My Approach

Sarah is a Guild-educated and -certified practitioner

I have learned Dr. Rolf’s recipe from some of her most trusted students, and now I’ve begun to make the work my own by integrating it with my own perspective on the body. My active life and involvement with athletics have my attention squarely on the body in motion, and sensitive to how the state of our body affects the choices available to us.

Three related concepts outside the field of manual therapy have strongly influenced me and the way I work. Strength coach Michael Boyle’s Joint-by-Joint Approach and physical therapist Gray Cook’s Functional Movement System provide indispensible maps of the body, one ideal for this Rolf practitioner’s hands. Dr. Lois Laynee’s oxygen-based wellness protocol is inspiring, and I know that more oxygen through nasal breathing will benefit every single body I work with.

The Joint by Joint Concept

Renowned strength coach Michael Boyle introduced what’s become known as the joint-by-joint approach. The joint-by-joint views the human body as a stack of segments connected by joints. Each major joint has a designated function, providing either stability or mobility for the body; and the order alternates, from the feet up through the neck. Particular ailments and pain/dysfunction show up repeatedly at the various joints, suggesting, Boyle says, that each joint has particular training needs. He offers the thought that the joint-by-joint may prove itself to be the next best-practice in the evolution of strength training programs.

I see the joint-by-joint as a move toward proactive body maintenance – of which Structural Integration is a large part – and away from the self-defeating reactive mode: push the body ‘til it breaks, then cross fingers and start the fix-it process.

One of Ida Rolf’s favored exhortations, “Where you think it is, it ain’t!” lives on in the joint-by-joint theory. When a joint that should be stable moves too much and pain ensues, the joint above or below has likely lost its appropriate function. The source of the problem is above or below the initial site of the pain. The system compensates because there’s a job to do (keep moving!); but discomfort or pain, further compensation, and dysfunction will eventually take hold. Compensations put system-wide stress on the body’s structure, and are best resolved from a system-wide perspective, to which SI has much to contribute.

The Functional Movement System

Gray Cook’s Movement presents the Functional Movement System — the product of many years’ collaboration with Lee Burton et al. At its core is the Functional Movement Screen. In his preface, Cook writes that the community of exercise and rehabilitation professionals lacks a standard operating system for movement fundamentals which gauges movement quality. He puts forth just such a system, and goes on to discuss movement patterns and corrective strategies.

I appreciate the simplicity and broad applicability of the system. Fundamental human movement patterns are just that: we all walk, we all reach, and we all bend, whether in a suit and an office environment or in cleats on the 20-yard line, or somewhere in between. Movement is an essential component of Rolf work, and I put value on ensuring my clients move well. I integrate the screen with my work where it is appropriate, and look forward to continuing to use the two systems together.


I have long-appreciated the power of breath, and the way it can influence Structural Integration work. At a recent FMS seminar, I saw just-learned changes in breathing improve movement patterns, turning scores of 1 into 2-out-of-a-possible-3 on the movement screen. I was convinced, and went off in search of more information.

Lois Laynee, Ph.D., a woman grounded in the science and neurology of breathing and airways, teaches her Restorative Breathing Method with a focus on improving oxygenation through silent nasal breathing and open airways. Extensive discussion and practice time with Lois has helped me bring clients’ attention to some practical aspects of breathing, enabling them to make changes as we work together. (Listen to an interview with Lois Laynee, Ph.D. here)

Breath, structure, and movement are intrinsically connected. Compensations find their way into our breathing as they do our structure; and they can be worked out of both.