Tips for upper back problems

Movement in the heart of the envelope

How do we teach the upper back to reorganize without the need to lift the shoulders up all the time?

And how is all this related to Dr. Ida Rolf and to the method she has developed – Structural Integration?

In many of us the upper part of the back tends to be held up for a long time without any physical need.

Holding this position in the upper back for a long period of time creates adhesions in the connective tissues that surround the muscles.

The upper back is not supposed to stay up, but when we get used to holding up the shoulders and the shoulder blades, and folding the chest in a little bit (as a way of protecting the neck and sometimes as a refusal reaction of the body to different subjects), and we do it for a long time, adhesions are created in the fascia – the connective tissues that envelop the muscles.

The adhesions preserve these holdings as if the body is helping us: “since that’s what you always do so now I do it already for you.”

This process reminds me of the cookies files in the computer. They make a short cut – someone is learning our behavior and he comes half the way towards us.
In the computer we can clean the cookie files which means it will now take a longer time to reach where we are heading but it will go through many more options.

Can we wipe out the adhesions that force our upper back up and our chest in?
Can we stop the body moving towards kyphosis? – that hump which frequently is not unavoidable but rather the outcome of a the wrong use of the body?

A change within ten meetings
During the years many methods were developed to teach the body to be more free and have a better posture, but there is one method that knows to “wipe out” the adhesions or better say – that knows to wipe out all the adhesions in the muscle envelopes and of course those that force our upper back up – this method is called “Structural Integration” and it was developed by Dr. Ida Rolf (1896 – 1979) in the last century in the U.S.A.

Dr. Rolf who was a front line scientist in biochemistry and in physiology, found the possibility to open the adhesions of the connective tissues. The central finding that stands in the foundation of her system is that exact pressure on the adhesions in the connective tissues creates the heat that melts the adhesions.

She also found that if you add to the pressure a very slow and attentive movement you can stretch up the fascia (the connective tissue that envelops the muscles) and thereby regain the lost length of the fascia and the muscle.

The treatment with the Structural Integration method developed by Dr. Rolf takes only ten sessions. These sessions are structured so that they start from the outside in (starting from the outside layers of the body and reaching the center in the spine area) – like unfolding onion peels and from bottom to top somewhat like building a building.

This structured process “knows” how to avoid a dangerous imbalance and “knows” how to structure the new organization of the body stage after stage, one layer on top of the other, (Dr. Rolf divided the body into segments: for instance the foot, and on top of it the lower leg and on top of it the thigh and so on till the top of the head).

The ten sessions of the Structural Integration process includes three meetings in which the emphasis is on the correct use of the reorganized structure of the body.
The learning relates to the use of the central axis and to the correct use of each of the segments so that they are always organized one on top of the other, center above center.
In these last three sessions new movement and posture possibilities are revealed as a result of the opening of the adhesions in the fascia. Learning and exercising the new movement is obligatory in order to own the change in posture and in the way of using of the muscles.

Keeping the change
Could we open adhesions without the Structural Integration of Dr. Rolf?
The answer is yes, but it will not be in the exclusive and structured way and not with the same effect as the Structural Integration would be.

One can open adhesions in the fascia with pressure alone (for instance by putting a tennis ball under the body and the body’s weight will produce the pressure). What will be missing in order to reach the goal set up by Dr. Rolf will be the active movement during that pressure and the accuracy of the amount and direction of the pressure, especially when it refers to deep muscles.  Not every muscle is reachable in this way, for instance some of the neck muscles or a hidden muscle like the subscapularis are non-reachable.

According to the existing records of treatment success, after a while, the body looks and feels even better than immediately after the end of the ten session series, especially with those who keep the new information alive in their life.

 The Tips
Before, during and of course after the structural Integration treatment, you can contribute a lot to the health of the upper back by using a few simple movements and thoughts.
(You can see these tips in the video below)

Tip 1: The ribs
Pay attention to any movement while just breathing: usually we will immediately recognize a movement in the belly – it goes out a little while breathing in, and what is happening with the ribs? Is there a movement there? Do you feel them widening to the sides and even to the back?
Take a breath – not a big one, just normal and allow the ribs to rise up – note what happened to your posture – did you recognize it becoming longer and straighter?

When the chest bone is rising up with all the ribs that are connected to it, the upper back must go down! It cannot work differently because the front and the back are connected in such a way that when the front rises up the back drops down and vice versa.

Can you recognize this relationship?
Feeling the chest bone rising up in the breathing in (a very small movement, maybe one millimeter, but if you are bent forward it will look like a very big movement because all the back will straighten up and the chest will rise up.) makes all the difference between staying with an upper back that has raised up to an upper back that returned down and a chest bone that found its place up.

Tip 2: From the side of the back 
Sit on a chair and let your head drop down and slowly forward.
Now straighten yourself up again. Did you start the straightening up from your head?  If you did, that is the wrong movement! The head should be the last segment to come back to its place.
When you start coming back from your head you create an exaggerated neck curve and the head doesn’t reach its proper place on top of the chest, instead it arrives at a point which is in front of the chest.
Holding the head in this position (in front of the chest) demands a lot of muscle effort; in time this will create adhesions along the line that connects the head with the neck.

