Rolfing promotes well being by enhancing the body's pattern of organization. It balances the body in gravity and enables participants to function at successively higher levels of efficiency, coordination, movement, balance, strength, flexibility, and ease.
Rolfing is the name given to the system of body manipulation originated by Dr. Ida P. Rolf, PhD in biochemistry. Dr. Rolf had a child who had a health problem, and searched for a way, outside of conventional medicine, to solve it. She went to work on the child with her hands and with a good measure of success, discovered that she could restore the child's body to a more balanced shape and alignment, ease of movement, by working with the connective tissue in the body. This evolved, then, into working on friends, and friends of friends, until she had quite a reputation for being able to "fix" things for people in their bodies.
As a scientist she had the insight that gravity is a force constantly at work in the body either maturing it towards organization, alignment and wholeness; or as an ever disorganizing force compressing and misshaping the body. She worked privately for more than 20 years, asking people how they felt after the last session, watching them walk, and postulating about what she should do next for the person.
Rolfing is a way of working with the fascia that balances the body in gravity. In its most simply expressed form, Rolfers work with the body as a system of inter-related segments to restore these segments to proper alignment in the vertical and horizontal grid of gravity. Thus for example, the Rolfer will determine the shift and tilt of the pelvis and its relationship to each leg in order to bring them into better vertical and horizontal balance with each other, while working with all other body segments, so that further balance, rather than strain, is induced through the whole body.
Transformation and Rolfing
The physical body in its shape, form, and negotiation of gravitational energy, cannot be divorced form the emotional state of a human being. When the physical body is fluid and flexible, the emotions are allowed to be the same. This is where Rolfing got its reputation for being an emotional therapy. Rolfing clients find a new freedom to allow emotions in their bodies and in so doing find that these emotions can enrich their creative capacities.
There is a dimension in the Rolfing experience where client and Rolfer share in a field of the unknown. This is where conscious experience at the level of language ends and felt experience at the level of the body begins. For the client this is a direct experience that the body's process has movement and a wisdom that can be trusted and relied upon at a deeper level than thought. This is the center, the place where the spiritual is encountered.
How does Rolfing work?
Rolfers work on the fascia of the body. Fascia surrounds every cell.., and every group of cells. Its the fascia that gives organs their form, and what allows muscles to slide on each other rather than sticking together. Fascia can be very light and airy (like the web like stuff under the skin of a chicken) or it can be hard, tensile and tough (like gristle in a steak). Sheets of fascia surround muscle groups, organs and bones. Tough bands form at the end of muscles called tendons and these tie muscle to the bone. Short, tough bands of fascia called ligaments tie bones to each other, or hold organs in place. The fascia around muscles, organs and bones should have a slippery quality to it, allowing muscles to work in their correct plane, organs to have their full range of motion, and bones and joints to be fully flexible.
This is the quality of a new born babies fascia. From the stresses of every day life, from illness, from accidents, from emotional holding or from an injury, the fascia gets hard and tight. The skillful listening and touch of a Rolfers hands soften, release, lengthen and stretch the fascia in appropriate directions. Fascia does not have the same blood supply as muscles do. It undergoes a chemical change from the Rolfing work. Rolfers are trained to look at balance in many forms in the body; upper/lower, front/back, inner/outer, side to side, and balanced movement. Throughout the series of ten sessions, we change the body to more and more appropriate balance. This may mean, for one person, that they get more curves in their spine, while for the next person it may mean getting a longer, straighter spine because their spine had too much curve.
Why should I consider Rolfing?
People come to the Rolfing process for many reasons. Perhaps they've had an accident and have some residual, chronic pain in their body. Some people come to Rolfing because of poor posture. Others come because they just want to feel better. Some people have a sense that they just need a change in their lives and in their bodies, and Rolfing may be right for them. Rolfing can also help children who have had accidents, whose parents notice that the child is just not engaged in life, or who are having a difficult time with knocked knees or bowed legs.
Why a Ten Session Series?
Rolfers, in a broad sense, start their work with a client on the outside of the body, then move to the inside, then integrate the inside and outside. When a client commits to ten sessions, this gives the Rolfer plenty of time to consider the whole body and how that body relates to its self and to the earth. The ten sessions may be received in a short time--ten weeks--or over a longer time, ten months. This allows each client to integrate the Rolfing changes at their own speed.
