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You Are Only as Young as Your Structure

Image from page 28 of "The posture of school children, with its home hygiene and new efficiency methods for school training" (1913)When you think of old, what do you think of? I suspect It’s an elderly person, hunched over, walking slowly. Is that where you’re headed? Before we explore how to avoid “getting old,” let an expert explain why those older people are so hunched over:

Some individuals may perceive their losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in their back, others as the unflattering contour of their body, others as constant fatigue, yet others as an unrelentingly threatening environment. Those over forty may call it old age. And yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem so prominent in their own structure, as well as others, that it has been ignored: they are off balance, they are at war with gravity. Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

The loss of structural integrity doesn’t occur overnight. It takes decades of stress, poor posture, injuries, and repetitive motions to tighten the fascial suit your body wears. Much like an out-of-alignment building is more likely to collapse, so is a body. Research shows that “aging of the facial structures is attributed primarily to gravity.” [1] As you know, once you enter the war of gravity, you will lose.

Years ago I had a client in her eighties. Her complaint was that she had become an “old woman.” I told her she was too young to be an old woman. She used to like to walk, but now walking was an act of courage. She wanted to stop walking as though she were always walking on ice. After the course of ten Rolfing sessions, she was standing erect and walking normally again. It turned out an old injury in her twenties was the setup for her structural misalignment in her eighties. The most challenging part of the work was for her to unlearn the old protective walk she had developed. She was a good student; she continued to practice the Natural Walk technique, and it transformed her walk.

As most people age, they lose the ability to move sideways, bend, twist, and move quickly. Tension, structural collapse, and decreased muscle strength compound to make them old. The worse all this gets, the more the body and mind orient around survival rather than joy. As we all know, being afraid makes us tense.

Researchers and clinicians have developed simple procedures to test your relative structural age. The first is measuring how long and fast your gait is. The second, how quickly you can raise yourself from sitting on the floor, and how much do you need to use your arms. The third set is your quality of movement—your range of movement, alignment (legs tracking straight), and coordination (balance and efficient movement). The next two weeks we will explore more of the causes and simple solutions for “old age.”

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advanced Rolfer, www.align.org – call if you have questions: 265.8440. 

[1] “Structural Aging: The Facial Recurve Concept. – PubMed – NCBI.” Accessed December 7, 2014.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17380358.

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