The right way to straighten up starts with the shoulder blades. Try this movement again: sit on the chair, allow your head to drop slowly down and forward and now slowly start to come up by sending your shoulder blades down and feeling each vertebrae coming down – back to its correct place, the head will arrive the last to its place in a natural way – no need to lift it up at all. In fact you only need to release it a little after it already came on top of the chest, so that the chin will not continue to stick in.
It is good to repeat this exercise from time to time to remind yourself that the correct way for your head to find its place up on top of your chest is by sending the back side down – starting with the shoulder blades.

Tip 3: Attention
This tip is about attention – just recognize when you lift your shoulders up unnecessarily (almost in all our movements there is no need to lift the shoulders; they only need to rise up when we lift our arms up all the way.)
Just recognizing this automatic lifting usually takes care of the problem. It means that when I realize that I am lifting my shoulders up unnecessarily, I also bring them back down.

You might notice this automatic lifting during working hours in the office, in front of television, in driving and in any other time/activity. Notice how the body responds immediately when you remember – paying attention.
The first few days of realizing these automatic movements are not so comfortable, it is almost scary to see how it operates by itself and doesn’t stop doing it even when I realize it.
But these strong feelings are the sign of a coming change, because it means you care about it so you will remember again and again and eventually you will acquire a new habit – a habit of paying attention which leads to letting the shoulders drop down. One or two more days of frustration and it is done – you no longer lift up unnecessarily because even before you do it you remember, and you let go.
Your shoulders should be “pouring” down on your sides – that is the correct organized structure.

Tip 4: Pulling the shoulders down.
This is a very easy exercise to do and yet not so easy to explain.
You can do it in standing or sitting. The aim of this exercise is to prevent adhesions in the fascia of those muscles that tend to lift the shoulders automatically and to build up the opposite habit.
Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and press them down towards the floor.

This will create a stretch in the neck/shoulder junction. This is the opposite movement of the lifting – therefore it will stretch the fascia folds and prevent the adhesions occurring. Hold this stretch for two seconds and release. Do it ten times, three times a day.

Enjoy the exercises and you can see them as well in the video.



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On the way to all surrounding pleasantness / part 3

The rocking movements – kinds and goals.

The rocking movement in order to concretize the connection
when in prone position, the middle upper back serves as a handle. This specific rocking movement concretizes the connection to the pelvis because the pelvis rocks from side to side as the weight in a pendulum.
In the short film one can see a demonstration of such connection being concretized through the use of the rocking movement.
It is interesting to notice however that the connection in this case is not easily made.
Muscle tension along the back limits the range of movement of the pelvis and demands an Intervention, in this case an additional and special support to the lower back that allows the tensed muscles to release a little and the range of movement of the pelvis to grow.

The Rocking Movement for feeling the weight
when lying on the back. In the demonstration that you can see in the video film, one can see the main principles: the leading principle being feeling the weight! This principle leads to letting go!  It is based on the fact that release automatically takes place when the brain is receiving information of the physical existence.
In order to leave an open track in the brain for the physical reality, we direct the client’s attention to the weight of the organ we are “weighing” and the release just happens by itself as part of balancing procedures that the brain does sub-consciously.

This demonstration doesn’t show what happens when the client does not receive this guidance –he might often be holding his leg tightly because he does not understand what he should be doing, whilst directing his attention to the feeling of the weight of the leg still does not explain to him what to do and yet it creates an immediate relaxation!

The second principle that is being demonstrated in this film is the way in which the rocking of the leg creates a feeling of continuity along the whole body – it clearly shows how the movement is reaching the head and secures the connection in the client’s body from head to foot.  For the observer it is visual, for the client it is a sensed experience of being connected.

In the second half of the demonstration –  in the weighing of half of the leg or of the leg being bent in the knee, the next element starts to show itself – recognizing the support while in movement, including times  when the support itself is not static!

This is a central subject in learning how to let go!
What helps the client to continue and recognize the support is the fact that the moving action is produced from the practitioner’s legs and not just from his hands. This way the client is not preoccupied with the touch that does things to her body and can continue to be feeling her own body moving upon the table., she continues to identify the existence of the table as a support to her body – therefore her brain recognizes her physical existence and can continue to balance the tensions in the body.

Rocking as a way to meet the structure
In the prone position, rocking the hand (in 90 degrees falling down) to meet the shoulder joint, weighing the hand (in 45 degrees up) to feel the whole hand with the shoulder blade relating to the ribs  and just weighing the shoulder blade directly against soft pressure on the ribs.
In the demonstration one can see how rocking movements of different parts of the body clarifies for the client exactly how his body is constructed. Where the shoulder joint is, what’s the possible movement in it, other joints that are being secured in the demonstration but are not spoken of are the elbow and the wrist – in all of them a movement occurs that secures their existence and their structure. Later on it is the connection between the shoulder joint and the shoulder blade which is being secured and also the way the shoulder with the shoulder blade moves in relation to the ribs cage, what movement is possible there and how it feels. It ends with the whole hand: the forehand, the arm, the shoulder and the shoulder blade, all are being moved as one thing both in relation to the ribs cage and in relation to the spine.

 Rocking in order to secure the tension around the Joints
Here the foot is rocked in a supine position. As part of the regulating and balancing processes of which our subconscious mind is capable, is the balancing of tension around the joints., But in order to do that the brain does need the information regarding that tension. The rocking movements supply accurate information about the tension both in the muscles and the ligaments in the ankle area or in any other joint area where the rocking movements take place.
And yet it is not only the subconscious that receives the information but also the client and the practitioner which allows them to relate to it as well, in accordance to their findings: an instruction to strengthen by activity or to release by paying attention to the weight, in this case by paying attention to the weight of the foot.

