Making of a Rolfer – From John Lodge

Pages: 9-22
Rolfing collection and memory

Undated Rolfers’ Notes – Rolfing history and memory

Preliminary to the Making of a RolferfThe training of Structural Integration practitioners has been evolved deliberately according to a careful plan designed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf, and presently carried out in training programs conducted by the Rolf Foundation for Structural Integration. Classes convene principally at the headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, but also at those locations throughout the country where needed Florida, California, Illinois, New York. Merely meeting the prerequisites for consideration insure that candidates for rolf training are an elite group. In addition, they must be unusually dedicated to hard work and capable of those leaps of imagination and intuition across the peaks of scholarship, dogged physical preparation, and professional responsibility that mark the creative person. Each candidate is at least 25 years old, has a college degree or demonstrated professional equivalent, has a license to practice as a medical, osteopathic or chiropractic doctor, or has a massage license applicable in the state of residence. The person must have the proper physical aptitude to be accepted, and will have completed a series of at least 10 sessions of Structural Integration.Before the final step (selection in an interview to determine the emotional maturity and psychological aptitude), each candidate submits an extensive paper demonstrating his understanding of the basic functions of the various systems of the human body. Candidates have been instructed that the paper should discuss the manner in which these systems work together and how they may be affected by the processing called Structural Integration. They are assured that the viewpoint held before training will be expected to change during and after training, and are encouraged to write freely and in the individual style unique to each.Samples of some papers, or portions of papers, submitted by prospective candidates in the past are being published here for their intrinsic value, to inform those who want to know more about the rolfers practicing, and to demonstrate the calibre of candidate accepted for training in Structural Integration. It should be understood that the excerpts here are only portions of candidates' answers to complex questions. These particular selections are presented to demonstrate the unique character of each applicant, yet sparing us the repetition of facts of anatomy and physiology.

From John Lodge:


The Skeletal System

“Bones do not hold up the body. They determine where soft tissue, which does hold up the body, shall be alloted its space in the organism.” (Dr. Ida Rolf )

It is clear that the basic function of the skeletal system is support. With this thought, there immediately follows the example of the gravitational support of the vertical fact of man. Like the “tent” example, the bones are akin to the tent pole, and the soft tissue akin to the “body” of the tent. The body of the tent is continuously affected by the wind, (the breath of life) the rain, (the body fluids) the tension of the ropes, (lines of gravitational force) etc. Surely we cannot overlook the movement (life) in the tent pole, but the body of the tent, (the soft tissues) is the primary receiver and responder to the external and internal stimuli.

The second consideration then, must be movement. The bones become the levers and joint us upon which the muscles may act to perform the multiplicity of movement the instrument is capable of.

Movement has created the need of the organism for protection. The perceptions and awarenesses housed in the mind and brain of man and expressed in reaction and action, call for armor to ward off the blows that might destroy the fragile soft tissues. Therefore the skull, to protect the brain, the vertebral column to house and protect the spinal cord, the rib cage to encircle and contain the heart, lungs, and finally the pelvis, that remarkable bony cradle, to balance and hold the viscera and the fountain of reproduction.

Within these extraordinary structures called bones, there takes place the miracle of the manufacture of human blood! (Generally associated with the red marrow in the proximal epiphyses of the humerus, femur, vertebrae, ribs, sternum, and diploe of the skull bones.)

How the bones come into being shall remain a mystery in my mind one of the many mysteries associated with human life. But the sequence of the development of this compact or cancellous tissue seems to be generally agreed upon. It goes something like this; first, there’s a mess of cartilage that rises out of something called messenchyme. This messenchyme gets mixed tip with two jokers called hyaline cartilage and perichondrium. The cartilage has fine masked fibrils within a matrix. Perichondrium is a connective tissue sheath which develops around the growing cartilage. Intermembranous bones form directly in the fibrous membrane. Endochondral bones form by the replacement of the hyaline cartilage. Now then, here comes the calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and a hormone from the parathyroid glands, and the bones become firm and very functional! They are supplied with rich blood from the medullary and periosteal arteries. And, one third of the bony mass, the organic cells, osteoblasts and fibroblasts, merrily balance the two-thirds inorganic portion consisting of calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate.

