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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Structural Integration and the Yoga Connection

Jul 01, 2021 12:25PM ● By Ed Hemberger

Structural Integration (SI) is a system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education, and affects the body’s posture and alignment by manipulating the myofascial, or connective tissue, system. It’s been shown to promote improvement in balance, flexibility, total range of motion, and a general sense of well-being.

Similarly, yoga focuses on lengthening, balancing, strengthening, and flexibility through poses or postures, each offering specific physical benefits. The poses can be done quickly in succession, creating heat in the body through movement, or more slowly to increase stamina and perfect the alignment of the pose. In attaining and maintaining certain postures, yoga helps to relieve stress and, like Rolfing, promote an overall sense of well-being.

It’s no surprise, then, that Dr. Ida Rolf, the developer of Structural Integration, was influenced by hatha yoga. She researched and practiced it to alleviate her own back pain from scoliosis, and that practice contributed to the evolution of her bodywork principles. She aligned her vision of SI with the goals of yoga in enriching body, mind and spirit through an understanding of the importance of structural balance.

Many who do yoga now reach out to SI to improve performance in their practice. Since SI eases movement, it makes doing yoga that much easier. SI can also help to regain flexibility that is lost due to age or inactivity. Its influence on alignment and posture will also help those hoping to achieve more advanced yoga poses.

Combining SI and yoga leads to an even more enhanced sense of well-being and reduces everyday stress, leading to higher levels of happiness. Yoga and SI are twin paths to alignment, a synergistic method of relaxation that allows practitioners to achieve better body awareness. The pairing offers increased flexibility and coordination, improved posture and alignment, and much-sought-after relief from chronic pain and tension.

SI works primarily in two ways, with hands-on manipulation and movement education. It physically changes the body’s structure and energetically improves movement and function. Yoga and SI both work subtly with energy inside and outside the body. 

Let’s look at the breath, and how SI works with energy. Sometimes stress makes us short of breath, so we breathe more tensely. By guiding the breath throughout the body, SI can potentially help relieve tension and increase energy levels.

The most common objectives that guide people to SI and yoga are:

  • to gain relief from chronic or acute tension or pain 
  • to increase flexibility or coordination 
  • to improve posture and alignment 
  • to learn to relax and obtain more body awareness 
  • to offset deleterious effects of aging 
  • to release emotional blocks stored in the body 
  • to have more energy and stamina 
  • to find relief from breathing difficulties 

While yoga can be a way of life, SI is designed to be short term and uses a 10-session system of deep bodywork that addresses the entire body, with the option to continue as needed for maintenance. Because SI is corrective and whole body in nature, those who have received the full set of adjustments often report the correction lasts far longer than other types of bodywork.

Edward Hemberger is a Certified Structural Integration specialist based on the Rolf Method. He also practices Active Release Therapy (ART), Muscle Release Therapy and Neuromuscular Therapy. For more information, contact Hemberger at 973-462-3112. See ad, page 6.