CORE Structural Integration and Myofascial Therapy: A Lifetime of Improving Structure and Function George P. Kousaleos, LMT

CORE Structural Integration and Myofascial Therapy:
A Lifetime of Improving Structure and Function
George P. Kousaleos, LMT

It is interesting that a cervical injury during a college rugby match lead me to my first Swedish massage. After four weeks of treatment the massage therapist sent me to my first Iyengar Hatha Yoga class, where I experienced more discomfort during exercise than I had ever felt in my lifetime. Six weeks later the Iyengar teacher gave me an article on Rolfing, and in a few short weeks I received my first session of Structural Integration. Each step of the way I experienced significant improvement in decreasing my pain levels, improving my overall flexibility, and becoming more aware of my optimal physical alignment and balance. It took three years to realize that I was ready to change my life even further and started my training as a professional massage therapist and Structural Integration practitioner.
From the earliest days of my study of the disciplines of Structural Integration and Myofascial Therapy I was fascinated with the importance of recognizing the foundational relationships between structure and function. Indeed, over many years and decades of practicing and teaching this incredible work, I never lost sight of those relationships that not only improve structure and function, but increase neurosomatic awareness and restore a sense of physical and mental confidence.
From the early 1980’s I worked in New York City with leading ballet dancers, opera singers and classical musicians. They quickly appreciated the performance benefits of this precise work and cherished the added level of skill mastery they acquired through regular clinical treatment.
Later that decade I practiced and taught in Germany, applying this work to patients at a holistic center for homeopathic medicine and psychiatry. Through various seminars I taught Myofascial Therapy to European massage therapists and physiotherapists in 13th Century Bavarian castles, on the Greek island of Santorini, in the oldest yoga school in Vienna, Austria and at the healing warm springs of Passau. I appreciated even more the effects of slow, powerful, and carefully orchestrated pressure that changed the pliability of even the densest tissues, the most hardened of bodies.
After opening the CORE Institute in Tallahassee, Florida in 1990, and creating an entry level professional massage therapy program that included structural and myofascial education, I looked for opportunities to help prepare my students for the day that each of them would embark on their professional journey. I was thrilled when the British Olympic Association decided to hold their warm-weather preparation camps at Florida State University to prepare their athletes for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. British Olympians from 13 sports received regular treatments from CORE students during three weeks of strenuous two-a-day practice sessions during the summers of ’95 and ’96.
The Atlanta Olympics lead to my involvement as a Co-Director of the International Sports Massage Team of the 2004 Athens Olympics & Paralympics. One hundred and eighty therapists were chosen from 18 countries to provide therapeutic massage to over 15,000 athletes and coaches. Many athletes had never experienced massage therapy in their home country and relished at the improvement to form and function at the most meaningful time of their life. An Italian gymnast, who came to the clinic daily, won the gold medal in the horizontal bar in one the biggest upsets of the Athens Olympiad. The next day he came to the clinic to take photographs with the therapists who helped him prepare for his “lifetime moment”.
Later that decade I began teaching in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland from 2009 to 2011. Many of those students from London, Manchester, Chelsea, Bath, York, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Galway and Dublin assisted their Olympic teams at the 2012 London Games. Each of them took their place with those who preceded them in offering a sports and performance therapy that increased balance, responsiveness, ease of movement, and kinesthetic agility.
At the same time I was engaged in creating Myofascial Therapy protocols for the leading athletes of the Florida State University Football Team. From 2011 to this day these athletes receive twice a week treatment from 10 CORE Institute graduates during the regular season as well as during all spring and summer training camps. During this time, soft-tissue injuries decreased by 75% and FSU won three ACC Championships and the 2013 National Championship. Over 30 of these athletes are now playing in the NFL, with many of them continuing their commitment to regular myofascial therapy.
Last Fall I was honored to travel to Sydney, Australia and teach leading sports therapists from all across Australia and New Zealand. Many of these therapists work in allied medical fields, including physiotherapy, podiatry and acupuncture. On the ninth and final day of the intensive seminar we invited current and former professional and Olympic athletes to a special clinic. Each athlete responded favorably to their sense of improvement from a 90-minute full body session, with several emailing us later in the week with amazing stories of how their training had improved. The common theme we heard was “I feel more awareness of my body and how integrated my movements have become.”
I am more than satisfied that during the past four decades I have represented one of the finest approaches to structural and functional improvement from the disciplines I studied 37 years ago. Each year I look forward to introducing this work to curious and dedicated therapists who are searching for the keys to providing long-lasting health and wellness to those they serve each day. Each day I enjoy my clinical sessions with professional and amateur athletes who want to maintain elite athletic levels, with clients rehabbing from serious injuries and disease, and with those who simply yearn for a deeper sense of self. Each day I find happiness.

Join us at the Downeast School of Massage to welcome George at his Core Myofascial Therapy Seminar on July, 10, 11, and 12, 2015. See description of his workshop at:  Register on line or call 207-832-5531.

