About Me

Alan RichardsonWith over 15 years experience, I have been practising Rolfing full-time since being certified as a Rolfing practitioner and Rolf Movement practitioner in 1998, since which time I have completed extensive continuing education in Rolfing as well as supplementary disciplines. In 2007 I qualified as a Certified Advanced Rolfing Practitioner. I qualified as a Cranial Sacral Therapist in 2003 and completed the Body Control Pilates teacher training in 2002. I specialise in postural alignment, structural integration, myofascial release, stress and pain management, scoliosis, repetitive strain injuries, back pain, neck pain, sciatica, injury prevention and treatment.
Postural alignment includes reducing excessive lordosis and kyphosis and the result often significantly reduces chronic pain. Clients report a greater sense of wellbeing, bodily comfort and more ease of movement and functionality. I am primarily a Rolfing practitioner whose two-year training in Cranial Sacral Therapy has informed and improved the quality of my touch. Similarly my Body Control Pilates training has informed my practice by deepening my knowledge of exercises available to give to clients as ‘homework’. Nevertheless I will often refer my clients to dedicated therapists in Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Pilates, and additionally to Osteopathy, Alexander Technique, Feldenkreis and Nutrition specialists where it is felt that these modalities will complement the Rolfing work, thus enabling me to focus on Rolfing only.

Rolfing Qualifications

1994: Foundation of Bodywork Diploma, Rolf Institute, Boulder , Colorado (Til Luchau, John Martine)

1996: Rolfing Phase 2 , Rolf Institute, Sao Paulo, Brazil (Lael Keen, Cornelia Rossi, Vivien Jaye)

1998: Rolfing Phase 3 and Rolfing Certification , Rolf Institute, Salvador , Brazil (Tessy Brungardt, Lael Keen, Cornelia Rossi)

1998: Rolfing Movement Certification , Rolf Institute (Vivien Jaye, Lael Keen)

Courses prior to Rolfing Qualification

1994: Reiki Levels 1 and 2 Certificates, Boulder , Colorado
1995: Thai massage Diploma, at Old Medical Hospital in Chiang Mai , Thailand

Subsequent Qualifications

2001 – 2003: Diploma in Cranio-Sacral Therapy , College of Cranio-Sacral Therapy, London.
(This is a comprehensive course comprising 36 full-time study
days, plus thesis and clinic time, ranging over 20 months.)
2004: Upledger Cranio-Sacral Therapy certificate
2004: Upledger Visceral Manipulation , Level 1A

Subsequent Workshops

2000: Rolfing Movement Workshop, with Hubert Godard, 4 days
2000: Trauma Energetics, with Bill Redpath, 3 days
2001: Trauma Energetics, with Bill Redpath, 3 days
2001 – 2002: Pilates Teacher Training, Body Control Pilates
2005: Thorax Workshop, with Harvey Burns, 3 days
2006: Spinal Mechanics, with Jan Sultan, 6 days
2008:  Spinal mechanics and strategies, with Jim Asher,  6 days
2009:  Visceral Manipulation, with Liz Gaggini,  8 days

Advanced Training Certification (2 Parts)
2006: Soloturn, Switzerland, with Tessy Brungardt and Harvey Burns, 3 weeks
2007:  Munich, Germany, with Jan Sultan and Harvey Burns, 2 weeks

Post Advanced Training:

2014: Bologna, Italy, with Peter Schwind and Christoph Sommer, 7 days
2015: London, “Uncoiling the Spirals” with Gael Rosewood, 3 days
2016: London, “Structural Ageing” with Valerie Berg, 3 days

HOW I CAME ACROSS ROLFING® STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION

In 1993 I was teaching English in Iida, a town in Nagano prefecture in Japan . I had been looking into studying acupuncture in Japan and had an offer to become the deshi, or follower, of a famous acupuncturist in nearby Nagano. The understanding was that he would teach me acupuncture. I was not sure – my employer at the private school had been to talk to this acupuncture “guru” and decided that I would be little more than the gaijin on display for his cultish admirers to gloat at. In any case, I would only receive one day of training in acupuncture a week. The rest of the time I would be doubling as a taxi driver for the guru and an assistant gardener for
his wife. This was not the right path.

The other option I looked into was a Japanese healing technique called seitaigaku. I went to Nagoya to meet a famous practitioner of this method. I was quite impressed. The atmosphere in his clinic was soothing, mysterious and spiritual. Relaxing classical music filled the room while waiting patients sat on futons watching the man work. He employed a mixture of quick thrusts with his hands on the patient’s abdomen and thorax along with gentle energetic work on the cranium.

When I received the treatment it was a new kind of experience, strongly energetic. The man gave me 24 minutes, more than double the normal duration. It was only after he had finished that I realised what a powerful treatment it had been. I felt that he had contacted a fundamental imbalance in my body and energy field. It seemed like he had shown me my deficiencies, indicated how far I needed to go in order to reach my own potential. I was fascinated. What was the source of this man’s power? How could I channel my power? How could I help people?

