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Re-Thinking Our Purpose

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Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Bulletin of Structural Integration Ida P. Rolf


I’d like to share some thoughts about our work, our training, and our institute that have been brewing around in my mind for some time.

Evoking the line is the essence of Rolling. All of the many other benefits of our work can be seen as side-effects which naturally occur as the person’s center line is established. Living the line is the final aim of Rolling. That is the real significance of our work. The kind of life the presence of the line represents is the “further evolution of human beings”.

Therefore, our work must focus on whatever barriers prevent us from actielizing the line. From this perspective, any technique or method that is aimed at freeing ourselves from the patterns of contraction that block the experience of the line could be considered Rolling (as Dr. Rolf once confessed). It is the line, not the techniques, that is central to our work.

If this is true, why has there been so much resistance all these years to seeing the value of movement work? Why has there been so much attachment to Rolfing as a manipulative technique? Certainly, good old-fashion Rolling and good old- fashion movement education are the historical core of our work, but when creative people with common goals end up at odds with each other about method and technique, the essence of Rolfing the line is being forgotten. For Rolfing it is the end result, not the means, that is of final importance.

There has been so much confusion and conflict over the years about our movement work. Everyone in the Institute and their clients have suffered. The need for having a strong educational movement program becomes clear when one considers the main components of the tension patterns which tend to obscure the line in each of us. Part of that pattern is clearly structural, requiring a physical approach such as the manipulative work we do so well. However, patterns of myofascial tension and compensation are intimately connected to particular patterns of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, perceptions, behavior and experience. After many sessions of Rolling, it becomes clear that many aspects of a person seem to respond only partially or very slowly to myofascial intervention alone, but can be affected more quickly using the educational tools of awareness and understanding. In fact, because of the nature of these deeper layers, some can only be addressed through these means by the person themselves. We can only help guide them and that guidance must be more than physical. Ultimately, that is the function of educational methodology to reach realms that we can’t so easily affect with our fingers or elbows.

Educational work is absolutely essential for the person to realize their line in a permanent way. So it is vital for our movement program to heal itself and be supported so that it can continue to evolve. It must have license to expand in any way it needs to in order to support manipulative Rolfing. If this means joint manipulation, fine. If it means applying the educational tools of awareness and understanding to behavioral patterns, great. If it involves specific exercises, let’s do it. We should be willing to utilize anything that helps us evoke the line. No method or technique needs to exclude another, if they are both effective and share the same common goal. We need to get off our positions and put all of our creative energies into establishing a movement program that is aimed at furthering the work of Ida Rolf. There is room in the Rolf Institute for any method that works toward that common goal.

I would like to see that program become an equal part of the curriculum for training all future Rolfers. There should be one training, divided into several parts, all mutually supporting each other and commonly dedicated to evoking the line.

In addition, it is my feeling that a further step for our training would be to extend even beyond structure and to address the psychological phenomena underlying somatic patterns of imbalance. This type of approach helps to free the line from the inside out and could include working directly with such things as the person’s sense of identity, their self-image, their psychological defenses, early psycho-development, perception of the world, and way in which they organize and express their emotional energy. Emphasis would specifically be on understanding how the structure and functioning of their psyche and its energetic patterns interfere with living the line. I’m not advocating a random and prolonged psychoanalysis, only emotional work as it relates to living one’s life from the center. Again, the emphasis is on the line and expanding our expertise in whatever way is needed to support that process.

Even spiritual problems can lead to a difficulty in having an open line. These issues could also be addressed more directly as part of our over-all training and approach. This could mean understanding what the nature of the line really is, seeing what our center really is, and exploring the full implications of living that reality. It could involve meditation and reflection on the nature of the line, the nature of our being, and our relation to and place in the vastness of the universe. A portion of the advanced training could specifically focus on the line as a spiritual path a way to the center of our being, dealing with issues that make that journey such a difficult one.

Clarifying our intention in regards to the line and working with the whole person towards this end would require us to expand our training in breadth, depth, and time to include manipulative work, movement education, psychological work, and even spiritual development. An extended training which would be completed in stages would be necessary to adequately address these larger aspects of the person. The basic “recipe” itself would need to be expanded (16- 20 sessions?) to allow time and space for a more comprehensive integration. Eventually we all would be Rolfers adept in working with individuals on many levels. We would be experts at dealing with any manifestation that blocks the line’s presence.

Unraveling the whole pattern of imbalance is a very deep and involved process. To really do it all the way is very difficult, but possible if all the components of the whole human system are addressed. Ailments of body, mind, or spirit can impinge the line, and conversely, realization of the line can balance the individual at all of these levels. Transforming the whole person would require a strong network of support, love, knowledge and understanding. A complete system that is truly dedicated to the path of the line could provide that rare environment, both for its practitioners and their clients.

The line is the unique path that Ida Rolf pointed to. Her gift to us was more than a form of connective tissue manipulation. It represents a path to our center. Everything else is just a means to that end. Manipulative work, movement work, educational work, awareness, understanding— all are only techniques to enable us to move closer to that reality. It is up to us to go forward with her vision, to really take it as far as we are able to go.

Bob Ball is an Advanced Certified Rolfer in Traverse City, Michigan.

“It is the line, not the techniques, that is central to our work.”

“Living the line is the final aim of Rolfing. That is thereat significance of our work.”

“The line is the unique path that Ida Rolf pointed to… a path to our center.”

Ode to Gravity

Gravity – this earth’s embrace holding us to the earth without discrimination as to who. Is this not love and mercy?
-Judith Mayanja
Adv. Certified RolferRe-Thinking Our Purpose

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