manipulation of fascia is an effortless art at least, it
can be. Throughout my 20-year career in bodywork, I've seen that
true fascial artistry lies in appropriate body mechanics. This is
the basis for Connective Tissue Massage (CTM), a system I developed
and now teach to massage practitioners and other health care providers.
Elegant in its simplicity, CTM allows every stroke to be delivered
with power, efficiency and ease.
I first became intrigued with fascial work early in my training
when I heard accounts of dramatic changes reported by recipients
of Ida P. Rolf's method of Structural Integration. Curiosity compelled
me to receive the 10-session series myself, an amazing and landmark
experience. Structural Integration was far more dynamic than any
other bodywork I'd received, and I'd never felt myself respond and
change so profoundly. My chronic tension was relieved, my energy
increased and I achieved a greater sense of self-awareness and empowerment.
As a result,
I came to believe that fascial manipulation is the most powerful
and effective means of bodywork. This led me to the Rolf Institute,
where I began training in 1985. However, I didn't "come into my
own" until a year after graduating when I studied with Emmett Hutchins,
one of the first practitioners chosen by Dr. Rolf to teach her system.
I was deeply influenced by our Structural Integration sessions,
and recognized that each time I received fascial work, my own work
changed. I became increasingly grounded, powerful and connected
with my clients.
John Latz (shown here) developed Connective Tissue Massage
to offer fascial manipulation through simple body mechanics.
In fact, my greatest understanding of fascial work came from my
personal experience of receiving it. I became acutely aware of how
fascia changes and what level of energy a body needs to facilitate
its change. I realized I had a gift the innate ability to
learn and translate fascial contact. In other words, whatever I
felt in my body I could immediately utilize with my clients.
At the same time, I recognized that not everybody learns this way.
I also knew I had another gift a natural ability to teach
and share this work with others. In 1989 I decided to formalize
CTM into a system to share with other practitioners, knowing how
much it would benefit them and their clients.
When I began teaching, however, I found students didn't fully grasp
what I was doing when only watching my hands. I realized it wasn't
just the way I used my hands that made my work effective, but rather
the way I used my whole body which allowed me to contact and manipulate
fascia. From this realization, I drew upon Ida Rolf's genius, extrapolating
her principles of body alignment and movement into a specific system
of body mechanics. Having already embodied her concepts in my own
work, it was easy for me to present them in an organized and understandable
way. In its present form, CTM is the culmination of 10 years of
continuous evolution, and is a system which offers mastery of fascial
manipulation through simple body mechanics.
Some Facts about Fascia
When I introduce
CTM to clients, I explain that all of the structures in the body
are surrounded, protected and supported by connective tissue. It
is the ubiquitous matrix which connects, or binds together, the
body's organs and systems, and at the same time provides compartmentalization
between them. As you know, fascia is a continuous elastic sheath
which provides structural support for the skeleton and soft tissues
(muscles, tendons, organs, etc.). This tissue changes readily, softening
and lengthening when energy is added through deliberate contact.
requires the practitioner to remain relaxed, even while
working deep fascial layers.
Dr. Rolf's original research on the characteristics of fascia identified
its different biochemical states. She referred to these states as
"gel" and "sol." She described the gel state as having a low hydration
level, in which fascia often shortens and becomes adhered to surrounding
layers of tissue. When I'm working, tissue in this state feels thick
and dense to my hands. With my conscious touch, the chemistry of
the fascia changes, and within seconds it begins to "sol." In its
sol state, fascia is better hydrated, more elastic, and more easily
stretched and lengthened. This new quality of tissue feels supple
under my hands. My goal in working is to facilitate the gel-sol
change to most effectively manipulate the client's fascia.
