Q: Tell us about your background and how you came to be a Rolfer.
Hubert: I began my university study in chemistry, so I did chemistry in university for 4 years, and then worked as a chemist, and at the same time I was dancing. It was too much, so I had to make a decision between one and the other, and so I quit everything else and just went for dance. I spent my life dancing but there was another problem: my body was really unfair to me-I’ve never seen a worse body than mine when I started to dance. So I was dancing a lot but every one was telling me “You can dance as a hobby but you will never change your body enough to be a dancer.” At that moment I had the luck to have a friend who was a doctor, so I continued to take dance classes in the day, but in the evening I worked with my doctor-friend to understand why I couldn’t do this movement or that one. I kept looking for other doctors or techniques of movement that would help me, and finally I succeeded in changing everything, and to have a good body for a dancer.
Q: Which techniques helped?
Lots, a lot my own work that I was doing to understand my body, and many techniques like Feldenkreis and Alexander, Meziere, some osteopathic stuff-a lot of different dance movement techniques. I was studying with a fantastic dance teacher, and eventually I succeeded in changing. At that time I already had a passion for understanding movement, even more than dancing, and since then I have never stopped studying about movement. So I would dance professionally for 6 months a year, and six months I would work with doctors, study, and do research.
Q: When did you start teaching?
For 20 years I have been teaching and doing research.
Q: So what brought you to Rolfing?
I think Rolfing was a turning point in my life about movement. At that time, I was already a skillful teacher, but without unity in terms of theory. When someone was not able to do a certain movement, I was able to help them with that but there was no theory or synthesis in my thinking. When I got Rolfed, it made a jump in my mind, in my body, of course, but in my thinking also. A year after being Rolfed, all the tools I had been using for 15 years took a common meaning, a theory, something linked together.
Q: What was it about Rolfing, what part of the theory?
I don’t know; it is not the theory of Rolfing, it was being a client, it was my Rolfer, Vandan, who gave me that. After, of course, when I read Ida’s book, I felt very close to this kind of thinking: a scientific background, but more opening a vision of the human body, more whole. So I learned to rest: Instead of being taller after my Rolfing, I was shorter: I lost 2 cm and I gained rest. I gained something that was very important for me: that there was no longer a difference between being in the street and being in the dance studio. Before to be in the studio I had to warm up, and now there is absolutely no difference between daily life and teaching dance. I don’t feel it inside, or even a psychological one.
Q: Can you say also the different things you are doing besides having a Rolfing practice?
For 5 years I ran a laboratory with the National Orchestra in Liege (Belgium). It was for the State, research about the relationship between quality of sound and the body, the posture of the musician. But the main issue of my work, besides the Rolfing practice, is to make a program in France for dance teachers. There is a diploma now for dance teachersI
Q: Through the university?
No it is a separate place, but it is official, there’s a law that to teach dance you have to have a diploma which includes movement analysis, and I am running this department. Also in Milan, the government has asked me to do research at the National Cancer Institute there, in post-surgery rehabilitation. I’m Rolfing all the doctors on staff and the psychiatrists, and giving them movement classes together and doing research about reading the body, with the aim of – no one is happy with the rehabilitation process – to make a reading of each body, and to make each rehabilitation suit the particular individual this is one part; the other is more about functional anatomy: a study of pectoralis minor and the third one is about plastic surgery, to show the limits of certain kinds of intervention.
Q: That is a lot to do.
Yes, it is a nine year program. The idea behind the organization of the main professor who is running the department is to get the doctors working on their own body first–I give them Rolfing and movement classes and from there to begin the research.
Q: Italy is going to be way ahead at the end of this research.
Besides this I have the chance to have little groups of movement. I’ve been working with a small group of psychoanalysts and to understand movement through Freudian theory.
Q: In Rolfing there has always been a division between the people who do structural work and the people who do movement work. You seem to be someone who is doing both. Can you say something about that?
Yes, for me it is unthinkable to do only one. I need my Rolfing practice to better understand movement, but I need movement to better understand my structural work. It is something I would have a hard time separating. What I am looking for is movement. As I was saying yesterday, the only definition of death is the absence of movement. I am looking for a better range of movement for people. In doing that you need to be clear about structure, but I cannot read only on static movement, I need to see people running, doing some crazy thing so that they can’t stay in their presentation-like an emergency- Also you address more to the nervous system in movement, to educate the nervous system so you can run the muscle in a better way than a random one. And of course if you do structural work, you have a better chance to have the movement working after.
