Advanced Training

The second in a series by Advanced Rolfing Faculty
Pages: 27-28
Year: 2005
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – Vol. 33 – Nº 2

Volume: 33

A Rolfer’s education begins with the ba­sic training, is enhanced by the inte­gration of movement education, is further deepened by the intermediate training (rep­resented by the 18 hours of continuing edu­cation required for admission to the ad­vanced training), and culminates with the advanced training. ln a very real sense, a Rolfer who has not mastered the material taught in the advanced training has not yet thoroughly understood the fundamental nature and inquiry-standpoint of Rolfing®, and, hence, is not yet Rolfing in the fullest sense – even though he or she may be do­ing very competent basic work.
At bottom, the nature and practice of Rolfing cannot be reduced to its techniques or any series of interventions dictated by the many variations of the recipe (basic or advanced) that have evolved over the years. The recipe is simply an expedient way to teach the fledgling Rolfer how to begin working provisionally and competently with clients. At the sarne time it is also the first introduction to one of the most impor­tant dimensions of the work of Rolfing: the difficult, but profound practical inquiry Dr. Rolf initiated into the nature and meaning of human embodiment and our relationship to the environment. The recipe and ali of the techniques and strategies of Rolfing are predicated on this inquiry and its results. ln fact, mastery of the work is impossible without this kind of ongoing inquiry and the understanding that results from it.
The recipe is a powerful place to begin learning the work of Rolfing, but it is not a place to linger. To remain content with Rolfing by means of formulistic protocols, no matter how subtle and varied their ap­plication may be, is to remain at the levei of a beginner or intermediate practitioner satisfied with only a novice’s understand­ing and skill level. This sort of ccuits Dr. Rolf’ s inquiry. It not only stifles the development and effectiveness of the practitioner, but it also strangulates the nec­essary evolution of Rolfing itself.
There are many leveis to understanding and practicing competent Rolfing, of course. But the kind of understanding that results from truly undertaking Dr. Rolf’s investigations is the integration of a lively and intensely curious intellect with a deep bodily felt sense of the other. This marriage of sense and thought leads to mastery by endowing the practitioner with the ability to perform sensitive and detailed analyses of the great variations in human structure coupled with a gentler, more discriminating and precise sense of touch, and an ability to tailor in­terventions to the specific morphological imperatives that show themselves in the uniqueness of each client. Typically this marriage of sense and thought only be­comes alive in those practitioners who have learned to free their minds and hands from the inherent limitations of the recipe by truly undertaking Dr. Rolf’ s inquiry.
Even though the ten session recipe is pow­erful and effective, it has certain obvious drawbacks common to ali formulistic pro­tocols. Formulistic protocols by their very nature assume the existence of an ideal body or state that is assumed to constitute normality. The theory that there is an ideal structure that every body should strive to emulate can be called somatic idealism. Formulism and somatic idealism go hand in hand. Since formulistic protocols dictate the sarne sequence of interventions in the sarne order, they presuppose the sarne out­come for every body. Since they assume the sarne outcome for every body, formulistic protocols surreptitiously perpetuate so­matic idealism. Unfortunately somatic ide­alism, whether it assumes an ideal form for the way the body should relate to gravity or an ideal notion of normality, sometimes actually undermines structural integration and sometimes creates dysfunction rather than eases it. The other related drawback common to formulistic protocols is that theY are sometimes incapable of attending to what is unique in each person. As a result, they are incapable of sequencing treatment strategies in the order required by each person’s unique morphology. The ad­vanced training is an antidote to the kind of difficulties inherent to Rolfing by the recipe.
The cardinal purpose of the advanced train­ing is to pursue Dr. Rolf’ s inquiry as deeply as possible in order to assist each Rolfer in finding his/her own unique way toward mastery. The advanced training is designed to create a safe, supportive, collegial envi­ronment in which students are encouraged to develop and deepen their understand­ing and effectiveness as Rolfers as well as explore the latest developments in our work. Although individual advanced in­structors may vary slightly the content of their classes in order to teach their latest cutting-edge discoveries, the advanced fac­ulty is in agreement about the purpose of the advanced training and the general lay­out of the curriculum.
One of the most important ways the ad­vanced training furthers mastery is by teaching Rolfers how to design sessions without relying on any kind of recipe, ba­sic or advanced. Learning how to work without a recipe is dependent upon two interrelated processes: 1) being able to per­form a very accurate and detailed evalua­tion and analysis that takes account of each client’ s unique morphological requirements in relation to the fields that support and sustain them (this amounts to learning how to evaluate clients without filtering one’s perceptions through the predetermined lenses of each session of the recipe), and 2) being able to strategize sessions according to the Rolfing principle-centered decision­making process. To this end, a great deal of time is spent in the advanced class on the nature of perception, teaching students how to holistically evaluate clients according to more comprehensive taxonomies of assess­ment, and on how to design sessions by means of the principies of intervention.1
