Gravity, Desire, and Structural Integration
Our bodies tell the stories of each soul's journey united with the dance of creation as it rides the waves of life within the boundless oceans of gravity.
Structural Integration, also known as Rolfing, is a creative and systematic process which includes the physical manipulation of the body's structure, somatic education, and the expansion of one's awareness of postural and movement patterns in order to optimize his or her strength, flexibility, balance, and ease of being within the constant pull of the earth's gravitational field. Structural Integration was created, developed, and taught by Ida P. Rolf, PhD [see her biography in the 'About Us' Section] from the 1950s until she passed away in 1979. There are several schools which continue to teach her work presently including our school, The Guild for Structural Integration, located in Boulder, Colorado. Today, Structural Integration, with its emphasis on blending objective scientific knowledge and process with intuitive wisdom, is practiced throughout the world.
Our physical relationship with gravity determines whether our journey through life will be one of buoyancy and lightness or tension and struggle.
To best describe the intentions and nature of Structural Integration, we have selected three domains in order to outline the key principles of this work. They are:
- The Process of Structural Integration
Gravity, being the universal constant force which sculpts us as physical beings, serves as an objective foundational reference from which we can measure the results of Structural Integration. Desire represents the individual goals, aspirations, and intentions we cultivate as we bring each of our unique physical structures to the process of Structural Integration. And finally, the process of Structural Integration itself focuses on bringing a higher order of balance and integration to an individual's somatic structure as it relates to the universal force of gravity. Following is a description of these three domains
Gravity is Love.
Before life in its multitudes of shapes, sizes, and forms could create itself, Gravity was a constant constructive and deconstructive force in the continuous development of matter and the inorganic forms of the universe required to establish the building blocks of life. Unlike the air we breathe, the water we drink, or even the earth we stand on, Gravity was the essential binding force of the universe which ultimately lead to the creation of the supportive environment, as well as the physical bodies, we depend on in order to live.
The fish will be the last to discover water.
Gravity is one of the four forces of the physical universe. It is the only force we experience directly, constantly, and consistently in our bodies. We do not sense or experience the strong and weak forces of sub-atomic physics, and we can experience only limited ranges within the electromagnetic spectrum. The experiences of electromagnetic waves of energy (i.e. light) is situational, and unlike gravity, subject to constant change. Gravity, therefore, is the constant force of relationship which we all exist within, so much so that many of us are not aware of its influence on our bodies since it is always present in our experience. It is not until we drop something, try to lift a heavy object, or climb a flight of stairs that Gravity becomes the focus of our awareness. We can also witness the long term effects of Gravity in the deterioration of architectural structures, the falling of old trees, and even rockslides as they succumb to the gravitational pull on the landscape. Even the miraculous expressions of the flow of water, in its many forms, are dependent upon gravity.
Gravity is the Teacher.
By bringing the force of gravity into our awareness, Dr. Rolf created an integral physical and metaphysical map to help guide each person in their own unique quest for balance, openness, and ease of being within their bodies. For within the body, with all the transient states, stresses, and pressures one experiences, the one consistent influence on the somatic structure is the force of Gravity. Instead of Gravity being considered a detriment to the health and well being of the body's structure, Dr. Rolf taught that Gravity is an ally and a basic supportive factor to the healthy functioning of the physical structure. A body which functions in balance with Gravity has much more energy available to use at its discretion, since less energy is required for structural homeostasis. The surplus energy is then available for other needs, be it mental, emotional, intuitive, physical, digestive, or immune functioning.
Dr. Rolf understood that as the internal condition transformed with the evolution of the body to a higher order of balance and equilibrium, then one's understanding and relationship to gravity, the world, and the nature of the universe would transform accordingly. For our bodies are the only true laboratories of direct experience for tasting the wonders of life.
"Gravity is the teacher" was Dr. Rolf's way of expressing how the force of gravity is always present as a collaborator teaching us how to flow in balance and harmony with the basic forces of the universe, the challenges of life, and the heroic quest to fulfill our life's desires.
Hence, the lay mind thinks of chemistry as the only outstanding healing medium Ð a drug for this, a shot for that. But any mirror or photograph would reveal that a great many problems are matters of structure, of physics Ð of a three dimensional body fitting very badly into a greater material universe (the earth), which has its own energy field (gravity). Help must be sought in the terms of the problem Ð the physics of spatial relations, of man and his environment, of man-as-a-whole in the energy field of the earth, gravity. And help can be found. The war within can end in lasting peace.
Of all the creatures on earth, only human beings can change their patterns. Man alone is the architect of his destiny... Human beings, by changing the inner attitude of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
Within the universal force of gravity comes the many unique expressions of life found on our planet. And within this web of life on earth, we find ourselves as custodians not only to our own future, but the future of the entire planet as well. Each human being is a novel expression of the universal force of creation through the combination of our unique physical, mental, emotional, and intuitive qualities blended with a self referential awareness with which we can consciously choose to change and evolve ourselves. It is within the seeds of our ability to change ourselves that the roots of desire dwell.
Desire leads us to inspiration, and from inspiration, we make commitments to take the actions which will ultimately fulfill or satisfy our dreams. Every person on the planet, besides possessing a unique psycho-somatic structure, also has a unique set of desires which then govern that person's creative contribution to humanity. This combination of 'who we are' and 'who we want to be' is the basic fuel we each bring to the Structural Integration process. We suggest you investigate the 'How this Process can Benefit You' section for a more in depth discussion of the many expressions of desire and how they can be fulfilled with the support of Structural Integration.