The distribution of these 210 bones (4 called ‘sesamoid’) is pretty interesting. The skull has 29. Vertebral column, 26. The sternum is only 1, but I think that’s debatable. There are 24 ribs, 4 pectoral hones, 2 pelvic ones, and 60 in both the upper and lower ribs. Man! When somebody called the body a “bag of bones” they musta’ known what they were talking about.

These bones are so interesting. I can’t quit! I’ve just got to tell you about the spine! Mainly because of the names of the bones, but also because of the talk about it not being a column and all. When I think of a column, the buildings of the old Greeks pop right into my head! All those beautiful ramrod straight shafts that hold up heavy roofs. Well, sure, the human head is heavy too, but it. reminds me more of a flower on a stem than it does a roof on a column. But anyway, back to the names of the spine bones. Cervicle, 7. Thoracic, 12. Lumbar, 5. (Kinda’ neat, isn’t it? 7 + 5 = 12) Sacral, 5. (You know, that’s one of my favorite words, Sacral! Five bones fused to form a beautiful triangle.) Then on the bottom of the whole beam comes 4 coccygeal fused to form the coccyx. And the shape of the whole beam (I just thought I’d throw in that word ’cause 1 know you like it too!) reminds me of some of the coconut palms on the islands that have known storm and salt and sunshine and all.

Heck, I could go on talking about other parts besides the spinal beam all night. Take the appendicular skeleton, for instance, with its shoulder and pectoral girdles, and sternums and clavicles and humerus’s and radius and ulnas and carpals and phalanges and all. Then what about the axial skeleton with frontals and occipitals and parietals and ethmoids and sphenoids yeah! And what about the face with its zygomatic! Man, that’s a hard one to beat! Of course, I could try. Let’s see. How about sneaking in a nasal or a maxillae or a lacrimal ? A palatine ? No? All right .! I’ve got it. Inferior nasal conchae ! How does that grab ya’?

But don’t go away! There are still a couple of other little fell as called “joints and articulations” where bones and cartilages join, that you will want to hear about. This is where most of the action is!
Articulations? Immovable, slightly moveable, freely moveable.
Structure? Fibrous, cartilaginous and synovial.
Fibrous are found in the skull with sutures between them. These are little wormy looking joints that are amazing! Then these cartilaginous joints between the ribs and the sternum they are really too much! Everything can give and flow with the air as it comes into the lungs. It’s made to be loose !

I saved synovial for last because it’s formal sounding and occupies most of the body’s joints. Listen to this! These synovial joints have 6 different types of movements! Gliding, hinge. pivot, condyloid, (I better explain that `cause it’s not obvious like the others) which means bi-axial – 2 directional, like in the wrist; saddle, like the way the thumb rolls around; ball and socket, like the shoulder and the head of the femur, where it fits into the “vinegar cup” of the pelvis.

There are some other kinds of movement and articulations, but I think I’ll wrap this section up. Not because that’s the end of the bone story by any means! Oh, no! There are surface features and bursae and sheaths and things, but I think you get the big picture now.

The Muscular System

Of course, here we get into the stuff that all that bone talk was about in the first place! The soft tissue, called muscle. Now, this is called soft tissue because of it’s comparison to hard tissue. It’s like saying, “how do you know what black is?” And you answer, “because I know what white is!” Well, it’s got to be something like that because when you really look at some of this soft tissue, it doesn’t appear to be very soft.

Take the rectus abdominus, for instance. Now you! I say it’s supposed to be soft, and I know all about that! But what’s supposed to be and what is, are sometimes two awful different things! That’s what this whole Structural Integration story is about.

O.K.! Rock hard rectus abdominus, that have pulled down from the rib cage, created a hump at the first thoracic vertebra, done strange things to the psoas and the solar plexis and maybe indirectly fouled up the stomach and finally even twisted some leg bones out of their natural position. What do you mean, soft? Now, you’re gonna’ say, soft should be soft! And I gotta’ agree with you. Maybe I won’t go so far as saying soft, but maybe we could compromise on “pliant” or “elastic” or something that includes the idea that form follows function.