In the short film ahead we can not only see the checking of tension around the ankle but also inside the foot between the toes and the heel.

The same subject, regulating the tension around the ankle joint, can also be seen in the prone position, and here I would like to refer to another part of the way of gathering the information which is true for both demonstrations. This is the identification of the tension in muscles that the practitioner is holding in his hands while the rocking takes place, the muscles between the foot and the knee – in the front or in the back of the leg according to where he is working. The holding of these muscles when on the back side and the small pressure on the front side, reveals the degree of tension in these muscles which are passing through the ankle and determine the degree of freedom in the joint.

A big movement to secure the connection through a stretch
The rocking movement here is minimal because the stretch which is created by the twist is what gives the sense of connectedness and the rocking, which is very light and minimal, just strengthens and prolongs the sensation. This is also a different way of using the weight as it really hangs in the edges of each side helping to build up the tension between the edges, and then just a small rock as on a see-saw maintains that sensation of connectedness through the tension of the back that connects the two edges: the hand and the leg.

In summary

The rocking movement helps the brain identify the physical existence and thereby to release unnecessary holdings, by sending it relevant information.
Rocking also relatively relaxes both the brain and the muscles by monotonous and repetitive movements. It can also release hormones and pain killers like endorphins.
Another function of the rocking movement is elongating muscles as it works as a weight that keeps slight stretching of the muscles to which it is attached.

On the way to all surrounding pleasantness the rocking movement has an important role. As it delivers the sensation of existence in the physical reality and always reminds us of the support it brings to complete the connection between all the elements, all the connective tissues: the muscles, the tendons, the fascia and the ligaments.

The rocking movement also allows the brain to balance the system that is to increase tonus in weak places and decrease tonus in places that are being held too much.


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On the way to all surrounding pleasantness / part 2

The Connection

In an attempt to identify the significant element in the Trager Approach, the one element that determines the success of the treatment more than any other, we shall discuss each one of them separately. Towards the end of the discussion we will raise the question whether one element can determine the success of a session or does it depend on the harmonious functioning of all of the elements together.

The first station in this quest is the connection. The connection between practitioner and client is one of the most critical missions facing the practitioner. The first touch is designated to create connection between his body and the body of the client – pretty much like an “elongation” of the body, or like too train cars that are connecting so that from that moment on each movement will pass through both bodies as if it was one body.

This kind of connection, demands quite a high skill especially because of our tendency as practitioners to do, to be active, and sometimes instead of our clients.

The practitioner is supposed to create the connection to the client out of a very open touch, that is doing nothing but connecting – as simple as it sounds.

It is best if, after the preliminary connection. The movements will be created by the legs of the practitioner rather than his hands. When the practitioner has learned (each time as a new experience) how to connect and how to move both bodies together as one from the work of his legs, only then should he be developing the movement through his hands as well and yet they always lean and get support from the ground.

The practitioner functions all the time as a bridge and a mediator between the client and the ground. Just as the movement is transferred from the practitioner to the client through the special connection he has created, so the support of the earth should be transmitted through the practitioner to the client. One can say that the practitioner in this case is a teacher for the correct relationship between the client and the supporting earth.

If the connection is not done through the use of the legs so that it is they that transmit it (and not the hands) then the mission has not been accomplished.

When the work of the hands is disconnected from the support of the earth, than immediately the connection that has already been created for the client by the practitioner with the earth is disconnected as well and instead of it a relationship between the practitioner and the client through the practitioner’s touch rises and puts itself in the front.

It is easy to understand if you just think for a moment what is happening to you when someone is moving you. Usually, when someone is moving me, my body reacts: it might contract or be able to release. What determines my reaction is my interpretation of the touch that was moving me; if I felt it was aggressive I’ll contract but if I experienced it as soft and comfortable I soften up. In either way I deal with the interpretation of the touch of someone else – outside myself and not with myself – I am not available to be in the experience of my physical existence.

So this is the heart of this article, it is about the art of the practitioner to keep the relationship between the client and the earth which will serve as the basis for the relationship with himself – his own physical existence. In order that this will take place each touch and movement the client receives needs to be experienced along this line and not in the interpersonal line.

This state demands a great skill from the practitioner to create movement in the client’s body in order to expand his sensation of his own physical existence and of the support of the earth to his physical body. The practitioner plays the role of a delivery person, mediator and a guide. The center of gravity of his attention is supposed to be on that, so that this becomes the nature of the relationship with the client.

Interesting enough in order to be able to create that kind of a movement, the practitioner himself must come from an open place, very accepting and loving. This attitude enables him to be less the subject in the special relationship that is formed through this treatment. In the short video you can see the first part of the formation of the connection by the use of touch.

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On the way to all surrounding pleasantness / part 1

What is working in the Trager approach?

1. Is it the Hook Up?

2. Is it the connection?

3. Is it the wave/rocking?

4. Is it the support?

5. Is it the open questions?

6. Is it the rhythm?

7. Is it the joyful and playful attitude?

8. Is it the invitation for living in the body here and now?

9. Is it the learning of new ways of how to listen to the body – the Mentastics? (Mental gymnastics)

10. Is it the learning how to choose a sensation rather than being chosen?

11. Is it the learning of Recall?

12. Is it the special relationship that is created in the session in which there is an important
role of the inspiration from the practitioner but no attempt of fixing and amending or
any kind of a doctor-patient attitude in which all depends on the doctor?

