Yet, When It Comes to Gravity . . . We’ve Just Scratched the Surface.
I am in my thirtysecond year as a practitioner of Rolf Structural Integration. And still every bit as enthusiastic about spreading the news that the force of gravity itself can be enlisted for optimum health, healing, top physical performance, and fullest creative expressiveness. Cutting edge ecology? You tell me!
What are we talking about? The quick definition: Rolf Structural Integration is an educational system developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf using movement and touch to align the body with gravity. This sort of true balance is easily within reach for most people; of all ages, varying physical abilities, and different life circumstances.
What also needs to come across is the point about that business of alignment with gravity, and so-called “true balance”. (True, as in correct, normal.) Probably the phrase “align with gravity” doesn’t have a lot of impact for the average ear. However, most individuals do not live up to the kind of balance that can meet the scientific definition of “aligned in gravity”. The simple fact that one can stand up on two feet is a passing grade for most people. The situation is so commonplace it goes unnoticed. Mostly we see rough approximations of what’s really possible.
The hallmarks of a body in correct normal balance are 1) verticality—the major segments comfortably stacked up one on top of the another, and 2) symmetry—right and left sides matching. Again, true symmetry: not just that there’s an arm on each side, or a leg; that’s a rudimentary symmetry. But, symmetry in terms of how those arms and legs are positioned in space relative to one another, and how they fit in relation to the entire body; what’s in between, above and below.
If you want to contest this definition of true/correct/normal balance, let me sell you my garage that is leaning precariously into the neighbor’s yard. Or, maybe you would like a free overnight stay on the upper level of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. If you are a taker on either of those two offers, stop reading immediately! This is not the kind of help you need.
When you look at the way average folks’ bodies are put together—how things actually fit in space and in their relationship to one another and in terms of how things should be to cooperate with the pull of gravity—you will see a lot of variation from the anatomy textbook; clearly in violation of the Law [of Gravity]. Under arrest, in fact. But, self-arrest. What we do see is mainly a seemingly passable rough approximation of the kind of balance that is in the body’s basic design potential and dictated by laws of physics.
An obvious place to look for balance/imbalance for yourself is the shoulders. Strip to the waist and look at your upper body in a mirror. Are the shoulders level, or is one side higher/lower than the other? Is one side larger/smaller? Closer to the torso? One side more forward, or back? Such differences become obvious when you look. It is probably becoming clear that we generally don’t look at our bodies that way, certainly not in such detail. Also, because the body parts are interrelated, what’s going on in the shoulders most certainly is reflected in the pelvis. Not to mention the head and neck. If you have a head ache, besides whatever else you may do, be sure to check on the tension in your shoulders and neck. Likely culprits.
Just saying . . . Since I am for natural remedies, it concerns me to see so many women spending so much money and enduring pain to have their breasts enlarged. You could have beautiful and satisfying results from simply having the body balanced to a higher, more natural order. Let’s be clear. I’m not referring to what some call having good posture. Yes, you can get a nice look just like the girls at the strip club know how to do by arching and pulling the shoulders back. That’s for models and photographers. (And first impressions at the cocktail lounge.) The kind of balance and corresponding upliftedness I am suggesting here comes from the inside out. When the body is stacked up vertically along its central axis, this automatically lifts the rib cage, and thus the bust line. In balance your breathing is free and full; the rib cage expands easily. That’s what I call stacked. But instead, its big breasts on top of sunken chests. Cosmetic plastic surgery, same issue; a pretty (?) surface fix over an underlying problematic issue(s), left unnoticed/unresolved. Only time will tell.
We mainly take the arrangement of our bodies as given and don’t consider how the ratio of balance/imbalance in the makeup of the body affects or vitality, health, and experience of living. Those who strive for excellence and top form in athletics and full creative expressiveness in the performing arts are already engaged in the process of cultivating bodily balance. The vast majority of humanity lives below the line. Better to say, “Off the line.” The line of gravity and the central vertical line of the body, when they match up, by definition that’s normal, healthy. Ever heard that before?
It’s important to understand that imbalances don’t live in isolation. Like a lot of therapeutic approaches often do, “Does it hurt there? OK, I’ll fix it there.” Perhaps this explains why therapeutic remedies that only address local symptoms often don’t seem to have lasting effect? Because with imbalances come compensations, complications. You can’t address just one. You have to treat the whole situation. Dr. Rolf’s genius was in coming up with a reliable system that gets at whole body balance gracefully over a rather short period of time.
These imbalanced fixations become set throughout the body in patterns unique to each individual. Why? Bad habits, unresolved accidents and traumas, lack of proper role models (“Isn’t it cute how Johnny swings his leg in an arc just like his daddy when he walks?”). Imbalances built into the fabric of the body over the years limit mobility and range of expression. They also play on the psychic-emotional level as well. It takes extra energy to live with unresolved imbalances in the makeup of the body. It’s an effort to hold yourself together. We put up with chronic pains and stress and fail to recognize how they are in a great majority of cases signals pointing to the simple fact that the body is out of balance. Think about this in terms of health care costs and lowered productivity.
Charlie Brown: “This is my depressed stance. [Standing with head down and shoulders drooped.] When you’re depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand.” Sister Sally: “The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better.” Charlie: “If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this.”
The idea that any average individual would do well to cultivate such structural order in the makeup of the body does not occur; and, when first exposed to it, most people seem to glaze over. It is news that still hasn’t been delivered. Off the radar, so to speak. Funny though, we wouldn’t tolerate such shoddy workmanship in even the backyard tool shed. Imbalance in the architectural arrangement of the body, however, not much purchase there.
Most of us generally only take action when problems show up. If you are lucky enough to seek the services of a qualified practitioner of Rolf Structural Integration to relieve chronic pains and stress—and that practitioner is able to enlist you in seeing how those problems are related to how your body relates to gravity—then you see for yourself first hand, unambiguously, the freedom and aliveness living with your body effortlessly upright, balanced, symmetrical and unstressed.
If you are dedicated to be tops in sports or a star of stage and screen, then you ought to already know that your instrument, your body, needs to be in top form, fine tune. And, if you really want to live, doesn’t it make sense that howsoever you may have that framed for yourself, you’ll be well served to cultivate tangible and lasting balance in the makeup of your body.
When you are ready to add “alignment with gravity” to your resume, Rolf Structural Integration will be a significant boost. But, first you gotta be thirsty, before we can really show you where the water is.
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Structural Integration Montclair, New Jersey