Your body is your most proximate tool. How do you use it?
Most of us have collected extra tension through the course of our lives. Common strain patterns come about from:
- inefficient movement habits, sedentary lifestyles
- our body’s response to poorly designed cars, desks, telephones, and airplanes, etc.
- individual strain patterns come from imitation of our parents or heroes when we are young
- repetitive activities
- attitudes we’ve acquired
- injuries, surgery, birth
- our body’s response to traumatic episodes
Beginning as a simple gesture of response, movements can become a neuromuscular habit. In other words, a gesture becomes a habit, becomes a posture and eventually lodges in our structure. Exercise and our mother’s nagging to ‘stand up straight!’ may help, but most of this patterning happens below our conscious awareness and becomes a part of “who we are”. These patterns become written into our muscular tensions, or skeletal form, and into the fascia tissue. These changes are rarely for the better. Anything that pulls us out of alignment means that gravity works on pulling us into more misalignment or increased tension to counteract the force. Compensation begets compensation, resulting in more painful symptoms.
What is fascia?
Muscular tissue moves our skeleton around, but it works through a sleeve of fascia that wraps around it. This complex holds us in the shape we are in. When we are injured or stressed, no matter what the source, there is a neuromuscular response – usually involving some combination of contraction, retraction, immobility, and often rotation.
These patterns put muscles under strain, developing painful trigger points, resulting in the fascia shortening, over lengthening, thickening, gluing itself to surrounding structures, and otherwise compensating for the excess sustained muscular holding.
As a result, the shape of our bodies change, making us off centre and inefficient. This in turn makes movement more restrictive, our breath becomes reduced, the weight of our bodies increases exponentially with gravity pull, and therefore reduces our energy levels. For many of us, we don’t even realize the lost potential and for others it results in chronic pain and possible injury.
Anatomy Trains Structural Integration (ATSI) Explained
Structural Integration is the pioneering work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf. ATSI springs from Dr. Rolf’s work and was further developed, by Thomas Myers. The Anatomy Trains school, based in Maine, USA, holds classes for therapists worldwide. The ATSI ‘brand’ of Structural Integration concentrates on doing deep, lasting, and significant work, with anatomical precision, blended with movement and sensitivity to the unfolding individual experience. The ATSI strategy is based around the “Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians” concept, which are explored in the book written by Thomas Myers.
ATSI is designed to unwind and reduce the structural stress patterns residing in your body’s locomotor system, restoring it to its natural balance, alignment, length, and ease. ATSI can be seen as an extended course in reacquainting yourself with your body in motion, whether you are a finely-tuned athlete, or a computer-bound couch potato.
The ATSI approach frees the binding and shortening of fascia tissues to re-educate the body in efficient and energy-sustaining (as opposed to energy-robbing) patterns. These new patterns encourage improved mobility, balance, stability, increased energy and breath.
Especially for chronic and long-held patterns, it is not enough to release the muscular holding, though that is definitely a good start. Freeing and repositioning the fascia along with re-integrating the movement patterns so that they stay easily in their proper positioning, is the job of ATSI. The new alignment simply becomes a part of who you are, not something you have to work at or repeatedly see a practitioner to maintain. Unlike massage, which looks to reduce short term pain by addressing your symptoms, Structural Integration looks to reduce chronic postural irregularities for the long term.
ATSI consists of a 12 session protocol of deep, slow fascial and myofascial release techniques, coupled with movement re-education.
Basing the sessions around the body’s myofascial continuities ensures that:
- the entire body is covered through the series
- clear session strategies allow for individual patterns and preferences
- our work is easily explainable to other health professionals
Experiencing Anatomy Trains Structural Integration 12 Series
The ATSI process has 12 separate and progressive sessions. To begin these sessions, your practitioner will complete an extensive medical and lifestyle history and help you set realistic goals for the process. As well, she will observe and assess your body standing in gravity and your gait with walking. Some tests may be done to clarify some patterns you exhibit.