Does Rolfing hurt?
Ida Rolf was a pioneer in the field of bodywork. She was the first non-osteopath to work deeply in the tissues of the body, and then turn around and teach what she was doing to other non-medical people. She worked for many years before she began to teach what she was doing. She had an approach that was unique without the language to describe accurately what she was doing. She did a wonderful job of SHOWING people what to do, but when she TOLD them to "go deeper" some heard "push harder". Thus, the Rolfing clients of the 60's had a lot of physical pressure put on their bodies, resulting in pain. Modern day Rolfers are taught to listen with their hands, wait for the tissue to begin to change and allow clients to change at their own rate. You might look at the discomfort associated with Rolfing in this way. If you sit on your foot and it goes to sleep, it hurts. As you move it around and circulation begins to return, it first feels numb, then good. This is, in a way, similar to Rolfing. Tissue that has had decreased circulation, fluid exchange, and nerve innervation hurts to the touch. When it is "worked" through the Rolfing process, it feels lighter, longer, and good. Rolfers work with their clients so that the client participates in the Rolfing process. For example clients may be asked to "breath" into the tissue to help it release, or the client may be asked to make a little movement under the Rolfers hands.Sandy and Wayne Henningsgaard are Advanced Certified Rolfers maintaining a full time practice in Minneapolis and Stillwater, Minnesota.
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Does Rolfing relieve stress?
When people come to Rolfers, they frequently complain about their high level of stress and how it affects their everyday life. They are seeking some means of reducing their stress. Often, they have explored allopathic means such as muscle relaxants, painkillers, liniments, balms and other topical treatments. When these treatments fail to achieve a satisfactory level of improvement, those still suffering seek other forms of relief such as exercise, meditation, yoga, visualization and chanting. They may also seek a myofascial (neuromuscular) solution and start receiving regular massages or some other similar soft tissue therapy. In many cases, these therapies are good at providing transitory relief of the physical causes of chronic stress. Those seeking a more permanent solution to the problem are more likely to have success with Rolfing.
What most potential clients fail to understand is that Rolfing is not a method which focuses on stress reduction. What the Rolfing method does is create a higher level of integration in the body, balancing and educating the body and the psyche. As the body approaches balance, it is more comfortable in the gravitational field. As the body becomes more comfortable, physical and emotional stress diminish. This chain of events is a more typical sequence of events as a body changes during the Rolfing process. Ultimately, however, the results as experienced by the client are more important than the process. All clients experience benefits from Rolfing, an important one for most is that they are less stressed and more at ease in their bodies.
What about the emotional and psychological effects of Rolfing?
It is impossible to touch the physical body without touching the emotional body. All individuals develop compensatory patterns, ways of holding and defending against a variety of physical and emotional insults to form. During the Rolfing process, we offer options and new modes of physical expression. Resultant emotional changes are quite common. There is a well-documented "cellular memory", a memory of experience stored in the tissue at a cellular level. Touching the body will frequently help the client access these physical memories encoded in the fascial (or connective tissue) matrix. Anecdotal reports of major cathartic releases during Rolfing sessions are very common and often act as an impediment to some individuals entering into the Rolfing process. For most Rolfers, this catharsis is not something consciously desired nor intended. Rather, the person is approached with reverence and compassion. When emotionally charged areas of the body have been identified by the client, or intuited by the practitioner, they are normally accessed slowly and with constant communication between the Rolfer and the client. Sometimes, however, repressed memories or experiences will arise for which the client and the Rolfer may not have any advanced warning. In this situation, the goal of the Rolfer is to provide a safe container for the release and take the requisite time to integrate the experience into the physical and emotional body in a way that promotes maximum resolution and minimal trauma to the system. Rolfer's are trained to ease a client through such an experience but not always trained as therapists. The nature and quality of accessing and resolution of emotionally charged material may be the most profound portion of a client's Rolfing experience. However, the client should not enter the Rolfing process anticipation such a major release but should remember that a Rolfer's actual expertise is integrating and balancing connective tissue. The emotional component, as attractive or dreaded as it may be, remains an ancillary aspect of the Rolfing process and not its primary intention.
How does Rolfing work?
