Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – Vol. 46 – Nº 1

Volume: 46

It is obvious that these days we can access tissue layers in the body that were not part of Dr. Rolf’s ‘Recipe’. Our ability to sense and use the mobility of the cranium, the inherent motility in the membranous system of the central nervous system, and the fluidic matrix have come to us via the American osteopaths. The French osteopaths have developed ways of mobilizing viscera and the sheaths around peripheral and cranial nerves that give us valuable tools for relieving pain and supporting our goal of structural integration (SI). For all this we are grateful.

However, this abundance brings with it serious challenges regarding the appropriate use of this knowledge. The theoretical and practical formulations pioneered by Dr. Rolf regarding the role of connective tissue in human structure, the systemic interconnectedness of structural elements of the body, and the importance of an economic and optimal relationship to gravity continue to be the touchstones of the practice of Rolfing SI. Biodynamic, craniosacral work, visceral work, and nerve work, if they are to be incorporated into the practice of Rolfing SI, will have to fit into our existing theoretical and technical framework.

It is important to remember that visceral and nerve release work are techniques. There is no theory of structure associated with their application. While it is acknowledged that releasing visceral restrictions and nerve compressions has structural implications, there is no thought yet as to the sequencing of this release to promote optimal structure. Bruce Schonfeld, Peter Schwind, and Liz Gaggini may have taken some preliminary steps in this direction, as they point out how examining for visceral restrictions in the areas associated with certain stages or goals of the Recipe may support a useful outcome. However, in general the indication for their use is usually the presence of a perceived restriction to mobility, irrespective of structural considerations. While biodynamic work has no structural theory, it does propose a self-organizing model of the organism. The degree to which the outcome of this self-organizing activity accords with our view of SI is an open question.

What seems to be happening is that practitioners are learning biodynamic, craniosacral, visceral, and nerve-release techniques without a framework to assist them in making decisions about when to employ these techniques in the course of a Rolfing session. This can unfortunately, result in a technique-based practice. Simply releasing all the visceral or nerve restrictions or contacting the inherent organizing capacity of the biodynamic system without considering whether the time is better spent organizing fascia or releasing joint restrictions does not produce the most profound outcomes Rolfing SI is capable of producing. It is always a question of how the time with our client is best utilized to produce an optimal result. I have seen occasions when a practitioner chooses to release perceived nerve restrictions, while the client complains of not being able to take a deep breath. The obvious structural limitations to the free movement of the diaphragm were overlooked and not addressed: the practitioner was focused on nerve release, ignoring obvious significant structural problems, which if dealt with would have benefitted the client much more than the effects of the nerve release.

We have a limited time with each client. The most important decision we make in a session is how to spend that time in a way that will create maximum benefit for the client. It was Dr. Rolf’s assertion – and it is my experience – that our unique perspective and skills in managing the organization of the connective-tissue system should be the starting point of our inquiry. Doing what we can to improve continuity in this system is usually a good use of our time and is our unique contribution to the well-being of our client.

There are certainly times when conditions warrant releasing a visceral restriction around the liver to free the diaphragm, for instance, or releasing a tight nerve sheath around the medial malleolus to mobilize the talus. It is very common for me, particularly when dealing with a disorganized pelvis or lower lumbar vertebrae and the associated thickened connective tissue, to spend significant time at the end of the session using the inherent motion of the craniosacral system to make subtle and precise final adjustments in the segments that I have been working with and to promote integration within the spine and its membranes.

Rolfing SI is hard work. Practitioners are always free to find easier ways to spend their time. Whether they produce the most beneficial results for their clients is the question.

We are not able to monitor how practitioners practice once they have completed their training. They may choose to call themselves Rolfers and practice mainly from a technique-based system of nerve or visceral release, etc. We have no real input into this situation. We do have input into how we train them and how we articulate the practice of Rolfing SI. We need to articulate a point of view that accounts for the benefits of using ancillary techniques within a myofascial, structural context.

Our task will be to determine when to use these ‘ancillary’ techniques. We may be able to identify where in the Recipe we should look to see if visceral or nerve restrictions are significant issues and how to determine this. Likewise, we will need to demonstrate when contact with the biodynamic, craniosacral system is necessary and useful. To what extent is the use of ancillary techniques directly supportive of the goal the practitioner defines for the session? To just apply the techniques without a structural framework is not Rolfing SI and will not produce the most profound outcome. These decisions would have to reflect the fact that choosing not to work in the myofascial network would produce a better result than one would get by working there. We have done a great deal of work to articulate the qualities of the result we expect from good Rolfing SI, so we should know what we are looking for. It is a question of how we best use our time to get the result.

Michael Salveson was educated in philosophy and religion, trained as a Rolfer by Dr. Rolf in 1969, trained as an Advanced Rolfer in the first Advanced Training Rolf taught, and trained by Rolf to be one of the five instructors of Rolfing SI she trained in her lifetime. Michael was president of the Rolf Institute® from 1978 to 1982. He has been a practitioner of Taoist chi gong for twenty-six years. He is currently working to develop a coherent Rolfing approach to the ligamentous bed that controls movement and position of the articular surfaces of the body.An Abundance of Riches[:]

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