Ann Arbor-based practice
“All the best have something in common: a regard for reality and an agreement to its primacy over the imagination.”
-Wislawa Szymborska, 20th century Polish poet
Becoming a Structural Integration/Rolf practitioner has been an auspicious convergence of my interests and abilities. It has been a winding road, with two constants along the way: a hunger for knowledge and a growth-oriented nature which has me striving for “more” and “better” in my life. I’ve adopted the perspective that we are how we are in the present moment, and yet we are infinitely perfectible. The work I do enables me to share a powerful, somewhat-unique means of helping others change their bodies and find their own version of better and more wherever they seek it. In this section I’ll share a bit about my journey and my own experience with Structural Integration.
My active lifestyle and curiosity about the way the body functions have been long-standing and largely self-guided. Understanding relationships within the body has been a life-long pursuit — with insulin to inject, carbohydrates to count, blood sugar levels to stabilize, and activity level to consider all part of a day’s work since the age of five. A latent interest in anatomy and body mechanics percolated as I grew up playing sports, and training and competing year-round as an equestrian through my late teens. Following graduation from the University of Michigan I pursued a career in international relations, but quickly determined that a more active, physically-oriented line of work was in order.
In the mid ‘90s I honed in on my ice skating, learning from an NHL power skating instructor who I would go on to apprentice with for 2 years. My passion for improving skating (my own and that of young players) sparked my interest in scouting and player development, and I set out on the path of scouting players. I eventually moved from Washington, DC and spent 2 years evaluating players for USA Hockey’s Ann Arbor-based National Team Development Program. I enjoyed the challenge of projecting ability and players’ capacity to excel at an elite level.
In Ann Arbor I had the good fortune to train alongside an excellent strength coach who put a premium on whole-body movements and impeccable execution. I assimilated the knowledge shared, and applied the principles to my own performance and to my stints training others. In 2000, I co-founded and developed the training programs at Skill Tech Off-Ice Training Center in Chelsea, MI. It was a great opportunity to merge my passion for the game and physical activity with the means to help kids become better players, largely through improving their general athletic skills.
Diagnosed disc problems and nerve impingement, which caused numbness in my hand and significant loss of strength in my arm, led me to the Rolf Method and my first Ten Series in 2001. Physical therapy was productive, but its focus narrow. I sought out Structural Integration as a complement, and credit the Ten Series’ whole-body perspective with having a profound effect on my return to wellness and physical training. Following the Series, my neck, shoulders & upper back felt fluid rather than like one cumbersome block. The work seemed to have disentangled the parts and introduced greater connection and cooperation within my body. Discomfort was gone; good posture was easy; and I felt tall and graceful!
My next venture took me to Russia for two years: I learned the language, absorbed the culture, and worked on some hockey-related projects. After returning state-side, failed business proposals and much introspection separated me from hockey in 2008 and set me to thinking about my future. Fortuitously, I found my way back to Structural Integration.
Being a stranger in a foreign land has its taxing aspects, not least of which for me were an extended bout of pneumonia and a very limited workout regimen. I wasn’t myself in my body, and somewhere along the way I had lost the sense of proficient movement that was my normal. I returned to my practitioner for a Three Series of SI. Physiologically, my breathing had returned to normal, but the work helped breathing feel easier in my body as some of the stuck layers of tissue relinquished their grip and my ribcage & diaphragm could move again. Following the third session, I remember thinking, “I’ve had a tune-up, and feel like a well-oiled machine!” It was a felt-sense but also a mental boost: “Here I am, back in my body, and ready to GO.”
This hands-on work helped me twice, in different ways, to maintain my physical body and by extension, my existence as a vibrant participant in this physical world. I was intrigued by the prospect of helping other bodies and their people find what I had found: I delved into Dr. Ida Rolf’s ideas about the geometry of the body and fascia’s integral role in maintaining it, and subsequently made plans to start training at the Guild for Structural Integration in Boulder, CO.
As I studied the technique, I learned to think about the physical body as supported from within and expanding in all directions, from the inside out. Physically, we are the size we are; but the work often engenders a felt-sense of expansion, three-dimensional balance, and an easy sense of uprightness. I found this sense of unbounded physical capacity very compatible with my affinity for striving in the realms of both physical performance and personal improvement.
I experienced some notable changes during my second Ten Series, which I received during training. The work effected some subtle-but-significant alterations in the way my weight is distributed over my feet; and I gained smoother, more efficient movement through my knee and hip joints. I continued my workouts during the Ten Series, and noted that movement felt better. Due to some neuropathy in my feet, I have been diagnosed with minor abnormalities in my gait pattern. Watching me walk following this second Ten Series, the doctor noted neither lateral deviation nor – though nerve damage remains – any telltale indications of neuropathy. I believe, and the doctor acknowledged the likelihood, that this positive turn is due primarily to the more appropriate body alignment I have moved into through Structural Integration.
Every day I work at becoming more fluent in the language that bodies speak; at learning more about the complicated networks that wire us together; and in turn at becoming more skilled at helping people improve their bodies and their level of satisfaction with their performance — be it around the house, at the office, in an athletic venue, or on stage. The body’s joint system and its attendant muscles, nerves, and fascial web is an intriguing puzzle. Solving it – through continued hands-on work, study, and communication with other practitioners/physical therapists/specialists in related fields – is a pursuit I relish.