Unfortunately, Dr. Rolf never offered a completely satisfactory answer to this important question. Consequently, since her passing, a few theories have been proposed for how Rolfing permanently transforms human structure. Several of our senior faculty have offered interesting theories, which have been widely debated. One widely accepted theory is called the thixotropic of gel-sol-gel theory. Basically, this theory states that touch/pressure generates heat and that this heat softens or liquefies connective tissue and turns it from a gelatinous to a liquid substance. Once the tissue is softened, it becomes more malleable and can be more easily reorganized and manipulated. Once in its new relationship to surrounding myofascial structures, it will recongeal and return to its original state. Another view proposed by Robert Schleip argues that there is a strong neurological connection and that pressure activates sensory receptors and that these receptors send signals to the brain which in turn allows the affected tissue to change its tensile strength and make it more easy to manipulate. Other Rolfers, such as Liz Gaggini, have argued for a hybrid theory which incorporates elements of both theories.
Another way of reframing this is to state that Rolfing balances the body in all directions, front to back, side to side, inside to outside, integrating all layers and types of connective tissue. When we do this, we return the body to a state of balance or homeostasis that is more desirable for optimum functioning. Since it is universally accepted that the body is constantly in the process of self-correction to achieve homeostasis and since Rolfing is a method that helps move the body more closely to that state, we can therefore infer that a Rolfed body is a more highly desirable state for the human organism and that the Rolfed human will tend to both prefer and "hold" this more efficient orientation.
What is the Rolfing ten series?
When Dr. Rolf began teaching students to Rolf in the 1960s, she taught them a sequence of sessions which is are generally referred to as "the recipe." This recipe is a sequence of 10 sessions each of which focuses on a specific region of fascial geography and has detailed structural goals. The logic of this sequence is a consequence of over 50 years of frequently revised thought and practical application. This pattern of sessions can be divided into three discrete units. The first three sessions are called the "sleeve sessions" and are devoted to loosening and balancing the surface layers of connective tissue. The sleeve can be visualized as the connective tissue network which is arranged in a series of vertical bags. Easing the outer layers and improving the relationship between these bags is a critical first step in the process of achieving improved structural balance and integration. In Dr. Rolf's view, it is not appropriate to work deep in the tissue unless the stress you release has somewhere to go. If the first three hours have been performed successfully, the deeper work can be translated through the surface and integrated more completely. The first hour is often referred to as the breath session and focuses freeing and mobilizing the ribs and discriminating them from the pelvis. Connective work is also done along the upper leg, hamstrings and through the head, neck and spine. This connective work from the head to the sacrum is typically done at the end of each hour. The second hour provides support for the first session and focuses on balancing the foot and muscles of the lower leg. The third hour typically involves a view of the body from the side and seeks to organize the body around a conceptual lateral line that runs from the earlobe to the lateral malleolus, the protruding "ridge" of bone on the outer lateral surface of the ankle. Increasing a client's awareness of this line is an important aspect of this and later sessions. Another term for this hour comes from Dr. Rolf's protege, Emmet Hutchins. He calls this hour the "sloppy block" session and views that the body, when seen from the side, as a series of blocks and seeks to arrange the body around the lateral line.
The next four sessions are referred to as the core sessions. The core is a conceptual space deep in the center of the body. Imagine a human skeleton and place your hand inside the skeleton at the base of the pelvis. Now slide your arm up under the ribs to the jaw. If you could extend your hand up to the top of the cranium, you would have a clear sense of what most Rolfers mean by "core". The core sessions begin with a session in the inner leg. It focuses on a conceptual inner line that supports the core and runs from the inner arch of the foot to the deep adductor tendons that attach into the pelvic floor, a thick band of connective tissue at the base of the pelvis on which the intestine sit. The fifth session is concerned with the abdomen and focuses on balancing the surface and deep abdominal muscles. Fascial restrictions in and around the visceral (organ) system are normally addressed in this hour as well. The six and seventh hours can be thought of as a unit which includes the surface and deep structures of the hips and the spine and continues that work up to the head and neck.
The last three hours are referred to as the integrative hours. This is where the Rolfer has an opportunity to tie his previous sessions together, working in the middle layers of connective tissue. Dr. Rolf encouraged her students to look at the body anew in these final sessions. Rolfers are encouraged to ask a series of questions about what our client's body needs to be more complete, more balanced, freer to express its full potential. While there are a variety of creative ways to achieve this higher level of integration including movement sessions, subtle body cueing (a type of education and awareness through movement) and subtle middle layer integrative techniques there is a simple model many of us use. You might call this approach the upper, lower, joint sequence. The traditional integrative pattern might look something like this: an upper body 8th hour, a lower body 9th hour and a 10th hour which emphasizes small movements in major joints and movement education in sitting and standing positions.
