This column is the first in a series designed to answer questions about the theory and practice of Rolfing. It will be a frequent, although not necessarily a regular, feature of Rolf Lines. Selected questions and topics will be addressed by one or more Instructor Candidates.
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Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Rolf Lines – (Genérico)

This column is the first in a series designed to answer questions about the theory and practice of Rolfing. It will be a frequent, although not necessarily a regular, feature of Rolf Lines. Selected questions and topics will be addressed by one or more Instructor Candidates.

As a starter, I want to try to answer one of our favorite questions: “What is Rolfing?” There are many points of view from which one might attempt to answer this question, and this time around I want to give a philosophical answer.

Let me begin by offering a definition of freedom that I worked out a number of years ago. After I explain the definition a bit, I’ll show how it relates to Rolfing. The definition goes like this: freedom is the creative appropriation of limitation. Peter Melchior once said to me that he thought this what Dr. Rolf had in mind when she quoted with approval Robert Frost’s “You have freedom when you’re easy in your harness.” (Ida Rolf Talks, p. 182.) Notice, by the way, that in this same paragraph, Dr. Rolf emphasizes the importance of having a reverence for form.

There are many examples of the creative appropriation of limitation, but for the sake of saving space, consider just one. Bruce Lee was reported to have had a limitation in the form of a short leg. Since he did not know about Rolfing, he did the next best thing. He learned how to kick in new and devastating ways, ways that were difficult to defend against. Rather than permitting his short leg to limit him, he creatively appropriated it.

Limitation is one of those metaphysical niceties that we usually ignore. But limitation is at the very core of existence. Everything that exists comes to presence as a certain kind of form. Consider anything you know or can imagine to exist (a thought, a dream, a stone, a work of art, a cloud, your body, etc., etc.). It always takes place as a form. Normally we think of form as shape, contour, and outline. Form includes these features, but it is also more. Form is also the way, style, or manner in which a thing is or becomes what it is. Every form is a form just to the extent that it has boundaries. The boundaries of a form are its limits. Remove if you could the boundaries or limits of a form, and the form would cease to be. Limitation, therefore, is the very condition for there being form at all. To be is to be a form, and to be a form is to be limited. Remove all the limitation from the universe, and the universe with all its infinite variety of stuff would cease to exist.

There are two limitations that are of prime importance to us as Rolfers. They are gravity and fascia. Gravity can be understood in a number of ways (e.g. as a force and as a relationship). But fundamentally, gravity is a limitation. In fact, it may be one of the most important conditions of form. Can you imagine a universe without gravity? There is form, because there is gravity, and there is gravity because there is form. I suggest that universe without gravity would be no universe at all.

Fascia is many things, but it is also a limitation. By and large, fascia is responsible for the unique body-form that each of us is. Fascia surrounds and penetrates all aspects of the body. Thanks to Dr. James Oschman, we now know that proteins from the ground substance of fascia penetrate right into the cytoplasm inside the cells. Remove if you could all the fascia from a body, and it would cease being a body. Aside from the bones and a few other structures, all that would remain would be a heap of unrecognizable organic stuff. Thus fascia is one of the most important conditions or limitations for there being a human form.

There are other limitations in the universe, but for our purposes, gravity and fascia are the two most important. They make it possible for us to be a human body-form.

So what is Rolfing? I suggest that Rolfing is the creative appropriation of gravity (more precisely it is the creative appropriation of gravity and fascia).

It would take a whole treatise to clarify the concept of creative appropriation, but perhaps a few suggestive remarks would be helpful. Appropriation means a couple of things. It means to own a limitation for what it is. It means to accept a limitation as the specific limitation it is without any attempt to willfully deny or manipulate it. Appropriation also means to act appropriately, in a way that is fitting for your unique context. Obviously creativity is a large topic. But at the heart of every creative endeavor is allowing. You can will yourself to do many things, but you cannot will yourself to be inspired or creative. There is a certain point in every creative endeavor where you must get out of the way and simply allow what is happening to occur (i.e. live or Rolf from the core). When you completely allow what is happening to occur in the face of limitation, we creatively appropriate the limitation and act appropriately.

For the Rolfed body-form (hear “structure” when you read “form”), the limitations of form cease being the imprisoning boundaries that define where we stop being and become the place from which we begin being. Rolfed-structure becomes the place from which we become who we are, from which freedom is realized. No longer in opposition to its limitations, a Rolfed body is released in gravity and form. In this respect, Rolfed body-form is like aesthetic form (by the way, the opposite of aesthetic is anaesthetic). The limitations of aesthetic form provide the conditions through which creative freedom is realized and enabled to come to presence.

Rolfing is, therefore, the creative appropriation of gravity or if you prefer, being easy in your harness. For the purposes of advertising and P.R., it is a perfectly useless definition. However, if you like this kind of philosophical round dance, grab a partner!

Questions and discussion topics that you would like to be featured in this column may be sent to:

Rolf Institute
Attention: Rolf Lines Editor
P.O. Box 1868
Boulder, Colorado 80306 USA.Explorations

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