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The Recipe, or: What Is the Job of a Rolfer

Pages: 40-41
Year: 1992
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The Rolf Institute claims that it is teaching people a recipe in its basic classes. But to have a recipe you need to know what you want to cook. In the Rolfing training, however, the desired result of the “recipe” is kept in very vague terms: integration, balance of sleeve and core, an aesthetic whole, resilience, etc. In the training and in workshops we are told we need to learn to see. But we are never told what to took for. It is as if you put into a cooking recipe instructions like: create beauty, make a tasty dish, integrate the ingredients, bring out the best in them, but at the same time you are never told how you can notice whether you have reached that goal and, worse yet, you are never told whether you are cooking a stew, a pie, or cookies.

At the same time, we are always told by our teachers, that we do great work, and when our models get up in class, everybody always says, “Wow, what a change!”. So we learn to believe that we cook great dishes, although in fact we don’t even precisely know what it is we are cooking. And, tragically enough, since we have experienced on ourselves that Rolfing somehow can be great work, we tend to doubt ourselves instead of Rolfing and its teachers when our clients are not as enthusiastic as we expect them to be. But we tend to keep quiet about it, because in workshops, when the teachers are around, somehow again we do “great work”. Any cook who learned his or her craft by recipes like this would either go crazy or supplement this impossible job by learning how to brew beer, which has more tangible and obvious effects.

Quite similarly, many Rolfers have supplemented or supplanted their Rolfing work with other jobs starting from Alike astrologer, through nearly all the letters of the alphabet (osteopath, stress manager, trauma healer, psychotherapist) and ending in Z like zealot of physical immorality. Since all of these supplementors and supplanters continue to call themselves Rolfers, the work of a certified Rolfer will look unimaginably different from one practice to another. Rolfing tends to spread out into all directions from its original concentration on the form and function of the body in gravity. The result then looks like this:

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/1992/388-1.jpg’>

That core in the middle, the field of Structural Integration of the human body in gravity, has been sketched out by Ida Rolf. Like the work of any other founder it was as full of genius as of contradictions and naturally it was incomplete. So it would have needed thinking through over and over again and it would have needed the will for completion. Instead, it was met mainly with worship and traditionalism, the eventual downfall of the work of all founding fathers. As a result, Rolfers, like the cook in the example, had to move to other fields.

The circle in the middle shows the original description of what the job of a Rolfer meant. The process of supplementing and supplanting historically has spread from there and is continuing to spread out. Some of the supplementors and supplanter still have the middle circle as one part of their work. But many others, probably most, have moved so far off that their work has no common ground with all other Rolfers except the name. That is a major difficulty of the Institute as a firm that produces a product: it has no control or even knowledge of what is being presented as its product in the world. Therefore, it has no possibility for quality control and it is even incapable of doing research that would make scientific sense. With such a wide variety of what Rolfers do as Rolfing, the question, “What are the effects of Rolfing?” would be like asking, “What are the effects of a visit to an MD?”. The answer could only be as irrelevant as the question!

In this situation, the teachers together with the Board of Directors finally have set it as their highest priority to develop a curriculum. Developing such a curriculum means as a consequence defining a profession. Rolfing, spread out as it is, is no profession any more. To be one it would have to have some common goal theory, and procedure that all members base their work on. Naturally, members of other professions also vary a lot in how they do their work and will also supplement it with other ideas. But they have a common basis. Thus professions, instead of looking like the amoeba of the Rolf Institute, must look like a pyramid. The common goal, theory, and procedure forms the base which the additional tools and supplementing goals rest upon. They draw their logic and justification from that common basis.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/1992/388-2.jpg’>

Actually, it is just like in a cooking-recipe. You can only draw up a recipe, if you know what you want to cook. And you can only improve it by adding stuff, if you know what you add to it.

In such a situation, it is very tempting to add everything up that already exists as Rolfing and declare that as the State-of-the-Art. That way nobody’s feelings are hurt and “harmony” and “peace” can have a feast. The way the teachers have treated the recipe so far in their publications in Rolf Lines gives evidence that they tend to give in exactly to that temptation: they try to put order into the chaos of supplements by saying “x precedes y”. But they do not set a common goal, theory, and procedure. They still refuse to say what the dish is that we are cooking. But without knowing that, “x precedes y” does not make sense. “Cook the potatoes before you mash them” is a fine statement when you want mashed potatoes. But it does not make sense if you want to prepare French fries.

Jeff Maitland’s palintonic lines make even less sense. From what I understand through his mass of cross references and name droppings, he is giving this self-created name to some innate quality and possibility that all human bodies are supposed to have: to be able to stretch to the sky. This has to be somehow awakened and brought into reality by Rolfing: “We balance the human body in gravity by establishing palintonic lines in the myofascia. Rolfing is that simple.” (Rolf Lines, Jan/Feb 1991, p. 49). Translated into the language of recipes it could read like that: “We cook a dish by establishing the swighibishi in the ingredients. Cooking is that simple.” Swighibishi being the well-known Sanskrit term for expressing the innate quality and possibility of any ingredient to become a great dish! No! That only adds to the confusion that is already rampant in Rolfing.

Instead of developing just a new name, we should look back at the history of this profession and seek for that approach, that goal, which makes us different from all the other professions dealing with the human body. That uniqueness of perspective would make us into a unique profession, not the uniqueness of a name. If we do this, we will find that Ida Rolf has clearly described this unique approach in her book: creating a more economical order and function for the body in gravity!

This is the goal that defines our job. This is the dish that we are supposed to cook. And for that goal we need a theory. Great parts of it have already been developed by Hans Flury in the Notes on Structural Integration. And for that goal we need a procedure, which then would be the recipe. A description of how that goal, that theory, and that procedure can be taught would then make the curriculum, which the teachers and the Board consider to be the highest priority for the Institute.

Many of the supplements may make sense as means to that goal of creating a more economical order and function for the body in gravity. If they do so, they could be added to the pyramid. Some of them may make the dish more fancy and beautiful. They could also be added, if they do not endanger the basic goal. So the pyramid describing our profession could look like this.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/1992/388-3.jpg’>The Recipe, or: What Is the Job of a Rolfer

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