Thursday, November 12, 2009

Internal Structure: Part 2 – Structural Integration

When I began Zhan Zhuang stance practice in the Wujifa system, I experienced difficulty getting good structural alignment.
Going for structural integration bodywork has helped me with the Structure aspect of the Primary Wujifa triangle – Structure, Relax, Balance.

Because structure was the easiest place for me to start, and due to my inclination to gather and analyze information, I read quite a bit about the various psycho-somatic and somatic therapies ranging from Bioenergetic Analysis to Structural Integration, a.k.a. Rolfing.

My understanding of the theory of Bioenergetic Analysis is that it looks at how emotions are stored in the body and through body work and talking, strives to open the body to get a pulse to move through body, looking for and resolving the emotional-muscular holding patterns that block that pulse. On the other hand, Rolfing only works on the physical structure and does not counsel psychological issues. If psychological stuff comes up that needs discussing, then the person should see a qualified counselor or psychotherapist.

For a historical context, my understanding is that the Western psycho-somatic “movement” originated with Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) who was a student of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and by extension, a “classmate” of Carl Jung (1875-1961). Where Jung followed the mind only path of Freud, Reich followed the mind-body connection and developed methods to work on the mind through the body. Two of Reich’s students, Alexander Lowen (1910-2008) and Ida Rolf (1896-1979) respectively established Bioenergetic Analysis and Structural Integration which later became known as Rolfing.

Personally, I have not been to a Bioenergetics professional but I have been to and experienced a series of Structural Integration / Rolfing sessions.

Here is a short video of compiled clips of an interview with Alexander Lowen. The original clips and other short videos can be found at the Lowen Foundation website.

Here is an two-part interview with Ida Rolf explaining and demonstrating Structural Integration.

Método Rolf - Primeira Parte

Método Rolf - Segunda Parte

While the Rolfing logo “before” picture (on the left) illustrates twists, to me it only infers un-parallel lines.

I like the image that Karin at uses because this explicitly shows the un-parallel lines of the “before” structure and like the Rolfing logo, shows the parallel lines of the "after" structure.

(Image used with permission)

I think both images together provide a good representative comparison of the un-integrated and the integrated structures. I particularly like the way these images help me relate to the images of vector alignment in the Wujifa “Zhan Zhuang Alignment” article.

In the “Myofascial Tensegrity and Zhan Zhuang, A new model of fascial understanding for easier and deeper ZZ practice
    “There is now emerging a lot of research on fascia that gives us a whole new understanding of the structure in our body. We all know that fascia surrounds and connects everything. But never have anatomist given it any attention. For centuries they have overlooked fascia just to get down to the individual muscles and their individual functions. But now, with Tom Meyers amazing work – - we are seeing the emerging of a whole new understanding of the holistic myo-sceletal system in our body.

    And for our Zhan Zhuang practice, this is a gem!

    Instead of seeing individual muscles connected to individual bones and joints, we can now begin to see whole-body patterns.”
Structural integration not only helps improve posture a.k.a. structure, but it is also a doorway to understanding and getting a feel for whole-body connectedness.


  1. Very nice post about these other concepts. I have always found them very interesting myself. Although as these are very helpful for those in need of these methods... I personal believe developing and being able to internal connection in practices such as Wujifa is one that... like so many gongfu practices is only truely understood over time and discovered as one gets rid if the methods and learns to connect and use these connections on their own in time.

    Great information!

    Rick from

  2. Fascinating stuff Mike! Thanks for the links and post in general