Q: You were saying the other day, that scoliosis is not just in the body, it is in the brain. Does doing the structural work necessarily affect the brain or nervous system component?
I was talking about the normal physiological, structural work; but scoliosis is something in the intrinsic muscles so it goes directly through the brainstem and the cerebellum and by a loop through the reticular and the muscles of the neck. Very often there is a lack of opening in the neck before I do anything, so all the information we give to the body doesn’t go through a new organization of the central line or intrinsic muscle.
Q: Those are two concepts that are really interesting to go into: One is the whole question of intrinsic muscle and what that is; the other is the central line, and the difference between the line and alignment that we’ve been talking about in class.
It is common to see people who look really aligned, but who are unconsciously using extrinsic muscle to maintain their alignment. A person may not have a horizontal pelvis, but they have a line, i.e. an inner integrity, a connection between upward and downward movement. If you horizontalize this persons pelvis, you may move into cortical control, and lose the real line.
Q: Can you describe the neurological difference between intrinsic and extrinsic muscle?
Yes. There are many ways to see it, but one part of it is to differentiate between phasic and tonic muscles: tonic are run primarily by the gravity system, so they are more connected to the cerebellum or brainstem organization.
Q: Why do so many of us move more freely when we let goof our “aligned” place- It did seem that for a lot of people in the class, when they let go of what they thought was their Rolf line, they suddenly had a lot more movement in their bodies. Without even consciously realizing it, they were holding an image in their mind of alignment which was not where their body was comfortable.
I think it is very helpful: if you can get people, through movement work, out of using extrinsic muscle just to stand up or to cope with gravity, immediately you know where you have to work as a Rolfer-hands on. There is no lie in the body: If someone is moving only from the extrinsic side of the body, structurally they may look well organized, but if you are used to reading movement, there is no motility, by which I mean movement coming from the core, coming from the central line. What I try to do is to point out where there is extrinsic tension in the body and try to move in another way. Very often you see some torsion coming or some side to side response, but there is very beautiful movement. At that time, the person has a line, but this line is not aligned. It is not at the best place to be in a good relationship to gravity. But I prefer to work from here than to work from the extrinsic, because at this time, the person has all the movement, he has motility, he has emotion, he has the alpha motor, cortical command of the body, but behind the cortical command, I can see the archaic and limbic system working. My work will be to take the line which is a little bent and try to put it back, but truly, which means without making an ideal self. So we will find the ideal self in the extrinsic muscle. When you see a person who is standing normally and who immediately moves from the core, it means that there is no difference between the ideal body and the real body. It fits well with working with psychotherapists: every word of psychotherapy can work for movement-you have resistance, you have the ideal body. You can use the same kind of technique, not by doing psychotherapy but by using the same metaphor. There is no difference between body and mind.
Q: There are a lot of people in the Rolf Institute who are very interested in psychology. We are asking ourselves: How do you combine psychological or emotional work, what is the place of that work, in a Rolfing context. What do you think about that?
One thing that is very important to me is to think that before having emotion, I have a relationship with gravity. The gravity system in the body comes before emotion.
Q: In utero or in evolution?
When you are in the belly of your mother you have only intrinsic muscle, and at this level there is not a cortical motor neuron working. It is more like a reflex. There is preparation of apsyche but not a real psyche in the sense that we think, which means the beginning of a symbolic.
Q: There is no ability to make symbols?
There is pre-symbolic, but not a symbolic mind which means already a relationship-to have a psyche means to have a relationship-if I am melded with someone, I cannot have a relationship, a psyche.
Q: People say that in utero you already have a relationship with your mother.
Sure, you have a relationship, but there is no hesitation. You react to what happens, but you cannot hesitate between doing this or that; you are not beginning to build the neocortical nervous connection in the mind. You have, of course, an archaic level in your mind.
Q: So that is the brain stem-the way you were describing that the snake can move so quickly because there is no hesitation?
There is no emotion.
Q: So what is it, that emotion comes in and brings hesitation what part of the brain is that related to?
