The tissues of our bodies are maps to the events of our lives. That fall when you were five and the repetition of opening and closing your front door in precisely the same way is mapped in your soft tissues.
Unfortunately, this mapping can reorganize our bodies in a way that causes us pain. We develop constrictions and contortions in an attempt to keep moving through our lives. As our body shifts and develops around these places, our bones become oriented in ways they are not meant to.
Structural Integration, a way of working with the body developed by Ida P. Rolf in the 1950s and 60s, works with the body to release these patterns of constriction and contortion, with the goal of bringing the body back into harmony with itself. Structural Integration practitioner Ruthie Fraser offers 100 lessons in her book Stack Your Bones that “teach foundational principles that will help you understand your body and establish healthy patterns.” Taken alone, each exercise seems simple, though, in the doing, it is not necessarily easy. The book can be used in a number of different ways, one of which is pairing the lessons:
Mobility and Stability
Mobility. “A resilient structure possesses a reasonable amount of mobility—throughout.” Move your elbow through its full range of motion. Consider the idea of the elbow not moving at all and how that would affect how your body operates.
Stability. “A resilient structure possesses a reasonable amount of stability—throughout.” Move your elbow through its normal range of motion. Consider the endpoints of this range and what it would be like if it didn’t have any endpoints. Think about how this ‘limited mobility’ allows the body to function properly.
Wild Body and Refined Body
Wild Body. “Humans are animals.” Go outside barefoot and breath deeply. Stretch and spread and wiggle your body. Think about yourself as a mammal and how you want to move and interact with what is around you. Inhabit all of your body.
Refined Body. “Evolve through conscious refinement.” Stand tall with your feet and legs supporting your weight. Notice the ‘inner landscape of your body’ and the ground beneath your feet and the air around you. Feel yourself more connected to the earth through your legs and feet, and lift yourself up through your spine. Use your full smooth breath to spread your weight evenly throughout your body.
The lessons Fraser offers throughout her book bring a deliberate awareness to each movement—to each way of being in the body. They are designed to be used with any type of movement, including yoga, pilates, and dance, with the hopes that you will move with more freedom and as Fraser writes, “acknowledge and appreciate all that your body has been through, as well as its intrinsic beauty.”