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Structural Integration

Why ‘Structural Integration’ (SI)?

 

  

Are you tired of…

  • Recurring aches, pains, stiffness?
  • Lacking zest and energy?
  • Not achieving goals you really want?
  • Disillusioned with ‘symptom-fixing’ healthcare approaches?

Would you like…

  • A more comfortable, responsive body?
  • Greater achievement of your goals?
  • Positive change?

If your answers to the above are mostly ‘yes’, then read on…

 

What is ‘Structural Integration’ (SI)?

 

 

Structural Integration is a hands-on treatment of the soft tissues aiming to restore energy-efficient postural balance and movement throughout the body. This is achieved by releasing and adjusting adverse physical tension along identifiable connective tissue or ‘fascial’ continuities and layers.

The strategy involves visually identifying where and how these unequal tensions occur, before restoring balance via manual touch, with active client involvement over a series of sessions structured systematically within a progressive framework.

The KMI® SI ‘model’

The KMI® SI model identifies key anatomical and functional continuities known as ‘Anatomy Trains’®. Observation and analysis of how and where these depart from optimal ‘ease’ and balance in terms of relative length and tension, enables the trained KMI practitioner to identify areas of anti-gravity ‘effort’ and ‘strain’ within those Trains. A strategy can then be developed to restore enhanced ‘whole-body’ integrated balance and movement, by addressing each Anatomy Train in a clinically logical sequence, over a series of twelve sessions, each comprising specific themes and ‘structural goals’. This sound methodological framework none the less leaves abundant scope for each practitioner’s essential intuitive response to each client’s unique needs.

In order best to appreciate what SI is and how it ‘works’, it is important first to understand a little better how our bodies ‘hold together’ in relation to gravity, and the gradual changes that can lead to pain and dysfunction.

How does your body ‘stand up’?

‘It is the soft tissues that hold our bony structure together, not the other way round.’

Think back to when you last pitched a tent, or crossed a suspension bridge – there are interesting parallels between these structures and our own.

We all know that in ‘traditional’ tents, the canvas is supported by poles. But — what is it that keeps those poles upright? What stops them from swaying in the wind, and the whole structure from collapsing? It is the guy-ropes which, by creating an equal tension pulling from all sides, maintain the poles vertical via tension transmission through the canvas. So it is the flexible components which together, under equal tension, hold the inflexible ones, and hence the overall structure, in place.

The same applies to suspension bridges: if one were to loosen a few of the cables, let alone also to tighten others, the huge concrete and steel elements, and the entire structure, would become dangerously unstable. So again, the ‘solid’ elements are held in place by the ‘flexible’ ones to ensure the stability of the whole.

 So… how do our bodies ‘stand up’? We are aware that we have a bony structure, and traditional Western biosciences – not least bio-medicine – have ‘conditioned’ us to assume that it is our skeleton that holds us up and gives us our form. This is well illustrated by the all-too-frequent reference to the spine as the ‘vertebral column’.

The ‘revolutionary’, if still controversial, model I am inviting you to consider, is that it is on the contrary our soft tissues that hold the skeleton together, define our shape, and determine our relative ease or strain in maintaining balanced uprightness and movement in relation to gravity. Of these soft tissues, it is above all the connective tissue, or ‘fascia’ — which contains, separates, supports, and forms an actual part of every single body structure you can think of — that holds the key to our structure.

 

The ‘myofascia’ – the fascia of our muscles, tendons, and ligaments – in particular serve as a complex opposing, overlapping, and intertwining web of ‘guy ropes’ that provide the necessary balance of tension to hold the ‘poles’ of our bones in place, irrespective of our position. If our spine were a ‘column’, it would collapse as soon as we bent over or walked on all fours, as the maximum compressive force available from our muscles would be utterly inadequate. Consider what would happen to a chimney stack if placed (unsupported) on its side!

Loss of ‘tensegrity’ – a pathway to pain and dysfunction

Unfortunately, as we go through life, this multi-directional soft tissue support to our bony structure gradually loses its ‘integrity of equal tension’, known as tensegrity’ in the SI field. Tensegrity enables optimal ease of uprightness, balance, and movement. Reasons for its gradual loss include ‘obvious’ factors such as right or left sided dominance, occupational, sporting, recreational adaptation, injury, and ill-health. They also include the often unacknowledged impact of our emotional ‘history’ — notably significant or traumatic events.

