First, from Stephanie:
What we have done in the 10 series is built a foundation through hands-on change and movement education that now Cody will use in his daily activities and workouts. If we take photos in 3 months, his structural alignment will be even better so long as he uses his improved body awareness and ways of moving.
In the traditional 10-series, sessions 8, 9, and 10 are integrative – where we put the individual parts back together into a better functioning whole. In the first seven sessions we focused on better organizing individual segments and hydrating specific layers of fascia (a form of connective tissue). Session 8 was a lower body session because the pelvis and legs are the foundation for the upper body, neck and head to be supported. We created a sense of stability and adaptability by neutralizing rotations and pelvic tilts and shifts. Session 9 focused more on the upper body and getting the transfer of motion and energy to go from the foundation through the spine, ribs, shoulders, head and neck in a more integrative way. People are much more likely to get shoulder injuries when they move the arm in isolation instead of feeling a response and connection that includes the ribs, pelvis, spine, legs and feet. Lastly in session 10 I worked mostly around the joints and had Cody play with connecting movement between his joints to experience each as part of the whole. One goal is that after the 10th session clients experience their body segments working together and experience motion initiated by the core layer smoothly and efficiently transmit out through the sleeve layer of their body.
The creator of Structural Integration, Dr. Rolf, believed our bodies are supposed to be organized around a dynamic “Line” that travels from the ground between your ankles up through your midline and out the top of your head. This “line” is one image that helps people feel aligned and integrated. Another concept that I appreciate is to create cooperative movement through the body and for people to work with the forces of gravity and the ground reaction force (GRF). GRF is a concept I learned from one of my teachers, Judith Aston – a pioneer of bodywork and movement education (www.astonkinetics.com). An image is that you have two balloons and if you align their centers of mass and push from above (like gravity) and from below (ground reaction force) the two balloons squish in towards each other and when you release they lengthen. Ideally when we walk, jump, etc. the forces travel through our bodies in a similar way and actually hydrate tissues and build bone and muscle tone in a healthful way. However, many people have mis-alignments which would be like taking the top balloon slightly forward of the bottom balloon (like the head and neck forward of the ribs) and impressing from above and below and instead of an even distribution of force, the balloons would shear – the top one would move forward and the bottom backward and like in the body, where you have those shears you are creating wear and tear at joints and over-straining certain areas while underusing others.
Many people do not realize that the connective tissue system in their body is what gives them stability. There are some amazing images courtesy of French hand surgeon, J.C Guimberteau, of the structure and function of connective tissue in a living human body. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6FaULbOmnE Connective tissue is mostly water (over 80%) and it responds to tension and compression. When your connective tissue is dehydrated (which is a result of daily life and stress) it creates cellular dehydration, muscle stiffness, ligament laxity, and slower neural timing and firing. Chronic pain is a symptom of connective tissue dehydration. There are also many pre-pain signals like inflammation, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, digestion troubles, fatigue, anxiety and depression, constipation, weight gain, stress injuries and joint pain. You do not hydrate your connective tissue by drinking more water or exercising. You need manual work – which can include specific techniques on foam rollers or therapy balls – or the hands of a qualified professional who knows how to re-hydrate connective tissue and fascia. One word about using foam rollers and therapy balls is that many people do not prepare tissue enough when they use them. People often start with too hard of a foam roller or ball. Connective tissue actually resists tension – so with too hard of a tool – people never are able to get “deep” – they just stay superficial. Also, connective tissue contains most of our sensory nerve receptors (10 times more than muscle). So people can cause themselves more pain and inflammation when they go too hard and/or too fast. Remember, the goal is to hydrate your connective tissue to improve the slide and glide of tissue layers. (To help visualize this, also an actual experiment you can do, is if you mix cornstarch and water and put them in a bowl it creates a gel like substance. If you jam your finger at it fast you will just get bounced off. However if you create a slow sustained pressure your fingers and go through the gel to the bottom of the bowl. Same thing on the way out. If you move fast you won’t go anywhere, whereas if you slowly release you can gently make your way out of the gel.)
Also with regard self-treatment, remember that where you feel pain is usually not the cause – so don’t just keep aggravating and beat up on the places that are complaining. Get a postural assessment from a qualified professional and find out where your fascial strain patterns originate.
Now from me:
One thing that sets Stephanie apart is how in-depth she is, particularly in regards to educating and empowering her clients with hands-on changes. Her sessions tend to be longer and more comprehensive because she helps you to understand how to move in a way that works better for your body. As an example, I will share a test that was really relevant for me with my right shoulder pain and structural compensations from my shattered collarbone.
From standing, first lift your right arm into the air and feel the weight of your arm against gravity. Then bring your arm back down to your side. Now as a contrast, before moving your arm, shift your weight over your right foot, so that the weight from your pelvis, ribs, head and neck are close to centered over your right foot. Next, press down with your foot (almost as if there was a button under your foot) to spring your right arm into the air (imagine doing a push press). If you have done it correctly, you will have translated the force from the rebound through your legs, pelvis, and ribs to support your arm and shoulder so your arm almost feels weightless. In contrast, lift your arm against gravity again, without shifting your body weight or pressing into the ground, and you will likely feel the muscles of your upper shoulder, neck and upper arm having to work harder to hold it there. Try the same test over the other leg. Over time, you would strain and dehydrate those tissues that are working and affect the range of motion of your shoulder and neck.
During my test, my left side worked perfectly, but I struggled immensely to feel the same sense of connection on my right side. Hopefully you experienced the cooperative movement and feel the difference. During my series we built on this movement, thereby affecting my set up for any barbell movement, how I positioned my hands on the computer or steering wheel, how to stir something on a stove, etc. Basically, how to apply this connection all of my movements so I could get my body more organized under my shoulder so I did not have as much shoulder strain. And while the difference in my collarbones is rather extreme because of the bad fracture, everyone’s body is asymmetrical. From the shape and position of the organs to the way that ripples out into into the rest of your structures – your body is asymmetrical – so learning how to move in a way that will best support and work for your unique shape is extremely valuable for the health and longevity of your body and joints.
Stephanie is a board-certified Structural Integration practitioner as well as an Aston-Patterning practitioner with a whole host of additional movement and bodywork certifications. She combines hands-on fascial work with movement education and awareness training so that you can better identify what creates imbalanced tension patterns in addition to how you can move in a way that supports better alignment and body usage. You can connect with Stephanie through e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her website: www.alignmentfirst.com.
(Also, Stephanie was a division 1 college soccer player, so she understands athletes and the athlete mentality. In addition, she loves CrossFit and is looking to join an affiliate soon.)
*NOTE: CFSB and I are in no way financially connected with Stephanie Fish or any SI practice (although we are trying to find her a spot at the Hermosa or Torrance location to perform bodywork so we can take advantage of her skills)