Most Rolfers agree that the genius of Dr. Rolf's work is in the ten-series which can result in amazing physical and emotional transformations in a remarkably short period of time. One obvious advantage of this sequence is that it is possible to complete sessions with different Rolfers anywhere since we all understand what you would require if you come us and say: "I'm here for my 5th hour." This broad standard framework assures a high and consistent level of work throughout the world.
What is Rolfing Movement?
Towards the end of her life, Dr. Rolf felt that a movement training component would be a valuable adjunct to her structural ten-series. In her lifetime, Dr. Rolf collaborated with first Dorothy Nolte and then Judith Aston to develop this aspect of Rolfing. Since Dr. Rolf's death in 1979, others, including Jane Harrington, Heather Starsong, Gael Ohlgren and Vivian Jaye have elevated this less familiar style of Rolfing to a level of high art with tremendous transformative value. Currently, approximately 25% of all Rolfers have been certified in Rolf Movement and employ their training as a way of enriching their work. The purpose of Rolfing Movement is to work with the client to help her identify movement patterns that promote strain and asymmetry in her system. Once the patterns are identified, the Rolf Movement practitioner does not seek to change those patterns, which have served the client well, but rather to offer more economical solutions which promote greater balance and efficiency in the gravitational field.
Like the structural ten-series, Rolfing Movement is taught as a sequence of sessions devoted to specific structural and movement themes. In a classic movement series, the first session is devoted to exploring breathing patterns and using the breath to promote ease and release holdings in the ribs, lungs and respiratory diaphragm. Subsequent sessions address movement patterns in the foot, ankle and knee joints, the hip joint, the arms and head and neck. These sessions are normally repeated to access deeper holding patterns and achieve higher levels of order just as structural Rolfers return to the extremities and upper and lower girdles (the shoulder and pelvis) in the latter sessions to more fully integrate structure and function. Rolfing movement can be explored by clients who have completed a structural series and can serve equally well as an autonomous tool for achieving higher levels of self-awareness and coherence.
What is difference between Massage and Rolfing?
One of the most common misconceptions about Rolfing is that it is a nothing more than a type of very deep massage. There are many varieties of massage, which are particularly effective for loosening tight tissue, reducing stress, detoxing the body and an increased feeling of relaxation and well-being. Since these benefits are also a byproduct of Rolfing, the general public experience confusion as to the precise difference between our work and the proliferation of effective touch modalities currently available. Ray McCall, an Advanced Rolfer in Boulder and former student of Dr. Rolf, once said that what Rolfers do can be summed up in three words: palpation, discrimination and integration. We palpate, or touch the tissue, feeling for imbalances in tissue texture, quality and temperature to determine where we need to work. We discriminate, or separate fascial layers that adhere and muscles that have been pulled out of position by strain or injury. Finally, we integrate the body, relating its segments in an improved relationship, bringing physical balance in the gravitational field. Other soft-tissue manipulation methods, including massage, are quite good at the first two, but do not balance the body in gravity. As Dr. Rolf used to say: "Anyone can take a body apart, very few know how to put it back together". The true genius of her method is the art and science of reshaping and reorganizing human structure according to clearly defined principles in a systematic and consistent manner.
In addition to our skill as structural integrators, we are also educators, a point Dr. Rolf stressed frequently in her training classes. The role of teacher is something every Rolfer takes seriously. In each session, Rolfers seek to impart insights to clients to increase their awareness and understanding, to help the client make the work we do their own. Our job is to make ourselves obsolete, by empowering our clients to take charge of their own physical and emotional health. Influencing the structural evolution of man on a global level was Dr. Rolf's fondest dream.
Who should consider being Rolfed?
According to Dr. Rolf, all bodies have some degree of disorder and compensation in their structure; therefore she believed that everyone should be Rolfed. In fact, in her global vision, she imagined a more evolved and structurally efficient human species as a result of Rolfing. However, we realize that most potential clients need more compelling reasons to undergo this powerful transformative sequence of session. It is possible to divide those who come to Rolfing into two groups.
