Bodywork can free 'trapped' negative energy
is a technique for rebalancing the body's posture and dissolving muscle
blocks which absorb energy and can have serious consequences. Gillian Duffin explains how the technique can be useful in treating depression
called attention to the fact that all negative emotional expressions
are accompanied by a shortening of flexor muscles. Therefore, about the
time that someone gets overly interested in negative emotion, he begins
to get chronic shortening of the flexor muscles. The energy in a
chronically flexed body has to do work just to hold it up; the man has
to continuously add energy to that body to keep it going. Such chronic
flexion gives a feeling of tiredness, of depression.
— Dr Ida P Rolf
Depression, like any emotion,
expresses itself in the structure of the human body. Just as laughter
releases tension and opens up the body, short or long term feelings of
depression are visible as a closing in/down of the body the slumped
shoulders, head downturned, with the vision of our horizon lowered and
where we look with vision is where we go in feeling… down. The body and
mind can therefore be looked at as different expressions of the same
thing they are in-separable.
bodywork does not purge traumas. Good bodywork grounds people in their
physical experience of life, therefore giving them a good foundation
and connection. The connection we have to our bodies is generally a
good indicator of our vitality and well-being.
ways of connecting to the body are important to explore when we are
feeling disconnected. The breath is the most reliable indicator of how
the body is doing; it gives a very true reading and is easy to alter
through various breathing practices and meditation. Yoga, walking and
other gentle forms of exercise are also great ways of seeing how being
in the body automatically balances the mind.
bodywork is also a great way to connect. As a Structural Integration
practitioner, I can talk about my experience of how the functions that
a body performs change when the structure changes. Structure determines
function. And structure is changeable, not just through the aging
process of shrinking under the constant pressure of gravity, but
changeable towards a more orderly and energy-efficient arrangement of
the whole body. When we work with the underlying physical reality of
the body to improve balance, it necessarily improves the balance of the
whole human. Actually, being in the world in a more secure structure
liberates resources of energy, clarity and vitality, the consequences
of which can only be progressive.
Integration (SI) was designed by Dr Ida P Rolf in the 1930s. Dr Rolf
noted that we are acted upon by gravity, and that misalignment of any
part of the body causes pain and other symptoms which increase with the
ever-present downward pressure of gravity. This misalignment can result
from physical trauma (accidents and the like) and from habitual
distorting behaviour (like slumping over) that originates from physical
or psychological pain. Like a crooked building that puts stress
unevenly throughout the structure, crooked alignment increases stress
in all body parts, especially through the joints. The breath also
suffers and the delivery of our life force to the being is diminished.
To realign the body, Rolf designed the ten-session process which she
termed Structural Integration.
process taking place over ten sessions, a practitioner restructures the
body by listening to and re-balancing the web of connective tissue that
connects and supports everything in the body. Through the application
of energy in the form of pressure, the connective tissue is re-educated
through movement and awareness and is returned to its natural state of
balance. Connective tissue is essentially your organ of structure.
feeling of imbalance in the structure may not be perceivable to most of
us: we do not connect our backache to the underlying support that the
feet and legs give to the back. But when our back gives out or our neck
starts to ache, our energy levels sag because our energy becomes all
consumed with holding us up.
potential of the human structure is to be effortlessly balanced in the
gravitational field. To imagine how good this feels, we first have to
understand how much energy and resources the body uses to hold itself
in the pattern we have established. To understand this, mimic another
persons posture for five minutes you will be surprised by how
exhausting it is.
Now put the picture
together for someone who is feeling depressed. The energy levels are
low so there is no movement, so the body gets locked into a
self-protective pattern which consumes energy that is already in short
supply. The body starts to shut down and the connection dims. Vitality
becomes a stranger.
So where do we begin?
Important to say first that receiving deep tissue body work is not
recommended in acute situations, as it can accentuate mood swings. The
best body-approach treatment (not to the exclusion of your doctors
recommendations) for acute cases is breath work, which will in turn
lead to an increase in energy which can be used to gain more movement
in the body through exercise and for investing in proper nutrition.
Then the body/mind connection will naturally find greater balance. When
there is some foundational balance, then you can start into good
There are many different types
out there, so find the one that best suits you. Structural Integration
is not a cure for any particular problem and will affect one person
very differently to the next. That is why we are individuals. The
discovery itself of re-discovering harmony in ones body is one of the
most appreciated processes of SI, along with better movements, being
better grounded, using the body more harmoniously with less energy, and
being more efficient within the field of gravity.
individuals may experience their losing fight with gravity as a sharp
pain in their back, others as the unflattering contour of their body,
others as a constant fatigue, yet others as an unrelenting threatening
environment. Those over 40 may call it old age. And yet all these
signals may be pointing to a single problem, so prominent in their own
structure, and in the structures of others, that it has been ignored;
they are off balance. They are at war with gravity.
— Ida P Rolf
Gillian Duffin is a qualified Structural Integration practitioner
To find out more about SI or to find a practitioner, check here. Two relevant websites are www.idaprolf.org and www.rolfguild.org where a list of local practitioners can be found.
How Rolfing got its name
Rolf was an American doctor of biochemistry who explored many
approaches to health. Osteopathy and homeopathy contributed to her
early understanding of the body. But the cornerstone of her thinking
was yoga, which she studied intensively. In the 1930s, disillusioned by
the lack of effectiveness of medical science, she applied her
experience, logic and intuition to devise her own approach to health.
This process has since brought thousands of individuals back to a place
of true health and vitality. She invested over 40 years of her life
developing and teaching the ten-session recipe, which is still taught
in its original form at the Guild for Structural Integration in
Rolf, Dr Ida P: Rolfing and Physical Reality (1978): p 134ff
Dr Ida P: Rolfing: Re-establishing the Natural Alignment and Structural
Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being (1989)