Ask any skier and they will know of this “fall line”.  Ask anybody on a bicycle and they will understand how much easier it is to ride while upright and not leaning.


Dr. Rolf developed Structural Integration as a 10 session series to restore postural balance and functional ease within the body.  She saw the body as a plastic medium that could be altered and manipulated, moving the body to better mechanics.  While most were concerned with muscles, Rolf saw the importance of fascia or connective tissue in this process.  She found that applying head and pressure with the hands, while working with fiber direction, one can systematically restore the integrity of the fascia system.  Fascia is the connective tissue that is found throughout the entire body and within all living things on the planet.  Fascia is the organ of structure and is responsible for giving us our shape and form.  Fascia encompasses every major organ , muscle, bone, blood and nerve vessel in the body.  When the tissues of the body become more organized,  the entire body system becomes more aligned and runs more smoothly as a coordinated whole.

Dr. Rolf very much believed that form determines function.  If the body is poorly moulded, it will not behave optimally.  Just as our pajama bottoms twist around our legs under the sheets, so do our tissues under our skin.  We are often left in discomfort, poor circulation and decreased mobility.  Sadly, many of us finish our lives in this reduced state and suffer from poor quality of life.

Because of Dr. Rolf, we have a unique and effective approach to improving quality of life.  By manipulating fascia instead of the skeletal system, we now can address those tension that actually pull bones out of position.


The goal:

When body structures are imbalanced and suffering from internal twists and contortions, we become imbalanced and out of alignment.  Our bodies react by making compensations around each and every restriction.  We begin to hunch over, walk with a particular gait, cross our arms and legs, slouch etc,.   Our fascia system responds to injuries, chronic tension and habitual movement patterns.  Often, the fascia system will react by shortening from the forces of gravity,  bad mechanics and poor health choices like diet and exercise.  Structural Integration is a system used to align and balance the physical  body within its gravitational field.  In order to restore proper form and function, the fascia matrix is methodically organized around the vertical axis.  Integrating the major structures of the body along the vertical axis makes for a body that is springier, more energy efficient, looser, more flexible and healthier.


The Series overview:

The first three sessions of the recipe are called the “Sleeve” sessions.  These sessions are concerned with the layer of superficial fascia.  By superficial, we mean those tissues which live close to the skin level.  The superficial layer of muscle and fascia are those tissues that are responsible for large, gross motor movements (muscleman-like).  These are the tissues we see in the mirror when we flex our muscles.  We work on the superficial layers first when working “the recipe” because we need to open, lengthen and organize the outer layers of tissue to allow the core layer space to unwind and release.

The next four sessions are called “the core” and cover the deeper myofascial structures.  The core of your body consists of the inner fascia layer or intrinsic layer.  This is a layer of tissue dedicated to stability and slow postural movements.  The intrinsic tissues are responsible for more intricate and graceful movement (ballerina-like)

The final three working sessions are the “integrative” sessions.  Because the first seven sessions are about taking the body apart and discombobulation, the integrative sessions are about putting it all back together into a functioning whole.  Our goal is to get the individual parts working together better.  This is where the magic happens.  This is where the body begins to sing.  This is where the core and the sleeve work together.  This is where we find excellence with ease.  This is where we stop sabotaging ourselves both actively and subconsciously with our physical patterns.


The sessions:

The following is a breakdown of each unique session in the recipe.  This means that one can travel anywhere in the world and find a practitioner of Structural Integration and receive the same session.

Session 1:  Inspiration
Our goal is to begin to open the sleeve by freeing the breath and superficial fascia around the chest.   The goal is to give the idea of lift in the body and the quality of breath work by addressing the ribs and thorax.  Releasing tension in the ribcage and thoracic outlet to improve breath.  Lengthening  the torso away from the pelvis. Defining the relationship between the legs and pelvis,

Terrain:  ribcage, sternum, shoulders, neck, lateral pelvis and iliotibial tract (IT band).

Session 2:  Understanding
Our goal is to support the body by establishing the relationship between legs and pelvis.  We balance the 3 arches of the foot and begin to correct plantar fascia restrictions.  We release restrictions and tightness in the lower leg that lead to shin splints and calf problems. We address weight distribution across the whole foot.  You will get a sense of grounding in your body.  You will find your feet alive and dynamic and better able to support your body in the field of gravity.

Terrain:  feet, legs, knees, Achilles tendon, hamstrings and quadriceps

Session 3:  Reaching Out
In the third session, we are concerned with the lateral midline of the body.  We wish to create a front/back dimension to the body.  We address structural relationships that limit depth.    We differentiate the rib cage from the shoulder girdle and the pelvis for better support.  We are attempting to find freedom of the arms and shoulder girdle from the spine.

