The first purpose of this article is to present a brief description of Rolfing, its purpose and the results that it achieves. The second, more fully developed purpose, is to uncover and explore some prevalent assumptions about human bodies which art not often brought fully to consciousness and so are not fully examined. These assumptions, based on distorted or incorrect perceptions, limit the decisions we make about our bodies if left unchallenged. Rolfing, by its very nature, calls these assumptions into question, so that the process of choosing to be Rolfed and of being Rolfed occasions reassessment of some commonly held views. In so doing, Rolfing is contributing not only to individual lives but to a larger value shift in the society. There are four such assumptions that I will discuss.
What is Rolfing?
Rolfing is a process designed to change and rearrange the physical patterns in bodies so that bodies become aligned, balanced and lengthened closer to the way they are meant to be. By applying pressure to the muscles and connective tissue of the body, technically known as fascia, the Certified Rolfer actually lengthens connective tissue that has become shortened and thickened. This helps to free layers of connective tissue that have become stuck to one another from years of tension and misuse and from physical trauma. This work is organized into ten sessions, each working on a different part of the body and each lasting about an hour. Some Rolfers begin the process with a talk session to gather a relevant history and to begin to establish the kind of supportive relationship that facilitates the Rolfee’s maximum growth.
When the major weight blocks of the body stack on top of one another in their proper fashion, and the twists and rotations and asymmetries are reduced or eliminated, some wonderful results follow. Health improves and you are revitalized. Circulation increases and chronic pain in the muscles and bones can release. You look and feel better, trimmer and more athletic. You stand and move more gracefully and at your fullest possible height. You breath more fully, your body is comfortable, your body is comfortable, your self-confidence increases and you naturally present yourself more attractively.
Here are the assumptions which Rolfing confronts.
Assumption 1: Who we “really” are is our “minds.”
When most people think of who they are, they think in terms of minds, personality, ideas and achievements. Our bodies mean much to us and different things to different ones of us, and we care for our bodies in different ways and with different intensities. Nonetheless, for many people, bodies are simply things to be cared for well enough so that they continue to carry the head, the “real” us, from place to place. Held in this way it is, of course, desirable to have a pain free, comfortable, graceful, open, vertical and physically integrated body. However, if we don’t have that experience of our bodies we tend to hold that as a particular, discrete shortcoming and not as a fundamental limitation on our possibilities as people. So when a person gets Rolfed, and has the integrated experience of the body that comes with it, he or she comes to experience the body as a full part of the whole self. People who have been Rolfed have more of themselves available to themselves and hence more of themselves to bring to their relationships with the world.
Assumption 2: Body Structures cannot change for the better.
People know that their structures can change for the worse. Vie see people become more bent, gnarled and pained as they age,and many people experience their own bodies accumulating aches and restrictions over time. Many people have the idea that the best times for their bodies were in the past and that they will never again feel as good about their bodies as they once did.
However, the experience of people who have been Rolfed challenges this. While there are some inevitable physiological changes associated with aging, our bodies have the potential to continue to grow, emerge, to feel good and to actively support us way beyond the level that most people imagine or permit. The barriers to this experience for most people are of their own making. These barriers appear in several forms, such as; I don’t really believe I can ever feel fundamentally different about myself, and/or about my body, than I do now; I would like these results but I am anxious when I think of giving up old familiar ways and contemplating new, unknown ways; I would like these results but I am not willing to invest the money in myself. Each of these concerns is quite understandable and for many of us, they will always be with us. The difference between the people who pursue Rolfing as a growth and change process, and those who do not, is not that one group does not have these barriers and the other does. The difference is that the people who choose to be Rolfed are not allowing themselves to be governed by their concerns. They take their concerns with them, get Rolfed, and watch their concerns disappear in the process of growth.
Assumption 3: A hands on technique of applied pressure can’t really achieve such dramatic results.
This assumption stems from a culture in which health and wellness matters have been dominated by the traditional medical model of treatment. We think of “big changes” in our bodies in terms of elaborate technology, medicines and surgery. We forget, or did not know, that one of the longest and strongest traditions of healing in human civilization is that of “hands on” work.
Further, many people are not aware of the advances that pioneers like Ida Rolf, who created Rolfing, have make in understanding how the body works and how in can be induced to change by physical manipulation.
Assumption 4: If my body did change, that change probably would not last.
At the heart of this mistaken assumption is a pessimism that many people have about their own capacity to grow and change and to sustain that growth and change. Rolfing is not a “commodity” that you buy that, like other commodities you have purchased, wear out or are used up in time. It is an interactive process between yourself and a Certified Rolfer, designed to stimulate growth and change processes in you. It is an understandable human response to be concerned about our own ability to sustain growth and change. At the same time, people do grow and change. Rolfing is not a “thing” that you will outgrow or use up. It is a process of change in which you enroll yourself to facilitate the natural growth and healing processes in yourself. Rolfing not only lasts but its effects continue to advance people even after the completion of the ten sessions.
When you have examined these assumptions, as they play out in your life, and have determined not to be governed by them, the next step is, of course, to be Rolfed. For those who do not have the names of Rolfers in your area, a complete listing of Rolfers can be obtained at no cost from the Rolf Institute, P.O. Box 1868, Boulder, Colorado 80306.Rolfing