The first and largest group who should consider being Rolfed are those who have a history of injury or trauma and notice that the effects of their often minor injuries are beginning to interfere with their everyday lives. In many cases these individuals have tried traditional medical treatments or exercise to reduce or counteract the long-term effects of old injuries with varying degrees of success. This group might include former and current athletes, musicians, performers or those engaged in physically demanding jobs who choose not to accept the notion that the quality of their lives must suffer simply because they are aging. In fact, all adults of any age who suffer from any limiting physical discomfort can absolutely benefit from Rolfing as long as the pains themselves are in the neuromuscular system and not signs of a nervous disorder or a deeper pathology. For most of us, Rolfing combined with appropriate movement therapy and exercise offers a long-lasting solution for connective tissue problems.
The second group are those who are on a spiritual path and who find that their physical limitations prevent them from attaining a higher level of spiritual or emotional peace. Frequently, many on this path assume that the body is something to be transcended rather than something to be honored and loved. For these individuals, Rolfing can serve as an educational resource which allows them a more intimate and comfortable relationship with their physical body, which in turn allows a greater ability to experience greater serenity. Interestingly enough, as the body transforms physically it transforms on other planes as well, so that, while Rolfing's primary focus is the muscular and connective tissue system, it frequently has an even more dramatic effect in seemingly unrelated areas such as the spiritual. Exactly how this happens is still a matter of much debate and speculation. However, the results of the work were of much greater importance than the how or why for Dr. Rolf. The genius of Rolfing is that it can effect so many people in so many ways and continue to reveal new possibilities for such a rich diversity of individuals.
The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration was established in 1971 and is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. Its purpose is to bring the benefits of Rolfing to the world and this goal is accomplished through providing training, certifying Rolfing practitioners, promoting research and educating the public about the value of Structural Integration. Their website is at www.rolf.org or E-mail them at email@example.com
Ida P. Rolf, a native New Yorker, graduated from Barnard College in 1916; and in 1920 she earned a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. For the next twelve years Ida Rolf worked at the Rockefeller Institute, first in the Department of Chemotherapy and later in the Department of Organic Chemistry. Eventually, she rose to the rank of Associate, no small achievement for a young woman in those days.
In 1927, she took a leave of absence from her work to study mathematics and atomic physics at the Swiss Technical University in Zurich. During this time, she also studied homeopathic medicine in Geneva. Returning from Europe, she spent the decade of the 1930's seeking answers to personal and family health problems. Medical treatment available at that time seemed inadequate to her; this led to her exploration of osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, yoga, the Alexander technique and Korzybski's work on states of consciousness.
By the 1940's, she was working in a Manhattan apartment where her schedule was filled with people seeking help. She was committed to the scientific point of view, and yet many breakthroughs came intuitively through the work she did with chronically disabled persons unable to find help elsewhere. This was the work eventually to be known as Structural Integration. For the next thirty years, Ida Rolf devoted herself to developing her technique and training programs.
During the 1950's, her reputation spread to England where she spent summers as a guest of John Bennett, a prominent mystic and student of Gurdjieff. Then, in the mid-60's, Dr. Rolf was invited to Esalen Institute in California at the suggestion of Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy. There she began training practitioners and instructors of Structural Integration.
The more Structural Integration classes Ida Rolf taught, the more students sought admission to training. Newspaper and magazine articles began featuring the person and work of Ida Rolf, and soon the necessity for a formal organization became apparent. As early as 1967, the first Guild for Structural Integration was loosely formed and eventually headquartered in a private home in Boulder, Colorado.
Until her death in 1979, Ida Rolf actively advanced training classes, giving direction to her organization, planning research projects, writing, publishing and public speaking. In 1977, she wrote Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures (Harper and Row, Publishers). This book is the major written statement of Ida P. Rolf's scholastic and experiential investigation into the direct intervention with the evolution of the human species.Another book compiled by Dr. Rolf's close associate and companion: Rosemary Feitis, is Ida Rolf Talks About Rolfing and Physical Reality. It is truly a jewel: giving us insights into Dr. Rolf's unique and incredible mind.
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ROLFING is named after the work of Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D., who fifty years ago, calling her work Postural Release and Postural Dynamics, finally settled on "The Rolf Method of Structural Integration." Dr. Rolf devoted her efforts to creating a holistic process of soft tissue manipulation and education that organized the whole body toward the vertical line of gravity. She discovered that she could achieve remarkable changes in body-structure, posture, and movement by manipulating and freeing the body's myofascial system. Dr. Rolf, "However, I am interested in human potential, and human potential per se neither includes or excludes the palliation of symptoms."
