Sunday, December 12, 2010

A New Gerund Enters My Life

Rolfing. And two new nouns: facia/myofascial system, and structural integration.

The verb is not the sophomoric slang for vomiting. It comes from Ida Rolf, an extraordinary if mysterious woman, born in the Bronx in 1896. She graduated Barnard in 1916, and then from Columbia University of Physicians and Surgeons with a doctorate in biochemistry. Beyond that, details of her life are extremely vague. Somewhere along the line she sustained an injury. One site said it was a horseback riding accident, and that she used her knowledge to find ways to heal herself. Somehow that grew into a practice called structural integration, nicknamed after its founded and then copyrighted.

“Dr. Ida Rolf developed Structural Integration, in the 1950s, a holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education based on yoga with the goal of balancing the body by stretching the skin in oscillatory patterns. She discovered that she could change the body posture and structure by stretching the myofascial system.“

I went to a Structural Integration therapist as on outgrowth of my Pilates work. I’m having trouble with some of the movements, and the root of the trouble was structural: how my pelvis is tilting, how my shoulders sit, things like that that aren't so obvious to the casual observer. My muscles are also very tight, but what I learned is that it’s really the facia that’s tight.

Ida’s system is a 10-part series of manipulations. The Rolfer applies a lot of pressure deep into the facia, the amazing fibrous tissue that connects everything in your body. That intense pressure releases the facia that is tight or even foreshortened from chronic tension; that then allows muscles and bones to return a more optimal alignment.

“They say,” the body adapts, but remembers. I’ve been plagued by extreme emotions my whole life. I’ve had to submerge them in order to be able to simply live day to day without medication. I know that some of that intensity burrowed into my body. Every disappointment, and there have been some whoppers, also knotted some of that connective tissue a little tighter, and then tighter, and then tighter over the years. The Rolfer sees that as overstimulation.

“Put another way, Rolfing allows the brain and nervous system to “re-boot” areas of the body that are receiving too much electrical stimulation (chronically tight or sore muscles). And once a healthy level of muscle contraction is established, someone’s entire structure is free to express a pain-free form.”

I’m up to #4 in the 10-part series, (which will actually be 12 to work on jaw and neck tension.) It’s not a panacea. I’m skeptical that anything I do reset won’t just fall back into old ways. But I’m open to possibilities. And that may be the most important element of this process.