Though most people know it as Rolfing, Yonathan Hormadaly calls his practice “structural integration,” a therapeutic method aimed at helping a client’s body structure, movement and alignment in relation to gravity by working with the body’s soft tissue.
“By gradually and systematically releasing stress and tension in the connective tissue system of the body, breathing becomes easier, more length and space is felt in the joints, and significant changes in awareness occur as a result,” said Mr. Hormadaly, who has been practicing the technique for more than a decade. He opened his business in Ridgefield in November.
Structural integration is meant to treat patients suffering discomfort from chronic aches and pains, but Mr. Hormadaly stresses that his system isn’t supposed to deliver an immediate cure, nor is it intended to make clients dependent on receiving therapy.
“My goals aren’t about the immediate — it’s not like someone coming in here with a headache and me giving them a cure and it going away. It’s a lot more long-term than that,” said Mr. Hormadaly. “This method is not to make people dependent where they have to come in every week for treatment.”
In fact, the system is based on a 10-session series that can be completed over an unspecified period. After the 10 sessions are completed, Mr. Hormadaly suggests the client take a nine- to 12-month break from therapy — except for people dealing with complex circumstances such as car accidents.
Once a client commits to the 10 hourlong sessions, Mr. Hormadaly calls for his patient’s complete cooperation as each session builds on the last and prepares the person for the next.
“People don’t need to commit right away — most try one or two sessions and then determine from there if they want to go ahead for the entire 10-part process,” said Mr. Hormadaly. “But when they decide to do it, I need their cooperation as well as their commitment.
“When addressing the whole structure of the body, I need the patient’s time and I need their commitment, and this is why I have such a high success rate, because when people dedicate to the 10 weeks of improving themselves, it’s a pretty strong commitment and they have let go of that immediate judgment of ‘I took one session and it didn’t help.’ Instead, they are investing in the process of restructuring their body. This is why there isn’t usually a need to come back after the series is completed.
“It’s like investing in anything; you have to leave it for a while before you see a return, and a lot of my success comes from that patience to allow for the transformation to happen over time.”
The practice of structural integration, better known as Rolfing, was conceived by Dr. Ida Pauline Rolf in the 1930s. She founded the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in 1971 with the goal of educating people about their body and its movements.
Although structural integration is aimed at benefiting people both physically and mentally, its touch and its intention make it different from other therapies, such as deep tissue massage.
“A common misconception is that this is a deep tissue massage,” said Mr. Hormadaly. “Deep tissue massages have a short-term goal in mind and it’s about sliding across the superficial layer of skin, whereas my method is about what’s deeply below the skin and that outermost surface. It’s a different type of touch — that’s what separates it from other practices — and it’s also a different type of intention.”
In the first session, Mr. Hormadaly usually focuses on working past the superficial layer of skin and flesh. In the next lesson, he changes his attention to the ankles. He says the first seven sessions are about separating, while the last three are about integrating. The end goal is adjusting the body’s structures in relation to gravity.
Besides the physical element, the system is about self-awareness.
“Psychological stuff is not a direct part of my work, but I’ve heard people talk about how this helps them with their thoughts and emotions, especially if they are coupling this practice with talking to a traditional psychologist,” said Mr. Hormadaly.
“Part of my goal is to have my clients have more awareness of themselves, and that’s where the psychological component comes into play — the mind is very involved,” said Mr. Hormadaly. “This isn’t like talk therapy; I am not trying to discover deep-rooted psychological issues.
“My entrance isn’t through the mind, it’s through the body. I don’t see the mind and body as separate, but my goal is to integrate the body’s structure over a long period of time.”
Mr. Hormadaly acknowledged that confusion may exist between what makes him different from a chiropractor. He said Dr. Rolf’s method took a lot from osteopathy and its founder Andrew Still, which is the basis of chiropractic medicine. However, the two schools of thought vary in their intention.
“Dr. Rolf didn’t want to be a doctor like a chiropractor, who diagnoses certain elements or focuses on curing certain diseases,” said Mr. Hormadaly. “Rather, her goal was about working with the soft tissue, whereas chiropractors deal with the spine. We see the soft tissue as what puts the bones where they are; it’s a different way of working with the body.”
Born in Delaware, Mr. Hormadaly has lived in Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut, but received his training at the Guild for Structural Integration in Boulder, Colo.
He originally became interested in the system through doing martial arts as a child. What started as a curiosity about his body and its movement led to his studying such systems as the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education.
The real moment of inspiration came when he picked up Dr. Rolf’s book about structural integration.
“Her book is what really drew my attention to this specific field,” said Mr. Hormadaly. “I hadn’t practiced it or experienced it yet, but I knew it was my calling once I put the book down. I got the treatments after that and then enrolled in the training at the guild in Colorado.”
Mr. Hormadaly returned to practicing in Connecticut, where he is licensed, after a hiatus when he studied different methods of healing and spiritual philosophy. He likes the area because of its foliage and feels relaxed working in the area.
“Fairfield County always felt comfortable, and the people I was working with here liked the work I was doing for them, so it’s a natural fit,” he said. “My intention is to learn more and get better at it and help more people along the way.”
He said he has a wide range of clients of varied age and gender.
“My connection with my clients has ended up being over a very long time period; they have gone through the 10 series and then we take a break, and then they usually want to come back for more work,” he said.
His practice is open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the Osteopathic Wellness Center on 158 Danbury Road. His website is www.structuraltransformations.com and the phone number is 845-674-7721