What Happens in a Session
The first session begins with a detailed conversation about your history, activities and goals. Subsequent sessions begin with a quick check-in. The second step of every session is a postural assessment, in which I observe your standing posture from the front, back and sides.
I will also ask you to walk, breathe deeply or perform other simple movements. If you are under a doctor’s care and have any test results or imaging, please bring a copy to your first appointment.
The majority of each session involves hands-on manipulation of your fascia, muscles and nerves. Most of this work is done while you lie on a massage table, although some work happens as you sit or stand. As I work, I will ask you to make small, gentle movements; for example, slowly pointing and flexing your ankle as I work on your calf. During the session, I will periodically ask you to stand up and walk. This will help both of us to assess changes, and allows me to adjust my work as needed based upon your body’s responses.
At the end of each session, we will discuss homework: a stretch or strengthening exercise, a yoga pose, or more often, a movement exploration. Your homework can be done in just a few seconds a few times per day, and is an essential part of creating lasting change.
I will work with you throughout the session to ensure the proper amount of pressure. If the pressure is too light, you may not see long-term change (although effective neural manipulation can be surprisingly gentle). If the pressure is too heavy, your tissue will contract protectively; again, you won’t get the changes you’re looking for. I can often feel this contraction in your tissue; however, your communication is essential. I work with you to find the point in between, deep enough to create change while staying within your comfort zone.
Have you ever done yoga or some other juicy stretch routine? It may have been intense. You may have felt a burning sensation. This is the sensation of safe myofascial release.
While relaxation is not the goal of structural integration, most clients report feeling relaxed during and after the session.
To work effectively, I need direct access to your tissue. However, as structural integration involves standing and moving, you will not be draped during the session.
For women, underwear and bra or a 2-piece bathing suit is best. If you prefer, you can wear a sports bra and workout shorts. Choose a sports bra that exposes as much of your back as possible.
For men, briefs, boxer briefs, or Speedos are best. Boxer shorts are not recommended. If you prefer, you can wear workout shorts or swim trunks.
Number of Sessions
Structural integration is performed in a finite number of progressive sessions. It is goal-oriented and is not designed to be used as ongoing therapy. My mission is not just to help you sit, stand, move and feel better, but to give you the tools to keep yourself feeling and moving well long-term.
I can design individual sessions or a short series of sessions to address your concerns. However, structural integration is most effective when undertaken as a total-body exploration, which takes approximately 12 sessions.
Why total-body? The problems caused by misalignment and compression extend far beyond the parts that are complaining. In fact, the area that hurts is rarely the source of the issue.
For example, I once saw a client who came to me with pain in his left hip. Watching him stand, I noticed that he leaned heavily on his left side; his right foot didn’t fully connect with the floor. When I asked about that right foot, I discovered that he had broken that ankle two decades earlier.
When the ankle was broken, the client naturally shifted all of his weight to the healthy left leg. When the ankle healed, however, he never shifted back. This pattern put too much strain on the hip that was now working overtime. The result? Hip pain that would never resolve simply by working on the hip. To help him feel better, we had to restore healthy movement in his opposite ankle and rebalance his weight left to right through a combination of bodywork and movement training.
I look throughout the body for root causes, not symptoms. If your shoulder hurts, I will work on your shoulder–and I’ll likely spend more time on your rib cage, your hips, or any other areas that may be straining your shoulder or robbing it of the support it needs for proper function.
The 12-Session Series
Why does it take approximately 12 sessions to address the total body? Your body contains a set of continuous lines of tissue in the body known as Anatomy Trains or myofascial meridians.
For example, the Superficial Back Line starts at the toe flexors and plantar fascia and continues up the back of the legs, onto the tissue surrounding the spine, and over the back of the head to the brow ridge.
Imbalance anywhere along a myofascial meridian can create dysfunction anywhere else along the line.
Each session in the series addresses a different set of these anatomical relationships. Together, we find and unwind restrictions in the given area as they relate to your body’s imbalances and the issues you bring to the table.
The body is addressed progressively, from superficial to deep and back again. The first four sessions free the superficial “sleeve” of the body. The second four sessions free the Deep Front Line, your body’s core. The last four sessions integrate superficial and deep and retrain movement. Each client is different, and sometimes the client and I agree to address a challenged area over more than one meeting.
After the series is complete, your body continues to evolve and integrate the work for several months. This is particularly true if you continue with your homework, get curious about your body, and embrace exploration and play.
When you feel your body is no longer shifting, you may decide it’s time to explore the next level. You can engage in another full series; however, returning clients typically choose a shorter series of targeted sessions. Some clients also choose to return for monthly or periodic “tune-up” sessions, ensuring the body continues to develop into a freer, more balanced structure.
Finally, you may consider additional structural work if you have any further injuries (hopefully not!) or take up activities that place new demands on your body.
Whatever your situation, I will work with you to design a session or series of sessions that best fits your needs.
If you have had surgery, wait at least 6 weeks before undertaking structural integration. Additionally, the work may not be appropriate for those with rheumatoid arthritis or other systemic inflammatory diseases.
Structural integration is not a substitute for medical care, and I do not diagnose any physical or mental conditions. If you have medical concerns or are under the care of a doctor, please consult your medical practitioner before undertaking structural integration. At your request, I am eager and available to consult with any member of your treatment team.
Do you have questions about structural integration or how it could work for you? Email Ali, or call 617-257-6857.