ROLFING: Rolfing is a process, a process of deep, soft tissue manipulation, a process of anatomical organization, a process through which the line of the human body and its major segments --- head, shoulders, thorax, pelvis, legs, feet --- are brought into greater conformity within the vertical line of Gravity. Rolfing will organize the human body's structural relationship with Gravity so that the body's field of energy, mass, and structure is reinforced, uplifted, maintained and even sustained by the larger field of energy, Gravity. As a result of this process, man will totally, externally and internally, ramify upward. Rolfing transforms the body mass into a vertically aligned fascial system relieving stress, injury, pain and trauma, improving movement, erect posture, circulation, respiration, immunity, vitality, and overall health throughout the entire body. Physical performance will be dramatically enhanced and improved.
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I was personally taught and instructed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf, the creator of the process of anatomical work known as "ROLFING" the Rolf Method of Structural Integration and founder of the Rolf Institute and the Guild of Structural Integration. (I was fortunate enough to be specially trained by and later assisted and taught with Dr. Rolf for many years. We closely coached and tutored currently practicing Rolf Practitioners in advanced and innovative Rolfing Techniques.) While preparing myself for primary and advanced education with Dr. Rolf, I studied Gestalt Therapy with its founder and creator, Fritz Pearls. I also trained in the following massage and deep tissue techniques: Kaupo (Japanese), Dojo (French), classical deep Swedish massage with the famous Gunvar Jackson, the pressure point techniques of Shiatsu, CMT in Germany, and Polarity Therapy wherein I was personally trained by its creator, Dr. Randolph Stone of Chicago, Illinois.
I have taught and lectured all over the country at Marathon-Sports Seminars, Medical Schools, Hospitals, Chiropractic Colleges, Osteopathic Schools, and Physical Therapy Conventions, also at meetings of the American Medical Jogging Association, The American Academy of Podiatry Sports Medicine, the American Academy of Sports Physicians, the British College of Chiropractic Medicine, the Royal Medical Society in London, the Svedenborg Society of Great Britain, the National Athletic Trainers' Asso- ciation (Football), and many private and professional groups and clubs.
Being a competitive athlete myself, much of my focus and effort has been directed toward working with performance and structure of World Class Athletes training for the 1984, 88, 92 Olympics (skiers, track & field, gymnastics, fencers, bicyclists, swimmers) also professional dancers, baseball players, marshal artists, including football working with Joe Montana and other active professional competitors. My client/patients have ranged from new-borns a few days old to the aged in their nineties, and anyone else with physical pain and problems of compensation, movement and structure. Structure indeed does follow form and form follows structure. Performance, therefore, becomes the expression of functional balance in this relationship!
Please contact me for further information concerning the actual process of the work or with reference to the specifics of any of the individual sessions.
Offices: Layton, UT and Northern & Southern California. Phone: (801) 593-1085, by appointment only.
The benefits of Rolfing can dramatically improve your:
Rolfing directly addresses problems of Structure resulting in:
Rolfing can deeply expand, intensify, and increase your:
Note: Man and woman are, from the moment of conception, tied to the earth's gravitational field. We have, as a species, evolved and grown as creatures of Gravity. When we leave the comfort and dependency of our Gravity relationship and dwell in space, our physical bodies begin to molecularly defuse and lose mass. Left in space long enough, we will defuse like smoke.
"The appropriate integration of the bodies of man in the gravity field is a long term evolutionary project. It is possible we are witnessing the first conscious attempt at self-evolution that any species has ever evidenced."
In terms of evolution, man and gravity are inexorably married. The only appropriate goal of this union is the vertical line. The most appropriate path is Rolfing.
Structural bodywork has its own specific set of distinguishing images which sets it apart from other kinds of physical therapy. These images were Ida Rolf's initial discovery. They deal with: a. the human skeleton, b. concepts of geometry, beginning with the most basic fact of gravity, pressing us against the earth, and the nature of three dimensional space resulting from that orientation of gravity; c. concepts of movement - how the skeleton is designed to move in space; and d. ideas of how the body is shaped to support habitual movement. These images can be introduced in terms of four principles which seem to form the basis of Ida Rolf's method.
