Post Series work - John, Medical Doctor, January 2017
I have been working with Alan since 2002 when I did my first Rolfing series and I have just completed a second series in 2017. Alan has been a great Rolfing therapist and teacher and fun to work with. He is incredibly intuitive and able to find, focus and treat the parts of the body that need support and healing. As a Western trained allopathic medical practitioner, I was not informed or educated on the subject and mystery of the fascia and its importance in whole body integration and integrity. Alan has taught me how important this tissue is for balance, health and well-being. My Rolfing and Craniosacral Therapy experience with him means that I now know, and have experienced, that the fascia is about balance, soul, integrity, healing and happiness. Thank you Alan for your skills, openness and healing abilities (and for your jokes!) all from which I have benefited. You have been such a great teacher for me and I hope you will become more involved in teaching your Rolfing and Craniosacral skills to others.
Post Series Work - Jeff, Composer and pianist, January 2017
This is not one of those reviews where I’ve just bought the product a few hours ago and I’m raving about it. I have been going to Alan for nearly 7 years now. So I have a lot of experience and have spent a lot of time in Rolfing which enables me to tell you how wonderful it is.
Firstly I will tell you that Alan suggested I do the normal course of 11 treatments as a start. It was so beneficial to my back and my neck and in releasing the pain from an old injury to my right ankle that I continued to go weekly. After about three years of going regularly I then began to go as I felt I needed it. In my profession that meant often as I work long and extended hours at my piano and my writing desk!
I mentioned my right ankle before. It gives me a lot of trouble because 20 years ago I broke it and had surgery on it and each time it starts to play up I go see Alan and he sorts it out beautifully. I feel like I’m walking like a completely different person after a treatment. Lighter and more agile.
I also have a bad habit of slouching and something called Sway back. Thanks to Alan’s treatments those issues have nearly disappeared. I have also suffered from neck and upper back pain for a long time and those issues too are nearly gone thanks to Alan’s treatment.
Now it may sound like I’m simply praising Rolfing itself but I do want to make it clear that I feel Alan has a perfectly amazing approach. He’s caring and considerate and he works attentively and with great care. The atmosphere is comfortable and I always feel confident when I go to see him that I’m going to leave there feeling much better. I highly recommend Alan as a Rolfing therapist and I highly recommend Rolfing so if you are considering these things I would suggest that you hesitate no longer.
ROLFING DIARY OF MEL, ROLFING 11 SERIES WITH ALAN RICHARDSON
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.
I am going to keep this short and simple and from the heart. I cannot recommend Alan highly enough. He’s superb at what he does; both empathetic and professional. Rolfing® structural integration works. You feel deep down that you know it’s doing something fundamental. It integrates your body and acts at such a profound level like nothing else. Whether you’re looking for something specific or just a general tune-up – it works.
Karyn Fletcher, October 2016
Rolfing changed my life. That sounds like a dramatic statement because it is . And it is true. Just before I saw Alan i was experiencing more frequent back problems. Instead a couple of times a year it was every 6 months then every 3 months. A simple gesture like bending to put the cat food on the floor, sitting in an awkward position on the sofa could in an instant make it difficult to stand straight for days. I couldn’t be sure when it would happen and it got in the way of everyday life going to work where my reliability was critical.
I had tried lots of other methods. After the 10 sessions of Rolfing and the settling in period, in subtle but important ways my body was supporting itself better. I noticed my body was more tolerant to movement that before had sent it out of balance. Now over ten years on doing Rolfing was the wisest investment in my overall health. I go back annually for a top up. The relief is huge and I have never again had the problems I had before.
JOEY, 12 YEARS OLD (WRITTEN BY MOTHER GINE)
As an ex-professional ballet dancer I am very posture conscious. I was becoming increasingly dismayed and frustrated at the poor posture of my 12 year old son, Joey. His shoulders were sloping and rounded, his chest pinched concave, his head and neck protruding too far forward – a result of far too much leisure time spent in front of screens. I spent months searching for a solution but Joey refused to attend ballet or yoga classes and my constant nagging certainly wasn’t helping.
Then I discovered Rolfing! My mother told me about and article she had read in The Dancing Times that recommended Rolfing as a highly successful technique to realign children’s posture. I researched it on the internet and decided to give it a go. Joey is on number nine of the ten session series with Certified Advanced Rolfer Alan Richardson. The results are truly astounding. His shoulder blades are flatter, his shoulders straight, his chest fuller and his “chicken” neck more aligned. His gait has also improved and he has become more body-aware. He looks stronger, more robust and better balanced, more comfortable in his body. As an added bonus his confidence and self esteem have been noticeably boosted – he looks me in the eye more.
