Bill: It always seemed to me that Rolf Movement Integration was a misnomer; that it should be called “Rolfing Embodiment” or “Rolfing Functional Integration.”
Rebecca: We have issues around the name all the time. Rolfing Movement, as a name, isn’t exactly catchy nor descriptive. We recently changed our name to Rolf Movement Practitioner, with the approval of the Board. Perhaps this will help some. In my everyday practice I don’t make a big distinction between a Rolfing session or a movement session. Most of the time, they are integrated, and I try to address what best suits the needs of the client at the time; what technique, tool or principle best evolves the work. I think many people work like that.
Bill: What is the evolution of the movement work?
Rebecca: The work is now based on a series of principles and not on a particular style of working.
Bill: What I’m getting at is the evolution of content of each of the earlier movement trainings. It seems that many people have come and gone-what happened to the content of their classes?
Rebecca: I only go back as far as Janie French and Annie Duggan-I did study a little with Dorothy Nolte. My sense is that the “techniques, tools and cues,” etc. have been integrated within the current curriculum if they serve the principles of Rolfing and the evolution of the work at this time. For example, one of the gifts Janie and Annie gave me was this art of manipulation which we called “joffelling” and some of the Rolfing Instructors called “shake and bake.” Oh, well… It’s a wonderful indirect way of accessing joints and stimulating the proprioceptive system. Now, instead of teaching “joffelling” I’d integrate it as a “Principle of Intervention.” Let’s say we have a client with a knee problem and the joint needs mobility. We go to our intervention tool box and pull out “joffelling,” to mobilize the joint and connect movement through the ankle, hip, and psoas. Or maybe we go to indirect fluid unwinding, or to an osteopathic-oriented intervention, or we decide that the foot needs stability first, so we “Rolf ” the foot and ankle. Maybe this client needs some perceptual awareness before we can address this leg, or the issue is in the colon first, and so on. I think that it doesn’t matter who or what is right, no how fancy the intervention, it comes down to what works at the time.
I can’t comment about what was going on during the era of Judith Aston or before Janie and Annie. But now what I see happening is that we are past techniques and personalities and into a big picture of what best suits the needs of a client and how to teach the students to perceive from that place. Jane Harrington and Vivian Jaye have contributed greatly to this transformation.
Bill: There’s also been an evolution of what might be called emotional work in Rolfing Movement and how the Movement Teacher interfaces with emotional patterns. Care to say anything about that?
Rebecca: Sure. I think when you’re working in any somatic practice, unless you’re solely working from a bio-mechanical perspective, you’re working with people embodied as they live their lives. And life has emotion in it. Not always dramatic emotion, but people have feelings throughout everyday life. Granted, some are more aware of it than others. Charlotte Selver does a brilliant job of making a distinction between feelings/sensations and emotions. Emotions are frequently our interpretation of feelings and frequently the English vocabulary that we have for emotions does not fully express the feeling state at all.
My daughter has this book that is supposed to teach her about emotion and it says, “SAD” and then it has a picture of a dog crying. For a three year old, it may be a beginning, however, as an adult there are so many nuances of sad, and variety in crying. This really hit home during the week my father died I experienced indescribable feeling states, so many feelings and sensations colored by other feelings and sensations. We don’t always need dramatic emotion to foster our daily aliveness, but we do need the ability to sense and feel the ever-changing currents of our lives and not cut ourselves off from that process. From that support authentic emotional expression is possible, and we also then have the natural ability to move through our process and not get stuck in a loop.
After my early training as a Rolf Movement Teacher I went off to an intensive Gestalt Therapy training program because I felt that I didn’t have the tools to deal with the client’s “emotional life.” I had this idea that I was supposed to “get at” a person’s emotional states.
Bill: Was that training important?
Rebecca: Not in the sense that I thought it would be. The training was fine, however in the course of it I recognized that it wasn’t my job to “get at” a client’s emotional life. That’s solely up to the process of the client-their relationship to meaning, story, history I didn’t need to “push” it. What I became very interested in through some study with Charlotte Selver and Carola Speads was fostering the client’s sense of aliveness and responsiveness to their lives by supporting them in the development of an ongoing “felt sense” of themselves. I feel that this is essential to our work.