1. The Primacy of Gravity
It is part of the elegance of Ida Rolf's vision that gravity is placed at the center of the system. Other methods focus on energy or the release of emotions, et cetera, but these are difficult to see, and there is considerable room for subjectivity in making inferences about them. But Ida treated the body first of all as a physical object in a gravitational field, and let the emotional releases take place as a secondary result.
Every physical creature is subject to the effects of gravity throughout life. It is the one unrelenting stimulus to which we must relate. The skeleton has evolved primarily in response to the various demands placed upon it by different systems of dealing with gravity (that is, a quadrupedal skeleton differs from a biped's in ways which are predictable on the basis of their different relations to the ground). Gravity determines what is physically efficient or inefficient. When the human body is inefficiently organized, effort is required to resist the effects of gravity. Eventually gravity wins, and the tragically bent bodies of some elderly people are the results. When the structure is efficiently organized, the flow of gravity can be a source of energy.
2. Geometry: The Relation of the Skeleton to Space
The skeleton is a structural framework enabling the body to move in space. In each creature, the skeleton is precisely designed to permit geometrically accurate movement. There are differences, especially deriving from whether the creature is a quadruped walking on land, a monkey swinging in the branches of trees, or a human walking upright. But in each case, the skeleton is quite precisely arranged to support movement which is adapted to geometric space.
This means that, if we can understand the geometric concepts underlying the structure of the skeleton, we can analyze distortions in the people we work with and thus understand what must be reorganized. For example, in looking at someone's legs, we refer to the bisecting planes of the legs. If the hinges of hip, knee and ankle are lined up on a single plane, then it has tremendous internal security and balance.
When the leg is not balanced across this bisecting plane, when the
hinges are not working on a single plane, then the feeling of security
and balance is lost. It becomes appropriate to speak of "random" or "chaotic" or "disorganized"
3. The Role of Fascia in Shaping the Body
Most anatomy books do not emphasize fascia. Muscles and bones seem much easier to recognize. They are the evident figure, while the fascia are in the background. However, the connective tissue system, including the fascia is the all-pervasive prima materia of the body. Each muscle and each muscle fiber is enveloped in fascia. In response to habitual movement, fascia alter in length and flexibility to support that movement. If the movement deviates from the optimal geometry of the skeleton in space, then the fascial system slowly binds the skeleton to a shape which supports that movement. Thus function alters structure. The energy of movement becomes reflected in form, which parallels Einstein's formulation: e=mc2.
4. The Use of Movement to Reorganize the Body.
Since disorganized movement creates deviated structure, then the reverse should also be true. If the body is induced to move in a way which is geometrically correct, then the fascial tissues will alter to support this better movement. Thus the skeletal structure can be altered to approach the optimal organization for which it was created. Ida Rolf said (approximately) "Hold structures where they are supposed to be and induce movement." This is the basic principle of change.
These are the four principles which define structural body work. In subsequent chapters we will be studying geometric concepts of movement, fascia, and an approach to touch.
His web address is www.edmaupin.com or E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stated most simply, the goal of Rolfing is to enable one to move and balance from the core of the body, from the center line of gravity. This has both physical and experiential (psychological, spiritual) aspects which we can discuss separately.
It deserves attention that Ida Rolf, the originator of Rolfing, was a scientist, a biochemist, who, though she moved far away from her field, never lost her clear attention to physical reality. Both the force of gravity acting upon every body and the fascial tissues she worked to reorganize are real in the scientific sense. At the same time, she understood that the body is the form of our awareness, the lens through which consciousness experiences life, and this "experiential" aspect was never far from her mind.
The Body as a Physical Object in Gravity
The first principle of Rolfing is that the body must relate continually to the physical force of gravity. The various segments of the body must be more or less aligned one on top of the other, or else the external muscles begin to labor to maintain the upright posture. Pelvis, abdomen, chest and head balance easily when their centers of gravity are in a line, so that the upright balance can come from deep muscles which operate by reflex to relate the body to gravity.
Fascia Shapes the Body
People are ordinarily not aligned in this way, however. The easy relationship to gravity can be disorganized by many factors, including accidents, misguided habits, and deep attitudes of various kinds. Fascia is the all-pervasive webwork of connective tissue which holds the body in its shape. As we struggle to move in a gravity field, the fascial webwork adapts to support our movement, and the shape slowly changes..
