Based on my
17 years of practicing the Ida P. Rolf method of structural
integration, I am convinced that the real skill of fascial
manipulation is best accomplished by utilizing appropriate
body mechanics. These body mechanics are elegantly simple
in their application, and virtually effortless to provide.
My experiential discovery of this fact from my own work
compelled me to share this experience. Connective tissue
massage gradually came together over 13 years as an easily
learned systematic approach.
trained in structural integration at the Rolf Institute«
in 1985. Like many bodyworkers, I started working too
hard, fatiguing myself and achieving inconsistent or spotty
results. Gradually, I developed my expertise as I embodied
Dr. Rolf's work. I realized that each time I received
fascial work I became more structurally integrated in
my own body. This helped me feel increasingly grounded,
powerful and connected in my work with clients. My innate,
intuitive ability to receive, learn and translate fascial
contact in this way allowed me to progress rapidly. In
other words, whatever I felt in my own body fascially,
I could immediately utilize with my clients.
My own structural
evolution, and my experiential understanding of how fascia
changes, combined with Ida Rolf's ideas, helped me create
a system of body mechanics to achieve mastery of fascial
manipulation. I wanted to share this valuable hands-on
knowledge, so I decided to formally teach CTM in 1989.
Not only would the many benefits of fascial work be readily
available to massage therapists and their clients, but
CTM is an ideal foundation for further study of Rolf's
method of structural integration.
To understand the technique of CTM, it is important to
first appreciate some facts about fascia. When I teach
CTM to students, I explain that all of the structures
in the body are surrounded, protected and supported by
connective tissue. This matrix connects, or binds together,
the body's organs and systems, and at the same time provides
compartmentalization between them. The fascia is a continuous
elastic sheath that provides structural support for the
skeleton and soft tissues (i.e., muscles, tendons and
organs). As it surrounds the muscles, it is referred to
as the fascial envelope, which is primary to the CTM work.
the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this;
all the talk is about muscles. Yet this is a
very important concept...especially the anatomy
of fascia. The body is a web of fascia. A spider
web is in a plane; our body's 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.
-Dr. Ida P. Rolf
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. Tissue in this state feels thick and
dense to the touch. The fascia quickly begins to sol when
the chemistry of the fascia changes. In its sol state,
fascia is better hydrated, more elastic, and more easily
stretched and lengthened. The goal in CTM work is to facilitate
the gel-sol change to most effectively manipulate the
In the front position you lean through the
front of your body and push from the back leg,
extending through the heel of your hand.
Bottom: In the side position you lean through
the side of your body and push from the back leg,
extending into your forearm.
Of Fascial Work
I frequently encounter students who do not entirely comprehend
the process of fascial manipulation. Rolf was very specific
about certain criteria of which a practitioner must be
conscious. The following points regarding fascia will
help to clarify this.
Of Connective Tissue. Connective tissue has a unique
quality of elasticity, allowing it to be elongated. This
requires a precise level of energy and palpation skill
to effectively make changes in the tissue. Rubbing, kneading,
massaging or compressing the tissue will not change or
elongate the tissue. Fascia and muscle are distinct types
of tissue requiring totally different approaches of palpation
and manipulation. I refer the reader back to Rolf's terms,
gel and sol, regarding the specific nature of connective
tissue. When connective tissue receives appropriate contact
and sufficient energy, it changes immediately. This dynamic
characteristic ensures that a practitioner is either working
on muscle or fascia, but not both at the same time.
Angle Of Contact. In order for fascia to be stretched
as previously mentioned, it must be contacted at an oblique
angle (less than 45 degrees). Rolf was adamant about this
point, stating that the tissue responds and lengthens
only when the downward, compressive force is eliminated.
For example, shortened fascia, like wrinkles in a sheet,
can be pulled out and lengthened only when we put a more
forward, stretching movement into the tissue. The oblique
angle of entry to the body maximizes this stretching quality,
while minimizing any invasive or compressive contact.
Of Fascial Planes. Fascia lies in broad, continuous
planes in the body. This quality of continuity allows
for transmission of structural change via these planes.
An example is wearing a wet suit, which represents the
superficial fascia. You could pull or stretch the "fascial
wetsuit" from any part of it and affect the entire
structural fabric. Conversely, without contacting and
accessing these long planes of connective tissue, a practitioner
would be working only on isolated spots. 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.
Layering. Another important characteristic of fascia
is the way it organizes the body through an elaborate
three-dimensional webbing of layers. Within this continuous
network, Rolf taught us to address the fascial layers
one at a time, progressing from superficial to deep. Only
after the more superficial layer has become more elastic,
supple and lengthened is it appropriate to work on the
next, deeper layer.
Pulling or stretching the "fascial fabric"
from any part of it will affect the entire structural
fabric. Bottom: This schematic,
of a cross section of the thigh, shows the elaborate
three-dimensional and continuous network of fascial
layers that organize the body.
It is a violation
to touch the deeper layers of fascia without first having
worked the surface layers. Without initially achieving
a superficial release, the body shuts down to the energy
input, and armors its defenses. Ultimately, 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.
