The Benefits of Core Structural Integration for Yoga Practitioners
By: Joe Ackerman Joe Ackerman Tweet
"When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself."– Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.
The field of Yoga and Structural Integration are much closer than many are aware of. Dr. Rolf herself practiced Hatha Yoga extensively in the 1920's & 1930’s. She studied with Pierre Bernard who was a Yoga teacher in Nyack, N.Y. Dr. Rolf used her Yoga practice as a means to address back problems she had as a result of a scoliosis. Dr. Rolf used much of the knowledge she gained from her practice of Yoga, Osteopathy, and Homeopathy to formulate Structural Integration. Structural Integration shares the common value with Yoga in that when the body is lengthened and balanced, the individual will achieve balance and ease both in body and spirit.
For those unfamiliar with Structural Integration, Structural Integration as designed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf is a 10 session systematic process of deep bodywork that improves the structural and functional abilities of the human body in its relationship to the gravitational field. Through the systematic approach of reorganizing major joints, and body segments, while releasing the chronically held tension and torsion patterns we are able to achieve a rapid change in structural mechanics and correction of chronic musculoskeletal pain or dysfunction. Athletes perform better while stress is significantly reduced. Postural balance and flexibility are improved with each session. Professional athletes, dancers, and performance artists throughout the world have successfully utilized CORE Structural Integration. Business and professional leaders have found that the beneficial results have improved their focus and attention, their vitality, and their creative abilities. CORE Structural Bodywork can significantly balance the emotional and cognitive abilities of anyone who completes the 10-session series.
When you consider the underlying intentions of both Structural Integration and yoga – to promote heightened self-awareness and optimized human potential by working towards flexibility and balance in the body – it’s easy to see why so many people have found these two practices to be a natural fit.
Many of the issues I’ve discussed in earlier articles about the physical ramifications of poor alignment become exaggerated in an individual who practices yoga. Flexibility, range of motion, strength, and balance are critical components of an effective yoga practice – so when these things are out of kilter, a yogi’s practice is not up to its best possible level.
Structural Integration enhances yoga practice in many ways, including the development of deeper, fuller breathing; the increased range of motion and flexibility that comes from releasing bound fascia; and the enhanced consciousness of symmetry and movement that results from every body part being realigned to its proper place.
Conscious, controlled breathing (pranayama) is a primary focus in yoga. My work to free the diaphragm to allow fuller breathing starts in the very first session and continues throughout the series of ten. This is one aspect of Structural Integration that becomes an ongoing benefit for yogis, who find that the greater lung capacity helps in all areas of their practice.
Another benefit is seen in the way Structural Integration empowers the yogi to achieve and hold postures (asanas) that were beyond his or her capability prior to our sessions. This happens for several reasons.
The first, most obvious, reason is when a physical complaint prevents the yogi from performing asanas correctly. For instance, back problems or pain in the feet or hips may cause the yogi to avoid certain asanas, or, worse yet, attempt them and worsen the problem that is causing the pain. My work that addresses these ailments will consequently free the person to practice yoga without concern for this pain.
The second reason that Structural Integration results in improved yoga performance relates to flexibility and range of motion. Just as breathing is a focus of my work from the first session on, so is manipulating fascia that may be restricting regions of your body from working effectively. As muscles are freed to do their appropriate jobs, and body regions are realigned to their proper places in relationship with one another and in relation to gravity, you’ll find that the muscles become stronger, your body feels longer, and your flexibility increases. With these results comes an increased range of motion. For the practitioner of yoga, this means an ability to attain postures that are critical to growth and development in one’s practice.
A third reason for this enhanced performance is related to the first two, but can be less readily apparent. The house-on-faulty-foundation metaphor I’ve referred to in earlier articles applies here. When your body is out of proper alignment, the rest of the body compensates for the ill-aligned part’s inability to function correctly. In yoga, this can mean that a person is using incorrect posture by avoiding certain areas of the body, or by unintentionally using body parts incorrectly. A result of the work I do throughout the 10 series is to realign each part to its correct place and function, and this restores the correct relationship among all major segments of the body returning balance and symmetry to the structure of the body. In short, when all body parts are where they are supposed to be, they function in the manner they were intended to. In yoga, this translates into asanas that are performed correctly and often with greater depth and ease.
These benefits also relate to practitioners of Pilates, Dance, Martial Arts or any other individual whose performance depends on balance, strength, and flexibility.
About the Author
Structural Integration Therapist Joe Ackerman trained at the CORE Institute, is a professional member of the International Association of Structural Integrators, the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professional organization and certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Professionals. He has several advanced certifications in Orthopedic Massage for the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of soft tissue injury. To contact Mr. Ackerman please visit www.corestructuraltherapy.com