The evaluation process is greatly expanded and deepened with the teaching of the four taxonomies of assessment. Although there are more taxons that belong under each tax­onomy than listed below, the four taxonomies of assessment can briefly be articu­lated by means of the following headings: structural/ geometric, functional, energetic, and psychobiological orientation. The struc­tural / geometric taxonomy involves the as­sessment of biomechanical and geometric body alignment, and includes the biome­chanics of the joints as one of its taxons. The functional taxonomy involves the evalua­tion of the quality and economy of move­ment. The energetic taxonomy relates to the biodynamic forces, energy fields, and flows that are perceivable through and around the body. The psychobiological orientation tax­onomy captures what has traditionally been called mind and includes the body’s self­sensing ability, the perceptual and emo­tional orientation of the client, how he feels and views his movement, his self-image, his place in the world, and his relation to oth­ers. It also includes the client’s worldview as one of its taxons.
It is often said that the danger in abandon­ing the recipe is that all of one’ s sessions tend to look alike. This assertion is true only for those practitioners who are unfamiliar with or do not understand the principles of intervention and the taxonomies of as­sessment. Experience has demonstrated again and again that this danger simply evaporates once a Rolfer knows both how to perform a comprehensive, accurate evaluation of clients and “Rolf” according to principles. Those who fear the danger of session-similarity tend to not understand the principle-centered decision-making process. Typically they have not learned how to perform an accurate and compre­hensive evaluation by means of the taxono­mies of assessment, and have never at­tended a non-formulistic advanced class. As a result, they have not had the opportunity to learn otherwise or to view the great di­versity in sessions that are performed on model days.
Closely related to the exploration into the nature of perception and its importance for the evaluation process is the investigation into the nature of touch. Developing and expanding one’ s sense of touch is essential to the development of mastery. The ad­vanced class elaborates and deepens the Rolfer’ s sense of touch to include a gentler, more discriminating and precise sense of touch that integrates direct / indirect and energetic techniques. Students are taught how to cultivate that delicate, unencum­bered, pre-reflective state that bestows the ability to feel deeply into the seamless deliquescent fluidity of the whole body. Work­ing from this unencumbered state also gives the client’ s body the opportunity to show its patterns of disorder more clearly. Rather than always imposing the order and direc­tion of the release, practitioners are taught when and how to let the body choose its own way of releasing itself.
The advanced class also expands the Rolfer’s understanding of structure by teaching a deeper understanding of the membranes and a systematic soft-tissue approach to mobilizing all the major joints of the body. Attention is given to the liga­ments and membranes that influence the behavior of the joints as well as to how they impact more global patterns of dysfunction. To further this global understanding stu­dents are taught how to expand their un­derstanding of fascial anatomy by learning how to more precisely evaluate and ma­nipulate the deeper core membranes of the body. On the basis of this deeper and ex­panded understanding of the membrane system and interna! cavities of the body, they are taught how to correct local dys­functions, including joint fixations, in such a way that they become seamlessly inte­grated into the holistic approach of Rolfing. Advanced Rolfers are certified to work out­side of and beyond the recipe whereas ba­sic Rolfers are certified to administer the basic ten series and post-Ten work. Ad­vanced Rolfers are better able to <leal with the complexity of individual variations in structure, release and integrate deeper di­mensions of the body, better able to handle injury, pain, and somatic dysfunction, and to work more efficiently and effectively than the basic Rolfer.
The Rolf Institute® is the first and only school of manual and movement therapy to discover and articulate a coherent and workable holistic principle-centered deci­sion-making process. All of the other schools of structural integration are still mired in teaching formulistic protocols and evaluation procedures that are tied to recipe-thinking. Due to this breakthrough in how to rationally sequence interventions and to the depth and quality of the Rolfer’ s education, the Rolf Institute is unequaled among schools of manual and movement therapy and sets the standard for the other schools of structural integration. Since the education of Rolfers culminates in a com­prehensive non-formulistic advanced train­ing, graduates of the Rolf Institute’s advanced training have better hands-on ex­pertise and evaluation skills than graduates of other schools of structural integration. Advanced Rolfers are also better able to work more effectively, deeply, and appro­priately with the great variety of somatic types, as well as better able to <leal with somatic dysfunction, pain, and injury. Rather than merely pay lip service to Dr. Rolf’s legacy or remain content with how Rolfing was practiced in the past, gradu­ates of the Rolf Institute are trained and empowered to evolve and deepen the in­quiry Dr. Rolf inaugurated.
1. For the most comprehensive explanation of the principle-centered decision-making process and a more complete elucidation of the new developments in Rolfing theory and practice see my following two articles: “The Principles of Holistic Intervention: Overcoming the Limitations of the Ten Ses­sion Recipe” in The 2004 Yearbook of Struc­tural Integration, published by The Interna­tional Association of Structural Integrators (P.O. Box 8664, Missoula, MT 69807), and “Cultivating the Vertical: The Rolf Method of Structural Integration” in Principies and Practice of Manual Therapeutics, edited by Patrick Coughlin (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 2002).

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