DSL Edgework Compared to Myofascial, Neuromuscular, Structural, Other Systems


There are many Health & Healing Modalities available in the world of health-care and medicine. Many are very effective for many problems, symptoms, conditions or diseases human beings have had over the years and centuries.

The effectiveness of such modalities varies for many reasons. One reason is if they are targeting the “wrong system” of the body and/or mind. One system little understood by most of the medical system, and many alternative therapies, is the soft tissue system of the musculoskeletal system.

Many problems human beings experience are Soft Tissue Issues, meaning they are primarily in the neuromuscular, myofascial or more wholistically, the *psycho-neuro-musculo-fascial* systems.

[MORE ON THIS COMING SOON]


1. Myo-Fascially Oriented Bodywork

A. Rolfing  (Structural Integration)

Rolfing is the Grandparent of many modern bodywork therapies, especially those that are structurally oriented. Like all grandparents, they deserve and are, hopefully, respected. They are also of necessity improved upon. That is part of the evolutionary process throughout all of nature and human history. My work, through Daniel Blake, who was directly trained by Ida P. Rolf, is hopefully a worthy descendant of that work. Daniel had been trained and certified by Ida Rolf as a Rolfer, but left the Rolfing fold when he disagreed with some of the basic tenets of Rolfing.

The Rolfing series is based on a 10 session “recipe” in which each client goes through relatively the same process; the same moves in the same sequence. Rolfers also say (or did at one time) that the sequence is set up in a series of ten sessions in which you are taken apart in the first seven sessions and “put back together” in the last three sessions. Although there are a growing number of Rolfers who are diverging somewhat, others significantly, many of them adhere to this original system.

One Rolfer told me the Series was a Spiritually derived process. He did not elaborate.

The 10 session format is good and works well to varying degrees with different people. However, since there are many people who’s bodies do the exact opposite of others, the pre-designed format is of necessity designed for the “statistically probable” human being. For instance, many practitioners and systems believe that a majority of people suffer from an excess of lordosis, and excessive forward curve in the lower spine. The Rolfing literature even has a drawing to illustrate how this happens.

Yet many other practitioners believe that more people suffer from a loss of lumbar curve. If one does a prearranged format, one must select one of those patterns, too much or too little lumbar curve, in designing the therapeutic process around that assumption. Going back to the just mentioned illustration, which is supposed to demonstrate how the psoas muscle creates lordosis, it is my observation (or opinion, at least) that the psoas does almost the exact OPPOSITE of what the illustration describes.

(Please see the web page on The Psoas Muscle.)

So, if you fit into the selected statistically probable pattern, which might be based on an unfounded assumption to begin with, one can get great results. On the other hand, as with nutritional Minimum Daily Requirements, which apply to almost no one particular individual because of significant biochemical individuality, there is indeed structural individuality. There are many individuals who do not fit into the 10 session format as well as others do, some not at all. For many, it is outright dangerous.

It is, therefore, my attempt to train individuals to be able to analyze their clients on a person by person basis, session by session, so that each move, each muscle release, is tailor-made for that particular person at that moment in time.

I prefer to have each session be independent of all the others. Take them apart and put them back together again, as much as possible, in the same session. Consequently, a DSL EdgeWork session — at least the ones I do — usually takes about 3 or more hours to complete. Yet the results are usually quite substantial. One may find that more can be achieved with a client’s immediate needs in one or two long sessions than in ten hour or so sessions. (Also, if they feel they must sign up for ten, they might not do any.)

Frankly, the best sessions I have done were with people who were willing to commit to a three or four-hour session. Many Clients have received two or more sessions per week for the first two to four weeks, and, a large handful with somewhat extreme situations have received six hours per day for up to ten days. A well constructed 3 to 4-hour session usually gets more done than 5 or 6 (or more) one hour sessions.

Another difference between DSL EdgeWork and traditional Rolfing is that Rolfers do not seem to work too consistently or directly with the clients’ Edges of pain, fear, and resistance. Although many Rolfers have become far more sensitive to this issue, reports are from many recipients that Rolfing often, and still, hurts a lot. I find that for many clients, the best results come when the client is right up on the Edge of intensity without slipping over the Edge into pain.

HOWEVER, there are MANY people who need to work for quite a long time at what I call the Minimum Edge. (Please See the Special Report on The Edge.)

