structural exercise benefits

Now that we’ve established that the body functions to its fullest potential when it is properly aligned, the next step is to explore how to restore the body to this state of optimum balance.

Using the CORE method of Structural Integration (SI), I work with you to progress through the same series of ten sessions originally developed by Dr. Ida Rolf fifty years ago. Each session, with its unique focus and specific goal, moves the body purposefully toward the ultimate goal of healthy alignment and balance within the natural forces of gravity.

The ten SI sessions are divided into three phases: extrinsic (focusing on the superficial fascial layers), intrinsic (moving into deeper layers and focusing on the pelvis, spine, and cranium), and integration (focusing on brain hemisphere functions, as well as on the union of the upper and lower divisions of the body). This article will explore what happens in the first phase, and how it benefits you.

Each session in the SI series comprises manipulations designed to prepare the body for the next session. All of the sessions, although of great value individually, are carefully designed to work in concert with each other. Some people have described this series in its entirety as a “tune up” for the body. Going back to the house-on-sinking-foundation metaphor of the last article, you might think of this as what fixes the foundation.

The extrinsic phase called “extrinsic” because we’re dealing with the superficial fascial layers comprises the first three 90-minute sessions.

The goal of the extrinsic phase is to create space within the body, preparing it for the work done in future sessions to be more effective and have maximum benefit. By the end of the first session, you will already feel some of these benefits beginning to take effect.

In the first session, I work on the superficial fascia in targeted areas of your body with two specific goals: freeing the lungs to allow for fuller breathing, and freeing the shoulder and pelvic girdles from the ribcage to lengthen the lower back.

(Fascia is dense connective tissue that surrounds muscles, joints, and bones. It provides support, protects body components, and essentially connects everything in the body structure.)

Following the first session, you will probably notice that your breathing is fuller and deeper. Deeper breaths mean more oxygen intake, so you will also notice an increase in energy. Posture is typically more upright. Many clients report that they feel lighter and longer, as well as a sense of well-being and relaxation that lasts several days.

In the second session, we focus on your aligning body’s foundation; I open and align your feet and lower legs to support the body better. At this point, we’ll also address any foot problems, like fallen arches.

Following the second session, you will likely feel a greater sense of support in your feet. Many clients report that they feel more “connected” to the ground as their sense of balance and support is strengthened.

In the third session, we focus on lengthening the sides of your body and freeing your shoulders. This eases front-back strain, and improves the relationship between your upper and lower body by establishing a lateral line.

After this session, you will again notice that your breathing has expanded, making you feel more energetic. You may also notice improved balance and deeper relaxation.

I should mention that the week or so between sessions is not “blank time.” From one session to the next, your body is adjusting to the changes that have been made, and your brain is integrating a new range of motion. The body is constantly rebuilding itself, and that process is directly affected by external influences. For instance, incorrect posture will result in the spinal, shoulder, and neck regions to rebuild themselves incorrectly as they deal with the unhealthy influence of slouching – magnifying the bad effects of the poor posture. On the other hand, newly adjusted posture in which the spine, shoulder, and neck are correctly aligned will result in rebuilding that strengthens these new, healthy changes.

In the next article, we will take a closer look at what happens in the intrinsic phase of treatment.

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