How do we as Rolfers work with our clients where tension, holding and awareness seem to be lacking, where their tissue is flaccid, less responsive, and slower to respond to touch and verbal suggestion? How do we vary our touch; do we press harder or softer? Do we ask f or movement? Do we look for a compensated tightness somewhere else to release? At a three-day workshop taught by Marianne Bentzen of the Bodynamic Institute of Copenhagen, Denmark, in Palo Alto, California, these and other options were explored. Participating Rolfers in this first workshop of its kind in North America included: Khita Austin (formerly Cheryl Why at, Leland Austin (formerly Leland Meister),Bridget Beck, Mary Bond, Karen Giles, Marie Jo Graziadei, Peggy Scott, Lin Silver, Russell Stolzoff, Debi Stone, and Deborah Stucker.
Flaccid, under responsive, hypotonic tissue indicates an attitude of impulse resignation. A primary function of muscles is movement, and yet, before a muscle moves it must have an impulse or reason to move. Thus, a flaccid, under-responsive muscle is one which has either not developed or has resigned and given up its impulse for movement. This often occurs during childhood developmental periods in which muscles impulses are forming their unique and particular range of options for acting in the world. When we help a person find her muscle’s impulse, we are exploring the tentatively formed connections between desire and actions. This intervention creates an organizing experience for clients that functions as a supportive counterpart to the organizing influences of tension reducing strategies.
Impulse formation is concerned with not simply a muscle’s movement but a person’s movement with meaning/meanings in a context or contexts. For example, grasping is not simply a movement of the hand but a grasping for what one wants or needs. To reach out with one’s hand is to reach for what one desires, sometimes for the desire in one’s heart. In another example, a collapse in one’s chest might indicate giving up reaching out, or it could indicate the person has resigned his impulse and movement of taking in with his biceps. Although each is a simple movement, resigning the impulse for the movement along with its particular meaning has profound personal consequences.
Different kinds of movement and touch can help bring a client’s awareness to a lack of impulse or the lack of energy in a weak impulse. Awareness, often lacking in these areas, will increase as impulse increases and resignation decreases. With movement instruction that requires the use of under responsive tissues, clients can often sense their lack of awareness, energy, and impulse. With further exploration of the same movement, a client may notice a sense of fatigue along with a nascent awareness of impulse. A client might also notice an increase in energy along with a strengthening of impulse. Both responses can help a client connect with an unrecognized meaning contained within the movement.
Different kinds of touch interventions include pressure, containment, boundaried touch, micro movement support, evocative touch, supportive, protective, and anchoring touch. Some of these, such as micro movement support, we as Rolfers use already in our work to organize structure. However, some of the others such as containment, support, and anchoring can help a person discover an impulse. For example, in Khita Austin’s body reading, when we looked for hypo responsive areas, we noticed a lack of energy in her hands, arms, and chest. Marianne suggested that Khita hold onto Marianne’s index finger with particular awareness in the grasp with her fourth and fifth finger (this movement, which originates in infancy, is a way the infant takes in support through holding on). Through the contact of this simple and supportive intervention which lasted perhaps five minutes, Khita experienced a surge of energy through her whole body that was both thrilling and joyful. She felt she was able to let down into support from the ground while at the same time feeling lifted up. In the weeks following the workshop, Karen Giles worked with a severely pigeon toed child with whom she has been working for seven or eight sessions. Karen used the same intervention as in the above example and she saw the child go through a number of balance and pattern changes.
During the three days of the workshop we considered several practice frame issues for their potential either to support and enhance our clients Rolfing experience or make that experience less safe for them. When we were practicing body readings we noticed that in looking for and speaking about what was missing for that person, using our Rolfing eyes (an approach that is frequently emphasized in Rolfing trainings and workshops), we would see the person being viewed invariably begin to disintegrate structurally. The person became distant and separated from the process of the body reading, as if she had volunteered only her body as a learning tool/object for the use of the viewers while the rest of her self became less present. As this would happen hypo responsive areas of her body would further resign, which we could notice as collapse. Hyper responsive or tense areas would increase their effort and tension as if attempting to call forth more resource for the maintenance of bodily integrity. Conversely, when we spoke of the same person in terms of her resources, our positive non critical impressions of structure and presence, we saw each person, on a number of occasions expand, experience more contact with the viewers, participate more fully in the body reading process, and become more structurally integrated. We discovered this powerful communication and framework somewhat by accident and practiced it with encouraging results. Several Rolfers commented afterward on how safe the workshop felt. Debi Stone said this was the first bodywork or Rolfing workshop in which she has ever felt safe.
One additional suggestion emerged from this exploration. Marianne suggested that we experiment with calling our clients persons instead of models in class. We discovered that the word, “model”, tended to make the view feel depersonalized and objectified, which is not especially helpful in a process in which we are trying to guide a person into wholeness. Video tapes of the workshop are available by contacting Russell Stolzoff.Impulse Formation in Underresponsive Tissue