I am so delighted we have gone down the Rolfing route. It was the right course of action for Joey. I highly recommend Rolfing to anyone in a similar situation (especially if you don’t mind Alan’s bad jokes – just kidding!)
After 18 years of constant back and hip pain following a herniated disc at the age of 20 and subsequent hip operations I had tried everything. At least every couple of months my back would ‘go’ and my life was a constant of physio and strong painkillers. I saw the very best (allegedly) consultants and no one in 18 years mentioned Rolfing. When my physio mentioned Rolfing my ears pricked up and I thought it was something else I could try. I found Alan after some searching and it has been life changing. I have truly seen a huge benefit, have back pain a lot less and many days are now pain-free. Alan is very professional and reliable and has also been very flexible and accommodating with appointments. I highly recommend both Rolfing and Alan.
MINAMI, LABAN DANCE GRADUATE
About ten years ago, in the final of my dance training at college, I injured my lower back (left sacroiliac joint). I was out of the training for three months and couldn’t even nod without a terrible shooting pain in my lower back. I tried all sorts of therapy such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, pilates, massage etc., but nothing helped. I just did not know what to do as it was the first major injury of my dance career.
Then I was introduced to Alan Richardson and a type of massage called Rolfing. This was a life changing experience and I am not even exaggerating. In the first sessiion of the Ten Series he told me that he was not going to fix my injury. I was going to be the one who was healing myself with a little help from the Rolfing. Well I could write a whole essay on my experience but instead I am just going to say that Rolfing not only sorted out my back injury and got me back into training, but also helped me to get to know I felt that my body finally became MY OWN. It has also given me endless interest and passion for exploring the connections trhoughout my body as well as its connections with mind and spirit. This experience then years ago is still guiding me in my quest as a physical artist and will troughout the rest of my life. I would like to say thanks to my Rolfer Alan Richardson.
ALEINE RIDGE, MAY 2013
I was very afraid of Rolfing and had avoided it all my sixty years. I had heard that it was brutally painful. But there it was on my bucket list. And I was feeling that my comfortable life needed disturbing and that my constipation needed sorting out.
I could not have dared go to the physical and emotional limits I went to without Alan’s commitment to energetic truth, persistence in the face of my resistance, gentle hands and wicked humour.
It really was painful, but I could always say stop, and Alan never pushed further than I could go… just.
I often felt shaky after a session, old emotional knots undoing as the physical knots untangled. About half way through the eleven sessions I could feel a strong difference in the way I walked and held myself, feeling stronger, taller, looser. By the end I was more sure of myself physically, less fossilised emotionally and yes, it did help my constipation.
Rolfing testimonial 21/03/14
When I first started Rolfing, two and a half years ago, I was suffering from an array of inexplicable health issues, such as acute lower bad back, a near constant tingling sensation in my left arm, and frequent stomach pain. Having visited a number of doctors, physiotherapists and osteopaths, without finding any medical cause for these symptoms, it became clear that they were stress-related, or rather, psychosomatic. I was learning to live with them, as the norm, whilst keeping up my relatively unhealthy and not altogether happy lifestyle. When a good friend so happened to tell me about his positive experiences with Alan and Rolfing, I knew it was exactly what I needed, yet still I procrastinated for some time. I had too little time or too little money to invest in something that deep down I knew would bring me immense benefit.
Eventually, I took the plunge and was immediately glad for having done so. I enjoyed the consistency of having a weekly appointment for the required ten series. For the first time, I had made a personal commitment to do something good for myself. Some sessions were very painful, others felt soothing, but they all released tension and trapped emotion and I left feeling clear headed and breezy. Sometimes, I would also feel sad or emotional afterwards, but I saw it as a necessary part of letting go of what I had been holding on to for too long, of releasing suppressed emotions, of paving the way for a clearer and brighter future. It was a period of adjustment.
By the end of the tenth session, the changes in me were already immense. I was more relaxed. I was more conscious of the way I sit and sleep. My back pain had significantly alleviated, my tingles and stomach pain were more or less gone, only returning occasionally in times of stress. I was more open with other people, less guarded, more conscious of my emotions. More than that, I was starting to let go of negative patterns of behavior and to focus, instead, on what was good for me, on what I wanted to do. I had wanted to write for some time, and similarly, had not been able to make time for this, but started soon after the ten series had finished and have been writing ever since. This, in turn, set off a spiral of other positive changes in my life: improved relationships, new hobbies and further studies. In short, I had lost sight of where I was going and Rolfing helped to put me back on track.