Terrain:   Neck, arms, shoulders, torso, pelvis, thighs, QL, SI and IT band.

Session 4: Control and surrender
The fourth session is about building up core support and strength.  We are concerned with the freeing the legs from the pelvis via the adductor group.  We wish to improve the span/tone of the pelvic floor.  We further address the rotations found in your pelvis.  At this time, you will begin to feel levity in your body as it begins to find its “line” in gravity.

Terrain:  ankle, knees, medial thigh, adductors, pelvic floor.
Session 5:  The Guts
In this session, we are concerned with the anterior line of the body.  Our focus is on visceral organization and core activation.

We look at core adhesions that cause structural restrictions.  We are creating more abdominal space for the inner structures.  We are waking up and reasserting the deep abdominal musculature.  We are initiating paoas/rhomboid balance and rectus psoas balance.  We will extend the line of support up the front of the spine.  This will give you a sense of leg movement from the core rather than from the hips.

Terrain:  front of the legs, abdomen, diaphragm, ribs and sternum, psoas.

Session 6:  Holding Back
In this session is explore the back line.  It is the first session spent entirely face down.  When we work on the back, we work on the entire back, from heels to cranium.  We address rotations in the spine and try to free to sacrum from the ilia (SI joint).  We coordinate the hinges on the back (the lumbar dorsal and mid dorsal hinge).  We aim to find enhanced symmetry above and below the pelvic girdle.    Our focus to have you experience movement from your legs to your undulating spine.

Terrain:  posterior ankle, calf, quadriceps, gluteals, deep rotators, sacrum and spine and occipit.

Session 7:  Losing your head
This session is about balancing your neck and head above your spine.  This creates a relationship between the neck and thorax.  We intend to improve the range of motion in the neck and establish an inner line through the head.  We work to release exterior and interior fascial tension of the face, throat and cranium.

Terrain:  Chest, shoulders, neck  and cranium.

Session 8:  The Feminine
The focus of session 8 is about creating structural integration in the lower half of the body.  We wish to free structural and functional inhibitions.  Here we work to balance the deep and superficial myofascial of the legs and hips.  The goal is to create a dependable and adaptable foundation for the upper body.

Terrain:  Pelvic girdle, legs and hips.

Session 9:  The masculine
Our goal is to provide you with function interaction in contra-lateral movement.  You will feel the transfer of energy and motion from the core to the sleeve.  You will be taught about all movement needs to be initiated from the lumbo-dorsal hinge.  The area in front of the vertebral column at the mid to lower back.

Terrain:  shoulder girdle, arms, chest, back , head and neck.

Session 10:  Integration
For this session, we wish you to understand what full integration of the body and all its parts means.  We want you to have a profound sense of “the Line” and of everything being connected as a whole.  A full sense of body in three dimensions, working in ease is our goal.  Here we integrate  and balance the diaphragm with the tip and bottom half of the body.

Terrain:  ankles, knees , hips, diaphragm, neck and cranium.

Session 11:  Coming out
This is a session unique to Hellerwork.  We believe that there is a need to prepare the client for self expression and empowerment.  We review all of the movement lessons from each of the previous sessions.  We discuss the series and the expectations that were held.

Bodywork is not necessarily part of this session.

I invite all to download and read “The Client Handbook”.  It is in .pdf format and gives a complete description of each and every Hellerwork session.


What to expect:

By coming to me, a Hellerworker, you can expect three things in my approach to liberating you from old patterns.  Firstly, you can expect a physical series of bodywork  that is true to the vision of Dr. Rolf’s Structural Integration.  I believe in addressing the body as a whole in the very logical and effective manner set out in the various sessions.

In addition to the bodywork, you can expect Somatic or Movement lessons which accompany each bodywork session.  Movement education is a vital component for maintaining the structural integrity and balance achieved through the recipe.  The movement lessons address the most basic errors of posture that we are guilty of.  Poor body mechanics such as standing, sitting, walking, bending, are addressed with an eye towards awareness.

Proper movement patterns are taught in order for you to move more efficiently, and to conserve more energy.  When one is able to assume better movement they become more body aware and tend to practice preventative measures against further physical injury, pain, tension and discomfort.  It is shocking to find that almost everybody has zero posture knowledge and awareness.


Contact us in Toronto, Ontario, for more about the physical therapy and deep tissue manipulation we offer.