How to Involve Clients’ Movement During Rolfing Work

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Rolfing collection and memory

Undated Rolfers’ Notes – Rolfing history and memory


Just recently I started to understand the value of asking our clients to do certain movements while we work with them. It not only makes the mechanical “sculpturing work” easier and helps to sort out the different fascial layers; but it also can serve as an excellent tool to change or expand the movement patterns imprinted in the central nervous system.

In Functional Integration, the individual practice of Feldenkrais work, we usually use passive movements of the client (the practitioner moves certain body parts of the client) to educate the nervous system. And I have learned in the last four years what powerful functional and structural (!) changes you can induce with that work.

But my recent neurological studies taught me that our Rolfer’s method of using active clients’ movement can be far more effective! There are several well- proven scientific experiments that showed that active kinesthetic learning is much faster and better than passive. Also it’s been shown that the “supplementary motorcortex” (that’s part of our movement pattern organization in the brain) is not involved in passive movement, but it is engaged in active movement – no matter how little – and also in imagined movement (cheers to our Rolfing Movement Teachers!)

So we do have a very powerful tool with these active client movements in our work. And I think many of us – like me – can learn to use it more skillfully. I used to involve mainly very simple and standardized movements (foot up and down, elbow out, etc.) just to get some movement into the tissue under my fingers. But now I have started to use it as a more differentiated tool. Here is one example that you might try out:

1) In the typical fourth session position with the client lying on their side and the upper leg bent forward, I usually ask the client to move the knee of the lower leg forward and back while I work on the adductors.

I still use that movement to start with, but I also watch carefully how the pelvis supports this leg movement. Some people tilt their pelvis anterior to bring the knee forward (coccyx pointing backward) and others posterior (coccyx pointing forward).

Usually clients with a chronically anterior tilted pelvis in standing will tend to move their pelvis towards this position to support the leg movement. And clients with a “tucked under” (posterior) pelvis will tend to tilt the pelvis posterior during the leg movement.

2) Then I ask for simple pelvic tilt movement without any active leg movement while I work with the adductors (“bring your tail bone back, – now forward ).

3) Then I have them combine the leg movement and the pelvic tilt:

a) first in their habitual pattern (e.g. for the anterior tilted pelvis person: moving the knee forward and simultaneously the tail bone backward, etc.);

b) and then I have them explore the new pattern (e.g. for the anterior tilted pelvis person: “Let your tail bone move forward together with our knee, as if your pelvis were a continuation of your thigh; so your lower back is lengthening while your knee comes forward, and ….”).

I found this little procedure very effective. Often when the client gets up and walks around after this little education, I see the pelvis swing so nicely forward and back as if I had done an entire psoas session with the client. Or I see the client with the “tucked under” pelvis having gained a nice differentiation between pelvis and legs.

Interesting enough I noticed that most Rolfmg imitations don’t use that tool as much as we do. And also many Rolfers in their first year of practice when they sometimes still feel a bit insecure have the tendency to “forget” this side of our work. But I think it is a very powerful tool. And if we use it in a skillful and sophisticated way, we can induce more effective changes than a Feldenkrais Practitioner by his usual work (and believe me, they can do miracles); even though we use it only as a complementary tool to our otherwise already very effective work with the connective tissue.How to Involve Clients’ Movement During Rolfing Work

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