Another significant characteristic of fascia is the way it organizes
the body through an extensive webbing of layers. Weaving around
and through all of the structures in the body, fascia creates a
complicated, contiguous three-dimensional network. Within this network,
I endeavor to touch a single layer at a time, sequentially addressing
the fascial layers from superficial to deep. I work only on the
most superficial layer of resistance, adding energy through my contact
until I sense a melting sensation under my hands. This melting signals
the accomplishment of the sol state, during which the softened tissue
is stretched and lengthened. Once this happens, it is appropriate
to work on the next, deeper layer.
to the practice of Connective Tissue Massage is its application
of the principles of Ida P. Rolf to the body mechanics of
practitioner uses fingertips or heel of hand
only the forearm or elbow is used
Reaching through top of head into space (at approximately
2. Shoulders relaxed
3. Arms spanning forward from torso, elbows slightly flexed
4. Straight plane from hand to wrist through forearm
5. Lumbar spine reaching posterior
6. Pelvis squarely in direction of work, moving forward with
7. Grounded foot parallel to direction of work, pushing up
on to toes with stroke
Top of head reaching into space, looking forward (not at client)
2. Chest open
3. Elbows extending out of ribs
4. Forearm parallel to direction of stroke
5. Palm up
6. Direction of pelvis forward (i.e., perpendicular to client)
7. Grounding through inside arch of back foot, extending through
foot and leg with stroke
FIVE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE BODY MECHANICS:
Leaning controlled body weight into the client
2. Maintaining alignment
3. Movement through the alignment
4. Using oblique angles of contact
5. Contacting with soft and relaxed hands and body
These principles comprise a specific practice which is
the optimal way to affect the fascial body of the client.
It is a violation to touch the deeper layers of fascia without first
having worked the surface layers. Otherwise, the body shuts down
to the energy input, armors its defenses and the client will likely
experience the work as harsh or painful. Without honoring the fascial
layers, practitioners may try to "muscle" their way through resistant
tissue, without achieving any positive results. In contrast, the
fascial matrix changes readily when energy is added with a clear
and conscious intention.
of CTM Body Mechanics
The first principle
of Connective Tissue Massage Body Mechanics is leaning controlled
body weight into the client. Using controlled body weight ensures
contact with the appropriate layer of fascial resistance, and is
therefore painless for the client. It is also effortless for me,
because I am utilizing the force of gravity. As I lean, gravity
literally pulls my weight into the client; this involves no muscular
effort on my part.
first principle of CTM Body Mechanics is leaning controlled
body weight into the client.
This controlled leaning is done in a particular alignment. Alignment
is the second principle of CTM Body Mechanics, and refers to the
vertical line around which a body is organized in the Structural
Integration model. This line runs from the sole of the foot through
the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, ear and top of head. I maintain
my line regardless of whether I'm working in a front or side position.
The third principle of CTM is movement, which is elongation along
the alignment. It's like doing yoga; nothing shortens in my body
while I'm working. When I move in CTM Body Mechanics, I lengthen
in a vertical dimension through the bottom of my feet and out the
top of my head, extending through my arms. I make my body bigger
and longer, and my fascia expands in all directions simultaneously.
This expansion continues into the fascial body of my client, whose
fascia lengthens and expands as though it is a continuation of mine.
next principle of CTM Body Mechanics is the use of oblique angles
of contact. Fascia lies in broad, continuous planes in the body.
In order to lengthen a broad sheet, we need to contact it from an
oblique angle, which takes the downward thrust out of the contact
and puts in a more forward, stretching movement. While a downward
thrust would immobilize the tissue, the oblique angle mobilizes
the tissue so it can be lengthened. This process maximizes the transmission
of my body weight into the client, while minimizing any invasive
or compressive contact.
The ability to stay soft and relaxed in my body and hands comprises
the final principle of CTM Body Mechanics. This ability to be relaxed
and open while working ensures I remain noninvasive, even when contacting
deeper layers of tissue. My effectiveness is improved because my
client is able to remain open to receive the work. In addition,
I am able to listen through my hands to the proprioceptive information
I receive. Intuitively, I understand the force and direction necessary
to best respond to my client's needs.
When I apply all of these principles, I use my entire presence to
promote change in a client. Working this way is effective for the
client, and virtually effortless for me. This is because the experience
of true fascial contact is one of "letting go" for my client,
as well as myself. I am able to let go because I am working with
the gravity field, and my client's fascia responds to my intention
by softening and lengthening. This allows the liberation of long-held
patterns of shortening and restriction.
and Energetic Resonance
When I lean
and move in the CTM alignment, I lengthen and open my body in several
directions simultaneously, an experience referred to as "span."
Spanning actually expands my energy field. In this way, CTM Body
Mechanics are similar to t'ai chi or other martial arts, in which
specific body postures enhance one's energetic presence.
in side position, Latz maintains the vertical alignment
crucial to proper CTM Body Mechanics.