Take Maclean’s model. I love it. I don’t use it when I work with neurologists: they can’t deal with it because they are structural.
Q: What is the Maclean model?
He’s an American who did the work with archaic brain and limbic. (the triune brain) I was so impressed by Peter Levine’s talk because I think that he is working to free the core. I’m talking of psyche, not the body. In the core, in all the archaic system-there is no emotion. It took me ten years to understand why people like Alexander, Ida Rolf always said: “I’m not working in the emotional stuff,” but now I totally agree with that: The aim of Rolfing is not to do psychotherapy, it is to get the archaic brain and the intrinsic muscles working. Very often the neo cortex or the limbic system strangles the intrinsic work of the central line. I think it was Peter Levine who said that before having a relationship with your mother, you have a relationship with gravity. Gravity comes before emotion; and the aim when lam working with somebody-I can use a lot of skill with emotion-but the aim is not the release of the emotion, it is to get the line and to get the intrinsic work. In symbolic terms it means to have two directions. For me the definition of the line is to have two directions. You get the intrinsic level when you get the two directions. It takes time to explain why, of course. So metaphorically, there is a line around the line: there is the limbic-which is the reality about the psychological stuff: the emotional surrounds the line and can stop the line from talking. So what I want is not to talk to the psychological level but to talk with the line.
But to talk with the line I need to be really open to emotional around that and to use my skillfulness in psychological stuff, but the aim is not to have an emotional release. This makes a big difference between all the neo-Reichian work and Rolfing: In Reichian work, you use the armor and you struggle with the armor; I think in Rolfing we are not interested in tension, but if I see a tension it means that something is weak in the intrinsic. What I am trying to do is to wake up, to elicit, the intrinsic work and one day, the armor will fall down. But it is not I who decide when the armor falls down, so I’m not so interested in-I see the tension as a symptom, but only a symptom. I’m looking for the weak point which makes the person have tension there. I’m not working to release the tension, I’m working to elicit the inner strength of the archaic brain so after the person can deal with this armor. So it made a difference. It was so clear to me all of a sudden. What is key in the work of Matthias Alexander is to elicit the gamma loop. The practice is far away from Rolfing, of course, and I think that Rolfing is more complete than Alexander work, but the aim is about eliciting this kind of intrinsic gamma loop.
Q: Is the gamma loop the stretch reflex?
No, the stretch reflex is more simple, it is a monosynaptic reflex, the only inheritance of the old first nervous system. The gamma loop is not monosynaptic, it is much more complex. I don’t know if it is clear, but it is very important for me to see that Ida Rolf was really right, since she was inventing the most important concept I have found in my life: the central line, and to work from the intrinsic work. And since she was so involved in that she made a differentiation. What I see very often in France, in body-workers in general, is that they have a tendency to be addicted to dealing with emotional stuff, maybe because they need that. But I think that the end can never be the psychological, or the arousal, but it is something else, what Ida was talking about. Of course, now we can have more skillful, more open, attention to emotional arousal, but if we are only interested in that we will totally miss Ida Rolf’s message, which is something very, very different. It is working more on the archaic level, a deeper level. The deepest level in someone is the intrinsic, central line.
Q: So you can affect someone’s whole psychology without ever talking about their relationships with their family or their parents, or anything like that?
Yes, if that happens I use that, but looking at the intrinsic and building the intrinsic strength.
Q: With your fingers or movement?
With my fingers and with movement work; the aim is very clear. I can give an example: I have often seen people in a psychoanalytic process without end who, with the Rolfing giving a supporting effect in the gravity system, make a very quick end to the many years of psychoanalysis.
Q: What do you think changed?
The Rolfing reinforced something and that gave the strength to cope with the emotional level. It is not necessarily when you go into emotional level that you will elicit the strength of the central line. But if you get the central line you help a lot. For some people it is not enough. You can’t reach the central line, because there is so much history, so many cuts, that you have to go through psychological therapy. But it is not so common, and many, many times I have seen people who were really sure that the main issue of the work would be psychotherapy, but after Rolfing there was no more problem.