Working with The Edge requires very close communication with the client; to the point that they feel in total control of the pressure of my fingers, hand, elbow, or whatever. When using yoga therapy, the Edge technique is just as, if not more, necessary. (I have had a few clients who could not go more than ONE INCH into certain stretches without triggering muscle spasms.)

When this communication is accomplished, the end-of-session feedback is often something like “I feel that this was something that I participated in, rather than something that was done to me.”  This ideal result shows up when the practice of bodywork approximates the practice of yoga in both the physical and mental as well as interpersonal modes.

Another aspect of Rolfing is their strong focus on fascial restrictions as the source of postural and structural imbalance. This is the main area where Daniel Blake disagreed with Ida. Since the Fascia As Prime Trouble Maker idea is shared by other systems, I will address that topic more fully in the next section.

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B. MyoFascial Release

It is the tendency of many, if not most, MyoFascial Therapists to put a great deal of emphasis on FASCIA as the primary focus of rebalancing the postural distortions of the body. Fascia is a vital, important organ, and it deserves much attention. Fascia is connective tissue that is present throughout the entire body, surrounding all the organs, nerves and muscle fibers of the body. It has many highly important functions, such as being a system of metabolic support, among others. It also has varying consistencies and characteristics, depending on which part of the fascial system one is observing. Most importantly for this discussion, fascia surrounds and supports all the muscle groups, individual muscles and muscle fibers, and organs.

One important difference between facia and muscle is that muscle has the capacity to volitionally contract and relax. Muscle fibers can shorten or lengthen, usually on instantaneous demand, on command from the nervous system and brain. As well, they can contract to a very large percentage of their length, as much as 20 to 50 percent.

Fascia, on the other hand, has no contractile fiber that can contract or relax on demand. Rather than the kind of relaxation, a muscle has fascial changes as a function of its local chemistry. Only sensory nerves are directly involved with the fascia, sending data to the central nervous system; there are no motor nerves going to and controlling the function or movement of the fascia. Like bones, any movement that the fascia enjoys is the result of going along for the ride when muscle contracts or relaxes.

Over time, the levels of kinetic energy in fascia can be reduced for various reasons (often from injury or aging). It becomes harder and less resilient, sometimes nearly rigid, as in the scarring of tissue. This hardening can often be reduced, though, by adding kinetic energy directly to the hardened tissue with an application of, for example, heat, movement or manual pressure. Working with fascia should be integrated into the perspective and techniques of any good bodywork system, as it is with DSL EdgeWork

However, since the ability to consciously “relax” or “contract” fascia is non-existent, the client would, in a bodywork session, have nothing that they can directly “do” with their fascia. Therefore, if the fascia is the focus of the treatment, the client is reliant on the therapist to do something to them, to fix them. Since DSL EdgeWork is significantly focused on what the client can learn to do for his or her self, we focus mostly on the psycho-neuro-musculature while simultaneously accounting for the built-in properties of the fascia.

In therapy, if done properly, the fascia is affected directly while working on the muscles, because one cannot work on muscles without going through and affecting the facia anyway. It is the client’s internal ability to relax or contract their musculature that gives them an ability to affect the fascia on their own in the first place, so the primary attention is on a system that the client can actually do something with on their own, without the therapist; that being the psycho-neuro-muscular system.

Because fascia responds best to slow steady pressure, the concept of Playing the Edge of pain, fear, and resistance is perfectly suited to the characteristics of the fascia. When applying pressure to the local tissue, the Practitioner waits until it softens, which could be either the fascia softening through a chemical change, or the muscle relaxing via reduction of biochemical charge from the nerves.

C. Neuromuscular Therapy

 

D. Dr. Sarno’s Pain Therapy

Please See the Special Reports on Muscle & Fascia

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2. Acupressure, Shiatsu, Etc.

(Meridian & Energy Therapies)

Although the DSL EdgeWork release techniques often feel similar to acupressure or Shiatsu at times, the focus is very different. Meridian-based therapists focus on a hypothesized subtle energy (called Chi* in China, Ki in Japan) at various points along what they call the Meridians of the human body. They attempt to increase or decrease the level of deficient or excess energy at those points by applying manual pressure, usually for a pre-specified amount of time. These deficiencies or excesses of Chi are thought to be the cause of many of the illnesses that occur in the human body. Balancing these energies eases the symptoms and/or heals, we are told, the underlying causes of illness and dysfunction.