I just can’t let go of the thought that the words “muscle” and “movement” really belong side by side. To look at static muscles has got to mean corpses, and I sure don’t like to look at them!

There’s a word connected with muscles that I like a lot. It’s the word tons, or just plain tone. When I think of my own body as being tuned up, it sure feels like music is playing in there, and that’s a good feeling. It’s when I’ve been eating right, lots of raw organic vegetables along with good protein and plenty of exercise and rest. And then, when I look at bodies that are all flabby and soft, or at bodies that are too hard, it gives me a sad feeling. I want to say, “Hey, what are you doing for your muscles? They’re yours! ”

That reminds me of agonists and antagonists. I’ve got the feeling that they listen to each other. When a person is in tune with his body, you get the feeling that everybody in that organism is listening to everybody else. Mien the agonists have been getting overworked, like the ego-beating the rectus abdominus gets with many males, the antagonists have some hard time compensating and adjusting. What happens is this; these recti attach to the pubes on the pelvic rim. That’s how they’re able to lift the anterior part of the pelvic basin. When they’re shortened by overwork, they start to pull down at the area where they insert at the other end, somewhere around the fifth rib. This pulls the whole rib cage too close to the pelvis, making the body `bow’ in the middle. (You see a lot of American boys walking around with this awful lookin’ chin out, shoulders forward, aggressive attitude. It makes me think they don’t know they’re men, they’re try in’ so hard to look tough! And all the time they’re creating a Dowager’s hump! It’s really funny when you think about it.)

The antagonists to the rectus abdominus are the major and minor psoas. These muscles rise in front of the lumbar part of the spinal beam and climb a long way up on the anterior side of the beam. They insert close to two tabs of the diaphragm, called the crura. This is the way they get mixed up with respiration. Inferiorly they cross the cavity of the pelvis diagonally, over the crest of the pubes and continue obliquely across the hip joint. They insert as a tendon in the lesser trochanter of the femur, along with the iliacus muscle, which is closely associated with the psoas. So, anything that aggravates the psoas, angers his buddy the pelvis by way of ole’ iliacus. You can plainly see that if this here rectus abdominus is pulled up tight all the time, the psoas, the pelvis, the lumbar plexis (which, by the way, is imbedded in the surface of the psoas, influencing the function of the lower digestive tract, putting some pressure on the kidney, the adrenal gland and the nerve supply, as well as the reproductive system) are all compensating and adjusting under an unnatural strain and tension. And there’s no music in that!

The different types of muscles are called, smooth, striated, and cardiac. The smooth muscles are in places like the walls of the intestines and the blood vessels, and they do several important jobs like sending food through passageways, getting rid of materials from the body, constricting or dilating openings, like the eye, and contracting or expanding the width of veins. These smooth muscles are stimulated by the autonomic nervous system.

Striated muscle is also called skeletal nzu.sile0 because it forms the muscle attached to the skeleton; somatic, because it helps to form the body wall; voluntary, because in most instances the movements are under conscious control.

Cardiac muscle constitutes the wall of the heart. This muscle is a good example of form following function. The muscles of the atriae are thinner than the muscles of the ventricles because of the distance the ventricles must send blood by comparison. Also, the left ventricle has thicker muscle walls than the right ventricle because of the short route the blood travels to the lungs via the pulmonary artery as opposed to the greater distance the blood must be sent through the aorta.

There are four classes of skeletal muscles;
1) agonists, (also called prime movers in some books) responsible for definite movements. e.g. lattisimus dorsi extends the upper arm.
2) antagonists; responsible for movements opposite the prime mover. e.g. pectoralis major antagonist to latissimus dorsi.
3) synergists; aids prime mover by keeping one joint steady while prime mover applies force to the neighboring joint. e.g. wrist muscles hold wrist steady when fingers are flexed.
4) fixators; keeps bone at origin steady while prime mover pulls away from it.