I now keep up a regular 4-6 weekly Rolfing session and find that it keeps me both physically and mentally aligned; it allows me to keep focusing on the things that I want to do and to keep on growing. I cannot recommend Rolfing, and in particular Alan, highly enough.
Setting up my own business in 2002 heralded a period of steep and accelerated learning. Becoming a business owner brought me face to face with my deepest fears and I often had to dig deep to find the resources I needed to move forward.
I was ready to dig deep. I embarked on my professional training as an Executive Coach and began a period of turning over every stone in my own life – of exploring my deepest desires and forming a vision for my perfect life, of revising beliefs formed in childhood and of taking actions (sometimes bold, often timorous) to make my dreams come true.
One evening in 2006 I was surprised to feel unexpectedly tearful in my regular pilates class and I started to explore the possibility that, following such an intense period of learning, my body needed to release “old stuff” to catch up. I viewed this as a kind of mourning. When my father died later in the year the time seemed right to embark on the Rolfing Ten Series.
It’s hard to isolate the effect of these sessions from other sources of learning. At the same time I notice that, following three almighty colds during the period of our work together, I am suddenly bursting with energy and excitement. I am enjoying great clarity of direction in my business and personal life and stepping forward more boldly than ever before. I am enjoying my body more than ever and walking taller in every sense. The sudden acceleration of my business has blown me away so that I’m wondering what else I can look forward to during the months ahead (Alan, I’ll keep you posted). It’s no surprise to me that close friends and colleagues have started to ask for your details.
When I think of all this (and your terrible jokes, too) I feel deeply grateful. As I seek to live life in the fullness of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, this deeply nourishing experience has been a giant leap forward.
I’ve played rugby at a reasonable level for the past 20 years and have always suffered from niggling injuries like pulled hamstrings and adductors. Most recently, I had a double disc hernia in my L4/5 from doing squats. I tried all sorts of therapies and could never quite find one that felt like it was doing any real and lasting good.
I read up a little about Rolfing but was pretty unsure about it when I arrived to meet Alan for the first time. He explained to me the basic principles and how the 10-step program would work. The idea of Rolfing immediately appealed as I could see and understand that to correct the structure of the skeleton you need to redress the balance of the muscles in the body. It made sense that for the body to work correctly and be pain-free, there should be alignment of bones and joints and for there to be alignment, the muscles needed to be balanced to allow this.
The first few sessions were fairly slow going but I did notice a quick benefit. I began to feel my ankles and leg muscles loosen up and I was more aware of how I was walking. Sessions 4 through 8 were fairly unproductive for me as I didn’t feel a huge amount of difference. However when I hit sessions 9 and 10 I felt significant changes in my upper body and neck. My shoulders felt more like they were resting rather than being held and my neck was less sore as it appeared my head was over my shoulders and not hanging forward.
It’s been 2 weeks since my final session and the outcome of all this is that I really do feel more balanced. I am aware of my posture and how I hold my body. I know that when I get stressed or tired that my shoulders rise up and that I can now correct this. I notice when my head is not over my spine and again, I can correct this. On a purely superficial note, lots of people have commented on my posture and many have asked if I’ve been training more as seem to be broader across the chest.
The process of Rolfing and deep tissue massage is a painful one but not obstructively so. It was actually cathartic in some ways as I knew that what was being done would be of benefit in the long run. Despite his terrible jokes, I found Alan to be very good practitioner and worked in a way that made the treatment as painless as possible.
I would definitely recommend Rolfing to anyone who wanted to know more about the mechanics of their body and make a positive change in the way they live with it.
All I can say is I wish I had started 8 years ago, the first time I had a very severe attack of RSI as a result of 6 weeks in a cutting room perched on the edge of the desk with a hefty laptop, rewriting scripts for 10 hours a day, then rushing home to lug round a large baby who didn’t seem to sleep and was permanently clutched in my right arm. I added a broken ankle two years ago and a bit more stress and by the time I had dug out the aging magazine article about Rolfing, I felt about 105 rather than 45. The stiffness and lack of mobility in my right hip, ankle and shoulder combined made me feel like the two halves of my body were completely mismatched; they came from separate bodies, one fairly normal and one over developed and rapidly locking into frozen lumps of rigid muscle and bone. I felt old.
Why Rolfing, I’m not sure, I just liked the sound of it, but it was a fortunate choice for me. From shortly after the first session I felt the lightness and space that grew and developed with, and oddly around me, over the following twenty weeks.