(Acupressure and Shiatsu are less invasive forms of acupuncture as practiced by practitioners of Chinese Medicine, who use many other modalities, such as herbology, exercise, and meditation. It is my personal experience and that of many that I trust, that Oriental Medicine can be very effective for many conditions. Like many other healing modalities, it often works, and sometimes does not.)

 A DSL EdgeWork Practitioner, on the other hand, will be looking for “stuck muscle fibers,” not stuck Chi. The locations we work on may or may not correspond to various meridian points. (Although a number of my students have told me that my approach to determining where to work often comes to the same conclusions as meridian approaches do.)

DSL EdgeWork does not have a system of specific points to locate and work on, be they Chi Points or Trigger Points. We look throughout the whole length of a muscle to find the places that are the most tight or taut, tense or hardened. Once the most hardened spot is found, slow, steady pressure, well within the Clients’ tolerance levels (No Pain, MORE Gain!!!), is applied until the muscle softens, a sign that it has relaxed, or at least begun to. This might take a few seconds, or many minutes — sometimes its VERY MANY minutes. Then we move to the next hardest spot and repeat the process until the muscle has relaxed and lengthened enough throughout its length to produce the desired result.

I will say this, though. Energy frees up dramatically when the tension in the muscle is released. As we learn in Chi Kung and Tai Chi, one can use muscle tension in order to seal in or redirect Chi flow (or whatever the heck it is we are feeling!), which can be distinctly felt, to different parts of the body. So too, tension can keep the energy from flowing properly.

Easing any chronic muscular tension through the PsychoMuscular Release technique will have a dramatic, positive effect on the meridian, nerve or fascial energies, whichever they are, or all of them. In many cases, more energy is released than the meridian therapy itself. For this reason, I think that, if possible, integrating the two approaches is a very good and important idea.

* The alleged subtle energy. — Meridians are thought, in Oriental medicine, to be channels of a subtle energy field running up and down certain lines of the human body. Of course, this is a very controversial concept here in the West, which I will not get into here. — I am not sure what exactly this energy and corresponding feeling is; possibly the sensation of nerve energy flowing rather than some esoteric force. But who knows? — If one has a knowledge of meridians and acupoints, one may be able to integrate the two approaches nicely, as several of my students familiar with Chinese medicine have suggested.

more coming soon!

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3.  Chiropractic & Osteopathic Manipulation

Spinal manipulations, along with the many other approaches, are an important and often useful healing modality. In the right circumstances, a properly placed and delivered adjustment can feel like a miracle. Traditional approaches to Chiropractic and Osteopathic adjusting, though somewhat different, tend to focus on the alleged possibility of moving bone segments into place, called realigning or adjusting “subluxations.”*

I have personally, on the other hand, been somewhat incapacitated on two occasions by chiropractic adjustments. The second time for about 8 months. For this reason, I myself prefer the low velocity, low force adjustment approach.

When a bone segment, usually a spinal vertebra, is impacted by a fall or other kind of accident enough to be moved abruptly out of its normal positioning, the nerves within or around the joint will be irritated enough to send an emergency signal to the local musculature. This signal causes the local muscles to contract in an effort to “splint” the joint, protecting it from potential or actual damage. The greater the impact, the greater the muscle contraction, and the greater the protective splinting. This means, of course, that there is a great potential for a big dose of Chronic Excess Muscle Tension.

Because the splinting is the contraction of a muscle, the ability of the muscle to produce movement may be impaired, and it may restrict movement. The pressure on, or stimulation to, the nerve can, in some cases, also cause a persistent pain pattern of varying levels of intensity. Sometimes, after the accident, the musculature cannot let go (relax) enough to turn off the splinting action, leaving the person trapped in a pain or dysfunctional movement pattern. 

By adjusting the area of the subluxation, moving the bones out of their stuck position and back toward their normal position, the pressure on the nerve may be reduced or eliminated, restoring movement and reducing or eliminating the pain pattern.

(This has been oversimplified for now. But for those of you more technically minded, pressure on a joint will stimulate the nerves within the joint, so it is not necessary to actually compress a nerve in the more ordinary sense, as in a “pinched nerve.”)