13. Is it the approach of mutual investigation and mutual work according to the
information that is being transmitted to the client?

14. Is it the combinations of all of these elements? Or, of some of them? And is there a
crucial element without which it will not work?

Another way to relate is through the opposite question: what element is essential and without which the whole program will not work?

What is Hook Up?

Dr. Milton Trager chose this wording to describe a process that leads him to the feeling/sensation he had when he was giving a session.

According to his experience this feeling always exists – an all surrounding pleasantness.

In order to get this sensation, one needs to reconnect to one’s own body and the first step in this process is recognizing the physical existence – recognize the mass of the body and the weight of our body on the earth.

In order to recognize the physical existence we start by shifting the weight in standing from two legs to one leg. This makes the sensation of the weight in the foot stronger. We continue the process by pushing the earth in order to shift the weight to the other leg. Our attention is mainly in the contact between the foot and the floor because in that area there is pressure. This pressure we interpret to weight and it is the basic sensation of physical existence.

But the sense of pressure is working in both directions: in the direction up from the pressure point and in the direction dawn:

In the direction up, I feel my own physical existence – my body leans on the ground and as a result of this recognition, it is loosening up and something in the muscles lets go. The reason for this is the notification and the absorption of the information that the physical body is totally supported by the floor/ground.

In the direction down I now feel the existence of the floor. When I stand on a wooden floor, the sensation is very different from the sensation of standing on a stone floor, and when I stand barefoot it feels different from when I wear shoes!

The physical existence has a clear expression in the weight that creates pressure on the earth, But it also has a more detailed sensation as for instance: light or heavy, soft or hard, airy or concentrated, pleasant or unpleasant and so on. It also contains all the in between degrees of sensations.

In Dr. Trager’s Hook Up, there is a conscious direction of choosing a specific sensation- the sensation of pleasantness which he knew how to recognize everywhere.

To hook up to the all surrounding pleasantness means to identify the pleasantness that is within every single thing: in the floor, in the walls, in the air and in every existing thing that I recognize around me. The sensation of pleasantness is something that happens inside me, and in the same way as when something pleasant happens in me when I meet someone or something that I love, so when I knowhow to identify the pleasantness in all and everything, every meeting with everything that exists can become a meeting with the sensation of pleasantness within me. So to identify the pleasantness outside in everything is to create this sensation in me in every meeting.

The main thing that happens within my body when it is pleasant is that my body opens up and softens. Just like in love – the channels are open and the whole world is absorbed in a different way – things are absorbed from an open and non-defending place, from an enjoying, happy and receiving place.

This state has a long term influence on what is happening when I come in touch with someone else: my openness is transmitting receptivity, it is transmitting something that is making the receiver happy and it invites him to experience pleasantness as well – a process that creates in him openness as in me – a release of muscular tension and opening of streams inside his body.

This is the greatness of the Trager approach; it is teaching us to meet the world from an open place, from a place where everything is pleasant, soft and full of hope and happiness.

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Treating Knee Pains with Rolfing

Withstanding the pressure

The initial warning signs that the knee joint is in danger, could in fact appear in the lower back, the hip joints or the shins * before the condition deteriorates and necessitates an operation which allows the body to be restored to balance.

Knee problems and pains are very common, but can have different characteristics and arise for various reasons. Not every pain or problem has an answer within the Rolfing framework, but happily in this field conventional medicine has significant achievements and can even replace an unfixable joint. This is perhaps a good reason to try and have a better understanding of the point at which the joint is indeed irreparable and what can be done prior to surgical intervention.

The subject of this post is an attempt to draw attention to the knees, which are the most complex joints of our body, and to try an offer a way that will help us “use” them correctly in order to avoid problems and pains in the future and to alleviate suffering in the present. This is where Rolfing comes in, a method of treatment that works to rebalance the bent body. It is a co-operative effort between therapist and patient at the heart of which is a deep touch contact that dissolves the adhesions of the muscles’ fascia which are responsible for muscular shortening.


First of all, it is important to understand the correct plain of movement for the knees and to allow them to move primarily within it. I call this plain “the bisecting plain”. In other words, when we face our leg we should divide it all along its length into two, so that we get two leg halves; the plain that is in the meeting of the two halves is the leg bisecting plain.

Problems arise when the knee’s main movement deviates from the leg bisecting plain inwards towards the center of the body, or outwards. Obviously, when such divergence occurs, the pressure applied to the knee, which initially is mainly to the muscles, is unbalanced. This condition creates stress and weakness and inflammation on the stressed side. All these are accompanied by pain. Incidentally, the pain may at first appear elsewhere, such as the lower back or thigh or even in the region of the hip joint, but its origin is in the incorrect movement of the knee.

Why should a problem in the direction of movement of the knees create pain elsewhere?

There is no direct pressure between the bones above the knee (femur) and the ones below it (tibia and fibula). Were there to be such pressure our knee would fall apart very quickly!

Under normal circumstances, it is the muscle tone that transfers the pressure of the body’s weight to the ground. When the pressure is unbalanced in the knee region, it also transfers to the upper and lower areas of the structure, such as the ankle below or the hip joint above. At the same time the muscles are damaged because they are burdened with the unbalanced pressure.