For the work muscles do. the lever principle has been generally accepted. Three characters are involved; force, fulcrum, and resistance. That’s the simple one, so it’s labeled “class no. 1.” The fulcrum may be to one side of the force and the resistance. That’s a little complicated, so it gets the no. 2 spot. And finally, the fulcrum can be to one side of the resistance and the force in that order. Now we’ve got everybody screwed up, so we’ll label that no. 3! The theory says that it allows increase in speed and movement while decreasing power. The tag is; to increase the power while decreasing speed, turn a movement into a new direction. You got it? Good! All the knuckle-heads had to say was; teeter-totter, wheel-barrow, or fish pole!

If you think that was a lot of mileage on the theory of muscles, wait’ til I’m through with specifics! You’ll know you’ve been on a real boat ride! `Cause were gonna’ start at the bottom and work our way all the way to the top and clear out the sides!

To take step no. 1, we need a foot. And that’s just what we’ve got.

The human foot relies to a great extent on an arch for its maximal lift and movement. If the arch is non-functioning, (flat) the heaviness and laboriousness of movement is obvious. This arch is dependent on the tone of several layers of muscle including the flexor digitorum brevis, abductor hallucis, and the abductor digitilongus and accessories of the second layer, and in the deep layer there are the abductor hallucis, transverse head, and oblique head, the flexor hallucis brevis, flexor digiti minimi brevis, and the peroneus longus. In the fourth layer is the plantar and dorsal interossi. The action must also be dependent on the fluid functioning of the synovial sheaths of the flexor hallucis longus and tibialis posterior, the flexor digitor urn longus and the peroneus longus and brevis. It would seem logical that the squashing of theses heaths or their being glued down, would tend to flatten the foot, thus rendering the arch of the foot and the whole sense of lift in the body inoperative.

Several ligaments are involved in planter flexion and dorsi flexion of the foot; anterior and posterior tibiofibular ligaments, and the transverse ligament. These ligaments affect the bony socket created by the tibia and fibula, and the trochlea of the talus.

(Since the foot alone was worth some two hundred words, it should be no surprise that John Lodge proceeded through the rest of the musculature in another fifteen hundred or so words – Editor)

I got pretty heavy there with the muscles, didn’t I? And it just struck me! the heaviness came from insecurity! How about that! It’s like bodies! Heavy bodies are insecure bodies! My burden was somehow connected with excess mental baggage. In this case, unfamiliarity with muscles. I just haven’t been around them long enough to feel secure about them like I do with bones. Bones and I are old friends from the days when I taught drawing to young architects. So the relationship to them was easy and a lot of fun. But on strange new ground the ease goes out, and there can’t be fun when you don’t know what’s happening. That’s got to be awful close to the way people are when there is no ease or flow or fun in their bodies. That heavy, moody broody stuff has to go. The vertical has of to replace the bends!

The Nervous System

Everything I read about nervous systems sounds tike nerves are some kind of characters that lead the parade! I mean, take a sentence like, “The autonomic nervous system functions involuntarily.” Or this, “The cerebrospinal nervous system is subject to conscious control.” Subject? mind you! There’s a hell of a lot of irresponsibility going on. It’s like saying, “I didn’t do it, it happened to me!”

Chemistry, emotions, metabolism, feelings, impulses are all results in the stimulus-response game. So if I really look at that game, I have to ask, “What is actually taking place here?” “How did I get here in the first place?” “What am I getting out of it?” “What in me chose that stimulus to respond to?”

I have created my life exactly the way it is, here and now. I breathe the air into my own body! If the air is dirty, I have to clean it or go where it is clean. If the stools of defecation are hard, I have to change the food, balance the diet. If I have stuck fascia, I have to go for help. If the job I’m doing “makes” me nervous, I have to change the job, or go on being miserable! If I freak out my emotions, or dream heavy dreams, I have to go straight in there and ask questions. I volunteered to come to this place in space and time. I am in charge of my life. Nobody did it to me, and nobody or nothing is doing it to me!

So, I got that off my chest! Now I’ll go ahead and feed it to you the way the fell as say it is. I don’t agree, mind you, but I have nothing to replace what they claim to be the true thing.
(John Lodge put another 1500 words into the nervous system.)

The Circulatory System

“Circulatory” is another way of saying that a trip is under way. You start somewhere, experience movement through space, and return to the starting place again. The trip involves the element of time, and time brings change.

