- Pain and Stress Relief
- Creating Bodies
- Enhance Fitness
- Long Term Benefits
- Optimize Performance
- Cultivate Awareness
- Holistic Balance
Structural Integration, also known as Rolfing, can help to enhance physical fitness and well being through the integration of openness, flexibility, strength, and balance into the body's structure. By opening and balancing the somatic structure, a new, more elevated level of homeostasis is established by the body. This refined state of equilibrium allows an individual to physically operate more effectively and efficiently, which then allows one to apply more energy to the athletics, dance, martial arts, outdoor activities, etc. he or she elects to participate in.
Most of the practice time of the players is usually spent developing specific parts of their bodies, stronger arms, faster legs, etc. Rolfing [Structural Integration] on the other hand, allows the players to feel their bodies as an integrated whole. The kind of physical awareness they gain from Rolfing enables them to use their strength in a better balanced way, to move more freely, and to play more effectively.
Asymmetrically Developed Athletes
Sports such as tennis, golf, racquetball, baseball, basketball, snowboarding, slalom water skiing, pole vaulting, discus, shot put, soccer, archery and certain positions in football tend to develop more strength and coordination on one side of the body. This dominance on one side of the body leads to imbalances in the overall physical structure, which then leads to asymmetrical structural patterns of flexibility, strength, balance, and eventually to injuries as the body attempts to function with these asymmetries. What is often labeled as "wear and tear injuries" from these types of sports is more accurately the result of injuries stemming from one side of the body dominating structurally over its weaker other half.
Structural Integration (Rolfing) addresses the problems of asymmetrical development of the body by helping to integrate the two sides of the somatic structure into an overall balanced functioning unit. This is done in conjunction with balancing the other structural planes of the body as described below in "Symmetrical Sports."
Symmetrically Developed Athletes
Sports such as swimming, track, long distance running, cycling, water skiing, rowing, snow skiing, hiking, rock climbing, weightlifting, kayaking, gymnastics, wrestling, and certain positions in football tend to emphasize a more equalized development of both sides of the body. However, issues of balancing both sides of the body do exist because almost all human beings operate with a dominant eye (and side of the body) in order to coordinate their somatic movements with their spatial orientation. Athletes in symmetrical sports tend to have less of an imbalance in the side- to-side planes of the body than those participating in asymmetrical sports. This makes it easier for the side to side imbalance of a symmetrical sports athlete to be integrated into the overall process of organizing all the planes of the body.
Structural Integration (Rolfing) focuses on bringing a higher order to the body by balancing the structural planes of the upper and lower body, the front and back body, the inner core and outer sleeve, and the entire vertical somatic gravitational line of balance along with the side-to-side planes described above. This will help to improve performance, increase flexibility, and reduce the risks of injuries for both asymmetrically and symmetrically developed athletes.
Core Movement Modalities
Modalities such as dance, yoga, martial arts, pilates and other core focused disciplines and practices place high demands on the body's ability to perform subtle movements with intrinsic strength and flexibility. Structural Integration (Rolfing) can assist an individual to open, activate, and coordinate the subtle movement and postural patterns these practices require.
Why Balance and Alignment of the Body's Structure is Vital in Sports, Fitness Programs, Dance, Yoga, Martial Arts, etc.
Reduce the Risk of Injuries
Our bodies' structures are inherently very strong, but they become vulnerable to injuries when they are out of balance and alignment. To use a mechanical analogy, an automobile still operates when its suspension and wheels are out of alignment, but there is a marked increase in the "wear and tear" on the tires, brakes, bearings, and other suspension elements. This leads to the vehicle operating less effectively (and maybe dangerously) and with a greater potential for a mechanical malfunction if not repaired.
The body's complex structure consisting of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, fascia, etc. will also malfunction and break down from the stresses imposed on it through imbalances and misalignments.
For example, damages to joints are often the result of forces passing through the joint structure in an imbalanced manner which over stresses certain tissues and under utilizes the complimentary tissues. This imbalance pulls and wears out both the bone and soft tissues as they rub against each other without the proper support and padding to prevent damage to the joint.
Muscle injuries are often the result of the inability of stronger muscle groups to release quickly enough in order to allow weaker muscle groups to not be strained or torn. Severe injuries to the structure, such as bone fractures, are often the result of the entire body's myofascial structure being too rigid to dissipate the force of an impact. Instead, the force of the impact is confined to a localized area, putting a much heavier strain on the bones and tissues in that area. Similarly, spinal injuries, such as bulging discs, are the aftermath of the body's inability to distribute the forces incurred by lifting heavy objects. Instead of the soft tissue network distributing and dissipating the weight of the object, it becomes a concentrated force in the spinal core leading to a failure within that structure.
Through its emphasis on openness, alignment, and balance of the body's entire myofascial network, Structural Integration (Rolfing) can help to reduce or minimize the impact of injuries on the body. A flexible and well-organized body is more likely to absorb, distribute, and dissipate the forces that would normally lead to injuries, set backs, and frustration in the active life of the athletic body.
The less flexibility, alignment, and balance a body possesses, the more energy it takes for that body to move and support itself within the forces of gravity. Non-aligned joints take more energy to move. Muscles inappropriately meshed into each other lose their functional independence, range of motion, power and efficiency in operation.
A balanced, well-organized body performs better because it has more energy, agility, strength, and endurance to apply to whatever sport or activity one chooses to participate in. It no longer experiences the resistance of the "parts against the whole." When one finds both the postural and movement patterns of the body to be in harmony, it allows that person to move further towards achieving his or her optimal performance levels.
Generally, the major influences in structural damage over long periods of time on the body are the negative effects of movement patterns which lack flexibility, alignment, and overall balance. How many balls does a tennis player hit before "tennis elbow" appears, or, how many swings does a golfer take before lower back pain appears? Apply what may seem like a small eccentric force of imbalance through a repetitive pattern to the body over a long period of time, and you have a recipe for the body damaging itself as it tries to compensate against the negative affects of that repetitive action.
By helping to maintain postural and movement alignment, flexibility, and balance patterns throughout the body, Structural Integration (Rolfing) can help an individual to maintain a healthy, agile, and strong body for the many years or decades of activity in the sports, martial arts, dance, fitness programs, etc. he or she pursues.