I’ve been intrigued by Rolfing for many years, and always wanted to try it. This year, my second child left home so I felt I had a bit more time and money to go for it. (I knew it would be a fairly hefty commitment of time as well as cash). I picked Alan because he was nearest to my home and I his website suggested that he was professional, experienced and committed. I’m a bit of a therapy junkie, and have had all kinds of massage all over the world, from Hot Stones to Swedish deep tissue. Yet from the very first session, I could tell that Rolfing was not like anything I’d experienced before. The closest it resembled was Chinese Tui Na but it was deeper and more focused. It is very high quality bodywork. I hadn’t realised that Rolfing is a process…that each session builds on the last to create a complete body tune up.
At the first session, Alan took mug-shot photos of me (using my phone) standing sideways, front and back. I made a special effort to stand up straight, so was expecting to see Audrey Hepburn-like snaps. Instead I was confronted with photos of a slumped old hag. Is that really how I stand? Alan kindly described my shoulders as ‘a bit sad’. Hmmm. After the first session (whole body but superficial) I walked towards my car and noticed that a pull I normally feel in my legs had disappeared. I’d never really been aware of the pulling but I noticed its absence. That night I slept for hours. The next day, sitting in the car I turned to look behind and found that, without effort, I swivelled just that little bit further. It’s like experiencing being in someone else’s body.
The second session (feet) was really painful in parts, the left foot especially. At one point, when Alan was folding my toes back and pressing on something underneath, it felt like a pressure cooker being released, or a valve opening and air streaming out. The first thing I noticed afterwards was a feeling of more of the soles of my feet touching the ground, especially at the sides – literally feeling ‘more grounded’. Again, very tired after the treatment. For years, I’ve had a numb patch and restricted movement in one of my toes. I was amazed and especially pleased to find that sensation returned to the toe. It’s really bizarre to be able to bend that toe again. I spent days just wiggling my toes, delighting in the novelty of feeling them again. I am really enjoying this new way of walking.
After about four sessions, Alan has rolfed me up to my hips and I am very aware that the bottom half of my body felt very different from the top half. All kinds of things feel easier, from going for a run to lolling watching TV. In yoga downward dog position, my heels, for the first time, are almost touching the floor. In fact without any effort, I’ve gained a centimetre or two of extra stretch on a whole range of poses. At this point, I am really looking forward to having the top half rolfed to match the ease that I’m feeling the bottom half. This, despite the fact that sometimes the pain is verging on excruciating. To be really honest, these moments are tough. I like to cope by breathing through them, spurning Alan’s kind offer to take my mind off it by telling jokes . (Example: “Doctor, doctor, I think I’ve got an addiction to Twitter. I’m sorry, I’m not following you”. Sorry Alan -I’m sure that works for some people).
However, it is a very special kind of pain – again not like anything else I’ve experienced. It always feels spot on – completely in the right place and just what my body needs. It never lasts very long, and the pain disappears like magic the minute the manipulation is over. It leads to an incredibly peaceful kind of relief. Sometimes the release feels as if that part of my body is being ironed out, sometimes it feels like a pop and sometimes it’s like a pressure valve opening and air whooshing out.
Interestingly, my acupuncturist noticed a difference. I have an acupuncture session every 4-6 weeks just for general health and wellbeing, and she saw a big change in my pulses, especially the liver and kidney. (Cue another joke from Alan – ‘were they lentils?’ ). Apparently there was a lot more chi and they were less slippery and wiry. The spleen and lung pulses were also improved, but to a lesser extent.
After the back session, the nagging pull I always feel at the base of my spine when I run had disappeared. The fifth session was the most bizarre as this is when Alan worked on the diaphragm digging in under my ribs. Immediately I found breathing easier. When I stood up for the visual check at the end of the session, bizarrely, I felt as though I was leaning backwards. I wasn’t, it was just the start of my whole posture realigning to be naturally more straight. Around this time, I became aware that I was feeling less anxious in day to day life. It’s hard to be specific about this, but over time I started to notice that situations that would normally wind me up, or leave me brooding for days, were tending to wash over me.
After session 8 – a return to legs – I again slept for hours afterwards. Next day I was aware of standing differently. Bizarrely felt almost as though I had an invisible broomstick taped across my shoulders, a sensation that lasted for three or four days. Again, I think this was a sign of my whole posture realigning. It’s a great feeling.
Session 10, a lovely session on the back. Like a deep, intense massage, but feels like it’s doing you more good. Parking the car later, I discovered that not only can I turn all the way round, but I now seem to be swivelling from my whole spine, not just the top half. Can’t believe it’s been three months since I started – the time has gone so fast. Looking back over that time, I’m aware that life has seemed easier over that period. Stressful things that happen in daily life (like being stuck on a delayed train for 3 hours) just haven’t got to me as much as usual. It just seems as though it’s easier to let go of negative emotions, like toxic anger – a mirror, emotionally, of the physical tension that has been let go. I’ve noticed that I’ve laughed a lot more over the last few months (although not necessarily at Alan’s terrible jokes.) I’ve got more energy too. Coincidence? Maybe, but more likely down to the rolfing as the difference is quite marked and it has been like this for some time now.
Session 11. I’ve now had the classic ’10 sessions’ and this is the final tune up to go in deeper in any areas missed first time round, which for me is back and shoulders. At the end of this session we took more photos to compare before and after. This time I didn’t make any special effort to stand up straight – I just stood. Looking at the results….well, I haven’t turned in to Audrey Hepburn, but it’s noticeable just how much more relaxed and poised I look. My head now naturally sits on top of my shoulders with my chin up and shoulders down, instead of being rounded and hunched over. I’ve enjoyed the process and am delighted with the results – it’s the closest thing to being given a brand new body and I feel five years younger.