Discovering Mastery in the Art of Connective Tissue Massage, Part II

By John Latz

Discovering Mastery in the Art of Connective Tissue Massage, Part II

By John Latz

Editor's note: Part I of this article appeared in the March 2004 issue of Massage Today at

Principles of CTM Body Mechanics

Fascia is finicky about how it changes. Connective tissue needs a significant amount of energy to facilitate the biochemical process of fascial hydration. The optimal way to add this energy is to let your own relaxed body weight lean into your hands or forearm as you work; pushing or exerting effort with extrinsic musculature will not work. This slower, more deliberate and intentional power comes through you only when your core is connected to your movement. It is a sensation of openness and expansion - an effortless flow of energy from practitioner to client.

The practitioner's core energy evokes deep intrinsic openness from the core of the client, without using invasive intention. Fascia must be approached and touched at an oblique angle (less than 45 degrees). This angle minimizes downward compression. Pressing straight down into the connective tissue compresses and closes the core space of the receiver's body. It feels invasive and evokes a natural response to engage the sleeve and self-protect.

Connective tissue massage also uses balanced extrinsic/intrinsic movement while working on a client. Balanced movement is best achieved when the practitioner is maintaining a body alignment that naturally allows slow, intrinsic lengthening to happen, while at the same time minimizing use of the faster, grosser extrinsic muscles of the body. The slower rate of intrinsically powered movements matches the rate of change acceptable to the connective tissue, and it responds by softening, stretching and lengthening. This balanced core/sleeve body movement is the ideal method of working, according to Ida Rolf.

When working with this core, intrinsically powered intention and focus, one could argue that CTM practitioners become the "Fred Astaires" of bodywork. This evokes images of massage therapists working effortlessly and dancing around their tables. We see great form in professional athletes and performers; we admire their movements because they make it look easy. Why wouldn't form be just as important when performing bodywork? Often, we become achievement-oriented, rather than form-oriented, only to misguide our bodies away from balanced movement patterns.

Dr. Rolf spoke about this: "As a child or young person, if you want to learn a skill, you study form. You study with a teacher who insists you must use your fingers this way or hold your elbow this way, to learn the skill. You may not realize that the teacher is trying to instill into you a reverence for form. In any art, if you can once get to a high degree of form and work with it, being conscious while you're working at what you are trying to do, you've got it made. This then becomes the method of choice to you, because it's easy. It's easy because, in this position, the body can work with an expenditure of less energy. This is what form is about."4 As bodywork practitioners, we need to assess our forms while we work, if for no other reason than career longevity.

Using a Line Of Intention

When I work on clients, my body feels like a "line of intention." I can elongate by intention along that energetic line; I have a sense of my self as elastic. I grow bigger, three-dimensionally, and tap into a greater power that exists within my core whenever I need to transfer additional power into my client. Ida Rolf spoke of a vertical line, which is evoked during the 10 sessions of structural integration. The line is continuous, passing from the top of the head through the bottoms of the feet; it represents a relationship of physical structure with the gravity field of the earth.

My CTM students learn how to utilize this axis of intention so they can access more power. The movement that occurs is initiated intrinsically, giving us a sense of vertical lift as we simultaneously lean forward. This integrated movement realigns our structure while we are working, giving us a greater sense of well-being. In other words, we don't have to be tired, drained of energy, or worn out when we work. It's like practicing yoga while we are doing bodywork.

Yoga elongates the connective tissue and transforms human structure through precise balancing postures. These postures create intrinsic/extrinsic balance in the body and allow the practitioner's core-space to emerge. The result is physical and emotional growth, and spiritual evolution. From practicing yoga, I realized I could accomplish a similar lengthening while practicing CTM. I took elements of yoga and applied them to body mechanics.

We borrow a term from physics to further explain "line of intention." "Vector" is a term used to describe a line of force having direction and magnitude. CTM body mechanics rely on a concept of changing vectors to maximize our physical and energetic contact with the client's body. Our alignment is like a relational posture to our client. That posture becomes a vector that can be shifted readily to improve the power transfer. Herein lies the artistry of the CTM body mechanics. Mastery of the CTM system demands an inner awareness of one's own body and core.

Unlike yoga, which can take many years of practice to achieve a core connection, the CTM approach allows us to grow into that core connection at an accelerated rate. Every time I elongate along that line of intention, and every time I point my line, I get that tangible sensory feedback from the client's tissue of deep and significant fascial response.

By learning to point my line of intention, my old ideas have become restructured, and I now have a new line of intention for my life. That's an idea that Ida Rolf strove to convey to her students: "Some people will tell you a man is a something built around a stomach. Some people will tell you a man is a something built around a skeleton. Well, I'm here to tell you a man is a something built around a line."5

This is the paradigm I've now integrated into my life and work. That is the spiritual truth that will lead you to your core connection. Where are you pointing your line?

We Want to Live Here

Extrinsic Musculature
Intrinsic Musculature


4. Ibid, page 182.
5. A quote from class notes.