Sometimes strong emotions come up during our sessions in Rolfing or movement work and I feel our role is to support the client’s somatic process, not interpret it or attach meaning to it. Bill Smythe does this beautifully in his work which grew out of his studies in the effects of trauma. As I see it, he supports the biological process of charge and discharge and doesn’t necessarily get involved in the story nor get caught in catharsis.
Of course, if the process moves into areas which are over our heads we need to have a good psychological referral network in place.
I’m not saying that I never listen to a client’s story. At times I feel it’s very essential. However I try to not leave it at the level of understanding the story alone, but rather also connecting it to present time, to physiological function, to somatic awareness. This is my field of expertise. I want to refer when the process gets outside that area. There’s nothing worse than amateur pop psychology.
Bill: Certainly when I came along Movement was something so different from Rolfing. The trainings were completely discrete-there was a real gulf between them. Now the Movement work has been interwoven into the training and it’s not possible anymore to be only a Movement Teacher. A real dialogue is taking place, which certainly was not true 15 years ago.
Rebecca: Yes, that’s true, and especially right now. There’s been a tremendous amount of work in the last year and a half or so with revising the curriculum. We wanted accreditation from a number of different institutions, and in order to do that our curriculum had to be very clearly stated as to goals for each and every class. Vivian Jaye worked extensively on the movement aspects for the Curriculum Committee. So now, movement is interwoven into every aspect of the training from FOB on. There has also been a great deal of clarification of all the goals for the trainings in terms of intervention, client relationship, touch, and so on.
Bill: So as Chairperson of the Movement Faculty at this moment, you have a really solid foundation to work with.
Rebecca: Well, being Chairperson is sort of like being a small intestine, in the Chinese Five Element sense… No kidding, you are the sorter. Things come my way, and I sort out the information and try to involve the right people and so forth. Given that distinction, I do feel lucky to be the movement faculty chairperson at this time. It’s exciting, things are changing and the curriculum goals add clarification. The Movement faculty is very diversified, with different experiences and expertise. We’ve also recently made Hubert Godard an Adjunct Movement Instructor, which is very beneficial. His work can more easily be brought into our curriculum and we can utilize his expertise as much as possible. There is good communication between the structural faculty and the movement faculty. Some of that has to do with the goals of the curriculum giving a format for a common sharing of language. And it’s a requirement now for new Rolfing Instructors to be trained as Movement Instructors.
Bill: So what have you been working with lately?
Rebecca: Well, one of the most exciting things was, when I taught with Bill Smythe and Harvey Burns in Munich last year, I used a chart from a class with Hubert Godard. I didn’t fully realize the power of the chart until I used it in that class.
Bill: And you just happen to have one right here? What is this all about: (please refer to diagram 1)
Rebecca: Kevin Frank and Aline Newton have each written good articles in Rolf Lines (March and July 1995-ed.) describing various aspects of this. To begin, in the center we have the term “tonic function.”
Bill: What does that mean?
Rebecca: Tonic means, basically, the overall level of tension in our body. It’s usually called “tonus.” Dean Juhan, in Job’s Body offers a fairly comprehensive description of the physiology of tonus. It’s a complex orchestration of different levels of our nervous systems, with muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs, the sensing devices for our skeletal muscle actions, and so forth. In Gerta Alexander’s book, Eutony, she states, “Tonus is the level of tension of all striated and smooth muscle fibers in the body. Such fibers are controlled by the peripheral nervous system and other physiological regulators such as the limbic system and the ventricular formation all of which can be affected by a person’s psychological condition.” Her focus is on how people embody or live their tonic patterns or tonic function. Hubert definitely grounds the understanding of tonus with our body’s interaction in gravity. Each person has a different level and dynamic range of tonic functioning depending on their relation to gravity. In order for my body to maintain an upright posture my erector spinae may need to fire at a +7 while yours at a +4, while your semi tendinosus is firing at +8 and mine at +3. Our bodies have patterns and preferences-as Rolfers we know that well.
