|Underlying Concepts of Structural Integration|
Before we get into more specifics of Structural Integration (SI), we need to address some underlying concepts of SI work.
Balancing the body is one key concept, which perpetuates from micro (small) to macro (large). So we concern ourselves with balancing the tissues around specific joints, larger body segments, and also the full body as a whole single unit. Most of us can comprehend balancing around a single uncomplicated joint. Thinking of balancing the body as a single unit is more difficult. We can use a very simple analogy to understand this... think of the body being represented by a tall flexible tree, and the tissue on the front and back of the body as two ropes connected from the very top of the tree to the ground... if we pull down on the front rope, the tree bends forward and the back rope gets pulled upward. Likewise if we pull down on the back rope and let go of the front rope, the opposite happens. Not unlike this simple example, the larger spans of tissue in our body have similar behavior. If our body is bent forward, the connective tissue (herein referred to as fascia or myofascia) becomes short on the front, and longer on the back. If this is a held pattern in the body, then we would need to lengthen the fascia on the front of the body, and bring together/shorten the tissue on the back of the body. This is a very simplistic explanation of correcting front/anterior and back/posterior tissue imbalance. In addition to correcting anterior/posterior relationships of the fascia, we also address side/side issues, rotational issues, and inside (core) to outside (sleeve) issues.
Another key SI concept is that of creating space in the fascia of the body. This occurs in places where the fascia is holding, restricted, adhered, or otherwise not moving appropriately. This is done through tissue differentiation, where we separate different tissue groups and layers from each other by a combination of manual hands-on techniques, and also client movement of associated structures/body parts.
One more key concept is the restoration of the brain’s kinesthetic map of the body. The kinesthetic map can be thought of as the brain's list of all the body tissue it can control in movement. Items on the map, the brain can control and get useful feedback from. Items off the map it cannot readily control or pay attention too.
Nervous system engagement happens as the process of releasing restricted tissue occurs, especially when the client is assisting the release of the fascia by providing movement of the associated structures and "paying attention" to the sensations created during the work. The nervous system becomes more "aware" of the fascia that is restricted as it is being worked, and this allows the nervous system to add this part of the body back into its map of the kinesthetic/moving body. In many ways we can think of this as remembering something we once knew, but have since forgotten. The better the missing parts of the kinesthetic map get filled in, the more complete a picture the brain will have of the whole body, and the better the brain can control the body and organize it as it moves and exists in space.
By keeping these concepts in mind, Structural Integration works to correct the vertical alignment of the body, create balance from imbalance, create space from restriction, ease held tension, and allow for movement that organizes through the body’s core/center outward. Though not specifically the goal of Structural Integration, it is quite common for our aches and pains to diminish or disappear while working through the Structural Integration series. Our physical shape also dictates much of our emotional bearing in life, and this too can change as part of our transformation through SI work.