In a complimentary manner to our bodies being reflections of each of our personal histories, desire represents the journeys we want to take each of our bodies on in the future. The fundamental goal of Structural Integration is to facilitate each person in their desire to fulfill their creative potential in life through the experience of the cultivation of awareness, effortless balance, openness, and freedom within the forces of gravity. With less energy spent on resisting and fighting gravity, one is able to apply surplus life force towards the fulfillment of their deepest desires in life.
Freedom is the ability to be free within your own harness.
I have the conviction that when Physiology will be far enough advanced, the poet, the philosopher, and the physiologist will all understand each other.
Structural Integration is a process which offers the potential for a person to acquire deeper levels of equilibrium, harmony, and connection with the universe. This is achieved through the alignment of the body's structure in order to enhance balance and ease of movement within the earth's gravitational field. These goals are achieved by directly changing the states and quality of the body's structural tissues, cultivating a holistic awareness and balance of the body, and transforming these changes into more permanent long lasting traits. Following is a discussion of these three dimensions of Structural Integration.
Changing States and Qualities of the Body's Structure
Connective Tissue constitutes the major repair mechanism of the body. Its chemistry monitors the inflammatory response, its fluids deliver the antibodies and white blood cells to fight infection, and its fibroblasts produce the fresh collagen to close the wound or fracture with new scar tissue.
The three dimensional structural matrix of the human body is primarily composed of soft tissue which supports the body's postural and movement patterns with its tensile strength. The tissues that make up this matrix are known as 'connective tissue', which is composed primarily of collagen fibers interlocked together to create a tensile structural fabric. 'Matrix' refers to the fact that connective tissue wraps virtually every functional element of the body including muscles, bones, organs, nerves, arteries, veins, etc. Bones function to define space and act as structural compressive members which supply solid surfaces for the attachment of connective tissue. To picture this kind of structural system in a simplified form, imagine a circus tent with its tall, slender, and solid columns which serve as static support for the tensile fabric and cables which in turn define the interior space of the tent.
Connective tissue has the ability to change states. It can become more dense, fibrous, or solid in order to protect the body from injury or damage. Examples of this condition are joints and muscles which lose their pliability and flexibility after injuries or over-usage. Another example is the inability to stand upright with ease and balance because of poor long term postural habits which shorten, tighten, and make the body more dense in its struggle with gravity. On the other hand, the body will also change connective tissue to a more 'sol,' liquid, less dense, or fluid state. Examples of this change of state can be experienced with stretching, balanced postural and movement patterns where the body does not fight with gravity, and with the buildup of heat (i.e. running, workouts, etc.). However, in order to maintain connective tissue in more fluid and flexible states in the long term, one has to maintain balanced postural and movement patterns which keep the body in alignment with gravity and avoids the additional buildup of connective tissue in response to structural imbalances.
Structural Integration takes advantage of the body's ability for connective tissue to change state by manipulating the tissues to approach their more fluid or lighter states. This allows the body to experience more openness and flexibility, which then gives it the opportunity to realign itself into a more balanced and unified whole within gravity. This brings us to the next dimension in our discussion of Structural Integration, which is the cultivation of a Holistic awareness and balance of the body.
...the kind of activity which dominates the instability phase introduces a directedness, a vector which already indicates in which direction the new structure may be expected.
Cultivating a Holistic Awareness and Balance of the Body
The map is not the territory.
With Structural Integration, changes to any part of the connective tissue body are always accomplished with the intention to balance the entire somatic structure as well. The human body with its capacity for self referential awareness is a remarkable example of the "whole" being greater than the "sum of the parts." That is, no part of the body ever operates in isolation from the rest of the somatic structure as it addresses the forces of gravity. By working with the body as a whole, Structural Integration takes advantage of the "Holistic Wisdom" that dwells inside each of us, and combines it with the body's intrinsic nature to seek to operate at a state of higher order and balance within gravity.
The primary medium for this synergistic process is Dr. Rolf's "Gravitational Line of Awareness" which contacts the core line of balance which runs through each of our structures. This "Line" not only represents the physical center of postural and movement balance, but it also represents a way of effortless being in the body, where the struggle against gravity and the world comes to an end.
Finally, this "Line of Awareness and Balance" serves as a reference point which adapts itself and celebrates the uniqueness of each one of our physical bodies. The line is not a preordained template of some ideal body. Instead, it is a work in constant process as we each grow and evolve in our journey through life.
That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you have understood all your life, but in a new way.
Making States into Traits
Learning is the discovery of the possible.
The third fundamental intention of Structural Integration is to make the physical changes to a higher order long lasting. That is, turning states of well being and balance into longer lasting traits or characteristics that become integral to the makeup of that person. This goal of turning temporary states into more permanent stages is addressed through the offering of the ten series recipe. The Ten Series is a step by step sequence which facilitates the process of making changes and integrating a new higher order into the body. Each session synthesizes a basic set of Structural-Somatic intentions with the specific needs and requirements of the client. The "Recipe" is not a fixed or inflexible formula, but instead it is an adaptable process which addresses the unique desires and conditions of each person receiving the work.
Upon completion of the ten series, one can continue to receive Structural Integration either for the intention of maintenance or to continue pursuing higher levels of somatic organization and balance. Since each one of us is always in a state of continuous movement and change, Structural Integration can serve as support for the growth and maintenance of our bodies and well being as we strive to integrate each stage of our personal journey to fully experience and express our greatest creative potential as human beings.
The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.