But more fascinating than a static or postural view of tonus is how we move within our own dynamic range of tonus, how our individual tonus functions. The level in which you are able to feel grounded, sending your weight into the ground, has to do with your ability to shift your range and levels of tonus. Your ability to find your upward direction, your lightness, lift, and sense of the space above your head, also has to do with an ability to shift your range of tonus. These are two very simple examples. However, this ability influences our capacity to perform effective movement. Notice I said effective, not efficient. More on that later.
If you want to pitch a baseball well, you need to be able to let go into your lower center so that you can use your torso to the fullest, to give you power behind the ball. If you try to stabilize and mobilize all within your upper torso, you get a little trapezius pitch and it’s just not as powerful. Likewise, if you want to run a long distance, it’s best to initiate the movement in your upper torso so you can get the full range and use of your iliopsoas. If you try to initiate and stabilize and mobilize in your lower center, you can only access the lower psoas and there’s not as much ease and power. We need to have the abilities to stabilize, mobilize and initiate movement from both the lower gravity center, around L3, and the upper center, at about T4. These aren’t only palintonic in the sense of the up/down direction, but also have depth, breath and dimension as one embodies them.
Although we tend to develop preferences, some people towards an “earth” orientation, others towards a “sky” orientation, the key is our ability to transition between these centers. That’s what makes tennis such a challenging game-it involves running and stopping to plant our weight in order to swing the racket. Basically this is our intrinsic ability to fight or flight. Most of us have a preference towards one or the other, but it’s important to have the ability to do both.
Bill: So is tonus something you’re born with? Or does it depend on your Mother’s eating habits in the third trimester?
Rebecca: Yeah, if she eats peaches from a very very tall tree, you will have a preference towards the up center; and if radishes, the down.
We don’t know for sure; partly, it is heredity. Godard says the coordination of our nervous system, our innate reflexes, our acquired learned movement patterns, and our belief systems all have influence.
Bill: Let’s backtrack for a second. We have here a model which gives us an organizing principle for beginning a Rolfing or Rolf Movement session. We’re working with our client’s tonic function at the instant the session begins. This tonic function is comprised of many constituent elements including genetics, hard-wiring of the nervous system….
Rebecca: Right. We also have our acquired or learned motor patterns that we get from watching our parents move, from studying ballet or akido for years…
Bill: Jim Asher got his from watching “Have Gun Will Travel.”
Rebecca: That’s right. Can you tell? And there’s also belief systems. Sometimes we can’t get shifts in our client’s level of functioning within gravity unless we address their belief systems about their body, movement, world, basic life agendas, and so on.
Bill: When you’re working, do you differentiate between an innate reflex and an acquired movement pattern?
Rebecca: Innate reflexes, righting reactions and equilibrium responses are automatic movement patterns that underlie the development of acquired movement patterns. Some o them stay with us for life and others disappear or integrate through our development. For example, we are born with the “babin reflex.”
Bill: Which is?
Rebecca: When an infant is lying supine and quick pressure is given simultaneously to the palms of both hands, the infant rotates its head to the midline, flexes it forward and opens its mouth. This reflex underlies hand to mouth coordination, a learned coordination pattern. In primates, this reflex allows the infant to hang on to his mother and nurse when she hangs from trees. This ability to focus directly forward while engaging our hands underlies many fine motor skills, and is missing in someone with a lower brain injury.
For the past two years I’ve been studying Body-Mind Centering®. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, its founder, has articulated developmental movement concepts within our culture. She was influenced by a number of people, including Ida Rolf. Cohen talks about the time beginning in utero and continuing through early development as a major influence on a person’s range of tonic functioning. She cites movement patterns occurring with four basic elements: the yield, the push, the reach, and the pull. She also cites developmental stages of movement patterns, such as the infant evolving from a single umbilical center, through crawling, creeping, standing, and so forth. Through this process, we can see how functional upper and lower centers evolve.