If we ignore the initial pains and do not act to rebalance the structure, we exacerbate the damage to the point of cartilage inflammation or rupture, at which point severe pains start to appear owing to an erosion of the cartilage and real pressure existing between the bones. Such a condition is very serious and could necessitate an operation and a knee replacement.


I will focus on the initial stages of the muscular pain, since at that point an operation can still be prevented and the structure is still correctable.

First of all, the pain may, as mentioned, initially appear in the lower back. The reason for this is that when the body recognizes that the knee joint is “unwell” and insufficiently strong and does not properly transfer the support of the body, then the body attempts to prevent the pressure on the knee in order to preserve it and avoid a deterioration of its condition. To do that, it activates the back muscles that work to transfer the support the knee was supposed to provide to the upper part of the body. This over activity of the back muscles creates muscular constriction and, following from that, a shortening of them; from this point the path to pressure and pain in the lower back is set.

Similarly, these initial pains may appear in the shins, since the muscles there are chronically overextended because of the incorrect leaning angle of the knee. A similar explanation applies to the pain which may appear in the hip joints which also may be the ones to first take the brunt of the imbalance.

Treatment with a posture expert, such as a Rolfing practitioner, can significantly alleviate the pain once the movement angle of the knee is rebalanced to the leg dividing plain. In many cases this balance starts to re-form upon the opening of the shortenings in the inner side of the legs.

In a series of Rolfing treatments, usually ten sessions, the stage of opening the constrictions in the inner side of the leg is in the fourth treatment, relatively early in the process, which ensures relief.

In so far as the correct working order of the Iliopsoas is regulated (the only muscle which connects the spine to the leg – passing through the hip) the pressure on the front muscle of the thigh is reduced (the Quadriceps) so that relief from knee and lower back pain will also be felt.

With the aid of Rolfing, it is certainly possible to alleviate, reduce and at times even completely overcome knee problems and pains which arise from incorrect movement that disturbs the balanced stress distribution of bodily weight.


Rolfing is a treatment method developed by Dr. Ida Rolf in the middle of the previous century in the US. There are thousands of therapists over the world who treat with this method. In Israel, there are only about fifteen. Most of them have been practicing Rolfing for over twenty years to a very high professional standard. Additional information regarding Rolfing can be found in the official websites of the American societies that relate to this topic, as well as on my website.

* Avi Bahat is a teacher and practitioner in the Bahat Treatment Method – Touch and Movement Therapy, an integration of the works of Dr. Ida Rolf, Dr. Milton Trager and Paula Garburg *

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Disc herniation treated through Rolfing

Pressure Between two Discs
The Rolfing Treatment Method can assist people suffering from a slipped disc to reach structural balance of the body and to prevent disc herniation.

Is it recommended to perform physical activity whilst suffering from a herniated disc or a slipped disc? The answer to these questions begins with a differentiation between a slipped disc and a disc herniation and diagnosing each.

Between every two vertebrae in one’s back, is a disc, whose function is to absorb shocks that could harm the vertebrae. The disc is made of a relatively hardened exterior and a gelatinous soft core. This exterior causes the softening and shock absorption.

A herniated disc means a crack in the disc’s shell and a leakage of some of the gelatinous fluid. When this happens, the “spilt” substance may apply pressure to a nerve or cause an inflammation. In both cases, pain ensues.

Sometimes a preliminary stage occurs, when despite the eruption the gelatinous material that leaks out and has started to put pressure on the nerve, is still attached to the gelatin inside the disc. With the correct procedure, it can be caused to go back into the disc. At other times, the gelatin separates completely from the internal part of the disc and it cannot be put back into place nor its movements predicted.

And what is a slipped disc?
The general definition of a slipped disc is when there is no eruption of the disc, but there is movement, so that it ceases to be in its correct place between the vertebrae and it slides sideways (it partially protrudes beyond the limits of the vertebrae). Naturally, in this case there is also a risk of pressure of the protruding area on a nerve that could result in inflammation. Needless to say, also in the case of a protrusion one feels pain.

What are the customary treatments for disc herniation/a slipped disc?
In the case of full blown disc eruption, there is a mechanical problem to administer treatment because we do not know exactly where the disconnected gel is to be found, and so we do not know which action will increase the pressure on the nerve and which will do the opposite. This stage is the least pleasant of the eruption and there is little left to do to fix it. The only thing relevant at this stage is giving some relief from the pain with the aide of pain killers and anti-inflammatories (either pills or injections) and to wait until the gel is at least partially absorbed and ceases to put pressure on the nerve. Once that relief has happened, treatment can begin. This stage is in fact similar to the situation where the problem is defined as a slipped disc.

Feeling the tension in both sides of the vertebrae

Treatment in the case of a slipped disc is divided into two:
1. Creating structural balance so as to cause the protrusion to return back to its natural place and stop putting pressure on the nerve.

2. Strengthening the muscles so as to lessen the pressure on the disc and thus prevent more gel erupting from it outside of the disc’s hard shell.

The structural balance can be reached with Rolfing. In this treatment method the shortening of the muscles and ligaments are “opened” to reach structural balance of the body.

The shortening of the muscles is a result of the fascia which wraps the muscles, sticks to itself and thereby shortens. The fascia is a thin transparent membrane.

