Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fascia that is Only Skin Deep

Structural integration (Rolfing, Hellerwork, KMI, SOMA) is known for being deep. Depth is what attracts most clients. “I really want you to get in there,” one client tells me. “I’m glad this isn’t one of those petting massages,’ says another. The process of affecting the body’s fascial network is profound, but sometimes it is only skin deep.

I took a workshop from Liz Silverman Stewart this past weekend – Tracking the Recipe; Sessions 1-3 Review. Liz knows our proclivity to go deep and she encouraged us to work instead with the most superficial layer in the first session.

Unlike deeper, more complex, fascial layers that split, divide, dive and twist, the superficial layer is a single continuous sheet, like an internal wetsuit. Gil Hedley, a master anatomist, has dissected this layer, which you can see at his website. (Don’t look if seeing dissections grosses you out. Do look if you want to see many images of fascinating fascia.) If the superficial layer is not flat or free, it binds to underlying structures and limits movement. Releasing the adipose layer opens a window to the deeper layers in the following sessions.

Release of the superficial layer can be intense like deep work, especially when the entire layer is engaged, or at least much of the layer. That is what I practiced during the workshop. I also received a session in this manner and can feel the space it created for my whole body to move more freely, as though I changed out of clothes that were too tight in places. I can feel the glide of my adipose layer sliding easily beneath my skin giving my movement a sumptuous quality. My forward bends feel delicious from my hips to shoulders and even into the back of my arms.

Releasing the superficial layer is one way that structural integrators help our clients become more comfortable in their skin. (The fascia graphic is from the Hellerwork Client Handbook.)

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