My attention was immediately drawn to my breathing and that in itself made a huge difference. Ever since childhood when I grew too tall, too quickly, I have been trying to follow my mother’s imperatives; to breathe deeply, pull my shoulders back, walk tall and not walk like a baby elephant. But since I never really understood what any of those instructions actually meant, I merely succeeded in doing the exact opposite. I held my breath in a tense chest, tried to force my shoulders back, and force my chest upright which merely made everything even more tense and untenable.
As the sessions progressed I felt a clear and steady sense of a body gradually becoming effortlessly upright. After three or four sessions my walk had changed dramatically and I had stopped striding about with tense, rigid knees and acquired a new, easy walk, which seemed to start further up in my body, and in which my knees bent without being consciously directed. I can’t think of a better way of describing it than to say it felt a bit African; relaxed and easy. I was a bit worried in a way. I didn’t get where I am today without striding about in a tremendous hurry, but still… this new walk definitely put me in a nicer mood, made me more laid back. So I stuck with it, and I became aware that my legs were really under my body, really supporting me, with easy strength.
My feet felt better than they had for about 25 years, and my body, while not quite 25 years younger, had stopped feeling old, caved in and stuck. I felt lighter, there was more space between my ribs and my internal organs, and things just seemed to be in the right place. Bearing in mind I’m overweight, this is even more of a surprise. My head and neck, which have long been sunk down and over arched, have become more supported and less clenched. I can look over my right shoulder without effort and discomfort. I’ve often sat in exercise classes where instructors talk about feeling you have a string through your head, pulling it up. It’s never done anything for me except feel like hard work, but now I do feel as though my head sits lightly and freely on my neck, possibly even floats…
At the end of the ten sessions, I feel as though I’m much closer to knowing what a normal, confident and supportive body feels like. I recognise much more quickly when I’m over stressing it. I enjoy stretching it, and exercise doesn’t feel like an imposition, a dreadful grind I have to drag my poor battered body through, but more like a positive choice, and a treat. I’m enjoying being conscious of how I use it, and I’m encouraged to look after it better. Thank you.
many thanks for the amazing Rolfing and the invigorating banter – I miss them both!
Here are some thoughts on what I got out of it:
1) cured my lower back pain
2) made me much much more aware of how I use my body, so I have noticed how I am preventing further strains – I am feeling pains much less often
3) a much greater sense of energy – and I get tired less often
4) the ganglion on my wrist got smaller
5) I can turn my head round sideways much further before I feel resistance – I can do a full 90 degrees effortlessly – there is no pain or strain involved
6) the whole of my shoulder/neck area is so much more relaxed and stress free (my wife has commented on this)
7) I no longer have to wear arch supports in my shoes
8) generally I feel much greater sense of ease and power and I feel much younger
9) I laughed a lot (and still do!)
10) I’ve improved my breathing – I take deeper stronger breaths
So thank-you very very much!
When the sensation of raindrops hitting her skin made Deanna Miller cry one summer’s day in 1999, she knew she could no longer deal with the pain in her arms. Miller, a civil servant was suffering from RSI (repetitive strain injury). “It was excruciating,” she says.” At its worst, I had stabbing pains down my arms, all the way across my shoulders and into my neck, often 24 hours a day.”
Miller had first started to feel pain after a three-week stretch of inputting computer data at work seven hours a day, five days a week. At the end of the third week her arms were aching and by Saturday she had “unbearable pains all the way up my forearms and then by Monday in my shoulders too.”
Over the next five years Miller went from being a fit, happy extrovert woman to someone obsessed with her health. “I’d never really thought about it, but RSI, which is caused by repetitive use of the same muscles, took over my life because the pain was always there. I couldn’t sleep because of the shooting spasms up my arms and I became depressed. It also affected my social life.”
From being a productive member of staff, Miller was on constant sick leave, sometimes for six months at a time. Mostly, she’d lie in bed and try to rest because any exertion was agony. Or she would read health books on “anything that might help me, from acupuncture to healthy eating.”
Her GP had prescribed anti-inflammatories, which reduced the swelling in her arms for a week. Six months later she tried physiotherapy, which inflamed her muscles further, resulting in more weeks off work. A year later she tried acupuncture, which had little effect. A visit to a chiropractor helped only a little, “mainly by advising me to put ice packs on my shoulders to reduce the swelling.”
At work, her employers provided her with an assistant three hours a day, as well as a voice-activated programme so she could speak into her computer and her telephone – the consequence of her taking them to court for not giving her regular desk and computer assessments in accordance with the 1992 Display Screen Equipment Act passed by the European Union.
