Give the Credit to Gravity

 
It is true, the simplest things are sometimes the most difficult to understand, and the most easily and often misunderstood. Then try getting something over with folks who have already made up their mind. Take my chosen career, Rolf Structural Integration. Per Mr. Youngman . . . Please! 

Dr. Ida P. Rolf, the originator of Structural Integration, said this:  

“This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.” 

After many years myself writing on this subject, Ida still says it best.  

So what is Structural Integration? Our idea of “appropriate” looks like a body arrangement that meets the same standards of organization we look for in architectural design; any good design, really. What in the building trades is called “plumb and square”. In Structural Integration terms, that’s a body that stacks up vertically with its segments level and symmetrical. That is appropriate, in terms of the dictates of gravity. 

Again, Dr. Rolf: 

“We are not truly upright, we are only on our way to being upright. This is a metaphysical consideration. We want to get a man out of the place where gravity is his enemy. We want to get him into the place where gravity reinforces him and is a friend, a nourishing force. Rolfers make a life study of relating bodies and their fields to the earth and its gravity field, and we so organize the body that the gravity field can reinforce the body's energy field. This is our primary concept.”  

One way to look at Rolf Structural Integration is as a long term project exploring the possibilities and effects of living with a body whose makeup is in tune with the action of gravity. As a practitioner of this wonderful craft I hold it as part of my own development as a human being and as a practitioner to prove the central premise of this work within my own being. The closer I come to true balance within my own physical makeup the more I am realizing the simple truth of Ida Rolf’s premise. 

Dr. Rolf also said this: 

“Consign your body to gravity.”  

Imagine that. Living in equipoise; not just physically, but wholly. With a sure and tangible foundation educated deep down in the very fabric of your body. Robert Frost in his poem The Silken Tent was likening to the function of the center pole of a tent. Comparing this to the human experience he wrote, “[It] signifies the sureness of the soul.” Poetic truth. Let me put it another way: Imagine living adapted to the field of gravity as well as the fish are to the sea. 

I am always amused, and chagrinned, by how others can perceive Structural Integration. We all tend to be thrown to see things in our own terms, from our own frames of reference. The old quip, “What does a pick pocket see when he sees a saint? Answer: pockets.” 

Health professionals who mainly employ therapeutic techniques usually see Structural Integration in terms of technique. Massage therapists, hearing that the work is deep (affects deeply, really) seem to think that it is massage, only more assertive and pushing harder. I’ve heard the term, “Rough rubdown”. Physical Therapists often import some of the soft tissue manipulation styles from Structural Integration and apply them in treating local problem areas. Chiropractors can sometimes relate to the work as conditioning the soft tissues to facilitate receiving the boney spinal adjustments. Alright. Well, not really. And, some also misrepresent what they are doing by calling it “Structural Integration”; more likely, “Rolfing®”. Even those properly trained in the work sometimes work locally to alleviate specific symptoms; and that then becomes the recipient’s take away understanding of what the work is all about. Once in giving a demonstration to a group of yoga practitioners I got a severe challenge from a person emphatically certain that Structural Integration was about emotional release. That can happen when the body becomes more open and flowing; but it is secondary and not necessary. 

Alas, many in my field itself have contributed to this misunderstanding by promoting the work as a chronic problem solving technique in their communications. Leaving out the gravity component. Any practitioner worth their salt should make it clear to their client from the outset that any symptom relief is a byproduct of the more global goal of balancing the whole body along the line of gravity. And, that the process takes a series of multiple sessions to complete; traditionally, ten. And, that the process is participatory; not some procedure that is applied with you as a passive recipient.

In my own initial experience with Rolfing, after the first session my lower back complaint did not have any resolution per se; but, and importantly, I felt as if weights were being taken off and bindings undone. I realized right away from direct experience that the work was setting a stage, creating a context for local issues to find their own resolution. Later in the series I had an epiphany. After the session was completed I stood  up from the cushioned work table and it was as if I literally dropped in on my own body. I understand it as a moment of direct presence. I was so ebullient with the experience I literally jumped for joy. Wow! (I hear that a lot from my own clients now.)