Unfortunately, it was not realistic for me to train in seitaigaku, in terms of finance and my Japanese language proficiency at the time. Still, the seed had been planted. People before had told me they thought I was a healer. Not really understanding, I had shrugged it off. Things were starting to change at the end of 1993. I wanted to explore the notion of working for people’s health. The seitaigaku man in Nagoya touched something deep within me. I admired him and started to imagine I could be as magically effective with my own hands,
mind and spirit.

A week or two after I returned from Nagoya  my employer, Shigeho, who had been to see a Rolfer staying at her friend’s house in the countryside, called me: “You need to meet this man. He talks just like you!” Shigeho had been very depressed after cutting herself by accidentally dropping a knife on her foot. But now she was euphoric. The Rolfer, Mark Caffel, had managed to turn around her mood in only a short 20-minute session. By the way, if you think Rolfing sounds funny in English, wait until you hear it in Japanese – it comes out more like oo-ro-ru-fin-gu. Unfortunately I did not get to meet Mark, as he left shortly after, but I did borrow the book by Ida Rolf with the quaintly long-winded title Rolfing: Re-establishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being.

The book fascinated me for two reasons. Firstly, I was surprised that the scientific content managed to retain my interest. Dr. Rolf expounds her theory of how the human body can be transformed through Structural Integration. She makes use hundreds of photographs evidencing how her models morph from random, unbalanced bodies into more streamlined, comfortable and content human beings. Many beautiful anatomical illustrations enrich the text to describe how she achieves her results. Although Dr Rolf was a biochemist, it is clear from her work that she also transcends science. I am a graduate of English Literature, more comfortable with King Lear and The Tempest than with science, yet Dr Rolf’s book intrigued me.

Secondly, I was captivated by the holistic philosophy of the book. Rolf reached out to me as a human being, showing how our emotional aspects find expression in the physical body. This is something I had been mulling over at the time before even reading the book, and why Shigeho thought I should meet the Rolfer, Mark Cafell, because he talks just like you. Here in the book was a much more advanced understanding of the holistic concept, grounded in years of practical experience. For example, in the last two paragraphs of the book’s preface, Rolf says:

“Emotional response is behaviour, is function. All behaviour is expressed through the musculoskeletal system. All function is an expression of structure and form and correlates directly with material structure. A man crying the blues is in reality bewailing his
structural limitations and failures…

…A man’s emotional state may be seen in the projection of his structural imbalances…A man who undergoes integration of his corporeal structure experiences the basic link that exists between structure and emotion. As he moves towards structural balance he knows that his psychological make-up has changed as well.”

I was hooked and wanted to know more. I wanted to experience Rolfing. But it was more than this, much more. At the age of 31 – after years of traveling, searching, exploring, drifting, after trying several jobs – I had found what I was looking for. The obscure town in Nagano, Iida, had given me Ida. My memory today is as vivid as the first time: it felt like a wide path was spreading out before me, thrilling and impossible to ignore. This was the moment I decided to become a Rolfer.

THE ROLFING TRAINING AND MY TEN SERIES

Considering I had not received any Rolfing, it felt like a big jump when I arrived at the Rolf Institute in Boulder in January 1994. But one of my favourite mottos proved true: Commit yourself and Providence moves too. The people I met at the Institute were wonderful – teachers, Rolfers and staff alike. The Institute paid me and another penniless adventurer, Marius Strydom, in return for odd tasks around the building.

The next 4 months were total immersion. I completed a couple of Reiki workshops, was doing Tai Chi and Kushido as well as giving and receiving many hours of massage on the Foundations of Bodywork course. I was studying Anatomy, Physiology and Psychology, reading key New Age books on the bodymind connection and having discussions about Jung, as well as receiving my first Rolfing Ten Series.

My Rolfer for the Series was Pam Rankin, who was conducting her business in an office in the Rolf Institute building on Canyon Boulevard. There were several aspects about the Rolfing that agreed with me. I liked the variety of it – each session was different, for example Session 2 covered the foot, Session 7 the neck. The structure of it was also appealing – while each session achieved a particular local goal, a deeper purpose was apparent, a wider goal of structural alignment. There is an interesting symbiotic relationship between Rolfer and Rolfee. I was aware both of being changed and being proactive in my own change.

And I had what I now call a Wow session. When I stood up after Session 9 my perception of myself in space had altered. It felt as if I had expanded, the room looked different, Pam looked different. It felt like I had made some kind of leap in my own evolution, as if owning my own space. My self esteem improved at that point. I could no longer ignore my own potential. My path was to grow, to help others through this vehicle of Rolfing.

