Neck treatment in Rolf's structural integration approach
Coming NeckTreatment workshop for massage therapists in Amsterdam.
The neck is actually "the last link in the chain." In order for the neck to function properly, we need to build a correct orientation in the way our body relates to the supporting floor.
The correct orientation is a longitudinal orientation - length means spacing between the vertebrae and the joints as opposed to compressibility that means shortening and squeezing within the joints.
The first joint that is actually the key to building the right orientation is the ankle joint! This joint has the transition from the horizontal of the floor and the foot that treads on it, to the verticality of the rest of the body and spine. The last joint to reach this orientation is the joint between head and neck.
In both of these joints, a "fatal" error occurs - compression instead of creating a space.
In the Alexander Technique, the central place is given to a mechanical error in the joint between the head and the neck, a joint, in which a transition from the verticality of the spine to the horizontal of the jaw and the skull happens again.
While Alexander teaches how the thinking of "head forward and upward" creates the desired space in the last joint - the joint between head and neck and from there to all other joints; in Rolf's structural integration, we start at the beginning - in our connection with the supporting factor - the ground -the floor. We learn to push the ground slightly down to create (with the feedback of the floor that does not go down) the growth up that happens naturally and mechanically regardless of thinking.
To illustrate: If this lengthening is not clear to you, just stand up and bend your knees slightly - now push the floor down from your feet - what happens? The floor does not move, so your body moves - it goes up, of course the knees straighten up and you get taller, but note the difference between putting the knees back and pushing the floor down - that's not exactly the same action even though it looks almost the same!
If we now get the thought of the right kind of push - we will think we push the floor down only with the soles of the feet rather than the thigh muscles, not the knees or the calves.
This thought will create the required space at the first joint of the ankle and necessarily along all other joints to the head.
Some would say that this is exactly the Alexander Technique and I agree with them completely, but in the Structural Integration, it comes against a background of additional work - the work of opening fascia adhesions. The same adhesions that we created for ourselves by the erroneous reference that caused compression in the joint.
When we take care of the neck, we have to open these adhesions throughout the structure - from the foot itself, through the ankle, knees, hip joints and pelvis and through the entire spine and only at the end we reach the neck itself; So the real treatment of the neck in structural integration will occur only in the seventh session! However, immediate relief by opening the adhesions around the neck and neck shoulder junction is completely possible; it will just not last long without opening the whole line.
Finally, we will return to the correct orientation of creating these spaces in the joints and between the vertebrae by pushing the ground down. In fact, we all are pushing the earth down; otherwise, we would immediately fall to the floor, so we are talking here about dosage and adjustments. People who look like they're going to fall in a moment, they just need to push more down, those who looks like too compressed in themselves invest too much power in the body - it's harder to understand the correction for them. Usually they are leaning too hard on one point as on the upper back part of the pelvis and then on the heels, which accompanies a significant contraction of the buttocks, and of course, there are many different versions of the wrong attitude. Learning to lean through the middle –directing the weight to flow straight towards the front of the heels as demonstrated in the exercise, is one aspect of getting it right. The other one is operating as if from the sole of the foot – pushing gently just from there not using any unneeded force from anywhere else.
So what is correct leaning?
First, it is leaning on the ground or the floor, but not on a specific part of the body. The weight of the body should be set exactly above the front of the heel, in such a way that even though the front of the heel does not touch the floor, when the weight is directed there, it will be distributed correctly over the entire foot. So, if you want to practice proper leaning, stand if possible with parallel feet, put the body weight just above the front of the heels (the body is now right in the middle not tilting forward neither backwards nor sideways). Push your knees forward, stop, release your abdominal muscles and chest, Feel the touch of your feet on the floor and begin to push the floor very slowly down from the soles of your feet. Do not reach the full alignment of the knees stop again, again send your knees forward slowly, stop, change direction which means again pushed the floor from the soles and began to notice the space you create in the ankle during this movement. This exercise is a very important step in learning the right movement and posture that will also serve to prevent neck problems.