Structural Integration - Deep Tissue Bodywork, Posture and Movement Education

"When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneosly, the body heals itself."
Ida Rolf, Ph.D.

How To Stand Up

May 10, 2012 : Blog

Author: Alisa Bowman

I’ve been undergoing structural integration (also known as Rolfing). At the end of each session, the therapist asks me to stand. Then he directs me to draw my hips and head back while bringing my upper spine forward.

“Are you sure my spine is aligned?” I always ask once he puts me into this position. “Because this doesn’t feel natural to me. I feel like I’m about to fall forward.”

He then laughs and tells me that eventually, once he’s worked over the fascia in my body, this position will feel less awkward.

If you are anything like me, then you, too, might think you are standing or sitting with proper posture when you are doing anything but. Perhaps, like me, you once had abdominal surgery (in my case a C-section) and your body compensated as you healed. Or, just as likely, you sit at a desk all day long.

Whatever the cause, you now have what Ruth Mowrer Huron, a yoga instructor and owner of Elevation Yoga Studio in Bethlehem, calls “mountains and valleys.” Your upper spine might curve outward, giving your back a “dorsal fin,” she says. Your head might jut forward. Or, like me, perhaps you suffer from too much flexibility, so you lift your rib cage too much, putting too much of a curve in the lower back. I also tend to lift my chin, which puts too much of a curve in my neck, triggering headaches.

All of this leads to tightness, discomfort, aches and pains. It can also cause fatigue. For me, the most frustrating outcome is repeated running injuries.

I see Huron roughly once a week when she attends the meditation class I teach at her studio. This week, after class, I asked her, “Can you show me some exercises to help me align my spine correctly and speed the results of my structural integration sessions?”

This is what she suggested:

Mountain Pose: Stand with a foam block between your inner thighs. Press into your feet and feel your thighs squeezing the block, activating your pelvic floor and lower abdomen. Then notice your hips. Are they tipped forward, forcing a deep curve in your low back? If so, draw them back. Now notice your rib cage. Rather than allowing it to lift or fan out, try to “knit it together,” as Huron says. This will activate the sides of your abdomen. Then lift your breastbone, but do it without lifting your lower ribcage. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Then relax the shoulders, allowing gravity to pull your shoulder blades downward. Finally lift through the crown of your head, feeling your neck lengthen and your chin tuck in slightly.

There. That’s correct posture. If you are like me, it will feel anything but natural, so practice standing this way several times a day until you get better at it.

Chest Opener: From Mountain Pose, clasp your hands behind your back, feeling your chest expand. Make sure not to allow the rib cage to lift as you do so. Remember: keep those lower ribs knitted together. This is a great stretch to do after being hunched over a desk during your workday.

Desk Traction: Stand with your feet a hip’s distance apart and parallel to one another. Place your palms on your desk. Step back and come into a half forward bend, your torso parallel with the floor. Broaden through the shoulders, dropping them away from the ears and down the back. Reach back through your sitting bones and forward through the crown of your head, feeling length through your entire spine. As Huron says, “Remember, no mountains or valleys!”

 Alisa Bowman teaches meditation at Elevation Yoga in Bethlehem. She also writes about health for a variety of publications.

[Go to her blog post here]