I did not qualify until 4 years later. I went to Asia to teach English in order to finance the Rolfing Training. After 18 months in Taiwan and a 3-month holiday in Thailand (where I was on a ferry that sunk), Turkey and Nepal, I did the Rolfing Auditing course in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I then returned to Japan again for 2 years and even forgot about the Rolfing for a while, enjoying my experience of Japan and learning Japanese. But towards the end of 1997 I felt ready and returned to Brazil to complete the Rolfing and Rolfing Movement Certification. Brazil, with its humanistic outlook, was a great place to study Rolfing. On the day I qualified, in August 1998, I stood on the hotel beach to view a group of sea turtles swimming past, their flippers in the air. It seemed as if they were waving at me, congratulating me even. I had found the door and used the key.

MY EXPERIENCE AS A ROLFER

Having qualified in 1998, I have been Rolfing for a significant amount of time and taken several hundred people through the Ten Series. The quality of my work is quite different now from how it was in my first two years – this is evident not only from my own sense, but also from feedback from clients who have come back after several years. Now I am much more confident, more humble, my touch is more sensitive and more skilled, I see better. Experience is very important in this profession. Each client teaches me something new, adding an extra piece to a large jigsaw.

Another major step in my continuing development as a practitioner was doing the training to become a Certified Advanced Rolfer at the end of 2006 and the start of 2007.  The teachers in the training are all excellent Rolfers, each with over twenty years experience.  It was a privilege to learn from such dedicated and talented people as Jan Sultan, Tessy Brungardt and Harvey Burns and the step-up in my quality of touch and confidence was more than I had expected.  It was also an excellent reciprocal learning experience with Walter De Mello, who was my model and practitioner in the series of seven sessions we gave each other over the six-week class.

As well as gaining experience just through doing the work, the workshops I have taken have added to my skill set, the biggest contribution being my Cranio-Sacral Therapy training, ranging over 2001 to 2003. Qualifying as a Cranio-Sacral Therapist dramatically improved my quality of touch. Cranio Sacral is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Rolfing. It is gentle and energetic and one learns to be extremely patient ( to go deep, like the blue whale ). Although most of my work is in Rolfing, I believe that my Cranial-Sacral skills enhance my effectiveness as a Rolfer and I occasionally do pure Cranial-Sacral sessions. If someone is interested in both therapies I will usually recommend doing the Rolfing Ten Series first, because I believe structural integration should be fundamental before any other treatment. What is the point in fine-tuning the wiring of a building if it is falling down?

After many years and clients I am still passionate about the work. Rolfing satisfies those who come to get fixed, as well as those who come for more. For all the talk about holism, Rolfing is remarkably effective at fixing physical problems. I have had clients who have developed healthy arches in their feet, scolioses dramatically improved, short legs getting longer, knee pain, neck pain and back pain disappearing, jaw-grinding stopping, migraines stopping, significant improvement in scolioses, RSI symptoms disappearing, plantar fasciitis clearing up and so on. Rolfing also achieves what we claim, namely it realigns the body and improves posture, something I think no other therapy really does.

But Rolfing doesn’t just fix pain and improve posture. My clients often describe to me in many ways that they are clearer about themselves and their lives because of Rolfing. They have a sense of grounding, they stand up for themselves when previously they may have been pushed around, they deal with stress better. Some even describe the Rolfing experience as catalyzing a major life change or decision – changing jobs, improving a relationship, travelling, dedicating themselves to physical health by taking up Pilates or Yoga or improving nutrition. In the case of children who I have taken through the Series, parents have told me that their children developed stronger self esteem and confidence – one parent told me her 12 year-old son looked her in the eye properly after receiving the Rolfing.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this work for me is being able to meet so many interesting people. Each has their own story. Each has come a long way before even doing the first Rolfing session. Each teaches me something. Each changes throughout the Rolfing. To be witness to all this and to be able to add a significant element in a person’s development means that Rolfing is always interesting, challenging and mysterious. I feel privileged to be in such a profession.

“Work with the hands
is the apprenticeship of honesty.
May the work of your hands
be a sign of gratitude
and reverence to the human condition.”
(Mahatma Gandhi)

Postscript

I received this email from Mark Caffall in May 2009, 16 years after first hearing about Mark and Rolfing:

Dear Alan,

I was reading some articles about Rolfing in Japan and your name appeared like magic. In 1993, at the time you were living and teaching English in Iida, I was teaching structural integration (Shin-Integration) to a group of Japanese students in Ina (Asa Ura) Nagano Prefecture.

At that time I met Yerka, from Czechoslovakia, living in Oshika, not far from Asa Ura. I Rolfed him and his wife Etsuko. At one time, while I was visiting them, they asked me to see  a friend of theirs who had injured her foot with a knife. I believe this was your employer, Shigeho.

Also, at that time, I think I loaned my book on Rolfing, signed by Dr. Rolf, to Yerka. Could this have been the book that you borrowed? My wife, Fumiko, and I are living in Japan, Otari Mura Nagano Prefecture. Fumiko is one of the students I taught in 1993 and is practicing Shin-Integration. I am 86 years of age and no longer actively practice, but at the time I was introduced to Rolfing, 1968 at Esalen, it changed my entire life.

I hope this letter finds you well and still practicing.

Regards, Mark Caffall PhD

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