Fascia can be Reorganized with Movement
Ida Rolf's discovery was that fascia can be re-organized with correct movement--movement which is in accord with the geometry of the skeleton--and that this reorganization can be hastened by deep manipulation which holds the fascial tissues in place while the client moves. Her maxim:
"Hold tissues where they are supposed to be and induce movement."
Through years of experience she developed a series of ten sessions which systematically reorganize the whole body, proceeding from the outside layers to the deeper ones and bringing all the major segments into an integrated system of balance. Rolfers generally work within this ten-session framework, though they may use quite different procedures to accomplish the same goals. The overall goal is to find a sense of balance which comes from the core, unobstructed by unbalancing distortions in the myo-fascial system.
The Experiential Core
But it is an interesting fact that this core balance which we call "The Line" is closely related to the core feeling of one's own being. When the outer layers of the body release to permit the inner layers to function, a deeper awareness opens up. "The Line" is not a physical entity, but a sense of inner space. It is no accident that those centers of feeling which Indian yoga calls "chakras" lie along the same central line of gravity.
The usual sense we have of ourselves and the world is based on characteristic patterns of tension. When we release these tensions and rely on the expansional balance of the core, The Line, we move the center of our experiencing into the core as well.
Now, in the most radical terms, the effect of the ten sessions could be a major re-experiencing of one's Being: a dramatic change of consciousness. Thought patterns based upon one's contracted ego, would release and be replaced by a different viewpoint. Ida Rolf spoke of "turning people out" by which she meant they are brought into the core so that they exist and relate out into the world from there.
The poet, William Blake seems to be talking about the same thing in this famous quotation:
"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern." [Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1793]
Blake was criticizing the viewpoint of scientific materialism which takes the external world seriously as independent and "out there". It causes us to forget that our experience of the external world is created by the mind, or as Blake would have it, the imagination. Your experience of anything is organized by your habits of perception. It is not in itself. It is not objective in the sense we have been trained to believe it is.
To experience from the core is to take responsibility for the extent to which we create this experience. It is to move away from an externalized "over there" kind of perception into a real continued link with our feelings, perceptions, and responses.
If you think what you're perceiving is "out there", you are looking out through your senses as if through chinks in the cavern wall of your dualistic perception.. If you move into a continued contact with your core experience, you are cleansing the doors of perception. Blake is talking about returning to core experience. And most mystics and really good poets have talked about the same shift.
Ida Rolf's approach to this was to organize the fascia in a physical body in a three-dimensional gravity field. But this is not only working on a material body. This is the body as it is experienced: the phenomenological body. This body is real in an entirely different sense. It exists in the mind. If all of reality is created, in the sense of organized, by your Imagination, the image-ing faculty of your core being, then the body exists in the imagination. In fact, Blake would say the body exists in the imagination rather than the imagination existing in the body.
Releasing Traumatic Emotions and Memories
In the process of moving attention through the outer layers of the body into the core people sometimes re-experience emotions and memories which are stored there. This is a valuable part of the process of becoming more aware, and sometimes people use deep tissue bodywork like Rolfing as part of a process of psychotherapy. The fact that the person is experiencing these emotions in the context of the body means that they are grounded, less confusing and more safe than might otherwise be the case.
Other people do not experience these dramatic moments of recall. Anyway, what is important is the the increased awareness and presence in the body. Good sessions are almost like meditations which bring deeper levels of one's physical being into awareness. The awareness remains, and it is this that helps people be more grounded and centered as a result of Rolfing.
Combining the Physical and Psychological
Arranging the body so that it balances around the actual physical line of gravity is the key to the opening of the core. The work is neither too etherial and ungrounded in physical reality, nor so purely physiological that it ignores the experience of the person. It is a meditation of a high degree. When one experiences an open balance of some part of the body in Rolfing, it is often with an interior sense of rightness, of recognition of the body as it was always meant to be. At the same time it has the elegance of a geometry lesson, purified of subjective distortion and confusion. In a sense, Ida Rolf managed what William Blake never did: to combine a scientific understanding with an adequate grasp of soul.
Edward Maupin, Ph.D., is a psychologist and Rolfer who has practiced Structural Integration for over 30 years. He is the author of numerous books and president of IPSB - a school offering degrees in humanities and somatic studies.