Connective Tissue Unwinding - latest research: Update from ARHP

Connective tissue is a biological structure with an important role in the Reorganizational Healing applications of Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) and Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI).

Understanding the role of connective tissue is helpful for clinical application and Practice Member communication when the “how does this work” question inevitably arises.

A distinct phenomenon observed in the parts of NSA and SRI that are most intricately connected to the connective tissue is unwinding. Unwinding is a phenomenon seen throughout many somatic modalities. It is often associated with involuntary movement, twitches, emotional release or experiencing of stored or repressed memories. In societies with a high value on the thinking mind these effects, while powerful, are often marginalized because they do not fall under the umbrella of conscious control of the body. Ironically, in societies where this control is highly valued the changes that occur from this unconscious unwinding process are perhaps the most necessary for moving a person towards a more integrated level of wellness.

NSA Level 1 of Care is most specifically associated with the connective tissue as a means of transformation. In Level 1 the practitioner tractions the skin and thereby the connective tissue creating an attenuation and alteration of tone. This creates the opportunity for a global accessing of the active phase and its associated anchors. The most common effects of the connective tissue unwinding are small involuntary “twitches” or subtle regional movements. This is different from the gross muscular movements associated with Level 2 and beyond.

In SRI (especially Stages 3 and 6) a tractioning of the connective tissue is done to help access bound resources to become more aware of and fully identified with (Stage 3) or to liberate for further progress (Stage 6). The more a person utilizes these tools the more the will have a conscious connection with what was previously unconscious or “stored” in the connective tissue.

Budiman Minasny published an article in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork in 2009 titled Understanding the Process of Fascial Unwinding(1). Minasny’s goal in the article is to move towards a clear biological mechanism for how this is occurring. From a professional standpoint this is critical because of the aforementioned marginalization. A clear mechanism will help bridge the gap between a more mainstream audience and alternative practitioners for a healing event that often falls in the realm of “holistic voodoo” because of its chaotic, emotional nature.

Minasny suggests that the mechanism employs the autonomic and central nervous system, conscious and unconscious awareness and ideomotor action. Minasny suggests that the contact of the skin stimulates the mechanoreceptors and that has a direct impact on the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic system. This has a natural movement towards organizational stability and homeostasis as observed in Level 1 of care. Minasny further explains that this has the ability to quiet the thinking mind (Lower Mental) so that its need for dominance and control is relaxed. When this occurs the central nervous system may access areas of stored tension to bring them back to a more amenable state. This liberates additional resources for change. One of these is the connective tissue relaxing creating further ease in the body. In NSA this is observed by a reduction of passive tension and the spontaneous Respiratory Wave.

Minasny has found no research based evidence for the common conception that the memory or the emotions are stored in the tissue, but rather suggests that the movement towards a more parasympathetic state and consequent relaxation of the body offers access to a conformation in which the central nervous system can remember the emotion or repressed memory based on state dependent learning. In this case the postural form is the “state”.

Research by Haggard et. al.(2) also noted a variation in how participants perceived time during periods of unconscious unwinding noting that they believed the spontaneous movement happened later in a defined time period than it actually did. Haggard hypothesizes that is because of the absence of the thought process of volition preceding the movement.
Another way to add richness to this conversation would be to include the Organizing Fields and tissue depths. The Bio-Energetic Field will create that preconscious response to the connective tissue stretch, also understood to have an autonomic balancing effect.

As the practitioner applies more force to the tissue pull and moves through the depth of the connective tissue and into the depth of the muscle a new response will be accessed – the Emotional Intelligence. The Emotional Intelligence will also allow access to pre-cognitive and subconscious experiences of emotion and memory.

Integrating this perspective of the fields it may be theorized that the memory or emotion is not stored in the tissue or even in the central nervous system as Minasny suggests but instead stored non-locally. The conformation of the connective tissue and body as a whole allows for a “tuning in” to the field in which that information or experience has been stored, waiting for us to pull it in to our awareness so that we may, finally, allow it in, learn and transcend to greater levels of wisdom and integration.

The old adage “the issues are in the tissues” offers a useful cursory explanation of how emotional and memory releases may occur from the connective tissue and body at large but under closer, Reorganizational, examination we can more clearly see that as we move towards the truth the answer becomes less purely physical and mechanistic and more quantum and integrated.


2. Haggard P, Cartledge P, Dafydd M, Oakley DA. Anomalous control: when “free-will” is not conscious. Conscious Cogn 2004;13:646–654

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