Rolfing Theory: The Worm Meets the World

Pages: 15-16
Year: 1988
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Rolf Lines – (Genérico)


Sages say that moving the core outside, searching the world for a path, is wrong. Path-finding comes from changed perspectives inside.

This idea implies to me that legs are connectors, but not via their moving the body around on some hair-brained scheme. Legs contribute somehow to improvements in perspective.

Listening to audio tapes of Jan Sultan and Arthur Young from the annual meeting of a few years ago, some key ideas got me to wondering.

Arthur asked himself how the protein for feather could have evolved prior to the evolution of bird. And how could a bird become a bird without the protein for feather? The answer he was stuck with was that, at some stage of development, further evolution is urged from outside the individual unit of life. It comes from some higher principle of organization, trans individual, a “pull from above”, so to speak.

One interest of our work regards organizing structures to be open to pulls toward higher principles of organization.

The second idea was from Jan, which I’ve heard from him a number of times but kept forgetting. He refers to the inner self of the individual as “the worm” housed by the head, spine and sacrum. This unit of life, existing medial to the legs and shoulder girdle, seems to me to be evocations of higher evolution.

I would like to share here, with poetic license, some of my observations about how higher awareness of the life and development of “the worm” may be supported structurally, from below.

To begin at the bottom line, from the subtalar level moving upward, I think higher evolution calls for a realization that one is connected to the rest of life. We call it grounding.

Our legs provide the mobility for choice, giving us freedom to draw closer to or walk from sources of external energy which sustain our bodily well being. Efficiency and rest are both called for. Youthful lightness and vitality come to be appreciated through an upright angel of inclination at the heads of the femurs. Releasing tightness of retinacula and getting lift through fascial membranes can be directly experienced as substantial and worthy accomplishments.

When we take the discussion into horizontality of the joints, the picture moves to look directly at support for “the worm”. By connecting one joint through other joints, the worm comes to be grounded.

Influences of the sacrum come into question. By way of seeking a sense of home, the sacrum could be a hinge in the direction of one’s movement, never feeling satisfied until “it feels” it is where it belongs. Inclinations imposed on the sacrum by aberrant attachments on the pelvis may be accountable for one’s running around in a circle of friends, in rounds of reoccurring patterns to be observed again and again, in whatever city or location. When the sacrum “feels” it is in the right place at the right time, the person feels at home with what is happening.

The effects of getting clear lateral lines of structural support are similar to feelings I have when my sacrum is “home”. I imagine there is a greater connection between ribs, an “ease apparent”, and sacral adjustments than I had previously considered.

However, neither lateral lines nor sacral adjustments “hold” in me or in anyone I’ve seen. To comprehend “pathfinding,” we have to continue the search I think.

Moving on up, getting the worm on top of the legs, with the sacrum medial to and independent from them, ushers in a still different light coming via the lower portions of the iliopsoas.

J.P. Barral’s Visceral Manipulation added to my insight regarding the psoas. The inner spaces, wherein the worm lives, are available to consciousness byway of the afferent neural connections from the peritoneum through the seventh cervical vertebra. The iliopsoas is retro-peritoneal (as are the kidneys), meaning to me that conscious awareness of the iliopsoas comes from outside the neural pathways of inner awareness perse.

To get a sense of the psoas, one has to go outside the body which houses it, outside the confines of what is experienced as form.

Observing talented musicians perform in concert, I have seen a white cloudiness amidst and above them as they tune into higher levels of inspiration. “Higher” also seems to mean “broader”, because the audience, without boundaries, is included. I have observed a similar capacity to attend to “high” organizations of energy in religious leaders of every persuasion and in people who hang out at my breakfast restaurant.

This same white cloudiness I observe, after being Rolfed, as a field perspective, outside and through form.

Relieving neural constrictions behind the crura of the diaphram up through the seventh cervical affords this sense of “field”, as well as the psoas, and takes the discussion into the influences of mythos rather than logos, in Arthur Young’s terms.

In our awe for dimensions outside our capacity to place them on a linear scale, we rely upon metaphors and symbols to point toward what we experience.

Couldn’t this broader sense of “out” be an avenue toward becoming consciously receptive to experiencing uplifting sources of energy along one’s path?

From what I’ve seen, the qualitative contribution to awareness which the iliopsoas adds at the higher levels enables one to sense the currents of life within which one finds oneself in “sync”. It’s like clinically sensing the qualitative character of a complex still being able to work with the complex.

Thinking of the shoulder girdle and arms as tool-shaping appendages helps me make use of these observations. Taking the forms of relationship in my hands to reshape them can provide personally meaningful outlets for constructive contribution. Education, research, and institutionalize forms of relationship remain lacking to support and encourage personal consciousness of not only my worm but of others’ as well. Compassion, authenticity, candid engagements can be further engendered.

The weight of the job can also impinge upon our hinges. Hard work is not the only answer.

Arthur Young refers at this point to the challenge of distinguishing an idol from a god. He says it’s not easy and may be the hallmark of a major developmental shift. Social institutions, like idols, are the slowest processes I know with which we have to live.

Perhaps something like the ligamentous plasticity which allows us to get through some of the aberrations found in bony arrangements can be mustered within the body politic. “Taking a stand”, from this point of view, can benefit from a slidy quality, in an area of principled inclinations, rather than on a point. Considering the influence of iliopsoas and sacral function upon the legs, it is the energy of up-lift, by way of the freedom and mobility which they offer, not levers or props, which engender the kind of stand-taking we come to recognize as appreciable.

When overwhelmed by the challenges at my extremities, I return to my worm. independent of my collaboratively held institutions, sometimes I think I am in pretty good shape.

Getting the worm up into the head involves finding the back of the shoulders and the inside of the anterior thorax. In the space between, support from the psoas comes up through here via the scalenes, and I see the beauty of the worm taken personally. Something like the face of the person is in it. I have found this to be a long-term project.

With this view of the head in mind, one is not lost in our sea of energy. The further reaches of one’s capacity to see, feel, hear, and think are open to inquiry. But one’s presence here and now is established. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t; but at least I am not so confused about it. And I get a strong sense, talking with enough of you, to know I am not alone in this.

From what I have said, I hope it is clear that I observe the possibility of finding one’s path in a continuing interplay between “deep inside” and whatever is moving along “outside”. We can just be more conscious about it.

Jerry Vande Velde is an Advanced Certified
Rolfer in Grand Rapids, Michigan.Rolfing Theory: The Worm Meets the World

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