Can you visualise how this loss of ‘tensegrity’ represents a change in length and tension of the guy-ropes — i.e.: shortening and thickening of the fascia in some areas, compensated by ‘slackening’ and lengthening elsewhere? This places unequal torque on the affected bones, and alters joint alignment. This is what restricts movement in any direction moving away from the shortened tissues, results in pain, loss of mobility, compensatory overuse elsewhere, ensuing wear and tear, and potential ‘seemingly unrelated’ consequences.

So… how can Structural Integration help? And why choose the KMI® model?

KMI® SI notably contrasts with the wide range of manual therapies available by:

  • Its underpinning philosophy of ‘addressing the whole to resolve the specific’ – KMI® is not about ‘chasing symptoms’, but enabling ‘local’ issues to resolve by restoring whole-body ease of alignment, balance, movement, and enhancing self awareness.
  • It is a project, with a beginning, a middle, a conclusion, that focuses on client-centred goals – KMI® is not an ongoing, open-ended therapy model.
  • It is a process, engaging mutual active practitioner and client participation.
  • In both intention and outcome, it transcends the ‘conscious’ sphere of physical awareness, potentially mediating beneficial changes at autonomic, psychological, and immune levels.

 How is it applied?

Using hands, knuckles, forearms, or elbows, the practitioner applies pressure, strokes, or ‘moves’ of variable depth and direction to the tissues. The intention may be to soften, move, lengthen, spread, free, or simply ‘awaken’ them, so as to guide them towards a state and position of greater ease.

In most cases this would broadly involve encouraging the fascia over the front of the body upwards and outwards (lifting and spreading), whilst taking the tissues of the back downwards and inwards.

Work is performed with the client lying down, seated, standing, and providing intermittent active movement.

Is it painful?

Some SI work can be experienced as ‘uncomfortable’, but the client always remains in control of what sensation is/is not acceptable, and usually acknowledges any discomfort as ’good pain’.

Conclusion — is it ‘Time 4 Change’ for you?

While KMI® makes no claim whatsoever to ‘cure’ specific conditions, it does offer genuine, non-invasive, chemical-free potential to reduce, if not reverse some of their debilitating effects on quality of life — not least pain, loss of function or even autonomy. I therefore warmly invite you to consider experiencing this project towards an enhanced sense of bodily ‘ease’, self-awareness, and fulfilment.

 

 What some Structural Integration ‘Pioneers’ have said…

‘A great deal that is labeled “pathology” is not pathology—it is a perversion of physiology. Organise the structure so the physiology can work without the perversion, and it will work that way.’ — Dr Ida Rolf

‘The basis for all body form is embryology. In understanding embryology, we understand how the adult structure came to be. Embryology doesn’t stop at birth; we have the potential for change all along. In a sense, we are embryos throughout our lifetime.’ — R Louis Schultz

‘We live in a world in which people are becoming more and more divorced from their bodies. We see disorders like body dysmorphism and anorexia nervosa (…) in which there is a complete mismatch between actual and perceived body image. The rising incidence of repetitive strain injuries is yet another sign that people are simply failing to listen to their bodies; they are not sensing themselves as fully as they might. (…) This all highlights the great need for any practice that can put people more in touch with their own bodies.’ — John Smith

‘The common practice of isolating muscles in anatomies results in “particulate” thinking that leads us away from the synthetic integration that characterises animal movement.’ — Thomas Myers

‘Over and over again, people (…) 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 am looking for. Strength that has effort in it is not what you need; you need the strength that is the result of ease.’ — Dr Ida Rolf

‘The newly emerging field of fascia research pays particular attention to aspects in which the body’s collagenous soft connective tissues work together as a body-wide three-dimensional fibrous network for support.’ — Robert Schleip & Thomas Findley

‘Gravity is always there, you never escape from it. (…) We are using gravity as our tool, not chemistry.’ — Dr Ida Rolf

Useful websites:

www.anatomytrains.co.uk
www.biotensegrity.com
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