By spanning, I provide a more ordered and energized energy field
than that of my client. A resonance is established between us, through
which my client's fascia is nourished and energized. As with other
resonance phenomena in nature, the more ordered system prevails,
and the client's connective tissue begins to resonate with mine.
Through this vibrational exchange, the client's fascial body is
transformed to a new level of openness and integration.
Within this dynamic, a new boundary is defined. This boundary requires
I stay present in my own expanded energy center, while at the same
time affecting my client's energy system. CTM Body Mechanics keep
me centered so I am able to accomplish this balancing act. The boundary
created is safe and appropriate, not forced upon my client. Rather,
it is welcomed, with clients often remarking my touch feels "just
right" or "just what I need."
My use of energy is deliberate and conscious, and applied through
a physical act. CTM Body Mechanics constitute a specific system
which is the optimal way to transfer energy into the fascial body
of the receiver. This is my practical approach to bringing concepts
of resonance and energetic exchange into the practice of bodywork.
Structuring a Session: Fascia is the Guide
Central to Connective Tissue Massage is the premise that fascia
is the guide for the application of the work. In CTM, the sequence
and progression of a session are determined by fascial relationships.
The goal of the work is to lengthen clients' fascia so their bodies
become longer and more open. A session doesn't necessarily dwell
on a localized area of pain or discomfort, nor does it focus on
symptomatic release strokes as its primary goal.
Typically, I begin a session by palpating the area I wish to address
in order to determine where fascia is shortened. Rather than having
a preconceived notion about clients' tissue, I let their fascia
show me what it needs. I am guided by proprioception, and open to
intuition. In areas where I encounter particular resistance from
the tissue, I adjust my body alignment to modify the depth, speed
or direction of fascial contact. Within the subtleties of these
modifications lies the creative art of fascial manipulation.
This work is challenging and exciting in its application. Maintaining
all the CTM Body Mechanics principles, I am able to meet the individual
needs of each client. When I discover specific restrictions that
require attention, I expand my awareness to consider and address
more distant areas which might relate to those restrictions. I already
know and teach many of these relationships. Others become apparent
through palpation, and from clients' (verbal and nonverbal) response
to the work.
For a moment, let us go on a fascial exploration in the body. For
example, a common complaint of neck pain could be addressed first
with the hand. The fascial pathway might lead us from the palmar
fascia into the flexor compartment of the forearm, traversing the
brachialis and biceps fascia, continuing into the deltoid fascia,
and becoming part of the scalenes fascia. We affect the neck before
working directly on it.
Thus shortened fascia, like a wrinkled sheet, can be stretched from
distant points and directions. We can, for instance, immediately
apply this same approach to address the path from the leg through
the hip to the sacrum, etc. It deserves emphasis that the individual
muscles are not our focus. Instead, our primary considerations are
the relationships of long, broad fascial planes to one another.
This allows us a creative and effective means whereby fascial work
in one area affects the entire body.
Sharing the Work
can receive connective tissue work and experience its many benefits.
CTM helps relieve chronic tension, increases ease of movement, improves
posture and enhances self-awareness. A session can be organized
to focus on a particular client complaint, e.g., neck tension, carpal
tunnel syndrome, sciatic pain, etc. It can be helpful in preventing,
as well as rehabilitating from, many types of injuries.
oblique entry of contact in CTM work ensures the fascial
manipulation is both comfortable and effective for the
Fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other disorders
affecting the neuromusculoskeletal system can also be addressed
with connective tissue work, as well.
CTM is useful as a full-body session, addressing the entire superficial
layer of fascia. This balancing approach leaves clients feeling
longer, lighter and more open throughout their bodies, and still
allows specific concerns to be addressed within its context. CTM
clearly stands alone as a modality, but can be integrated with other
techniques, depending on the training and background of any given
Using CTM, manipulating fascia is effortless. Applying this approach
has the potential to revolutionize any single practice. Among the
community of connective tissue practitioners, the revolution is
John Latz is the founder of the Institute for Structural Integration
and the developer of Connective Tissue Massage. Experiential classes
in CTM are available through the institute. Founded in 1992, ISI
is the exclusive organization offering CTM training. ISI offers
four-day workshops in basic and advanced CTM, as well as a complete
program of Structural Integration. For more information, contact
Latz at 305/754-0983.