Sometimes, however, the area of the displaced vertebrae is affected by the long, slow accumulation of chronic, excess muscle tension. The tension can irritate or compress nerves, put pressure on discs and the facet joints, and otherwise restrict local movement. When a muscle has become “locked down,” adjusting the vertebrae in this situation can often be fruitless, sometimes dangerous, especially if the adjustment is of the high-velocity type. Quickly attempting to move the vertebrae may overstretch muscle fibers, causing trauma to them. Though the trauma may not be sufficient to directly cause any overt pain, it may be sufficient to keep the local area in a state of compression. Further adjustments can further traumatize the area.

More pain, even chronically increased pain, however, is a definite possibility. The frequency of people being traumatized by such adjusting is relatively uncommon, but not exactly rare.

Bio-Structural Balancing focuses on readjusting the tension lengths and resiliency of muscle and fascial structures. If a muscle is too short, it will hold a bone segment out of place. Adjustments, as many Chiropractors have pointed out and admitted, could produce micro-trauma to the tissue if the soft tissue is not ready to move and lengthen. This could reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of the adjustment as well as potentially create other problems, as mentioned.

When the muscles are fully relaxed, energized and resilient, they can move along with the spinal adjustment, both increasing the effectiveness of the adjustment and minimizing risk of damage to the tissue. Together, Chiropractic and Osteopathy go very well with deep tissue work. In fact, many Chiropractors and Osteopaths use massage extensively in their practices which is a step in the right direction.

-Some Chiropractors posit that the true benefits of spinal manipulation are not from the alignment or movement of the vertebrae in itself. It is, they say, the stretching and stimulation of the soft tissue (muscles, fascia, etc.) in the area of the adjustment that is responsible for the real benefits. … I must say that I agree with this point-of-view.

The primary difference spinal manipulation and muscle tension release is that while … More coming soon … !

* Subluxation: The Chiropractic field has an on-going, internal battle as to the definition and understanding of just what a Subluxation actually is. There is the classical interpretation, the one expounded by the founder, Dr. Palmer himself, and there is the more modern interpretation. … More coming soon … !

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4. Emotionally Based BodyWork Systems

Although I, at this time, prefer to not yet bill this work as an overtly psychotherapeutic process, the effects and developmental potential are certainly there. First of all, psycho-emotional material is held in place, at least partially, by muscle tension. The mind does not stop at the brain stem. The mind is not a thing, or have a location in the body. The Mind is a function that permeates the whole body, which is why I call it the BodyMind.

(The question of which is primary, or which creates the other, the mind or the body, is beyond the scope of this article. … For now.)

The mind, as I use the term here, includes the nervous system and musculature.  Much of what we call “Feelings” are indeed the sensations we feel when there are, along with changes in the glandular excretions, flowing neurotransmitters through the bloodstream, changes in the muscular tension patterns of the body. (Actually, the BodyMind.) These changes are in response to the changing internal and external environment.

If we feel safe with someone, we loosen up a little, which is the musculature literally loosening up. When the muscles loosen, they actually are reducing their “armoring” (as in Reich’s concept of emotional/muscular protection) against possible physical, psychological or emotional attack from the outside. If we are with someone who makes us uncomfortable, the muscles “armor up” by increasing tension; securing our boundaries, so to speak. As we become more able to feel this process in the living moment, how our responses change from situation to situation or nuance to nuance, we become more competent with them. 

We begin to more consciously, awarely and Response-Ably discover when we armor too much or not enough when we react automatically instead of acting spontaneously.

This experience with awareness brings about the changes without effort. Both yoga and bodywork are a place that this can be experimented with in the safety of your home or the therapist’s office. You must, though, be able to do it with yourself before you can lead another person through it. (I recommend Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy and Hakomi Bodywork, both centered in Boulder, Colorado, for those who wish to pursue this area,  either by itself or as an adjunct to whatever work you do, including mine. And, although I have no experience with it, I have heard many good things about Phoenix Rising, an assisted yoga/asana based approach to psychological processing.)

Although I do not discourage it, I do not aggressively encourage clients to go through a catharsis. It is ok if they do, however, it is my point of view that the catharsis itself is not what clears emotional baggage. It is the awareness — the conscious feeling — of the process of letting go that brings the desired changes. You can go through catharsis, but if your attention is on the drama of the material being released, rather than on the core of the being who is releasing, you have missed the point. This is why “Playing the Edge” becomes useful in the yoga of the mind and emotions, as well as the physical body. To come right up to the edge of emotional release, to stay right there without actually going over into the drama or replay of old feelings, is where all the real action is.