These movement stages influence our nervous system coordination, our acquired learning patterns, and therefore our range of tonus. For example, flexor tone happens from push patterns. If an infant is not allowed to explore belly down on the floor, but is put into an exersaucer or walker early, he may not develop full coordination in flexor tone. His extensors may kick in early and hard or he may be described as hypotonic later on. In her book, Sensing, Feeling and Action, Cohen describes visiting Bali, where she noticed that none of the dance students could hop even though they had beautiful and intricate movement, especially in the upper body. She found out that children there are not allowed on the floor until they can walk because of “evil spirits.” She realized that the reason that they could not hop is that they were lacking the homolaterale push pattern from the lower legs. This pattern develops through the infant being and exploring on the belly. We also need extensor tone, which develops out of the reach patterns.
Of course, it’s still unclear as to how much is genetic and how much is developmental or environmental. Though most of us work primarily with adults, our goals may be assisted by understanding and working with these primary patterns.
Bill: Have you tried these developmental movement patterns yourself?
Rebecca: Well, several years ago in a Godard workshop, I discovered my inability to belly crawl-this is the lizard, not cross-crawl. There is a beautiful moment in belly crawl when you get a pure push through the leg that transitions through ire spine to propel you forward. I worked with this on my own the BMC classes, with my daughter, with my clients, and so forth. After a while, I began to feel ,more ease in the movement. I noticed dramatic changes in my ability and a counter rotation in my spinal when I walked. In order to s movement well, one’s diaphragms must be open, especially the pelvic floor. Now a Rolfer could is shift in coordination of the leg in many different ways. However, one thing that is really important is how we coach that movement. The movement must transition through the entire spine, tot be isolated to the leg. We really go for a free uninhibited push pattern, otherwise people to recruit the layers of muscles, tissues, and coordinations which always use and keep the ones really need to come to life under utilized. We must train ourselves to see difference. The outcome resides in the quality of the coaching. That’s something which we need to keep in mind.
Bill: So we don’t want to continue charging the hypertonic tissues with under charged hypotonic tissues left untouched.
Bill: So tonus is going to be the same as your baseline autonomic ous system charge.
“Emotions are frequently our interpretation of feelings and frequently the English vocabulary that we have for emotions does not fully express the feeling state at all.”
Rebecca: Yes. Your baseline which has healthy midrange on a continuum from hypertonic at one end hypotonic at the other. We need changes and shifts in tonus to live life in an expressive manner. We charge discharge, as Bill Smythe would say. We also shape this charge and discharge in order to express effectively. A mundane example: we want to push a dresser from point A to point B. To do that effectively we need the coordination of all muscles, both stabilizers and actors, with the impetus of our whole body going in the direction of the action. When we have inhibition in the coordination or muscles/ tissues which are underactive, we may perform the task, but not without also pushing ourselves as well by compressing, bracing, not mobilizing in the full direction of the action. This becomes much more complex when we replace the dresser with a person or a situation in which the task becomes to say “No.” The embodiment of a push pattern is not just about efficient biomechanical movement, in this case, it involves being able to fully embody the physiology for the sense of “no.” If someone’s in too much of a collapse, it’s very difficult to do that well.
Bill: What this developing model seems to allow is a way to integrate various movement models into our work.
Rebecca: Yes! I feel that’s really key. Some people get “uggie” when I bring in other fields of movement work. Like, “What happened to Rolfing Movement?” Well, for me, it’s all there, especially when we don’t base our work on techniques, but on principles and goals, allowing the strategies to follow. I feel that’s what this chart allows. Jeff Maitland really Drought this concept forth with his distinctions regarding taxonomies.
If we take the classic Arm Rotations, they embrace coordination and structure especially well, and impression and expression, also well, depending on how they are coached. Voila, arm rotations on the tonic function chart.
Bill: Shall we go back to the chart?
Rebecca: Sure. To the left and right of tonic function are impression and expression, with arrows going in both directions, meaning that our tonic function influences our impression and expression and vice versa.
Bill: By impression, do you mean proprioception?