However Miller’s breakthrough came when she read a book by an American helicopter pilot, Richard Rossiter, whose shoulders had been so painful he could no longer fly – until he tried Rolfing: a series of deep massage manipulations, which works on the myofascial system, the soft connective tissue between muscles. Intrigued, she contacted the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in January 2003 and was put in touch with Alan Richardson, a Certified Rolfer.
“I was so desperate that when Alan asked me how I was I just broke down and cried”, she admits. “I couldn’t keep up the bravery any longer.”
After looking at Miller’s posture and muscle position, and finding out about painful movements, Richardson set to work. Over 10 sessions, once every fortnight, he slowly massaged the muscles and fascia on her body, starting at the feet and legs on the first session and working up to the head and arms by the seventh. The point, he stresses, is to align a different block of the body each week, “until, like building blocks, they are in one long line without any obvious unnecessary tension,”
Over-stressed points in the muscles’ fascia, he says, are like “flies in a Spider’s web pulling in opposite directions, straining the structure.” His task is to soften the fascia by friction and manipulation, then to stretch it so that the muscles can realign themselves in their natural positions. “When muscles are out of balance, they can feel pain in all sorts of places,” he says.
“The tense muscles in Deanna’s arms meant that her shoulders were out of alignment and had frozen. Rolfing was able to reduce the compression in her whole body, so that her shoulders went back and the pain was reduced there.”
In addition, he tried to teach Miller new ways of moving-for example, using her entire arm rather than just her wrist for some task-which he says freed ” a significant amount of energy previously held in overworked muscles.”
Since finishing her ten treatments, Miller has felt no pain in any part of her body. “Unlike all the other doctors, Alan treated it like a mechanical problem, rather than a chemical one, and it worked a treat,” she says happily. ” I haven’t had a day off for six months and I feel great.”
Her confidence , however is still very low after years of pain, so she is wary of activity that might affect her muscles again. She goes back to Richardson occasionally for “top-up” sessions when she feels her muscles becoming tense.
“I had begun to think I would never get better again”, she says. “But having gone from being a 95% cripple on Prozac, anti-inflammatories and sleeping tablets to being a 50% cripple on no medication at all, he has given me hope.”
A man I don’t know terribly well has just stuck his finger in my mouth (See Note below). Although not an enormously pleasurable experience, I’m quite glad he did it because it now means I don’t grind my teeth at night – which is going to save a fortune in dentist’s bills. He has performed a number of other apparently bizarre acts on me over the last ten weeks which have meant that for the first time in about eight years I am free of chronic back pain, my energy levels have shot up and my body looks noticeably different to how it did before.
This is all a result of undergoing a course of Rolfing, a form of deep tissue massage which was extremely popular in the 70’s but which subsequently fell from grace as people turned to more sybaritic – and less painful – forms of treatment. However, as a veteran of virtually every massage and osteopathic therapy under the sun, I can happily say that nothing seems to touch Rolfing in terms of sheer effectiveness on both a physical and – more surprisingly – a spiritual level.
At first sight, Rolfing appears to be just another form of intensive massage and after the first treatment, if I had not been forewarned by a friend of what to expect, I think it is unlikely that I would have made the effort (and gone to the expense) of completing the ten session course. But as Alan Richardson, one of only 12 Rolfers in the country, gently explained to me as he used his knuckles to release years’ worth of tension trapped in my ribs, Rolfing works so effectively because it bypasses the muscles and focuses instead on the fascia-the connective tissue which links and contains every muscle, bone, ligament and organ in the body. It’s quite remarkable stuff fascia. By constantly adapting and compensating, it facilitates movement and keeps the body’s entire structure in place. For example, if you bunch your shoulders so you can hunch over a computer, your fascia obligingly develops into knots to allow you to hold your position. Likewise, if you have a sports injury, the fascia will lengthen or shorten to accommodate you. Needless to say, there is a negative aspect to such versatility which Alan points out. “The body has great ability to adjust-if you damage yourself it will adapt in ways to allow you to get on with life. However, the system is very bad at adapting back to what it was before the injury occurred and, as a result, imbalances develop.” Hence we spend out lives carrying around the muscle memory of years’ worth of injuries.