Why do these adhesions happen? Because subject to our movement patterns, we operate the muscles mainly in one way and do not use them in the opposite manner as well. For instance, keeping the shoulder permanently held up without lowering them. Such a stance will not create a disc eruption, but long hours sitting in front of the computer leaning to one side of the chair so that the body is pressed only to that side, could bring about such a condition. The habit of sitting in that way can cause problems in the vertebrae that may result in an erupted disc.

Pressure in place of stretching
Opening the adhesions of the Fascia cannot be done by way of stretching the muscle. The reason for this is because the stretch cannot penetrate the thick area that the conglutinations cause. This is why we must turn to Rolfing that uses accurate pressure instead of stretching on the thickened area that was created. The pressure raises the temperature of the treated area and dissolves and flattens the thickened place until it reaches the original thickness of the membrane. This action extends the shortened muscle and restores structural balance.

Rolfing is not a one-time-fixes-all method of treatment. It is based on the series of integrated structural treatments created by Ida Rolf. It is thorough, consistent, continuous and above all, gradual – over the entire body’s muscle system.

Usually, at the end of the treatment series I give a special lesson in practicing and maintaining the structural balance so as to prevent a relapse. For those interested, this lesson has been turned into a DVD which can be used for help at any time.

And regarding the question which started this post, it is noteworthy to remember that Rolfing aims to reach bodily structural balance which eventually brings about an elongation of the muscles and not shortening them further. This is especially important to those who participated in movement lessons such as Pilates, Yoga or Feldenkrais before beginning to work with Rolfing. These lessons are excellent and I wholeheartedly recommend going back to them after the series is completed. Why only after the series is completed? Because in an acute condition of disc herniation or slipped disc, when the case is obviously one of structural imbalance, exercising in a large group may not help and there is need of personal and individual work as in Rolfing.

More about Rolfing can be found here

Avi Bahat Touch and Movement Therapist, trained and teaches the Paula, Rolfing, and Trager Approuch which form the background of the Bahat Method – Touch and Movement Therapy.

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Integrating the Biotensegrity Model with Rolf’s Movement Model.

Dr. Rolf used to say that it’s not the bones which hold the muscles or the muscles which hold the bones but rather that the bones should float inside the flesh.

She thus illustrated the biotensegrity model. And this is where her claim, that the fascia – the connecting tissue – forms a kind of complete fabric from which the body is built, gains validity. Extending and shortening one area in the fabric changes the entire structure – and precisely in that way the biotensegrity model functions as you saw in Dr. Stephen Levin’s clips.

One of my most memorable experiences to do with a perfect expression of this model, was watching a flamenco performance some 10-12 years ago.

On stage was Neta Sheizaf who later invited her elderly teacher to join her in a dance.

It was a tearjerker for me mainly because of the perfection of tension distribution throughout the body – this dance, flamenco, requires this correct organisation as otherwise you cannot perform the task and impress the audience without hurting your own body. Only a perfect distribution of tension allows for such a high level of bodily presence with the correct emphasis for the dance without hurting the overall tension, and without creating pressure that would threaten the lower back and other parts of the body.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an example of such dancing but I would be very happy to get one from one of my readers.

What I am trying to explain in words and later illustrate with the video clip is the combination of these two models.

Let’s start with the meaning of the biotensegrity model in our body. The meaning is that there is a connection between the level of tension of all body parts and that the body relates to gravity and all forces applied to it as a complete structure and not as separate parts or units.

This is exactly where the problematic nature of how we use our bodies comes in to play!

Our tendency is to divide it into parts and to dismember that which is whole!

Who of us can’t relate to the tendency to lean on one leg with a strong diversion of the hip in that direction?

Who of us doesn’t know the tendency to move the pelvis slightly forward while leaning strait on the heals, and at the same time the upper part of the body leans backwards (counterbalancing the forward movement of the pelvis), it is a very common pose, we sometimes call it walking or standing like a “Punk” but that is just a term we use, the stance is used by all human groups without distinction of religion, race, gender, nationality or any other social group characteristic.

We at times characterise the posture of the “Depressive” – in which the chest collapses inwards so that the structure doesn’t rely on its own front, as if in our reclining we skip over it downwards to rely directly on the buttocks and legs. This naturally goes together with shoulders slumped forwards and touching the chest, like leaning on in from the front. The neck and head have two styles: one which attempts to hide this model and compensates with a high neck arch which allows the eyes to look forward and upwards; the other is a continuation of the model with a downward gaze – the “Complete Depressive”.

What other models pull apart the body, and create pressure points – points of leaning inside the body instead of the pressure being distributed all throughout the length and width of the structure?

Witness the “Show-off” walk which expresses a rigidity between hips and ribs, as opposed to the natural state in which they rate to one another with movement. The waist area is chronically constricted and doesn’t allow movement to one side when the hips balance the pressure of standing on one leg during the process of walking. Instead, the person wobbles from side to side from one leg to the other.

This model is very close to the “Duckling” model which we all know, only that in the “duckling” model there is an added element of pointing the feet outwards (like Charlie Chaplin).

Every one of these models, and obviously there are others, contains over-use of certain muscles and under-use of others – a lack of balance in the system-wide tension.

Sadly this is the condition for most of us, which is why it was so exhilarating to see a performance in which there was perfect tension distribution throughout the entire body!

Imagine seeing a stride where the internal tension is uniform, so that it relates to the ground and acts to it and not one in which one part leans on another and the other is the one separately relating to the ground!