Rebecca: Yes, partly proprioception, but also perception-our internal moving impression of our body and ourselves in motion. A tennis player who doesn’t perceive his feet and legs ends up holding a lot of extra tension in his pelvis. If we can direct him into his feet and lower legs through our Rolfing work and movement awareness, so that his sensory system really embodies them, he can release some of the over-work in his pelvis, because he’ll feel his feet participating. This will also change his tonus because of the shift of effort. There’ll be more flow, less holding and so forth.
Someone who is just brilliant in working with impression is Charlotte Selver. In a workshop I did with her, we spent the entire day just “sensing” our arm move from hanging at our side to reaching towards the sky. It was amazing. I felt something clear in myself. It wasn’t what she did in this case, it was how she gave us the time, the permission to really sense ourselves in the motion.
Ideokenesis, the work of Irene Dowd, Mabel Todd, and Lulu Swiegard is also a different example of impression work whereby you use an idea or image to evoke a shift in movement. Like bringing your arm from hanging at your side to the sky by imagining a giant fan connected from your spine to your fingertips. This also changes the quality of the movement and therefore tonic function.
This isn’t to say that we don’t need Rolfing to release the structure so that the fan motion will be less inhibited, but perhaps it would be a very good idea to give the person a different option for movement other than the one which built up the fascial restriction in the first place.
Bill: It’s a two-way street.
Rebecca: Yes. As Rolfers, we must be willing to acknowledge that if someone practices the movement in the new way, there will also be changes brought to the structure. Also, the technique of Rolfing is a very powerful tactile impression tool. It can really serve in clarifying someone’s internal body image or perception. On that very basic level, just by our meticulous tactile exploration of our clients’ anatomy, we say in a non-verbal way, “Here, this is the shape, space and size that your chest cavity is and can be…. This is the true length and volume of your legs,” and so forth. This enhances the person’s impression and true body image.
On the other side, we have expression. Expression is basically what we do in life. If we sit in a cubby all day and watch TV all night, it is easy to imagine the limiting effect that this will have on our dynamic tonic function. When we take up a activity, like belly dancing or boxing, we learn new ways of expression, which enhances our range of tonic function. We can also look for clarity in basic expressions. Hubert calls these foundational movements. They’re acquired early in life and layered from then on, like the push pattern to say “no” as a clear action. Or the ability to point, to show someone something without binding our shoulder girdle or clenching our jaw. You can imagine a child growing up in a household with many fragile objects and she, like all children, desires to touch everything, especially the sparkling crystal. The parents, instead of putting the things away, constantly say, “No, don’t touch that,” or even have the audacity to smack the child’s hand. This child may grow up with inhibition in her ability to reach out, to show, to point, etc. Again, this doesn’t happen with one or even several incidents, but with enough frequency it forms an acquired learning pattern. That frequency is very individualized. Of course, if these situations involve violation of boundaries, etc. we’re in an entirely different league of inhibition of expression.
Bill: So we get to blame our parents for our muscular inhibitions! Oh good!
Rebecca: No, not really. There are some examples where the parents were just not great coaches, but for the most part our limitations happen through many many layers of life, genetic and environmental. Also our own perception of the situation; like in the one mentioned above, some children might treat their parents’ “no” with defiance and may reach out all the time, everywhere; others may retreat and become more intimidated. Different systems, different responses. Now we are in biological psychology ….we should get out of here, I’m not an expert!
But one more comment. In my gestalt training days, I saw many people beat a pillow to express anger. Looking back, much of that was wasted energy because the movement was not free to really express the feeling, it existed mainly in the realm of idea. They ended up back in the same loop: unexpressed rage. The biology of the human being didn’t get to express the emotion or the biological response to the incident in question. It seemed to just accelerate the need and not really get something out.
Anyway, when we take up a new activity, movement, or method of exploring movement, like Continuum, we enhance our expressive capacity, which also heightens our awareness (impression), alters coordination and sometimes structure, hence shifting tonic function. Awareness in the impression realm has the potential to shift our expression (movement) and vice versa. This can occur in very subtle ways such as when we’re Rolfing a client, and we pause to allow her to breathe, sigh, respond to what’s happened.
Bill: And coordination?