It was only in the 1940’s that a remarkable American bio-chemist called Ida Rolf discovered that this process can be reversed: by manipulating and lengthening the fascia you can return the body to its original state of balance. Her technique – known as Rolfing – changes the neurological pathways and enables gravity to bring the body back into alignment. But to do this, the therapist has to go in quite deep and thus Rolfing developed a reputation for being extremely painful. Over the years, however, the technique has been refined and nowadays, whilst there are still moments of pain, the discomfort is fleeting. Another reason why Rolfing results in long term success is that you are treated from head-to-toe through ten specific sessions. Any underlying problems are rooted out at source and dealt with. Everyone reacts differently to the treatments and it was only after session nine (neck and shoulders) that I began to notice the major changes – a lack of pain, improved mobility and vision. For years my balance has been shot to pieces and suddenly I realized that it was back to normal. When I first saw Alan, he told me that I was lopsided and that my head tilted to the right, my spine was compressed (as a result of birth trauma and numerous riding and sports accidents) and my mobility was impaired. Standing in my bra and knickers as he scrutinized me, I felt extraordinarily self-conscious, but by the end of the tenth session, the self-consciousness had vaporized. I felt at home in my body – everything was straight, my shoulders had dropped about six inches and my head was absolutely vertical. Emotionally (and I’m pretty skeptical about these things), I have been feeling what can only be described as an extraordinary sense of well-being; it didn’t happen immediately but gradually developed.
In quiet self-deprecating tones, Alan mentions some of his other successes – prolapsed disks which have ceased to cause pain, scoliosis which has straightened out, flat feet which have developed arches. Having had my road to Damascus moment and been thoroughly converted to Rolfing, none of it surprises me at all. It’s not cheap, it requires dedication and at moments it’s definitely peculiar, but Rolfing should be mandatory for all of us.
Note: Sometimes inter-oral manipulation is used to treat chronic jaw tension. A finger is inserted into the mouth to release the Pterygoid muscle, a key contributor to Tempero-Mandibular dysfunction. The process is carried out respectfully, as non-invasively as possible and, of course, only with client permission. Finger cots are used to maintain hygiene.
I started Rolfing with Alan Richardson early in 2006. I knew very little about the practice and was recommended it by a good friend who had received treatment in Cape Town, South Africa. I was interested in the benefits from both a physical and emotional perspective, having heard that the structural re-integration could free up blockages of varying types in the body. Before the 10 sessions, I was in good physical shape but was aware that my posture and the way I held my body probably wasn’t as good as it could have been. I had no idea however, about the dramatic extent of improvement I was going to experience.
The treatment itself was in the main a relaxing and enjoyable affair. 10 minutes of the hour session could probably be described as uncomfortable as Alan worked on particular areas of tension in my body. The areas of particular discomfort in my body were my inner thighs and chest, because of the amount of change they would need to go through to re-support the new structure of my whole body. One of the most amazing experiences I had during my Rolfing was the almost instantaneous change I could feel in my whole body after Alan had worked on a particular area. I would get up of the table and experience a more stable feeling in my legs which totally changed the way I stand.
With my 10 sessions now complete, I realise I benefited much more and in different ways than I had initially expected. My posture is now better and my overall structure is far straighter and feels more healthy. I would not have predicted however the benefits I experience in terms of ‘feeling’ in my body. I am able to hold physical space in a more powerful way and as a result I feel more confident and lighter in my attitude.
I would definitely recommend Rolfing with Alan and have already done so a number of times. Having seen the changes in me, both my partner and father are interested. For someone who spends a lot of time in his head, like myself, it’s easy to forget the vital function the body plays in anchoring us to life and how we experience it. Rolfing has enabled me to gain this whole new understanding for which I am very grateful.
The following records my personal impressions of my Rolfing sessions with Alan Richardson during the summer and autumn of 2007.
First up. I am a 47 year old male and in generally good health. However, over the years I had been led to believe that you have to get used to certain less than perfections with your own body which are usually put down to wear and tear. In my case I was born with flat feet, always seem to have had a right shoulder which was slightly higher than my left and have had twinges in my lower back for longer than I care to remember.
None of these things troubled me unduly and, whenever friends would advise me to go and visit osteopaths, chiropractors etc, I was never moved enough to make the call. This changed when I picked up a book in a second hand bookshop in Whitstable. Spacious Body by Jeffery Maitland is not for the intellectually light of heart and, having stretched myself to reach the books conclusion, I now count myself as being firmly in that camp. However, Maitland is a Rolfer and it was this part of his book that caught my attention and I thank him for this.
I researched Rolfing on the Internet, tracked down practitioners in the London area and was drawn to Alans website. I particularly liked his case histories and his sharing of his own life experiences.
I was looking to put right some of the wrongs I had inflicted on my body over the years and to find a new relationship between my physical environment and myself. On a simple level I wanted to walk better and not have an aching back. On a more spiritual level if the former meant that I had better energy flow then that would be a bonus. So much for the theory, how does it feel?