I can say unequivocally after years of experience that the body does have the capacity to heal automatically, given the right conditions; of which, being present is perhaps the single most important. These days I sit quietly doing nothing and in that inner directed posture I notice energy rising in my body and things sorting themselves out. How come still after all these years, you ask? The 10 session series of Rolf Structural Integration is a beginning. The results unfold over a lifetime. Finer and finer, is my experience.

Structural Integration is distinguished for having a vertical perspective. That is as opposed to the horizontal. In the horizontal approach the focus is on ways and means and on solutions and improvements. Structural Integration is oriented to the vertical, both literally — the objective is to introduce verticality into the human body structure — and in terms of transforming the context of the human condition itself to a higher level. Indeed, the benefits of Structural Integration can be seen at the horizontal — reduction/elimination of chronic problems of pain and stress, improved performance, refined expression — but those are byproducts of moving toward a goal, a vision of health and balance and not striking at disorder and dis-ease per se. That is what is meant by transformation to a higher level. 

The point that Dr. Rolf made again and again is that, “Gravity is the tool. Gravity is the therapist.” It’s true that the work does have a strong reputation for solving chronic conditions of pain and stress. Sometimes with even miraculous results as a last resort when other approaches weren’t working. People seem to only take action regarding their well-being when there is a problem. So it is easy to understand how professionals in the field of Structural Integration have tended to present the work. There is nothing wrong with that per se. Just that the true agency is the force of gravity. If Structural Integration fixes anything it is the individual’s relationship to gravity. Evolving the makeup of the body to transform one’s relationship to the energy field of the earth from an entropic destabilizing and disorganizing force to  be energizing, supporting and nourishing. This is the result of organizing the body along the line of gravity itself. Therapeutic results, as wonderful as they may be, are secondary; and, give the credit to gravity.
 


Ida P. Rolf Quotes . . .

Fascia is the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this; all the talk is about muscles. Yet this is a very important concept, and because this is so important, we as Rolfers must understand both the anatomy and physiology, but especially the anatomy of fascia. The body is a web of fascia. A spider web is in a plane. This web is in a sphere. We can trace the lines of that web to get an understanding of how what we see in a body works. For example, why, when we work with the superficial fascia does this change the tone of the fascia as a whole? 

An effective human being is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Form and function are a unity, two sides of one coin. In order to enhance function, appropriate form must exist or be created. 

Some individuals may perceive their losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in their back, others as the unflattering contour of their body, others as constant fatigue, yet others as an unrelentingly threatening environment. Those over forty may call it old age. And yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem so prominent in their own structure, as well as others, that it has been ignored: they are off balance, they are at war with gravity. 

This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself. 

We are not truly upright, we are only on our way to being upright. This is a metaphysical consideration. One of the jobs of a Rolfer is to speed that process along. We want to get a man out of the place where gravity is his enemy. We want to get him into the place where gravity reinforces him and is a friend, a nourishing force. 

Rolfers make a life study of relating bodies and their fields to the earth and its gravity field, and we so organize the body that the gravity field can reinforce the body's energy field. This is our primary concept. 

Go around the problem; get the system sufficiently resilient so that it is able to change, and it will change, It doesn't have to be forced. It's that forcing that you have to avoid at all costs.

Over and over again, people come to me, and they tell me, You just don't know how strong I am. They say "strength" and I want to hear "balance." The strength idea has effort in it; this is not what I'm looking for. Strength that has effort in it is not what you need; you need the strength that is the result of ease. 

When the pelvis is not balanced, we do not have the upward thrust that creates zero balance, the sense of weightlessness that can be experienced in the body. When the pelvis is aberrated, it does not allow this equipoise, this tranquility in experience that a balanced pelvis shows. The combined forces acting on a balanced pelvis are in a moment of inertia near zero. It is always in dynamic action, but the forces balance out to near zero. 

This is an important concept: that practitioners are integrating something; we are not restoring something. This puts us in a different class from all other therapists that I know of. It takes us out of the domain designated by the word "therapy," and puts us in the domain designated by the word "education." It puts our thinking into education: how can we use these ideas behind Structural Integration? How do we put a body together so that it's a unit, an acting, energy efficient unit? One of the differences between Structural Integration Practitioners and practitioners of medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, etc., is that the latter are all relieving symptoms. They make no effort to put together elements into a more efficient energy system.
 

Rolfing® and Rolfer® are registered trademarks of the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.

 

 
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