Rebecca: Yes, coordination. The true masters of coordination shifts are the Feldenkrais® practitioners. When they have you do those fancy exercises like turning your head with and without your eyes and so forth, they are really uncoupling our head/eye coordination patterns. We tend to lay down these patterns neurologically and rely on them to do everything. Unless we have impetus to change we get in a rut. It’s easy to see that these “ruts” may cause overuse/ underuse syndrome, limiting both our impression and expression, and cause structural issues.
However, when we find new pathways of coordination, we change our relationship to gravity and impact our tonic function. As body practitioners, we think of that as going in the direction of the most ease, but as movement educators we might also want to heighten expressive capacity. To mobilize someone’s chest for him to not be so constricted is one goal, for him to connect that with a choice to reach out and give a handshake which comes fully “from the heart” is a furthering of that goal. Both involve elements of coordination. Of course once we say that the handshake involves elements of coordination, then we realize that his internal perception of himself, his belief systems and so on, really matter too.
The genius of this chart for me is the idea that movement will change with each and every individual situation. Therefore tonic function, a person’s inherent relationship with gravity, also changes in each and every situation. This takes the whole chart and starts it spinning. With the handshake, for example, we may work to shift the structure, the coordination, and some elements of impression/expression. However, if the guy is shaking the hand of an adversary, his ability to access this new “openness” will be limited. It may be more appropriate for him to close off a little. The point is that appropriateness to the given situation is key. Increasing the guy’s awareness of his patterns is also key, so that when the bully is gone, he can recover and find his balance again. We are talking now about the self regulating capacity of the organism, ii we do not get in the way.
Bill: Structure? From a tonic function perspective?
Rebecca: It’s quite clear that when we balance bodies in better alignment with gravity, we shift tonus, especially when we encourage hypertonic tissues to “chill out” and hypotonic tissues to “engage.” Jan Sultan’s internal/external model is another way to see two different relationships with gravity.
Bill: So what’s this “memory” section of the chart?
Rebecca: When we work in any of the areas of coordination, structure, impression, expression, all of this is filtered through our memory. Memory includes our innate reflexes, the physiological coordination of our nervous system, our acquired learning patterns, and our belief systems.
Bill: If we believe for whatever reason that we should not express a certain movement, then that inhibits our ability?
Rebecca: Correct. Also, there are portions of our lower brain centers that give us species qualities. A cat and a dog have fairly similar structures, yet a cat moves like a cat and a dog like a dog because of the basic coordination of their nervous systems and innate reflexes. There is space for species coordination and familial coordination, cultural coordination and so forth.
Bill: This is all pretty cool! You made the differentiation earlier about efficient movement vs. effective movement. What’s that?
Rebecca: This is where biomechanics comes in. Looking at movement from a biomechanical perspective creates efficient movement. Sometimes that’s all I’m looking for. Like when we do the carpal-tunnel work at Starkey, I’m not so concerned with whether this person is expressing themselves in life to meet their goals. I am very focused on their sitting balance so that they can better do their work without strain. That’s very important and valuable information.
Bill: When does “effective” become a goal?
Rebecca: I feel effective movement has to do with our adaptive capacity. One posture or way of standing and moving does not translate into every single life situation unless we are robots. Sometimes we need to start with biomechanics to offer people a different option for an everyday task. Even then, the secret lies in how we coach it. We don’t want to prescribe an ideal position because that will just lay one pattern over another. We need to coach it as a process of movement which will allow someone to end up in the more desirable postural alignment.
Bill: Give a simple example.
Rebecca: Like you have a”slumper” with neck pain. You could get this person up “on their line” and tell them that this is the proper way to sit. Or you could guide them to explore their breath moving high into their lungs and imagine their exhale flowing down their back, thus working within the “impression” realm. Their slump will change and they will come more upright. Perhaps not to the exact ideal position, but where they arrive will be a “lived experience” and more natural to their current structure. Also they will be able to translate it to different settings. It guides an internal knowledge instead of something based on external ideals.