That is exactly what happens when the Iliopsoas starts working correctly! In fact, for it to work correctly during walking, the foot must work correctly – it needs to push the ground backwards – a push which allows the waist vertebrae (to which the upper end of the Iliopsoas is connected) to elongate and remain in the back of the structure and not arch forward, and at the same time the thigh (to which the other end of the Iliopsoas is connected) moves forward with the muscle’s contraction.

This tension caused from the foot pushing all the way through to the backwards elongating waist vertebrae continues to flow upwards along the structure and sends the top of the head to get support from the ground with an elongation of the neck, and not to lean directly on the neck!

In a person walking this way the relation of the his entire body to the ground is apparent and not just his foot or thigh or knee, not to mention the lower back or chest that tend to relate separately to the ground.

As they say, a thousand words can’t explain what one picture can, so you are invited to watch a clip in which I will illustrate some the incorrect models contrasted with the one which connects the biotensegrity one with the model of correct movement according to Dr. Rolf.

As usual I welcome any comments.


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The Biotensegrity Model

Let me tell you an amazing story that illustrates this model. The story was told during the Second International Convention for the Study of the Fascia, held in Amsterdam in 2009.
One of the most fascinating characters at the convention was Stephen M Levin MD who is a research scientist, a medical doctor and a Rolfer (someone who treats with the Rolfing technique).
As circumstances had it, he needed a knee operation. He knew that during the operation the knee joint would be exposed so he asked one of his colleagues to perform the operation so that he could be awake throughout it, meaning that the operation would be done under local anaesthetic only and they could conduct a little experiment during the operation. When the kneecap was moved aside and the joint was exposed he asked his surgeon friend to hold his foot and push the shin into the exposed joint and to try and close the gap between the bones, to simply make them connect with one another. He for his part would try to counter the action and also try to get the bones to meet.
The surgeon agreed and so they did as planned, only surprisingly the bones would not connect! The gap between them remained and the efforts of the two friends where in vain.

Our friend of course expected and indeed hoped for that outcome, he just wanted to grab the attention of the orthopaedic surgeon, but to no avail – he was not impressed.

Why am I telling this story? The doctor was trying to illustrate the biotensegrity model to the orthopaedic surgeon.

The idea is that the human body relates to gravity according to the biotensegrity model and not according to the simple physical model active on inanimate mechanical objects.

That’s why pressure which would close a gap in a regular structure doesn’t do so in the living body.

The bones of the living body don’t function like the skeleton of a building! They don’t carry the weight! That’s why pressure on them doesn’t produce the expected result!

The weight and pressure of the living body is carried by the tension throughout the entire structure, and the structure is like a system of cables which in certain places also contain pieces of metal or hard wood, but there is no direct connection between two rigid pieces, all the connections pass through the cables and the tension is the thing which holds the structure.

For a more detailed description of the model visit Stephen M Levin MD website and watch the video which illustrates the model.

Now that we’ve understood the principle of the biotensegrity model it’s time to try and understand what it means for us in the course of our own regular movement. On this point the next post will contain a short video to illustrate the matter.

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When I flew to Oslo I knew that I had a lesson to learn and to teach there about love.

By Avi Bahat Therapy – date: Thursday 7th April 2011, 17:17 (originally it was ritten in face booke in Hebrew)

I knew when I flew to Oslo that I had a lesson to teach and to learn over there concerning love. I didn’t know what it was.

I think it was on the fifth day that during work something became clear – suddenly the penny dropped and it became so simple and obvious that it almost seemed pointless to mention, but seeing as I know to what extent I am not there when its not so clear and obvious, I will try to verbalise it for myself and for anyone interested.

I arrived with the attitude to the little upward movement of the ribs that accompanies inhaling, even the connection between that movement and the healing power of the colour green was already with me when I left Israel, but it was the simple understanding, of the physiology of the closing of the heart and the other option, that unfolded before me there in Oslo.

It is simple because obvious that when something bad is done to us, the heart closes up.

You can say it another way: The heart is a sensitive place, and when attacked the muscles and bones rush in to protect it.

As a child Josie (assumed name, real story), experienced a serious attack on her heart every time her father hit her. Her father didn’t understand what it was doing to her – he was also beat up and didn’t feel he was harmed by it.

Little Josie was so sad that her daddy didn’t love her that she couldn’t bear the sorrow – it was too great a sadness for a little girl – the muscles and ribs came to her rescue by tightening strongly – a hermetic seal – her heart wouldn’t be hurt it would simply not feel the uncontainable, destroying sadness of knowing that daddy (and mummy by not interfering) doesn’t love me.

What keeps the emotions from not getting in, is that the ribs are rigid, not free moving with the breath, and the chest muscles are tight all the time! As a result, the shoulders close inwards and join in on this protection of the heart – so that it doesn’t “break”.

When Josie remembers what was done to her, how they treated her as a child, she becomes full of rage and a desire for revenge, were she not in the midst of a years long development processes, that anger would have severed the ties she had with them, shattering it and disconnecting it, if not worse.

Now when she is continuing her process with me, there’s a small physical thing that can be an opening for change – it is that little movement of the ribs that if we colour it in our imagination in green and let it happen, then just like the waves in the sea, the breastbone that is like a long canoe goes up stream every time with the inhale towards the head and returns downwards with the exhale, and that little movement with the healing colour green, opens the heart, and allows the confidence giving oxygen to enter the inner space of the heart, and also heals the wound that opens wide there when the emotion gets in.