The first principle of CTM body mechanics involves leaning
a controlled amount of body weight into the client. Through
its application, I ensure contact with the appropriate
layer of fascial resistance, and it 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.
leaning is effective only when I hold my body 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, according to Rolf's structural integration
model. Her concept of this line runs from the sole of
the foot through the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, ear and
top of the head. I maintain my line regardless of whether
I am working in a front or side position.
The third principle
of CTM is movement, which is elongation along the alignment.
It is like doing yoga. Nothing shortens in my body while
I am 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 "spanning"
of my tissue continues into the fascial body of my client,
whose fascia lengthens and expands as though it is a continuation
The next principle
of CTM body mechanics is the use of oblique angles of
contact. As we mentioned previously, 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.
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 fact, fascial manipulation
is effective only when I am relaxed while working. In
addition, I am able to better listen through my hands
to the proprioceptive information I receive when I am
relaxed. Intuitively, I understand the force and direction
necessary to best respond to my clients' needs.
It should be
noted that these five principles of CTM body mechanics
are interrelated and depend on correct usage of each principle
simultaneously. Elimination of any one of the principles
compromises all of the body mechanics. Similar to any
athletic endeavor or movement skill, good form is essential
to achieve optimum results. Grounded in simple physics,
these CTM body mechanics keep me more centered, present
and aware while I am working.
alignment is critical to effectively manipulating
fascia in the CTM body mechanics.
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.
dynamic, a new boundary is defined. The boundary created
is safe and appropriate, not forced upon my client. Rather,
it is welcomed, with clients often remarking that my touch
feels "just right" or "just what I need."
The CTM body mechanics allow me to work with a person
It is important to understand that learning fascial palpation
and manipulation is not a cognitive experience. Rather,
it is a developed tactile, kinesthetic awareness. This
awareness occurs as you learn to embody the CTM body mechanics.
Each student is encouraged to explore the feeling of length
and extension inside themselves, and to experience his
or her body weight in a spatial relationship to his or
her client. The process requires your body to "remember"
this sensation, not your mind. Learning CTM challenges
a student in a unique way, and this necessitates instruction
from a qualified teacher. It cannot be learned by reading
descriptions or watching a video.
When I teach
CTM, all of the learning is experiential, hands-on instruction.
I work with every student, specifically sharing the palpation
and manipulation experience, so each person has a kinesthetic
reference. Feeling fascia is a highly refined skill that
can be learned only through private hands-on instruction.
It is imperative for students to receive quality work,
which ensures immediate recognition of inappropriate contact.
Another method I employ to help students understand the
subtle energetic quality of fascia is allowing them the
opportunity to practice on me and my assistants. It allows
us to monitor their progress and give direct personal
feedback. This learning approach empowers students and
helps integrate their experience.
The CTM Work
In CTM, fascia is the guide, with the fascial relationships
determining the sequence and progression of a session.
The goal of the work is to lengthen clients' fascia so
their bodies become longer and more open. A session does
not necessarily dwell on a localized area of pain or discomfort,
nor does it focus on symptomatic release strokes as its
The first principle of CTM body mechanics is leaning
controlled body weight into the client. Bottom:
Fascia lies in broad, continuous planes in the body,
and requires a broad contact with the hands or forearm
in order to be stretched.
When I maintain
all the CTM body mechanics principles, I am able to meet
the individual needs of every client. I begin a session
by palpating the area I want to address in order to determine
where fascia is shortened. Rather than having a preconceived
idea about a client's tissue, I let his or her 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 these subtle modifications lies the creative art
of fascial manipulation.
Virtually everyone can receive connective tissue work
and experience its many benefits. CTM helps relieve chronic
tension, promotes deep relaxation and enhances self-awareness.
It also facilitates significant improvement in posture.
The CTM work incorporates many of Rolf's ideas about structural
alignment. Her theory of fascia being the organ of posture
certainly holds true in the CTM experience. People report
feeling longer, lighter and more open throughout their
bodies. This new alignment requires less effort to maintain
because the body is beginning to approach a more balanced
vertical relationship with gravity. Within this improved
body balance, dramatic changes in flexibility are common,
as well as ease of movement for even the most chronically
A CTM session
can be organized to focus on a particular client complaint
(e.g., neck tension, carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatic
pain). It can be helpful in preventing, as well as rehabilitating,
many types of injuries. Fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple
sclerosis and other disorders affecting the neuromusculoskeletal
system also can be addressed with connective tissue work.
In fact, many fibromyalgia patients report receiving a
substantial reduction of symptoms as a result of CTM work.
tissue massage, manipulating fascia is effortless. Applying
this technique bridges massage therapy with Rolf's structural
integration work, which has the potential to radically
transform the massage profession.
John Latz is the founder
of the Institute for Structural Integration (ISI), and
the developer of connective tissue massage. ISI is the
exclusive organization offering CTM training. Founded
in 1992, ISI offers workshops in basic and advanced CTM,
as well as a complete program in structural integration.
He can be contacted by phone at: 305-754-0983, or via
the Internet at: [www.johnlatz.com].