photos thanks to Heather Gray
The concept of Sky + Ground is one oft used in Rolfing to help the client conceptualize their relationship to space. Naturally, ground-oriented people find resource and support from the earth beneath, relating to the world using their connection to ground. On the other hand, sky-oriented people relate to the world through their connection to objects around and above them.
But what of it? Understanding how we relate to space - and where we physically find our structural support - can improve posture as well as our felt sense of embodiment. Paraphrasing Ida Rolf, she said that when the body is aligned it spontaneously heals itself. On a basic level, she meant that when we are posturally in line, we move with greater efficiency and comfort. That when the body is organized, the energetic/psychological/physiological functions can operate as intended. Actions ranging from activities of daily living to more extreme exertions are performed with an optimum level of power and mobility. In this way, an awareness of how we move makes moving itself more efficient.
So, how do you know which you are? And how does knowing whether you're sky or ground relate to how you move in your daily life? To start, try this basic self-test:
Now try it a few more times.
As you're jumping, start to notice what take-off and landing are like. Do they have the same quality of movement? Do your feet hit the ground on landing with a big THUD? Or do you put all your energy into the lift-off, springing up with force but landing relatively softly? Do you go up to get down? Or do you go down to get up? If you land with a thud repeatedly, chances are you're a Ground. Alternately, if the dominant action in your jump is the upward spring (with a lighter land), you're likely a Sky.
Fun facts: Grounds tend to have a heavy footfall, and often share characteristics with the earthier signs of the zodiac. Skies often have a lightness about them, relating to the 'heavens' above earth. They often share characteristics with the airier signs.
Now that you've determined whether you resource movement from the earth/gravity or sky/heavens, go about your day (commuting, exercising, meditating, working, walking...) with this paradigm in the back of your mind. Awareness of how this applies to your daily life will come incrementally and subtly! Choose moments in the day to be thoughtful and inquisitive, but be mindful not to overexert. Awareness work can be much more energetically draining than it seems. I recommend 30-second "vacations" throughout the day.
As you practice this, you may begin to notice that you sit differently in your chair at work, or in your drive home. You may notice when you reach for things, your feet stay firmly planted or rather that they scoot and dance to further your reach. The question to keep asking is: from what part of my physical surrounding does my body find stability? This question will lead to answers that evolve over time - and indeed to new questions -because your body will react to your awareness, and vice-versa. It is a self-teaching experience, whether or not we are actually *thinking* about it in the moment.
Stay tuned for more guided exercises to help you explore your posture, support, and movement!
You can't talk just a little about Rolfing. You have to tell it all. People don't know they have never seriously thought about that level in which the essence is relationship, where the noumena go looking for the phenomena. (Write that down; I want to remember that; it's true.)
When we talk about "Models of Seeing," we are talking about different lenses through which to view the body, its posture, and its biomechanics. These models explore dimension, from lines to planes to blocks and beyond - even likening the body to the tensegrity structures of Buckminster Fuller. These models, these lenses, are useful in their variety because they speak to more than one way of thinking, more than one way of seeing. And because all of our bodies are so unique, and our relationships to them all the more so, a diversified approach allows us to understand human biomechanics on a less clinical, more personal level.
Different models resonate with different clients, or even with different parts of the client's body on any given day, and in any given session. Those going through the 10-Series may find a sense of progression through the models, either physically, energetically, emotionally, psychologically, or some combination thereof.
The hallmark symbol of Rolfing is the "Little Boy Logo," which uses the block model to display a before & after transition through the Rolfing process. It is perhaps the most simplistic of the models, but also the easiest to grasp. In the "before", the boy's blocks are askew leaving him torqued and slumping. The "after" figure, instead, exhibits postural support...a sense of lift...uprightness! The rearrangement of the blocks, from disarray into a clean stack, represents the transformation from a challenged posture to a liberated one. (Fun fact: The client who modeled for the logo was a child who was treated by Ida Rolf in the early years of her work.)
The Plane Model is a simple way to view the body, specifically in terms of movement. The three axial planes of movement are the Transverse (rotational), the Coronal/Frontal (side-side), and the Sagittal (front-back). Using this vocabulary, we can talk fluently about restrictions to movement in reference to objects in space.
The model most frequently referred to in the actual process of Rolfing Structural Integration is the line. In Rolfing, being on your line is the name of the game and the goal of the work. This "line" is a technical reference point for a conceptual space defined not by anatomical structures themselves, but rather by the relationships between them. It reaches from the soles of the feet to the crown, through the centermost axis of the body.
- Anatomically: The line reaches from the arches of the feet through the pelvic floor, kissing the front of the lumbar spine and reaching between the lungs, up through the floor of the mouth, between the R/L brain.
- Conceptually: This central axis is our connection from bottom to top; from earth to sky.
For more on the line, check out our posts Gravity and Sky+Ground.
The last Model of Seeing we'll discuss in this post is a bit of an intersect between the Plane Model and the Line Model. I have not found a name for it in my years of work and research, so for lack of anything else, we'll call it the Bisectional Model. Under the umbrella of the Bisectional Model, we'll discuss the Front/Back, Top/Bottom, Right/Left, and Inner/Outer representations. In the Bisectional Model, the body presents with two halves in some degree of disharmony. They may differ in range of motion (ROM), tissue mass/development, sensation or functionality. In the setting of Rolfing Structural Integration or other structural forms of bodywork, the goal of viewing through this model would be to facilitate harmony between the two halves.
This is the gospel of Rolfing:
when the body gets working appropriately,
the force of gravity can flow through.
Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.
An upcoming post will discuss different ways in which we can conceptualize the architecture of posture, but before we broach that subject, I would be remiss not to touch on a concept we spend most of our time as moving creatures taking for granted.
Gravity is a force that dictates the physical reality of our everyday. We interpret it as a force that gives objects weight, and brings them down toward earth. It makes apples fall from trees, it causes water to carve canyons and it's how we lose rings down the kitchen sink doing dishes after dinner. Gravity, after all, is what gives us weight.
But this is a narrow field-of-vision. Gravity is force that draws us toward earth, yes, but what we receive as objects of mass from being draw toward earth is the support of that surface we are being drawn to. The uprightness we are able to achieve because of our connection (in)to ground is the very definition of a term we use often in our practice as Rolfers and Structural Integrators: palintonicity, or the sense of reach/length in two opposing directions.
Fascia is the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this; all the talk is about muscles. Yet this is a very important concept, and because this is so important, we as Rolfers must understand both the anatomy and physiology, but especially the anatomy of fascia. The body is a web of fascia. A spiderweb is in a plane; this web is in a sphere. We can trace the lines of that web to get an understanding of how what we see in a body works. For example, why when we work with the superficial fascia, does this change the tone of the fascia as a whole.
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I'm dealing with problems in the body where there is never just one cause. I'd like you to have more reality on the circular processes that do not act in the body, but that are the body. The body process is not linear, it is circular; always, it is the circular. One thing goes awry, and its effects go on and on and on and on. A body is a web, connecting everything with everything else.
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