BY EMMALY WIEDERHOLT
KimLien LaFitte is a certified Structural Integrator and Pilates instructor based in Durham, North Carolina. I contacted her to learn more about how Structural Integration can provide balance and care.
Emmaly Wiederholt: What sorts of stress (both physical and psychological) do you see most often in your patients?
KimLien LaFitte: I see clients of all ages and all levels of fitness. I mainly work with the fascial system and I believe most disorders, syndromes and injury can be linked back to imbalances in the myofascial web. Tightness and adhesions in an area can lead to compensations in movement and that can then create imbalances in strength, flexibility and mobility. This can also be in reverse however, where weakness may cause overuse of another area.
I see clients with joint injuries, joint replacements, muscle tears and strains, tendonitis, scar tissue adhesions, back pain, headaches and mysterious pain that no one can seem to locate or understand. The list is pretty exhaustive, but mostly my work right now is in pain relief. I work with a few different Physical Therapists that need a manual practitioner to help release fascial tightness so that they may help their patients move without pain.
Physical pain and stress can increase emotional and psychological stress and that can become a never ending feedback loop. Then again, emotional and psychological stress will cause physical stress. It is hard to know which comes first in most cases and it doesn’t really matter, but part of permanent healing comes from addressing all areas. I guide my clients into being aware that these areas are all related, but I do not counsel my clients. I have other practitioners and doctors I refer to for the psychological element if necessary. Most of my clients are aware when they come in that they have to work on all aspects of the body/mind. I think this is because Structural Integration is considered a bit of a “fringe” or alternative healing – which is kind of funny because it’s heavily weighted in standard anatomy, but the fascia has been a bit of a mystery in the past. Much more scientific research is being done now though.
EW: Does Structural Integration help remedy these stresses, and if so can you elaborate?
KL: Structural Integration works with the fascial system in a series of sessions to address any issues in the body. By always looking at how the layers and territory of the body are connected and in relationship to each other, we are able to help open up and rebalance the fascial web. Beyond that, we educate our clients on how to become more aware of habits that contribute to imbalances and how to begin self-correction. I feel part of our job when we work with clients is to hold them somewhat accountable from session to session through the series.
I was trained in a brand of Structural Integration called Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI), taught by Thomas Myers. One of the most well-known schools is The Rolf Institute, but there are many other schools and each has its own brand. SI was developed by Ida Rolf and later the term “Rolfing” came along. It’s important for the public to know that Structural Integration is very different than massage therapy and it is important to research and interview your SI practitioner to make sure they are a good fit for you. As a client, do your research and get referrals.
EW: How do you personally navigate between work and care?
KL: I can only see a certain amount of clients per day and per week. This makes it hard sometimes to be financially secure, but it means I’m able to give my clients a well-rested and nourished practitioner as I do not get physically and emotionally drained. I have to have really good boundaries to be able to say no when my schedule is full for weeks ahead and clients want to get in sooner.
I also teach Pilates and I use Pilates as one way to take care of my own body. I get bodywork or acupuncture just about monthly, and yes, I even manage to structurally integrate myself sometimes. I make sure my home is a place of peace, happiness, and restfulness and laughter. All this helps nourish and regenerate me so I can be grounded and stable to do my work effectively.
EW: What does well-being look like?
KL: To me, when I see a person who looks well balanced, I see an ease in the way they move and how they are just being in that space at that time. This can look different depending on the personality of the person. Some people look lifted, some people look settled. I guess it’s more of a congruency in their mind, body and energy. It’s also how I feel in their presence. Like all the pieces are in the right configuration. I get a sense of harmony.
We live in a time of doing, doing, doing, going, going, going. It’s crazy. I don’t see a lot of well-being in my work because most of my clients are pretty far into falling apart by the time I see them. So maybe well-being looks like taking care of yourself before you fall apart? That being said, I’m always impressed and grateful for the levity with which most of my clients approach some pretty serious injuries. Maybe that’s part of well-being also – how people handle adversity.
Learn more about KimLien and her work at www.bodysystemintegration.com.