It is a way to de dramatize the body which, I feel sometimes, is a little dramatic. It is stronger than we think. If you are missing one direction in your body, if you haven’t got both directions, ground (push) and sky (reach), you will have a range of psychology, of relationships with other people, which will be at the same level. It means you have two kinds of movement-movement coming from the ground, which I call push and movement coming from the up direction which I call reach.
Q: So is that neurological? it is movement from one part of a muscle or another part of the same muscle and not having the muscle itself move in two directions?
Yes, it is the third level of two directions, the first level is symbolic. It is very simple: if you ask a person to point to the sky, you can see that there are two different ways to point to the sky: one comes from the ground and the other comes from the upper body. So one person will point to the sky with the pelvis. This means it is the back chain of muscles that is pulling the chest the erectors are working from the pelvis. There is a fixed point on the pelvis and the restriction of the erector muscles will pull the chest toward the sky, and then the person can point at the sky. For the others it is exactly the opposite: the fixed point is in the neck and so the same movement of the chest will come without any tension between the pelvis and the chest. So they will point to the sky without any contraction in the back. There are lots of experiments: If you take a reach person and a push person and you ask them to jump, and you just help them by lifting the chest up, for one person you will double or triple the jump, but for the other one, it will diminish the jump. And if I take the same two people, and I push them down gently on the shoulders, the person who was paralyzed by the lifting up all of a sudden begins to jump like crazy, and the other one, the one who was a reach, if I push them towards the ground, all of a sudden can’t jump anymore. It is so obvious when you do these experiments, it is like a shock.
Q: Is that a style that you are born with, being more reach or more push?
It is hard to give a definite answer. In the beginning I thought it was something about the Oedipian process, the relationships you have when you are young, but the more I see infants, they already have a tendency, one I would say was in the core. For me, to have a central line means to have two directions available in the central line, and many people have a tendency for one or the other. I call functional Oedipus getting the two directions, which means to have a triangle. I am in relationship to two directions, not only one. So to go towards you I don’t have to push the wall in back of me Another example is that of the runners Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson, Lewis is pure reacher and Johnson is pure pusher.
Q: When you are working with someone, you are working to develop the other part of the movement?
Yes, but first I have to reinforce what they have. So if they are a grounded person, I will go up from the ground. If they are an up person, I will go toward the ground from the up direction.
Q: So you will use what they already know?
An example of that is the difference between Alexander and Feldenkreis. They were often doing the same kind of exercise: get up from a chair, sit down, but the reference point for Feldenkreis was the ground and the pelvis every time, and the reference point for Matthias Alexander was the neck and the chest and the up direction. But you need them both to have a line, and to deal with life also. Sometimes you have to move people out of your way, and sometimes you have to fly. To have the capacity for fight and flight, the two. Very often you are more a fighter or more a fleer. If you are only “up” you have no grounding, and you can’t push people. If something is not working, you fly, you change areas. If you are a pusher, you have a tendency to be stuck in the structure, on the ground, and to change the stuff around you. So instead of moving, you change the people around you so they will adapt to you.
Q: And we are trying to be able to have both, whatever we need?
Yes, so if you are sitting in a chair and you have someone in front of you who is an enemy and you have to push him, you have to work in the way of Feldenkreis, but if you sit up and you want to go to kiss somebody, better to take the Alexander style.
Q: Sometimes we talk about it as if it is a choice between this style and that style, but in movement it seems like we want to have a back even when we’re moving forward, we don’t want to lose the second direction.
I think it is a law in the nervous system to have two directions. For example, what does it mean for a muscle to be well integrated in the body? It is very simple: it is that the proximal and distal action are possible. But most often, in a muscle, the nervous function works every time from the same point, distal or proximal.
Q: Can you give an example?
Yes, some people begin their walk by the leg, and the leg is pulling the trunk, which uses the distal attachment of the psoas. For others it is the opposite: Their upper bodies are more forward, so it is the trunk that pulls the leg, so it is the proximal point which is the supporting point. Or you can see when someone is Rolfing, if he begins the movement by an abduction of the arms, it is the biceps that is lacking one direction, since the biceps is one of the most powerful abductors, 20% in an average person. Very often if the elbow is fixed and the biceps begins to work, the only way to move is to abduct. We can say the same for the hamstrings: If you want to lengthen the hamstrings, the key is to get two directions. You can struggle all your life with your hamstrings and they will never lengthen even if you stretch for two hours every day, if you don’t have two directions in the nervous system, the distal and proximal work. Symbolically it means that you have two directions, up and down. The hamstrings can lengthen because there is a movement toward the ground and a movement up. So having the two directions, you can have a release of the hamstrings. But if you have only the distal or proximal action in terms of neuromuscular work, you will always come back to a compression.
