From Dr. Rolf’s original formulation, the advanced class has gone through several permutations. Based on her mandate that in order for the work to be of value it must reach higher and higher levels of specificity, we have been steadily developing protocols that allow us to tailor the work for the needs of the individual. As protocols alone do not produce order we have been carrying forward the inquiry as to what constitutes this order we are supposed to evoke.
She also insisted that her intervention was holistic to the extent that it took into account the “whole man.” It has been imperative to examine this concept of holism, with respect to our method of intervention. As Rolfers, we do not attempt to affect everything; we are not nutritionists or psychologists per se. Hon are we then holistic? It is easy to say the word, and agree among ourselves that we have something special. It is another matter to come to terms with our collective understanding of our meaning and to see how that guides and shapes our understanding. In an attempt to quantify holism within the Rolfing0 paradigm, and in the light of the contributions and developments of both our colleagues and our students, we have come to hold that Shape is the primary indicator of order from a Rolfing perspective. “That is to say that the emergence of a more ordered form is a primary value of Rolfing.
Rolf said that you could not leave out gravity and still consider your work to be Rolfing. Shape speaks to the relationship of the mass of the structure to the gravity flow through that structure. We have come to learn that in the post-Einstein understanding of gravity, mass and gravity =standing There is no gravity field per se, but rather each mass bends space in a peculiar and characteristic way. We come to understand that each structure essentially creates its own gravity, and that adjacent masses have a relationship through their respective gravities. In considering the gravitational relationships of the various segments of the organism we have come to consider the competence of the mobility of the joints in their ability to transmit motion across segments. Practically, this looks like how the motion of the extremities connects across the pelvis, torso, and spine, lending grace and economy to the individual’s movement.
In addition to Shape, we are constantly attending to State as an indicator of order, and as a condition of ability to respond to inputs. State is that biochemical energetic “something” that defines the arousal, collapse, or repose of the organism in present time. We find that State reflects both physical character and the accumulated story of the organism. Some historic events are strongly imprinted and are carried forward to remain functionally present as unresolved trauma, or behavioral sets. These events imprint on the organism, effectively inhibiting the ability to respond to present-time inputs in a coherent way. The present adaptive capacity of the organism is compromised to the extent that there are unresolved or unfinished States. These can be conceived of as bound time, for they reflect historic inputs in present time. For example if your clients arrive with depression, and anxiety, they are in a state of collapse, arousal, and without much repose. This is a complex of States, and must be negotiated as the intervention proceeds. A beneficial outcome will include the resolution of some of the time-bound material and a movement toward awareness of self in present time.
Contextually the final element of our view of holism rests in the concept of Trait. Traits are those fundamental qualities of structure and character that are carried forward in our genetic makeup. Examples are hair color skin tone, bone structure, and density of soft tissues. In addition, much of our psychological makeup is derived from the people who contributed to our genetic makeup. In biology there is a constant tension between traits and environmental pressures. This tension shapes us from the moment of conception to the end of life. What we have become is the present state of that tension. When we intervene in another’s process we functionally become an organized stressor that the organism must respond to. A constant element that clients bring to the equation is their genetic makeup. This makeup is quite stable in one way, and needs direct and coherent input to change. An injury or blunt trauma challenges the organism to reestablish order, and we use this mechanism to invoke positive change. In this way the intervention can and should activate a positive adaptive response, and provide an opportunity for true growth, and organization at a higher level.
As a subset of these elements of Shape, State, and Trait we then have the whole array of our technology for affecting these elements. Raising the level of order of someone’s body involves a well-considered understanding of the nature of structure. This, then, is the focus of the advanced training. We release motion restrictions and reorder the functions as a reflection of this understanding. We study the orders of intervention that are framed by our understanding of the Principles of Rolfing. We examine what the client needs first, next, and how to close the intervention coherently. Our range of touch varies in response to the local needs of the system. When dealing with States, the touch may be gentle and evocative of the motile response of the tissue. In attempting to get mobility in Trait-driven patterns, we may need firm and constant directional pressure to invoke the movement of fluid in the muscles and fascia, and awaken the orientation reflexes to new possibilities. Advanced training is a study of these interactions as a higher level of understanding and application. As the organism becomes more uniformly permeable, and movement travels easily across segments, we see spatial order appear as the outward sign of the underlying healthy tissue.
The advanced class then is a laboratory to study the rules of intervention, and the techniques that give rise to the changes we hope to evoke. The class is a hands-on event. We look at patterns that indicate underlying strain. We palpate and learn to identify that disorder and we study the local interventions that produce the positive changes that contribute to global order. Rolf (and your dictionary) say that to educate is to lead out. In the best of that definition, we seek to lead out a higher level of order and to establish a higher adaptive capacity in the organism.