The Advanced Training follows several paths that intimately intertwine throughout the class. One is the learning of precise and sophisticated techniques for addressing structural issues that arise constantly in our practices, along with the anatomy and understanding of structure that underlie these techniques. Another path is the exploration of how we perceive both ourselves and our clients as we work. This leads us to a refinement of touch that allows us to address a wider range of issues in our clients. Finally, our ability to engage our clients in their processes, to increase their understanding and willingness to participate through perception, education and movement, is crucial. These aspects of working, our ability to perceive the issues our clients bring to us, to see and feel those issues, and to have the knowledge to address them with technique and through partnership with them determines, in large part, the success and quality of our work. The goal of the Advanced Training is to deepen all aspects of these intertwined paths.
We are looking to expand our perception, deepen our understanding, and refine our touch so we can answer the question, “What does this person need and want that I can provide?” with an increased degree of efficacy. From this point we can adapt or design a series of sessions tailored to the client and our skill. Certainly the basic Ten Series teaches us to organize structure. The elegance of it is beautiful. Included in the beauty of that series is its underlying purpose as a self-teaching tool, which is designed to further our understanding of structural relationships. Within it are numerous opportunities to adapt it to the specific needs of each individual. There are also the smaller groups of sessions to consider, e.g., Three Series or first aid. Beyond this, we can design an advanced series with an even higher degree of specificity.
Often, lack of understanding about what we’re observing limits our strategies. In class, we combine our knowledge of structural relationships, the stated wishes of our clients, and our understanding of the Rolling principles to strategize our session or series. Enhancing this ability to strategize is a primary focus of the Advanced Training. In service to this we discuss anatomy, anatomical relationships, and the principles that underlie our work. With this deeper knowledge, we spend time observing structure, both static and in motion, coming to understand more of what we see.
After strategizing, it finally comes to putting our hands on our clients. What do we actually do? We apply techniques. Much of the Advanced Training is devoted to learning new, effective techniques. The techniques are generally organized around joint biomechanics, the ligaments and membranes throughout the body, and understanding the three-dimensional and intersegmental aspects of the work. We explore a range of approaches that includes direct and indirect techniques. The ability to do these techniques starts with acquiring palpatory certainty – that is, knowing exactly where one is and what one is touching. Then we proceed from there into the techniques themselves. Also crucial is learning to match the rhythms of the different tissues so that we can pace our work to evoke change. Practica allow the time to explore these techniques in a collegial and relaxed way. After learning the techniques, one hopes the understanding will be deep enough that exploration and the creation of techniques will become part of each practitioner’s practice.
However, all of our techniques and strategies are only as good as our ability to perceive the need for them and the skill of our touch. These aspects, the expansion of our perception and the refinement of our touch are, to me, the most exciting aspects of the Advanced Training. Our habitual patterns of body use, thinking, and beliefs affect what we perceive and limit the ways in which we respond to what we do perceive. And, we are unaware of most of these habitual patterns. Becoming aware of these unconscious patterns and trying new things to increase our perceptual abilities is a most valuable part of the Advanced Training.
Our habitual patterns of working go into the category of body mechanics, the way in which we actually work. This affects our own well-being as well as our effectiveness. As we work in our offices over time, we tend to work in our habitual patterns and often don’t give them a second thought. We “Rolf” our own structural patterns into ourselves through constant repetition. For example, our “handedness,” sitting habits, shoulder-girdle tension, and amount of connection to the ground through our feet all directly affect the way in which we apply the techniques. Simple things, like always approaching from a certain side or view, or unevenness in hand strength, determine the way a technique is done. These patterns have long-term ramifications in our own structures and are often the cause of chronic, work-related pain. Also, tension in our own selves interferes with our ability to feel what is actually happening under our hands and to adapt to the tissue there. Much of our tension comes from poor body mechanics, with the result that we often work too hard. We also set ourselves up for repetitive strain and overuse injures, limiting the work we can do.
One way to increase perceptual ability is to increase self-awareness during work and learn more effective body mechanics, which is indeed a major focus when I teach. Finding comfort and ease in the practitioner while working increases effectiveness. Related to this, we work with movement during the sessions, often while our hands are on the clients, so our manipulation can be easier and more profound.
Our ability to perceive through our touch and adapt to the client’s need is at the heart of our work. Yet our own beliefs about what is possible or necessary can limit this. For example, thinking, “I have to be sure to give my client his money’s worth” could lead one to working too hard or too long and blind one to the subtle indications from the client that his nervous system is overwhelmed. It could simply cause one to apply more pressure than necessary to accomplish the task, thereby causing unnecessary discomfort to the client. Additionally, we often bring away “rules” from our basic training that may no longer apply to our more experienced skill level. Statements like “Always Do This” or “Never Do That” can prevent us from observing or doing what is required in the present moment. Perhaps through learning or experience there are parts of the body we don’t understand or are uncomfortable about touching, thus interfering with the work that needs to be done. We may have many different rules and beliefs. In the container of the Advanced Training, the unexamined beliefs, rules, fears and habits of thinking can emerge and their veracity can be examined. In this light, we can see if another way of working is possible and beneficial. Our ability to adapt to our clients’ needs can increase.
Often Rolfers arrive at the Advanced Training with structural issues and chronic pain from traumatic injuries and from work-related and overuse problems. An important part of the Advanced Training is to address these issues. Each practitioner exchanges with a partner a Five-Series designed specifically for him or her. Plus, during the numerous practica and demonstrations, there is the opportunity to receive very detailed work on particular problem areas. Receiving this personally specific work is crucial to deepening our understanding of the possibilities of Rolling and is integral to the Advanced Training.
Also, one of the great pleasures of the Advanced Training is drawing upon the considerable combined experience of all the Rolfers in the class. They bring a rich variety of experience, creative energy and understanding. We have all been out working in our Rolling offices, struggling, problem-solving, contemplating. Certainly, as a major part of the Advanced Training, the instructors communicate their knowledge, techniques, and points of view. But, much learning also happens in the conversations and exchanges with other students. Everyone contributes to the learning.
In summar, Advanced Training includes learning to strategize an advanced series as well as other series, a review of the basic Ten Series, learning advanced techniques, developing greater perception, improving body mechanics, receiving much-needed work, and a collegial atmosphere while having a good time. But, beyond all this, the true point of the Advanced Training is to have the time to learn about ourselves and our work and to deepen and expand both.