Q: Does the Rolfing recipe work to develop the proximal and distal muscle action?
Q: Do you think Rolfing is oriented more towards up or down?
I think Rolfing theory is more advanced than Alexander or Feldenkreis because there are the two directions.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to say that to talk about movement is not as easy as talking about structure. I can make a drawing, I can talk about everything from the ground up, and I can make an equation for structure. You cannot put an equation on movement because as soon as there is movement, intention becomes a factor. Changing the intention changes the body. Often, it means that at a certain level, working in movement, you cannot avoid having skill in psychological stuff. You can change a body structurally, but if you don’t change the relationship of the new body with people, if you keep the old psychological pattern, the old structure will comeback. What makes my body the way it is is relationship to the world and to other people. Of course, very often getting Rolfed elicits a change in relationship with other people. But I like, when I give a new input in structural work, to immediately show the person that it will make a change in relationship to people so he knows that.
Q: How do you do that?
It is very simple: I ask him to go back and forth between the old pattern and the new, and I ask him, if I am standing in front of him, what that changes for him in relationship with me: does he feel weaker, stronger, bare? That way we can make a little link between daily life relationships and the structural work.
Q: So that puts it together inside him?
I have seen very often that people are stuck in the psychological level: You Rolf them so there is a new structure, but after they comeback home, and in front of the wife or somebody else, they are so used to having the same kind of relationship, so soon the structure is back at the same place, if you don’t reach intrinsic level. If you are a fantastic, super Rolfer, you would get this from Rolfing, but for the rest of us…
It means that it is not as easy to talk and to write about movement, but it is very easy to experience it. When you work with people and you experiment with that immediately it makes sense, but it is not as easy as talking about structure.
It took me so many years-Since getting Rolfed, and in the past 5 years, I have begun to have a theory of movement, but it has taken me 20 years to get the beginning of a theory of movement.
And what has been stupendous for me is that everything I have done in the past 20 years, working like crazy in movement, it is exactly-the best treasure in the world is in the recipe. It makes total sense in terms of movement.
Q: I am hoping that will be your first article: how you make sense of the recipe in terms of movement.
For me, it is the same goal, although I don’t have exactly the same explanation in terms of movement about why it is important to do the first session on the chest, etc. but it makes so much sense.
Q: That is something you talk about differently from anyone else, is the importance of the upper body, and the upper center of gravity.
If you think only in terms of structural work, you will think there is gravity and there is the ground-that’s it. You respond to gravity from the ground, which is not true in terms of movement. So for me one of the main issues in improving structure is to elicit a change in the dorsals, let’s say around T4, T5, which means to have the beginning of intrinsic movement in the chest. This will change how the gravity falls, how the trunk falls on the pelvis: If you have the gravity center of the chest, which is around T4, a little in front of the line between the heads of the femurs, you will use turn-in muscles: Your legs will be internally rotated. But if this same point is a little in back of the line connecting the heads of the femurs, the only way to end up is turned out.
The heads of the femurs will be in external rotation. In other words, there is a structural issue and a symbolic one because the relationship with the up is not so open. Let’s say you ask some people, “What is a jump for you?” Some will say to go away from the ground, and others will tell you it is to go nearer to the sky. This is the symbolic. In working with psychoanalysis, we have made a big link between the two. For example, if the role of the father has not been well done, very often you will have a hard time having the up direction.
Q: It really correlates that easily?
No, not directly, it is really at the symbolic level.
Q: But you can still work with it, not by talking about the relationship but by developing the up direction in your own body?
Yes, we have seen this with psychoanalysis, working on the upward direction with a child. Just very simply, take a barre fixe which people have to jump and cross, and for some of them it is very hard, and for some it is very easy. For some, there is nothing up, symbolically, so if I reach, what am I reaching for? Since there is nothing, to go up all I can do is push the ground. And for others, to be up is here immediately, but sometimes, they are missing the roots, the grounding. So what we want is to have the two, which means to have a central line, and to have intrinsic work, since intrinsic muscles need two directions in order to work correctly, distal and proximal nervous system work.