Alan starts by going through a questionnaire about you and your expectations of Rolfing. He then looks at you from front, back and sideways. Photos record the start position. As a patient you lie down on a massage couch and are manipulated. Let there be no mistake. This is not like being massaged. There are deep tensions lurking in your myofascial tissues, the legacies of accidents and bad habits both physical and mental. The Rolfer seeks to release these by applying varying degrees of pressure to points around the body. Your body never forgets what you have done to it.
An example of this was that around 10 years ago I had collided with a car when I was cycling. The accident was long since forgotten but, Oh my! Did it come back when Alan was working on my right quadriceps? Acknowledging that this was painful Alan explained how I should breath into the pressure he was applying. I must say I still felt like calling for my mother but carried on breathing as instructed. Alan gives you constant feedback on what he is discovering in terms of tensions and hardness in your body. He also intersperses this with a targeted flow of apposite jokes. Humour is a good way to make the patient relax.
Sometimes you are just required to lie there while he works his magic. On other occasions you are needed to move into positions and work with him. So it was for me that a complex (to me anyway) circular movement of the foot, combined with pressure on my back, has meant that for the first time in ages my lower back feels freer.
I have not had any Eureka moments where I have suddenly been released from something instantaneously. That is probably because I was not in great pain to begin with. Rather I have come to realise things after the event. For example one evening, when walking my dog, I realised that an ache, which I had not consciously acknowledged I had in my upper legs, was gone. I know this sounds strange but I reflected that there had been tension in my legs which did not cause me great discomfort but which was no longer there. Think about the noise of a fridge in your kitchen which does not disturb you but which, when it switches off, you realise had been in your perception somewhere.
I have also had other realisations. My shoes tell a story of how I used to walk. The soles and heels were worn away at the outer edge of each foot. Moreover, if ever I caught sight of myself walking towards a pane of glass I would see my right foot doing a good impression of a duck. This is now gone and I feel my feet making more solid contact with the floor. Before it felt as if I were skating on the edge of the feet and now I feel like they are being placed down squarely. One of my friends commented last week that I was not bouncing around like I used to.
It is easier to stand upright. I practise some other energy techniques so know when my body is properly aligned as the energy flows easily. Before I would have to consciously position myself to feel the energy flowing. Now it happens naturally. I noticed after one session that my shoulders were balanced. An actual straight Tee shape had replaced the slightly lop-sided view I was used to seeing in the morning when doing my tie up. I am also able to sit at a computer for longer periods in comfortnot something I would heartily recommend but useful for 21st century working.
There are other benefits too. I feel calmer than before. I have a stressful job and, while Rolfing does not solve the day-to-day issues, it does allow me to be in a more relaxed body and mind. This happy combination can sort out the challenges more easily.
Would I recommend Rolfing to you? It has done some great yet subtle things for me. Go and try it. Any occasional unpleasantness, as the Rolfer excavates your previous misdemeanours, is a small price to pay for that feeling of being once again as you were supposed to be.
I discovered Rolfing because I was looking for something different – something that actually works!!
I hit 40 years as though it were a wall and have spent the last couple of years feeling more and more aches and pains with immobility caused by formative years doing battle on the Rugby pitches of Yorkshire and the Hockey fields of Loughborough – plus of course the general youthful mistreatment of the body that goes with it!
I have tried intensive treatment from well respected Physiotherapists and also undertaken Osteopathy, acupuncture, Pilates, Yoga, and even some spiritual healing trying to rid my body of pain. I have spent thousands on MRI scans to find the root of the pain but all have been to no avail.
A friend of mine (a professional climber) said that a few of his climbing buddies had had success with a technique called structural integration – which helped put their seriously abused bodies back into shape after both traumatic injury and long term wear and tear. Their comments and my initial reading tied in with an experience during my pilates practice where I had felt some elements of my body coming back into alignment with the result of significantly less pain – and although temporary, it had made me aware of structures within my body that were not working properly, constraining my movement and causing the pain that was affecting my life.
Reading about Rolfing made me realise what the structures I had inadvertently become aware of were and the methodical and scientific basis to the rolfing treatment and its aim of helping the body find its true alignment really appealed to me.
My search started on the web and as a result I found Alan, whose website was very informative and location by far the most convenient (there are no practitioners in the midlands and the trip from Loughborough to East Finchley was pretty simple) -I decided to undertake the 10 series – the foundation of Rolfing, with Alan.
