True healing, as many of us who are professionally involved in the many different forms of hands-on work are increasingly coming to recognize, is a multi-faceted undertaking. While the individual body worker technique in which a practitioner has received his or her primary training may work extremely well with a great many of the clients whose bodies seek our services, the mature practitioner is constantly humbled by the clients whose bodies do not seem to respond so immediately or noticeably to the work. At these moments, we are forced to move beyond the limited vision of our particular approach or technique and are challenged to evolve our understanding of how best to help our client.
It is this evolution of understanding that Rosie Spiegel addresses in Bodies, Health, and Consciousness. While most books on bodywork often tend to tout the perceived superiority of their chosen technique (often at the expense of other techniques),Spiegel’s book is refreshingly ecumenical in its attempts to address some of the most basic underlying principles of healing that pertain to all forms of bodywork. Principles such as support, presence, acceptance, left brain/ right brain coordination, involvement, love, perseverance, nonattachment, and embodiment/empowerment are equally applicable to the work of a Rolfer, a massage therapist, a Traeger practitioner, or a yoga instructor. Further more, it is through the embodied application of these principles into our bodywork sessions that we evolve into gifted practitioners capable of being truly effective and compassionate guides for our clients. Ida Rolf used to speak of this level of understanding and expertise as what separates “the chefs from the cook”.
A 22 year veteran of the front lines of the bodywork profession (as a yoga and bodywork instructor, a graduate of the Traeger Institute, and as a Rolfer), Spiegel is in a unique position to speak of these sophisticated matters, and she does so with an authority that only someone with that kind of experience can have earned. While her book clearly zeroes in on the two predominant approaches to the body that have influenced her the most, Rolfing and yoga, her insights about how to interact most effectively with clients should be helpful to any bodywork practitioner, no matter what tradition that practitioner may hail from.
Two insights are particularly worthy of mentioning. The first is that the practitioner of bodywork must not just function in the role of therapist; he or she must become equally comfortable functioning in the role of educator. How we embody the work ourselves, our presence, bearing, and attitudes that we bring into our workroom, the language that we use in communicating with our clients, all of these factors are as important in the results we hope to achieve as are the refinements of our sense of touch. By viewing ourselves primarily as therapists, we tend to make our clients dependent on our skills. By broadening our role and becoming educators as well, we empower our clients to own the work and results, and it requires a great deal of maturity on the part of the practitioner to make that transition from therapist to educator.
The other major related insight that forms a sub theme of this book is Spiegel’s insistence on the transformational nature of bodywork. Her book is not just called Bodies and Health, it is called Bodies, Health, and Consciousness. As she say, In many instances, only physical objectives prompt an individual to pursue Rolfing or yoga. Yet frequently, as the sessions progress, it becomes obvious that there is an emotional or spiritual root to the physical tensions and problems.” Approaches to bodywork, no matter how sophisticated the manipulative techniques may be, are ultimately destined to come up short if they do not embrace the spiritual or transformational possibilities inherent in the work. Herein lies one of the major challenges to the mature body worker who is attempting to expand on his or her therapeutic role and function as a bodywork educator. While the relief of painful physical symptoms is a noble goal for any body worker to bring to their practice, this focus in itself may not be enough. A client’s emotional holdings or withholdings, his or her experience of their relationship to the larger cosmos in which they live, or their intuitions into the possibility for real human growth and transformation may be equally important factors that need to be addressed if we hope to be truly successful in helping our clients find the resolution to their pain. Transformation of consciousness is ultimately as important as transformation at the levels of the tissue in the body. Moreover, as Spiegel implies, they are directly related.
If you are already an established body worker, you will find in this book ideas and insights that will broaden and challenge your understanding of what you are doing. If you are simply thinking of getting Rolfed, you will find much information here on how to make the most of that process as the book devotes a final section to specific yoga asanas that complement the structural goals of the individual sessions of Rolfing.
A Certified Rolfer and author of Balance of Body, Balance of Mind: A Rolfer’s Vision of Buddhist Practice in the West, Will Johnson is the founder of The Institute for Embodiment Training, Cobble Hill, B.C., Canada.
“Rosie Spiegel has written a valuable book about a great truth: There is no fundamental separation between mind and body. In Bodies, Health, and Consciousness, she shows why body therapies such as yoga and Rolfing cannot be separated from spiritual considerations. This is not just philosophy, but potent therapy that can actually reverse and prevent illness and lead to personal transformation. Rosie Spiegel is a healer. Read her book.”
Larry Dossey, M.D. Author of Healing Words Meaning and Medicine Recovering the Soul