Manipulation in the Red Light District

Pages: 26-27
Year: 2004
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration: The Journal of the Rolf Institute – Summer/June 2004 – VOL. 32 nº 02

Volume: 32

Concerning the recent article by Dr. Jeff rey Maitland, “The Too-Good-To-Be-True Machine:”


Initially, Dr. Maitland makes a big deal o the “weak muscles” concept. In Dr. Rolf’ context, symptoms of these sorts, regard less of their diagnosable veracity, are seer as outward manifestations of deeper struc tural imbalances. In my experience, this i; no reason to address individual muscles o muscle sets because, in medically ‘normal healthy subjects, muscle tone imbalance: normalize immediately when the underly ing structural schema or pattern is re-estab lished. There is no need for importin? ‘muscle strength’ as a concern in a Rolf prac tice or education. Subjectively speaking, too have seen many amazing immediat( improvements in muscle strength anc “fixed almost all the pre-surgical carpal tunnel syndrome that I have seen” during my practice and application of Dr. Rolf’s ideas No laser required.


Dr. Maitland disarmingly begs an aside in his article to criticize Dr. Rolf’s use of the block model in her theory and teaching.

Contrary to Dr. Maitland’s assertions, nothing about Dr. Rolf’s block model forces us to assume that the body’s segments (or blocks) are of equal density. Likewise, there is nothing about the block model that “…forces you to see the body as a nonliving object…” In my direct experience with Dr. Rolf, she always viewed the body as a special kind of a living object that, by default, exists in and relates to Gravity. There is immense practical value in this point of view. Clearly Gravity does not organize the body but it does dictate absolutely the rang of behaviors our inherited body structure will support. Rolf lived and taught thi: point of view with great enthusiasm, clar ity and conviction.

Dr. Maitland states that it is “…not really possible to align the body along the line o gravity.” This is plainly, demonstrably, pa tently false. From our early Polaroids to the current digital and video technologies, gen erations of photographs taken of Rolf pro cessing results have shown that it really i! possible to directly affect the relationship among the body’s segments. Their cumu lative re-alignment and changes in contour are visually obvious, although much research work remains to be done in the documentation and analysis of these results. And what urban myth about Rolfing° led Dr Maitland to assert that practitioners whc are being mindful of the Gravity field must “force every body into the same structural mold”?

The block model is a perfectly valid, classical frame of reference for a discussion about how segmented three-dimensional forms fill space and relate to forces found in the physical environment, including Gravity. There is a direct connection from this model (with its x, y, and z axes) that allows for modern fractal-based form synthesis and for digital analysis by dividing space up into pixels or voxels. Modeling the body as if it were composed of a set of even-density masses can have immense practical value. Obviously all models, as theoretical constructs, have limits. Anyone skilled in using a given model must be very knowledgeable about its constraints, otherwise it is “Garbage In, Garbage Out’.

None of Dr. Maitland’s arguments, or the stunningly convoluted verbosity of his cri tiques of Dr. Rolf give reason to abandon her verbal syntax for his own, which seem; to be the real reason behind his embedding this little Trojan Horse in his article. Gran him his “slight digression”? Not a chance Far from finding Dr. Maitland’s “slight di gression” a minor diversion, I found thi part of his article to be an aggressive, shal low and offensive slighting of Dr. Rolf’! concepts and teachings. It has been my ex perience that people tend to say these kind of things when they are in need of extendec sabbaticals coupled with concomitant relie from professional responsibilities.


Dr. Maitland’s descriptions of the efficacy of laser-induced ‘treatment’ are set in the context of its alleged effects on very subjec tively reported symptoms and at “the cellular level.” Dr. Rolf was constructively unconcerned with symptoms, and her hypothesis concerning a possible mechanism foi morphological plasticity, is set in the context of connective tissues which are, by histological definition, an acellular matrix. Nothing in this article persuades me that our profession should become concerned with symptom relief or events happening at “the cellular level.”

Does using a laser to ‘turn a muscle on or off’ create any outwardly visible’ changes in the body’s structural contours and alignment in gravity? Does laser exposure contribute to the goals of Rolfing? Could it result in the top of a person’s head going up? Does it contribute to lengthening the axial core? Does it improve flexibility, inter-segmental or whole-system alignment?

My pocket laser pointer projects points and lines at the same frequency of Red at 635670nm (with the same 5% accuracy tolerance) but with 5 times the power (and a proportionally increased penetration depth in living tissue) as the Erchonia device. And yes, of course, there is a little tag on it warning about eye exposure. I’ve seen this same laser used in Rolf Institute classes to point out anatomical regions and details on models. I observed no obvious changes associated with laser use, and none were noted or reported by the class models, students or instructors. To those of us who have built electronics equipment (and I have built many racks of electronic instrumentation) 5% tolerances are a familiar analog electronics standard. Tolerances of (plus or minus)1% are more common for most common ‘high precision’ technological components. Perhaps Dr. Maitland’s laser is more likened to low power supermarket scanners. If so, mass numbers of shoppers should regularly be experiencing the healing effects of exposure to red laser light!

Rolfers must exert work to get their results because it takes mechanical energy to change the way the myofascial landscape is configured. For sake of argument let’s say that it takes 1000 watts of energy to change a significant percentage of the hardened, dense gel-set masses of connective tissue in an average size human. Melt, mobilize, entrain or de-restrict, the laser Dr. Maitland describes is simply not capable of energetically transforming the volumes of tissue inhabited by each human structure. Whether exposure to lights of any frequency can catalyze changes in biochemistry or function at any practical level of interest to the structural integration community remains to be seen. At the least, Dr. Maitland appears to be playing laser tag with symptom sets and subjective impressions. At worst, his laser games would seem benign, given the minimal power output of the device he describes.


After reviewing this article I have no doubt Dr. Maitland has been having some interesting personal experiences in his practice. However, having made a series of fairly outlandish assertions, the burden of proof is now his. I invite Dr. Maitland to settle down and do the real science behind his subjective reporting. I suggest that he design and carry out a series of relevant, double blind experiments and gather statistically significant amounts of real data. He’ll need to identify and constrain the relevant variables and sort through a large number of possible interactions to parse out any significant effects. Some of the questions that he might be able to address this way include:

.Does having any or even all of our cells “entrained back to coherence” result in a higher level of structural integration?

.Are there any credible reports about positive effects with collagenous restrictions, adhesions or cross-linkages in a cellular, dense tissue beds? The Erchonia company web site does not mention effect(s) of their product at the acellular level. It would seem that results of any laser-stimulated “cascades of events happening at cellular levels” would clearly take time to percolate through dense beds of acellular ground substance. So is there a concomitant response in the acellular matrix?

.For a control study, randomly expose clients to laser and see if differential results show up in the data.

That being said, Dr. Maitland’s article gets in the way of itself. His prose suffers from extreme, cumulative verbal obfuscation (a subtle point here, this last word is not in my spell checker!). The complexity of his prose hides meaning and prevents coherent, simple communication. An editor might help untangle his prose and focus the range of his remarks to single subject articles. Perhaps a laser would be useful to entrain his syntax back into some sort of coherent order suitable for future public expression and service on behalf of the Rolf Institute.

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