The Trapezius and the Sails of Life

We use our shoulders, arms and hands to take action. On the other hand, they are used expressively in talk, they are parts of speech. Gestures with shoulders, arms and hands reveal with connotative clarity what we really mean. We see also in writing and sign language an entirely linguistic use of shoulders, arms and hands. Massage itself meaningfully bridges these two worlds of action and language. We perform our strokes with shoulders, arms and hands and use them to convey anatomical information and non-verbal messages.
We have all seen clients whose shoulder blades virtually adhere to the ribcage. Structurally and energetically, the shoulder blades’ ability to glide freely over ribs is of enormous importance. Without that freedom, stress, instead of “rolling” off our backs, can become “impacted”, affecting the free excursion of ribs, spine, ultimately the lungs and heart.
The energies flowing vertically through the body intersect in the shoulders and upper limbs with horizontal flows reaching out to the world around us. This can be seen as an axis of love.
The trapezius is one of the body’s primary energetic shock absorbers, just as lower limbs are the body’s main physical shock absorbers. As stress comes and goes, trapezius’ tension increases then dissipates. However, with chronic stress or acute trauma, the body may absorb stress, rather than letting it go.
In the trapezius virtually every adult carries some residue of past life tension with a resultant diminished capacity for dissipating everyday stress. When shock absorbers start losing resilience, the effect of stress stays longer and goes deeper into the bodymind.
A primary purpose for trapezius work then is to let go of any residue of the past that no longer serves us and to initiate new habits of handling stress by letting go, rather than by absorbing it.
The freed trapezius allows the full excursion of breath underneath it. It amplifies healthy movement of upper limbs and torso. The healthy trapezius is a sail. Freed, it enables us to tack into the winds of life with optimized momentum and wastes no energy holding onto what we no longer need.

Therapist: comfortably seated at head of the massage table
Client: Supine (If neck is lordotic – chin higher than forehead – put a small pillow under the head.)

Before putting your hands on, center yourself. Breathe. Position yourself so that even seated, your touch will gracefully derive from your body weight and gravity, rather than effort. Position your treatment chair or stool to allow space between your body and that of the client. Let all your joints be gently rounded, wrists aligned, elbows only slightly bent, shoulders and breath relaxed, an open space between the sides of your ribs and the insides of your arms. With hips and knees relaxed and soles of your feet on the floor, feel grounded.
Briefly review in your mind the particular life stresses the client may have revealed in the pre-session interview (and in past sessions if this is a repeat client). Realize that you are not just touching the trapezius, a muscle positioned in the client’s body/space. You are equally touching time and the accumulated content and tension from many years of life. Every touch that impacts the client’s ongoing life takes place at the intersection of space and time.
• Let your fingers rest on the clavicles. With your thumbs begin to explore the trapezius’ belly. Start near the base of the neck and work your way out in at least 4 areas each more lateral than the last, with mindful, caring touch, using light pressure. Note any associations that palpating this client here evokes for you. Some clients feel thickened; others frozen; others with overall freedom but with a few specific nuggets of tension, that seem to have been there a long time. Sometimes I feel like I’m a prospector, palpating for long-lost treasures underlying tension. Work your way out in successive points near to where the clavicle and scapula meet.
• Now return to the trapezius’ belly immediately lateral to T1. Be conscious and contact clearly with both your physical structure and your energy, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually engaged in what you’re doing. Press in with both thumbs, down toward the feet and easily rest in just lateral to T1. Give the client a moment experience this initial contact. Pause.
• Now press in further, engaging tensions found more deeply. (If you find no tension, clearly disengage and explore points more lateral.) Continue yourself to breathe and relax, sinking into the tension. Commonly at this point, you can see from the client’s breathing and facial expression that she or he is engaged. Pause.
• Rest in yourself more completely. Deepen your breathing, be patient. Lean gracefully further in, letting gravity be the therapist. Find the optimum depth for this fulcrum. Now pause again, without letting go of any vectors. It is important that you the therapist now go to a “witness” state, not moving. Allow the client time to let go, from the inside out, of successively deeper, “sedimentary” layers of tension that have developed here over the course of life.
• When you sense it’s been long enough – usually two to seven seconds will do fine – clearly disengage and move on. Then press in an inch more laterally on both sides. Repeat the steps above. Keep alive your sensitivity and patience. These tensions accumulate over a lifetime. They need the gift of time and touch to let go of the layers and years of tensions held.
• Continue working the belly of the trapezius in successively more lateral areas until you’ve given attention to four or five areas bilaterally. Even if you find more tension on one side than another, maintain conscious contact with both sides. The bilaterality of contact is important since we are looking to restore the feeling of having wings, rather than a yoke here. These wings are needed for flight!

Wonderfully, this work with the trapezius is one of the easiest fulcrums to perform. But don’t underestimate it! It has global consequences on the health of our clients’ minds and bodies. When we approach the trapezius with reverence, respect, patience, and skill we are given the opportunity to let go of lifetimes of stress and to regain the sense of the lightness of being.

David Lauterstein is Co-Director of Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in Austin, Texas, for 23 years one of the premier schools in the Southwestern U.S. He has been a bodywork teacher since 1982 and is a 2011 World Massage Therapy Hall of Fame Inductee. He is the author of Putting the Soul Back in the Body and the forthcoming Deep Massage Book from Complementary Medicine Press.