So, the fluid known as blood goes through changes. It starts out bright red and comes home kind of bluish. Some say the color change is caused by lack of oxygen. Some call it “tired” blood. But I want to think of it another way for a moment. Because blue preceeds the dawn, blue fills the sky, blue follows the setting sun, blue is a quieting.

Circulatory also reminds me of circles, and circles have filled a good portion of my life. When you really look at it, much of life is a series of circles that weave in and out of each other. For a long time I resented this fact. Now, a change has occurred. It has much to do with the physical changes that have been taking place in my body since I experienced my first hour in Structural Integration. Along with the physical changes have come a series of new perceptions. The most startling had to do with the meaning of the vertical. It went something like this: Ida Rolf was talking about gravitational force that lifts and holds man upright and maintains balance in a balanced body. Triangles appeared in my head! Hundreds of triangles radiating out from my body, created by criss crossing lines of gravitational force. Then, a thought followed; “Circles, Triangles Verticals!” And I knew in that instant that all the circles I had traveled up to this moment had been necessary that I might comprehend the meaning of the vertical as the most essential fact in human life! So, it’s Yes, to blue! Yes, to circles! Yes, to verticals!

The Digestive System

If I were to write merely of the digestive system, there would be little trouble involved. The system itself is not that difficult to understand. But there are so many factors that take place before digestion occurs, I must pause a bit and wonder. If only the properties of smell, sight and taste were involved, there would be no complication in thinking about the selective process of eating. We would have only to examine the particular environment of any individual and find out what adjustments he made so that ‘ole mother nature could take care of him.

But it isn’t simple!

Desire, pleasure, gluttony, developed taste, custom, education, economics, awareness are a few of the ingredients that complicate the matter. Man is called omnivorous; he eats anything. Small wonder it is hard to find a model body. Far from being concerned about the body as a freeing organism, man seems determined, from the food he eats to the ways he thinks, to destroy himself.

From the Atlantean to the Greek civilization to the notorius Roman Empire, no one has had anything on our civilization! We have synthetics! We have insecticides and germicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizers! We have mercury in the great oceans showing up in the flesh of some of the larger fishes. We have drop out from hydrogen bombs and untold waste in the air. We even have waxed cucumbers! Have you tasted the skin of an apple lately? Might just as well peel it off and throw it away. But the real winner is the water we drink It’s so loaded with chemicals and invisible waste products that simple chemical testing leaves a layer of silt in a test-tube the color of green brown mud, or rust.

With these facts in mind, I can only say that we’re examining a system that must be in revolt, in a state of flux or change, in our ecologically turbulent times.

But in spite of all, the digestive system is the oldest system of the body. It is the most specific connection that we have with environment. It is part of the environment.


The word connective got me to thinking about connection, telephone connection, and the question arose, “What is had connection and what is good connection?” It all boiled down to the word, “listening”. If I’m not listening, I can’t hear. If I can’t hear, I don’t learn. If I don’t learn, I stay in one place, there is no movement. Connective tissue is like the wire over which the sound waves travel. The wires don’t actually create the sound but they make it possible for the entities on either end of the conversation to hear each other. So it is in Structural Integration. The processor offers energy to the connective tissues to carry to the structures needing awakening, the message that there’s another place, a much more creative space for them to occupy. The connective tissues don’t actually move the structures, but they carry the stimulant that makes it possible for the structure to consider the move. The offer is not always accepted but most of the time living matter will seek the next best step for its evolution.

Another thought came along with the connection idea. It had to do with horizontals. The image grew in my mind that the wires of communication were essentially time and space oriented – hence horizontal. It struck me that the muscle tissue, occupying the space in the structure provided by the skeletal structure, responds to stimuli in a space-Lime orientation. It is tip to the gravity-oriented vertical awareness of the processor to arrange the random horizontals of most bodies, actually diagonals, back toward their true horizontal balance again. Like the anterior ‘line’ of the foot relative to the ground. When that is level, the foot has to feel secure and steady, ready to move!