Q: I remember when I was learning the recipe, that people said the reason Ida didn’t pay much attention to arms, and that there is not that much arm work, and we didn’t really know what to do with them, was because they weren’t really gravity components so they weren’t important.
That’s something that is important for me. Because the arm is free from gravity, it will be full of emotion. With phylogenetic evolution, you no longer need the arms for walking. But the freedom we win from gravity we lose with emotion, which is the grasp reflex of the baby, all the tension. If you put an electromyograph all over someone’s body, and you ask him an embarrassing question, the first tension will be in the arm. If there is a psychological articulation in the body, it is the glenohumeral joint. The glenohumeral joint will reveal a lot about where a person is psychologically. And it makes sense, because the arm is so free, it becomes a psychological issue. In this articulation, muscles play the role of ligaments which are much weaker. The psychological issue in the body will be the arm: how I touch people, how I can accept to be touched, how my chest moves when I’m in front of someone, or how it doesn’t move, how my arm prevents me from being deeply touched, which means to have a movement around T4, and so on. And this makes the difference, that if you are working more in movement, I think the chest and arms will be more the main issue, whereas if you are working more structurally, the main issue will be the pelvis. But in terms of movement, all your desire, all your inhibition will be in the arms and chest.
Q: So you are saying that what we got evolutionarily in freeing the arms, we lost in stability? We increased our tension. When you say we lost in emotion, I don’t understand completely what you mean.
If the baby is grasping his mother, one day he will have to let go, to be autonomous, which means to have intrinsic muscles working. But all the residual fear in this fear of being alone- which is the lesson of life, to learn to be alone- if you are still attached, it will be by the arms. You can use language, but all the language we have will be under laid by the first one, which was touch with the mother. How the first language was structured it has a structure, like a real language, and this psychological structure is in touch: how I can accept to be touched and how I can accept to touch people, in terms of body and in terms of…
Q: It makes sense that in Rolfing then when you are working with these things, you are really reaching deeply, without necessarily needing to talk about the issue, but you are working with our basic organization.
If I go back into biomechanics, it makes sense that any tension in the arms will push the center of gravity of the trunk either forward or back of the line of the head of the femurs. So we can say that the way I grasp my mother, and the way I accept to be alone will already make me either turn-out or turnin.
Q: That seems to be a completely different way to look at it: that we organize our bodies from our arms as opposed to from the ground up.
Yes, in terms of relationship it is the arms and chest, in biomechanical terms it is from the ground, and we are in between the two, we are in between relationship and the response to gravity by the ground. For me, at the same level, we have two girdles, and one girdle is more oriented towards gravity and the response through the ground, and the other one is more organized through moving with the people around, what I call the up direction.
Q: This seems to be a major development in the way we are looking at bodies when we are Rolfing, to really see the importance of the arms.
That’s the reason, if you touch somebody in an extrinsic way, you will not reach their central line.
Q: If I’m extrinsic in my own body?
Let’s say if your chest is not well organized, when you Rolf somebody you will not be so free. Since you are not in your own central line, you will have a hard time reaching the central line of other people. So one of the main issues for a Rolfer is to be in his central line when he is Rolfing. It’s not so easy. That is what I call the gamma-touch. You can touch somebody by the gamma loop without willing.
Q: So you’re not trying to make them be something.
This is very powerful. Some neurologist did a lot of complex research to try move the baby in the belly of the mother: they call that the gamma touch.
Q: Does the gamma touch involve using a certain part of your brain and not another part? is it less cortex?
I think it is that the intention is not coming from the cortex; of course, the cortex has an image of what you want to do when you touch somebody; but if you begin to be more extrinsic, not having the line alive, at that time there is already an affective touch: you want something from somebody. But if you keep being on your central line, each time you are working with extrinsic muscle, the message will go directly from one central line to the other one. If I am only intellectual or cortical in willing to move this pelvis forward or back, I will miss one of the most important parts of the body, which is to be myself in my central line when I am working. This can seem only words, but when you do it, like in the workshop, you can immediately have a sense of it.An Interview with Hubert Godard