I had my fill of a biomechanical approach from years of studying classical ballet. Biomechanical movement is necessary in certain situations where if we don’t use it we may get injured or re-injured. However, it has little to do with our moving in a full life, connected to our environment, or to other people in human exchanges, and emotional situations. For me the exciting part of this work is when a client not only reports less pain, but also when they report feelings of being more powerful, feeling more joy, more ability to soften down and relax, and so forth. Whatever it is, it has more of a sense of a person who lives in the very real world, not a machine.
Bill: It breaks us out of the box of looking with Rolfing eyes to change something when our intervention might be better spent including some perceptual coordination or expression intervention.
Rebecca: Yes, less the “I do this to you” approach and more the “full participation” approach. I’ve clearly seen this kind of work in almost every workshop or class that I’ve participated in during the last five years or so. It seems that our language, and certainly public perception, has not caught up. These changes need to be expressed by us in our languaging of Rolfing and Rolfing Movement.
Rebecca: I think this chart is genius. I really do. It’s been wonderful to open more to levels of conversation between disciplines and for looking at different aspects of movement.
Bill: It sounds like this model gives a full overview of what’s happening in Rolfing Movement.
Rebecca: It’s important in teaching to bring out the ability to work within each of these different aspects. I find more and more material that adds to my ability as inspired by this chart. I feel that we’re very lucky that Hubert Godard came our way. And it takes nothing away from what has already existed in the field of Rolfing and Rolfing Movement, only enhances our understanding.
It also removes the separation between Rolfing and Rolfing Movement. It’s a continuum, a flow. You can play in all these domains with whatever tactile touch you want to have. Certainly it allows for working in visceral, cranial, fluid or fascial techniques.
It’s not just a movement chart; it can really serve to reorganize how we work. It takes us out of the idea that tissue manipulation is something Rolfers do and the movement stuff ties the pink ribbon on top. Any entry on that chart has the potential to be a powerful tool and we need to choose carefully and titrate each intervention we make so that the client has the physiological time to process it.
Bill: It occurs to me that tonic function is another way of getting at the felt sense of self of the client.
Bill: So if you’re facilitating a shift in tonic function you’re expanding horizons in a profound way. You’re changing that person’s idea of who they are.
Rebecca: And it can be grounded in gravity. As Rolfers, we always talk about better alignment with gravity, but from this tonic function perspective we begin to talk about it as a lived experience. If I am going to raise my right arm and my right soleus contracts and my left spine erector spinae also contract to stabilize me from falling over because of the shift in balance in gravity; I may feel more grounded in performing the movement. However, if doing the same movement, my trapezius grabs and binds my shoulder because it is somehow programmed to respond this way in an misguided effort to keep me from falling over in gravity, I will likely not feel much grounding at all, nor very effective in performing the movement, especially if it pertains to something real to me like serving my tennis ball. By bringing about awareness, coordination exercises, structural interventions to change that pattern, the person may feel like a more grounded and powerful tennis player. Of course this has the potential to translate to other aspects of life. Our work can have a scientific as well as a humanistic philosophy; they are not mutually exclusive.
Bill: Anything else exciting on this front?
Rebecca: ISMETA, the International Somatic Movement Educators and Therapists Association. ISMETA is an organization with members from different schools of movement work: The Institute of Laban Movement Studies, The Feldenkrais Guild, The Alexander Technique, School for Body-Mind Centering, Eutony Teacher Training, among others. Right now, we are seeking admittance to the organization for Rolfers who are also Rolfing Movement Practitioners. That way that we can meet the educational hours in movement practice that are required.
Bill: What will it mean?
Rebecca: Professional members will be able to call themselves Registered Movement Therapists©. It’s also an opportunity to be part of a larger community whose main focus is on somatic education.
Bill: What a wonderful idea!
Rebecca: Yes, and it hasn’t been a simple process because of how some of the world views Rolfing-as advanced bodywork. I’ve always looked at Rolfing as being one of the finest forms of somatic education available, so it really bothers me. I don’t want to be perceived as a sophisticated massage therapist. For other people, this may not bother them at all. But part of joining this organization is to up the level and focus of somatic study for those of us who care about it.
Bill: Right. That’s very good.