Structural Integration: A Holistic Approach to Wellness and Healing

By Linda Arntzenius

Photos by Kris Giacobbe/Locust and Honey Photography

Many of us turn to massage when injury or the stresses and strains of daily life result in the myriad manifestations of pain—backache, computer neck, carpel tunnel, and those knotted muscles that only deep tissue massage can undo. But while massage soothes and satisfies, its effects are short lived, especially when most of us go right back on doing the activities that caused our problems in the first place. What if there was something that had a more fundamental and long lasting effect? There is. It’s called Structural Integration.

When massage therapist and holistic bodyworker Anthy Katsiotis wanted to offer clients at her Pennington practice, a more deeply beneficial treatment, she turned to a technique that she herself had experienced years ago, “rolfing,” as it’s known when practiced by first generation followers of Ida P. Rolf, who invented it in the 1930s, otherwise known as Structural Integration (SI). Being “rolfed” introduced Katsiotis to the world of fascia.

“Massage therapists manipulate muscles, tendons and other soft tissue, to open and release muscular tension. Its many positive results include a sense of rejuvenation,” explains Katsiotis. With massage however, there is a shelf life. “Structural Integration focuses on the body’s connective tissue, or fascia, which surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, organs, and nerves, binding some structures together and permitting others to slide smoothly over each other. Injury, stress, repetitive movements and the effects of aging can cause fascia to adhere and become shorter, tighter, and more dense. Tightened fascia pulls our muscles and skeleton out of proper alignment and posture. And that,” says Katsiotis, “can cause pain, discomfort, and fatigue.

When moved and lengthened, however, the fascia, which isn’t as pliable as muscle, holds much longer than muscle. “Hence the ability to re-align the body,” says Katsiotis. SI restores postural balance and ease of movement and often results in a feeling of being more at home in one’s own body. The practice is governed by standards established by the International Association of Structural Integrators (IASI) and is usually delivered in a series of 12 sessions.

Plainsboro dentist Joe Delmonico has been receiving SI for the past year. His work necessitates leaning over people all day long and maintaining particular postures for a half hour or an hour at a time. He found temporary relief through chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage before discovering SI. “The first time Anthy worked on my feet, they felt different immediately. It took some getting used to. I had worn custom-made orthotics and now I don’t need them. I’m really impressed. I had thought my problems were in my shoulder or in my back but I wasn’t thinking in terms of my whole body until Anthy made me aware of the bands of rock-hard muscles in my legs. SI has made me aware of my overall physical well-being. When I get off Anthy’s table, I feel rearranged. So this is something I make time for.”

Pain prompted Marsha Fahrer of East Windsor to seek out Katsiotis for massage. “I have a degenerative disease and have had repeated herniated disks since I was about 20, so I’ve always had back issues,” she says. “I had seen an orthopedist and a chiropractor, but Anthy was the only person who was able to make the pain go away. I trust her and I believe that a level of trust is fundamental to this kind of work. When we began SI, I had an idea of what to expect. Even so, I was surprised on one occasion by an overwhelming release of emotion. It was definitely a moment of healing. This treatment is not for the faint of heart. It’s a commitment to oneself to allow for deep emotional as well as physical healing.”

Clearly SI is unlike any spa-like treatment in which fragrant fingers flutter over your eyelids and you feel great for half an hour after your session. To be sure, there is that, but much more besides. One does feel restored in mind and body after being on Katsiotis’s table for a full body massage, but more than a feel-good treatment, SI delivers a profound connection to one’s body. There’s a name for this. It’s body/mind awareness. It must also be said that while one receives a massage, one participates in SI, working with the therapist to ensure the desired results.

With 35 years of bodywork experience, Katsiotis maintains an on-going interest in understanding the mind, and experiencing spirituality. “To be your best you must have a good understanding of and relationship with your own body. My own personal experience of healing/changing my body/mind, soul and spirit, helps me to help others,” she says. Trained in dance and movement education with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New York and Columbia Universities, Katsiotis began her career as a dancer, choreographer, and educator. Princeton residents may recall her Katsiotis Dance Company. A profound belief in the healing power of touch led her to somatic studies, the special movement sequences that connect body and mind to help change muscles and postural alignment.

Having studied Lulu Sweigard’s “Ideokinetics,” the Kinetic Awareness of Elaine Summers, and the techniques of Feldenkrais, among others, and with knowledge of Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, she undertook a two-year apprenticeship, in 1979, with David Joy in New York City, to learn traditional Swedish massage. A decade later, she worked with Angelo DiMeglio (originally from Ischia, Italy) in Princeton, learning the therapeutic benefits of deep muscle manipulation and nerve work.

Her knowledge of fascia comes from working with Dr. Thomas Findley, and Thomas Meyers, whose Maine school of Kinesis Myofascial Integration she attended. Both men were trained by Ida Rolf and are leaders in “Spatial Medicine,” a different way of looking at and treating the body/mind. Besides SI and massage, Katsiotis is experienced in traditional Chinese medicine, Shiatsu and Subtle Energy work. She advocates healing that focuses on the whole person, an important aspect of her SI bodywork treatment.

Her clients are of all ages; some seeking stress reduction or relief from pain, some recovering from breast cancer. Many regard SI as preventive medicine. Anne Hitchner, 73, a retired teacher who lives in Hightstown, is dealing with the effects of a car accident that broke her back 32 years ago. She’s been partially paralyzed ever since and has been seeing Katsiotis for a weekly two-hour session for almost three decades. “Anthy is constantly improving her method and learning new techniques; she tailors her work to my needs and of all the therapies she has used on me, I find SI to be most beneficial.”

Along with learning new techniques for her clients, Katsiotis also uses these techniques to gain insight into our own body/mind. “Each of us is ultimately responsible for our own health and well being. It is up to us to do whatever we can to have longevity, to preserve our body, mind, soul and spirit. Bodywork, such as SI, is a wonderful avenue to feeling youthful, and just downright great. Personal growth comes only if we want it, but change is certain. I see this work as a journey in health, in rejuvenation and longevity.”

For more information about Anthy N. Katsiotis MA LMBT (Licensed Massage Bodywork Therapists), 106 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington, NJ 08534, call 609.937.0446, email anthy@livingbodytherapies.com, or visit: www. livingbodytherapies.com.

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