Profound change often occurs as a result of being Rolfed—greater than just having a physical problem “fixed.” You will feel a life-enhancing change that will help you move to a place of improved performance. You’ll evolve from having a body that just gets by… to enjoying a body that delivers pleasure from doing the simplest activity.
More of my clients are talking about Transformational Rolfing–how Rolfing changed them in ways they didn’t expect. To read more about Rolfing’s effect on clients, go here.
The Art and Science of Rolfing
Rolfing has been in existence for more than 60 years, and science is now supporting the anecdotal experiences of more than one million Rolfing clients. UCLA and the University of Maryland have now documented the positive physical and emotional effects of the work. These studies have shown that Rolfing produces a more efficient use of the soft tissue system that allows the body to conserve energy and create more economical and graceful patterns of movement.
At Arizona State University, I conducted the first study on performance and Rolfing that documented the improved performance of elite runners as a result of being Rolfed. Research also shows that Rolfing significantly reduces chronic stress and changes in the body structure. Another study showed that Rolfing significantly reduced the spinal curvature of subjects with lordosis (sway back); it also demonstrated that Rolfing enhances neurological functioning. (do you have a citation for this? Currently the biggest push in research is around fascia. Traditional fascia was never considered important in human health; it was just the stuff that got in the way. Through the persistence of an old friend and colleague of mine, Robert Schleip, PhD, fascia has now become the hot topic in medical research. It seems that researchers were running out of new areas to study—areas where significant benefits were produced—so they went back to something they ignored.
Together with another Rolfer, Thomas Findley, MD, PhD, Robert produced the first conference on fascia in 2007 at Harvard Medical School. It attracted researchers and clinicians from around the world. Science Magazine, “the world’s leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary,” has an excellent write up about the First International Fascia Research Congress in its November 23, 2007, issue (vol. 318, pp. 1234-5). The next conference will be in Amsterdam in 2009, where they expect more than a thousand attendees, twice the 2007 amount.
A Natural Alchemy
In my Rolfing practice, I incorporate years of experience and skills from other disciplines so that clients enjoy the benefits of more than a predetermined set of manipulations. I have designed my practice and set the intent to weave these facets together to create a unique system. Some describe the experience as magical; in actuality, it’s just their bodies healing. This alchemy of change occurs when the limitations of your body are removed and its own restorative processes take over and begin to heal your body.
My Rolfing practice incorporates the premise that a person’s whole body must improve to a new level of order for a part to change—and stay changed. An organized structure is the foundation of this whole body change. This results in greater change and increases the chances of the body building on that change.
When the human body frees itself of the stress it has been holding, the body and its nervous and endocrine systems can move past the fight or flight response. This is because we are “hard-wired” first to survive, and then to experience relaxation. When survival is no longer the default state, the body allocates its resources to rejuvenation, setting up deep, sustainable healing.
Reinforcing the Evolution of Rolfing
Learning to Relax
We’ve all mastered the stress response, unfortunately. Even when we believe we’re relaxing, we’re often producing a stress response or tension response. Our bodies need to de-emphasize the dominance of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight survival response). We need to teach our bodies and our minds to allow the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation part of our autonomic nervous system) to be dominant. When your parasympathetic nervous system is running the show, you have more physical and mental resources available for every activity.
Rolfing is a huge jump-start in achieving this goal. Yet, no matter how much relaxation you achieve through Rolfing, you’ll still need to unlearn your stress behaviors. This is where I go beyond Rolfing; I assist clients in achieving a new level of relaxation. Once your body learns to be relaxed on a deep physiological and unconscious level, this new relaxation becomes the default state. Even under stress, clients report being relaxed. The added bonus is that when the body learns to stay in the parasympathetic relaxed state, the mind will follow.
The best way to maintain or enhance the benefits of Rolfing is to genuinely learn to be relaxed. Once this is learned, you won’t want to give it up.
Learning to Breathe
It’s impossible to become tense if you’re breathing naturally. Learning to breathe is the key to learning to be relaxed. Rolfing releases the restrictions to the rib cage, abdomen, back and pelvis so that you’re able to fully breathe.
I teach my clients Natural Breathing™. Much like learning to relax, learning to breathe mitigates the reoccurrence of tension in the body. The breath becomes a natural de-stressor, releasing tension with each exhale.
With this breath, you use the entire upper body to inhale and exhale. When you learn to breathe naturally, your body stays relaxed—and functions at its highest level with the minimal use of energy. One of the biggest changes discovered in the ASU study we did was that the elite runners’ breathing improved. Several Olympic runners told me how amazed they were with how much better they were breathing—after only a few sessions. That’s when I began to understand how restrictive everyone’s breathe is.
Learning to Walk
Learning to use gravity, instead of fighting it, is the key to increasing the efficiency of your walk. Every client who begins a Rolfing series arrives with their center of gravity behind them. Watching them walk from the side, you would see them leaning back. It’s as if they’re going uphill on level ground. Once seen from this engineering prospective, you can understand the stress this puts on the body over the years.
“I was running one day, after a few weeks off, and my knee started to hurt. I immediately reflected back on everything Owen had taught me about posture, torque and relaxation. I made a few adjustments as I ran, and the pain completely went away.” Theresa Renner, Sandpoint, ID
A major aspect of my sessions is teaching the Natural Walk™ to my clients. Over the years, I have learned that when the body uses gravity to propel itself, it goes from creating more tension to releasing tension. Once clients have learned this walk, they often report that going for a walk is like doing a yoga session. They feel like they had a workout and are relaxed.
The goal of my Rolfing is to teach these basic skills so you don’t just maintain your improvements, you increase them over time. When the behaviors that created much of your tension are no longer present, your body is capable of new feats of performance and pleasure.
Building on Rolfing
Every therapy has their niche. Each therapy is more effective than other therapies for certain conditions. The Rolfing niche is treating chronic stress, soft tissue issues and structural alignment.
Physicians, homeopaths, naturopaths, massage therapists, yoga instructors, Pilates instructors, physical therapists, chiropractors and even dentists continue to refer clients to me for the unique benefits of Rolfing. Often, they know what I can do because they were my clients.
After the Rolfing, I encourage the client to return to their referring professional. More often than not, the client goes from being one of the least responsive clients of the practitioner’s, to one of the most responsive. After removing the chronic stress, other therapies become more successful.
Rolfing treats chronic conditions; other therapies usually treat acute conditions. So after the Rolfing series, the other therapies build on the profound changes from Rolfing. And if another acute condition pops us (if a client has a minor accident, for example) I will usually suggest they seek other treatment, such as massage therapy, chiropractic care, physical therapy or acupuncture.
ARE YOU FIGHTING GRAVITY?
|This simple test will help you determine if you’re fighting gravity
like many people:
|If you answered “yes” three or more times, you’re fighting gravity.|
The foundation of Sports Rolfing is very simple. It is focused on going after the structural cause and changing the limiting behaviors. During the process of addressing these problems, the added potential benefit of enhanced performance is brought into the treatment. As new possibilities are created, new behaviors can be learned. For instance, knowing how to use gravity may make the difference between being first or second in any sport.
It is important to remember that Sports Rolfing’s success comes from treating the whole body and its most basic movements. Working with these foundations allows for significant and permanent improvements.
Here’s a video of what Rolfing did for a track and field athlete.