She may take before and after pictures of your body posture for records and will examine your postural pattern with you in front of a mirror. A review of your structure is completed at the beginning of every session to observe changes and to plan the treatment for that session. Together, we will also discuss what is happening for you in between your treatments.
After the structural assessment, you and the therapist will collaboratively work together on the treatment table, in standing position, and upright on a bench to achieve the desired goals. You will be asked to slowly and gently move through some of the techniques, thus freeing old restrictions and encouraging the tissues back to a freer place called for by your body’s inherent design. We will be opening up tissue that has been locked for a long time; often in areas that have never been addressed before. We will be looking for a sensational release which is completely in your control. The releases of emotional and biomechanical restrictions are necessary to achieve change. You and your practitioner can work out how deep or how gentle you want the progression to be.
After 12 sessions, this client is able to relax her shoulders, lift her chest, and elongate her neck. After 6 months with no treatment or any exercises, she is still doing reasonably well.
The 12 series is the most thorough, strategic soft tissue treatment you will experience. The sessions progress through the body: the first four sessions are more superficial and addresses your range of motion. Together we will free the tissues on the front, back, and sides of the body and freeing the shoulders and arms from any binding to the trunk. After addressing the outer sleeve, your body will be ready to receive the next 4 sessions.
The middle four sessions addresses the central stabilization muscles closer to the spine. The “core” tissue has the most significance to the position of your skeleton and posture.
The last four sessions integrate and balance “core” and “sleeve” into your habitual movement (and address specific problems you bring to the table), leaving you with a lasting and progressive change that will echo throughout the rest of your life.
You are ready for the 12 series if you:
- have tried different modalities and have not got a desired change
- are committed and dedicated to your self improvement to complete the 12 sessions
- have the energy to carry yourself through the 12 sessions
- desire change for your body but need motivation and help to begin
- require more energy to achieve further goals
Booking your sessions
Although flexibility is permitted, optimum results are best achieved with a 90 minutes session once a week for 12 weeks as a commitment to getting the best results and to ensure you get optimal appointment times, we ask that all sessions are scheduled at once. The sessions are performed by an RMT and are covered under your massage benefit plan.
90 minute session
$165 + gst
Anatomy Trains Structural Bodywork
Under the lens of Structural Integration strategies, a postural assessment will be done to create the therapeutic strategy for the session. Using myofascial release techniques, we begin to hydrate and gain elasticity in the body as well as open and balance the fascia tissue that is causing restrictions in movement. The aim is to highlight possible root causes of troubled areas, which may have been overlooked with other therapies.
Structural Bodywork is best for you if you want to:
- Experience the techniques without the commitment of 12 sessions
- Follow up after your 12 series, to reinforce the balancing and integration work
- Gain an understanding of the root cause of your body’s pain
- Begin the process of balancing your structure and gain some mobility
- Have deep tissue therapy
Booking your sessions
A series of 3 or 4 sessions is recommended.
90 minute session
$165 + gst
$118 + gst
Want to try one session?
You can try one 90 minute myofascial release treatment. The session begins with a postural assessment followed by treatment to release fascial adhesions. This begins to hydrate and gain elasticity in the body. It’s a great way to try the technique before committing to the more thorough strategic 12 sessions or the introductory balancing 3 session series.
What to wear to your appointment
Your comfort is paramount, but we need to get directly to the tissues that are restricting the free flow of movement. So for your comfort, please come dressed in something that keeps you comfortably covered. All sessions are done in bra/underwear, bikini/swim trunks, or shoulder strapped sport bra/sport shorts. The entire appointment will be in these clothes.
Crisscrossing straps, racer backs, long shorts, one piece bodysuits, or coming without undergarments will inhibit the therapy. Your undergarments are safe as the therapist uses water and not oil.
After each session
Take it easy. Go for a light walk. Relax and enjoy the day as your body responds to the therapy. It’s more common to feel balanced, open, and a sense of ease and lightness rather than to feel residual soreness. After the sessions are complete, your body will continue to respond to the therapy.