Yet, unless very well trained or personally experienced in such things, I think it dangerous for a bodyworker to aggressively pursue these releases with a client. They must be allowed to emerge spontaneously. If they happen, fine. If they don’t, fine. You will, though, have many opportunities to set up the possibility of an emotional release. Just the breath work alone can trigger feelings and releases.

With the Edge technique, you are bringing the person right up onto the stage of their relationship to pain and fear.

For instance, someone may say they hesitated to come to you because they were afraid that it might hurt. So you say, “don’t worry, here is a way to communicate with me to keep me from hurting you.” But even though you can see them wincing in pain, they don’t use the system to prevent the pain. They do not communicate about it, they just bear it. You ask them why they are not communicating about the pain to you. They say “I thought it would work better if it hurt!” They are operating in the paradox of on one hand not wanting to experience the pain, but feeling compelled to do so on the other.

What does that tell you, and, hopefully, them, about their approach to life?

Now, it MIGHT mean they trust you enough that the sensations which they would ordinarily call pain and want to avoid, did not really bother them as much as they thought it would, or should. So their trust reduced their resistance to feeling the pain. Even though you told them it was not a great idea to tolerate the pain.

I had one client that after 200 or more sessions over the course of many years still would rather not communicate, continued to wince in pain, and only half-jokingly tell his friends that I am torturing him. He also wouldn’t even come to me at first because he thought it would hurt! That is deep conditioning and I was obviously not getting through to him on that level. Ironically, in conversations with other people, he can explain the process of working with the Edge very clearly and accurately. So, he could Get It intellectually, but viscerally, or emotionally, he was unable to process according to the guidelines.

But he liked the physical results of the sessions so I stopped feeling responsible for his enlightenment after about 50 sessions. Maybe I’m the one who learns slow!

Regardless, we will look at the many opportunities to evoke an emotional response as they come up, but I will not yet, at this time, be making that a central focus of the workshops on DSL EdgeWork.

Another point well illustrated by David Zimmerman of Santa Cruz, a psychotherapist who is highly supportive of bodywork, is this: Sure, you may be able to affect dramatic cathartic change on the table, but then what? Are you prepared and experienced enough to support the client in the reintegration process that may go on for days or weeks after the session?  What if their “world comes apart,” so to speak? Are you ready and trained for that? If you are, fine. And it doesn’t happen that often that someone has a dramatic problem. But you never know. It is best, if not ready for the challenge yourself, to make contact with a psychotherapist that is able and willing to handle your “emergencies.”

more coming soon!

5. Fitness & Strength Training Systems

6. Pilates

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Thank You for taking the time to read this. I hope the above descriptions have given you some insight into the nature of my work and ideas. I wish to emphasize that none of the above is meant to diminish the importance of any of the above-mentioned modalities. They all have their place. I mention them only in order to help you draw distinctions by which you might further understand my approach, and there’s, as well. My techniques and their underlying principles and sciences can be applied to any form of bodymind work you choose to practice.

Thanks for Reading,
David Scott Lynn (DSL*)
* DSL: Your Hi-Touch Up-Link to the Inner-Net
Inner-Net: Your Psycho-Neuro-Musculo-Fascial System

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David Scott Lynn (DSL)

Beginning at 13 years of age, DSL's been involved with alternative philosophies & practices most of his life. Becoming a yoga teacher in 1976, then a hands-on bodyworker in 1981, he developed a unique & highly effective form of Yoga / Bodywork / Whole Health Fitness & Therapeutics. … David wrote the chapters on a wholistic philosophy & physiology of bodywork & stretching for the textbook Structural Balancing, published by McGraw-Hill, Inc. in 2010. … He is the author of Simple Steps to Let-Go Yoga, available at: www.letgoyoga.com/simple-steps/ … Several other e-books and e-courses are soon forthcoming at www.letgoyoga.com/dsl-publications/ … David consults with Kyle C. Wright on massage school development at the Schools of Advanced Bodywork at http://kylecwright.com/structural-balancing-a-clinical-approach/co-author-dsl/
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