But here is the little twist because the first emotion that gets in is not necessarily the difficult emotion of being unloved but the pleasant and comforting emotion of being loved and together with it the understanding that only I, for myself, can love or not love. When that little motion of my ribs occurs – my heart opens up, because that movement connects me to life, to breath that is the sign of life, to oxygen that is the first food of life, when I experience that little movement I experience the fact of my life and if I give that feeling some attention, then before the different thoughts jump up on me and push away the feeling of being,

I have this moment to feel alive and to love it – to be and to experience the fact that to be is to love, and to love is to be open to life, and that everything else is just tales of what is above and below and beside and besides. Everything else is just thoughts, and thoughts are for me always judgemental and comparing and always when they are disengaged from any real sensation in the body, they tear me away from my feeling of life, suddenly I am like in a story, and have ceased to experience my own life,. That is what its like to be afraid, that is what its like to be angry, and that is what its like with every other emotion,

But, when I am open to my sense of being, when I experience it – I love, and only I can do that – no one else can do it for me, and how we long for another to love us?

So that’s it, that’s what I came to learn, and to teach, and in the meantime I tried to teach that little movement of the ribs and breastbone so that it acts as a gateway to the opening of the heart.



Translated by Guy Malbec

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The Heart Center – A lesson in Love

(or the physiology of  loving)

Why does the heart center capture such an important place in our approach?
Or what is the meaning or significance of this center – what is the functionality that places it so squarely in the center?

“Open your heart” she tells me, “Why is yours so uptight? … yeah, that’s better, go on, go on opening it, let go, more, no need to carry on holding there just let go.”

What do we hold in there? Why is it that with (almost) all off us it is so closed and what does it mean to open it, and what for?

The heart center sits on the most important energetic junction of our bodies. The junction that connects the horizontal and vertical flows.

The Vertical Flow
Defines our physical existence which is a direct product of the existence of gravity. Gravity pulls our body to the center of the earth, but the outer crust of the planet acts so as to counter our mass, a force that prevents our merging with the planet and creates pressure inside our body and as a result a sense of being.

And the Horizontal Flow?
The horizontal flow (the line that connects one palm to the other when they are perpendicular to the body or parallel to the ground) expresses our creation, both in the sphere of human relations and in the physiological sense – the things we make with our hands or even our minds are our creations.

These two energetic flows crossover at the heart center.

In an optimal organizational state of our system, these flows are connected and feed one another and our entire existence.

The heart center is present in both and forms an important part of both.

In the internal part of the heart center the action responsible for center-outwards blood flow occurs.,
In the external part of the heart center breathing happens.

It is interesting to note that these twin actions represent the term “love” in a complementary way.

Love according to this approach is a state of flow that springs from open channels, as opposed to a condition of flow failure due to blocked channels.

Both these activities are necessary to sustain life; they are activities of combining the internal and external, activities that express the interdependence of the internal and external.

Blood flow is pushed from the heart outwards to all extremities of the body but depends no less on the blood’s return from the extremities to the heart. Breath sucks air and mainly oxygen from the outside into the lungs and with the help of the bloodstream the oxygen reaches the whole body. But for the oxygen to enter, exhaling must occur which creates sub-pressure that creates inwards suction of air.

Again there is interdependence: oxygen from the outside cannot enter before the pressure is vacated by exhaling, and cells cannot receive oxygen otherwise than from the blood that reaches them, etc.

This free flow inwards and outwards and between the center and extremities is the essence of love – open flow in and out.

Such open flow demonstrates the essential interconnection of all that is – between out and in and between center and extremities.

If we only understood that interdependence in the world we live in, if we only understood the interdependence of the center of the world with the external remote dispersed extremities, if we only understood that no full life can exist without this open flow in – out, center – extremities, perhaps we would find it less difficult to be reconciled with people who hurt us, love those who are far away, as then we would lean on the understanding that there is no real separation that we are all part of a larger organism and in the same way we would not want different parts of our body to fight one another, so we would not want to take part in a war between different parts of that organism that we are all a part of.

But before we try to deal with seemingly impossible tasks perhaps it would make it easier for us to start with a simple technical task the only difficulty of performing which is simply remembering!

I divide this task into two:
On the vertical plane
we can learn to notice and experience the experience of physical existence. Meaning to sense the body’s weight pushing off the earth,
to apply slight pressure to the ground and to feel it pushing back – to sense the flow of our weight upwards because of that pressure!
– This small action reminds us of the physical existence! So it reminds us who we are!

On the horizontal plane we can notice the movement of the ribs – the slight movement upwards and back of the breastbone that expands the ribs forward and sideways – the body as if growing and expanding outwards and then shrinking back to its previous size.

This small movement of the ribs is the movement that expresses the fact that we are alive. And when I sense my own existence I also sense that I love existing!

This small movement of the ribs is the movement that expresses breathing – communion of the external and internal a communion that in fact sustains us! And it is an expression of love – open channels in and out!

Remembering the physical existence and paying attention to the love that is expressed in the breathing movement, are such simple and primal acts that we can do, and they remind us what really matters,
But what will remind us to do these two little actions with attention?

This is where I turn to you with a question and I welcome answers and comments:
What reminds you to pay attention to the physical existence and the fact that you are alive?


Translated by Guy MalbeC


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