A word from Ed Wood on Bodywork, health and Yoga

This is the first in a short series of articles around health and particularly mental health, from the point of view of a Yoga teacher and health practitioner. I wanted to talk about Structural Integration first to set the scene: the fundamental assumption in what I say and do is that your body wants to be well and knows how to be well. It must be very difficult to hear that for some people. I’m not detracting from the issues you face – this is just an alternative point of view, a different approach to healthcare and wellness, and I wanted to share some of the ideas with you. 

What is Structural Integration (Rolfing)

I’m training in Structural Integration (also called Rolfing) – a form of bodywork that restores organisation to our connective tissues (called fascia). Fascia permeates and organises the entire body; it plays a major part in bringing nourishment to tissues and removing tissue waste. Restoring order to fascia restores functional relationships between body elements. Easeful movement arises and natural health blossoms from the inside out.

Rolfers – people who practise Structural Integration (SI) – would say that the body doesn’t make mistakes. The body is like a spider’s web: it connects and finely balances all the different stresses and strains we live with – physical, environmental, dietary, social, etc. The body always gives its best response given the competing needs it has to deal with. Sometimes, the best response is an urgent message that demand exceeds supply, and what we call symptoms of illness start to appear.

Reorganisation of these key fascia tissues is often enough to resource the body. There was never a problem as such – just a kind of localised malnourishment. Restoring the relationships between elements of the body restores the flow of good things into tissues and waste out of them. Then, they can simply be, and be well.

 

Modern medicine versus SI

Occasionally, this isn’t enough. The body is under so much strain that its internal resources simply aren’t sufficient, no matter how well they relate and flow. Problems that persist through SI are a clear message from the body that external change is needed. 

But society doesn’t see health issues as messages. If we’re unwell, we probably don’t adjust our stresses and strains. In fact, we’re encouraged to continue as we are and use chemicals to suppress the symptoms. There’s a belief that there are problems that need to be fixed. The body is making mistakes, it’s sick. We buy into the idea of illness, of aberration in the body. By contrast, the assumption that the body is basically well and just needs help expressing its wellness is a novel approach.

It’s an approach I like. It agrees with everything I’ve learned in my study of Yoga – that there is original wholeness, that we forget ourselves. In Yoga, there’s nothing to do, or to fix. The work is to uncover the unlimited potential that’s already always there. My work as a Yoga teacher and a teacher of Yoga teachers has brought me into contact with some remarkable people, who have – in their way – demonstrated this to be true. 

  

 
It’s true that serious health challenges exist. When someone is desperately unwell they do need urgent help from modern medicine. But perhaps it takes a long time for serious illness to develop. Maybe a small but persistent toxic load or movement restriction builds up unremittingly – and becomes a big problem. 
 
Taking Action

SI says that we can take action early in the cycle, by listening to the bodymind and responding soon, while the issue is still relatively minor. Otherwise, imbalances can become permanent tissue change that blocks the flow of nutrients and waste, potentially leading to catastrophic failure of otherwise unrelated functions. A practice like SI (or Rolfing) realigns the system: balance returns before imbalance becomes pathology.

I’ve found SI to be extremely effective. Through many years of practice, I’ve injured myself a number of times – sometimes quite seriously. SI always put me back together quickly, and that’s why I wanted to learn how to apply the techniques myself. So you might think it will soon be adopted by the mainstream, given that it’s so effective? It’s unlikely to be honest: SI deals with the spirit as well as the body. Rolfers can’t diagnose spiritual problems and would never try to. But perhaps the body is just the part of the soul that can be seen and felt in everyday life. Illness may run deeper than just the tissue. Restoring health and flow to that tissue can – and really does – sometimes have a profound impact on mental and emotional wellbeing.  

 

 

 

 

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