Before I talk about “the” body, I’d like to talk some about my body, my muscles. After all, it is all I really know about, and that not very well. All I can give you about “the” body is some information I’ve learned during the past few months. But the subject of my own body is very intriquing to contemplate.

What do I know about my body? I know it as inhaled air, in and out water, eye-lid light and darkness, auditory receiver and refuser, my mouth as hollow space and filled space, over all movement and occasional stillness, noise maker, a continuum, a link with something, a structure of flowing living immediacy.

My muscles are definitely now things. I can only know them in the now. They may have memory stored in them, I don’t know, but now is the word for them. I would say that I know about six thousand different combinations of movements with my muscles. I know walking, that’s about two hundred right there, then there’s falling and standing and running and rolling. I know balance through my muscles and I know imbalance through them. I listen to them. They communicate fatique and energy to me. They vibrate so loud sometimes that I hear music like a steady hum or like a bell tone. And how funny it is to speak of these muscles in an impersonal way, as something detached from my very immediate self. That’s not the way it is at all. My muscles and I are a unit. I’m the comedian, they’re the straight men. And they don’t think I’m so funny sometimes. They tell me in no uncertain terms when I ignore the responsibility of their due, living minerals and vitamins and clean water and rest and exercise.

I know my muscles as freeing or as slowing things. I know them as beauty, slim ripples and firm bulges, or as soft puffs and saggy hangings. I know them as lifters and climbers, and as achers or tranquil slumberers.

The science fell as tell me a lot of other things about my muscles. Like, they’re in constant motion. They’re always moving to maintain balance. They’re involved in respiration, digestion, defecation, urination, child birth. They are like motors. They all work in conjunction with the nerves. That the brain has a motor that sends messages around the body. Like when it’s hot or cold, the brain controls the fluids that maintain a certain constant temperature. That the brain gets messages about the need of the muscles for rest or exercise. That the muscles have a sense of balance. That these muscles can be trained to do very difficult things beyond the immediate sensory capacity of the organism. Like typing. They’re right about that. `Cause when I look at or think about these keys, mistakes come fast! Left alone, the fingers do the job without thought. Thought seems to be the problem. The message seems to be “get with your muscles!”

Fascia is the structural envelope that surrounds and intersperses with muscle groups. One sentence from a text struck me very heavily, “Living fascia is very different from the fascia in a cadaver.” This is the crux of the whole matter. The “living” part is giving the boys trouble. Not so easy to pluck apart a living body as it is a living flower! A whole lot of things about my living body will be different than my dead body. I know something about that. My father was never the same after he died!

Fascia has many faces and places. It is everywhere in the body. When it gets stuck down, it leaves pearls or walnuts to let you know something isn’t just right. It seems to have a system of communication throughout the body, like lines of open contact. We might call fascia the structural inter-lace work of the body. Take the cross section of the lower leg that I have been studying with its investing layers of fascia. The outer layers hold the over all shape of the leg together, while the inner layers maintain, yet separate into functioning units, the muscle groups and allow them to work together as one movement or as separate units. As I became more and more aware of the unbelievable numbers of ways the muscle structures work with each other in the movements I make, I admit that it is beyond my mind to really understand how it is all possible. As I sit here and write with these keys and look at the actions of my fingers, as I feel my breathing and the movement of my eyes and all the subtle combinations happening, I feel utterly humbled in the presence of the remarkable stuff called fascia that is mainly responsible for the integration that is taking place.

The first exposure to S.I. training can be an experience of deep insight. Two students, both auditors, submitted these comments after a recent class taught by Peter Melchior.

Desire of the Healer: as the healer, one has the desire to see improvement from one’s work. This desire is dangerous because it may bias what one sees. The pure quality of the differences: before and after the work, or comparing the left side with the right, cannot be observed with the healer’s desire in mind. The healing process is one of discovery in the application separate of the art of the process. (from David Hall)

“Questioner: How can I be sure that I am seeing what to do?
“Krishnamurti: You can’t see what to do, you can only see what not to do. The total negation of the road is the new beginning, the other road. This other road is not on the map, nor can it ever be put on any map. Every map is a map of the wrong road, the old road.” (from David Riley)Making of a Rolfer – From John Lodge

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