Lately, my Rolfing colleagues and I have been discussing our work of Structural Integration, the re-alignment of physical structure through
touch and movement, and neuroscience, the study of the nervous system.

Science has known for ages that the brain informs the body. The brain creates a message in the form of a thought and via nerves, sends the message to the corresponding body region to respond accordingly. More recent findings show that the reverse chain of events also takes place. New evidence has shown that when you have “a gut feeling”, the body (specifically in this case, nerves in the intestinal region) is absorbing external information and transferring it from the gut, via nerves to the brain.

So how does Structural Integration come into play?

Structural Integration works the fascia, a layer rich in nerves and blood supply. Under the methodical, knowledgeable and skilled practitioner’s  hands, the client can receive the touch in such a way that the information though new, is not overwhelming. The client’s receptivity to the work is crucial. In order for the message to be sent from where the practitioner’s hands are working, through the client’s fascia, to his/her brain that the experience is one of safety, the client has to be permissive to the touch and not resistant to sensation. The client needs to allow and participate, and thus feel safe in the present moment. If the brain perceives pain or threat, why wouldn’t it brace against it? If it is open to experiencing sensation then it can be receptive to the messages it receives, such as “there’s more space here to breathe, to move, to spiral, to extend”. Later these messages can morph into cognitive thoughts, and “integration” of the work takes place.

Day by day and session by session, I’ve made some observations from both giving and receiving the work. Feeling my spine lengthened reminds me that I’m freer inside my body than I might feel when I happen to find myself somewhere I don’t want to be, old bothersome injuries sometimes fade away as the body becomes less restricted and more balanced (and stay away with the implementation of new movement patterns). Feeling freer, and more balanced makes me feel calmer, and more confident and capable.

That the body can provide its own wisdom, guiding the brain gently into new experiences, perceptions and ultimately, acceptance, for self and others is only one of so many of its awesome capabilities-  we don’t know yet, and may never will, the extent of the healing capabilities and possibilities that exist in the pathways underneath our skin.