The hour long sessions with Alan always fly by and as long as you can handle the terrible jokes it is an experience never to be forgotten!! It would be unfair to suggest there are not moments of discomfort (not just due to the jokes) but when you think that the treatment addresses the effects of a lifetime of breaks, dislocations, bumps, bruises, twists and general stress – these moments can often be the times when you feel a true catharsis.
The treatment has proven to be structured and holistic and actually makes sense – it listens to your body and looks to address the root causes of discomfort to find a long term resolution. I am approaching the 10th and final session and although I have not had the epiphany moment some patients experience – there is no doubt my body is freeing up and the locked in pain is subsiding – my body is being allowed to return to a natural state of balance. I walk taller and more easily and I would strongly recommend anybody look at Rolfing as a way to helping the body overcome the years of damage that our history and modern life inflict of it.
If you are experiencing pain I urge you to consider Rolfing and that in my opinion Alan is an excellent, dilligent and highly skilled practitioner.
I appallingly have taken two years since doing the Ten Series with Alan to write this feedback. This, however, means it is truly a review of the results and not the delivery of the treatment.
I began to suffer with ‘back pain’ more than twenty years ago. My methods of coping, osteopathy, yoga etc were proving ever less successful. For much of the time both sitting and standing were painful. I had come to conclusion it was not a local problem and that I had to address more than the parts of the body that I could see were possibly linked to the primary site of pain. I realised that I was baffled and that for all the attention I had given it over the years I still did not know with certainty which parts of my body were in the right place and which not. I wanted help in this analysis.
Alan was a good choice for this but so clearly had more to offer me that after the first treatment, without consideration, I committed to doing the Ten Series. I slightly had to suspend my disbelief on two claims: that the adjustments would hold; and that the treatment would continue to work its effect for some time. Both I now fully believe.
Shortly after completing the Ten Series I was stupid enough to crash a large motorcycle. When I emerged from under it one of my first thoughts was ‘Oh no. I have just undone all Alan’s work.’ I had not. I did go back to see him to check and retune. Neither this acute test nor the test over time of continued bad habits has caused any significant relapse.
The way things continue to improve for some time after treatment was brilliantly illustrated when I resolved a complicating issue of inflammation and I could for some time feel things improving as they did fresh out of a treatment. It was as though Alan had turned the tide and after decades finally it was, whether I noticed its progress or not, going out.
From this distance I need to remind myself that at the time much of Alan’s value was in immediate relief from pain. I would still go back to him for this, but I have not needed to. Some of Alan’s greatest success was in working on my feet, which my previous coping strategies had not addressed. It seems so obvious now that the base is crucial to stability and balance in the whole body, but I did not, and still do not, know how to achieve this. Alan does.
There is an idea that this treatment is painful. I did not find it painful, except perhaps when he released my iliotibial band. By this time I knew him well enough to experience it as discomfort without panic and he knew me well enough to judge the strength of his action just right. I would not have had it harder or softer and was very glad of the release. My wife, who is very sensitive to pain and has since me done the Ten Series with Alan, felt the same. It is not pain. It is good discomfort.
Should you try Rolfing? If you have got as far as reading the comments here, almost certainly yes. If you baulk at the cost of the Ten Series, know that you cannot conceive of its full value till you have done it. A body which is a pleasure to live in is priceless and that is what you might get.
Should you choose Alan? Yes. He is masterful and intuitive bodyworker.
I have recently completed a course of eleven treatments in Structural Integration with Alan Richardson and have been enjoying better health and happiness. I came across Rolfing last summer when personal study and experience led me to the explorers of bodymind(e.g. Ken Dytchwalds Bodymind , which highly commends Rolfing as an exercise in personal integration and Ralph Metzners Opening to Inner Light). In the 1930s, Aldous Huxley wrote about the unity of the three planes of the body, emotions and the intellect: In practice, these planes cannot be separated. Events occurring in one of the planes have their counterpart in events occurring upon the other planes of our being. It is always necessary to bear this fact in mind when we classify phenomena as physical, emotional or intellectual Aldous Huxley Ends and Means page 303). What I had found seemed to offer the explanation of my own journey and struggle with health through my life. I do not specify mental health or physical health because as Huxley, I believe the response of one will correspond with the response of the others. Our internal reactions to events in life, particularly in our early years emotionally, intellectually and physically shape us, leaving their marks on our character and correspondingly in our bodies, which by constant repetition rigidify into the individual shapes that characterise us.
But due to my experience of Rolfing (in addition to the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais Movement) I know these imprints on our psyche or our bodies do not have to be permanent; we are not doomed to be the people we have become. Just as there is conversion for the intellect and soul, so the structure of our bodies can be changed for the better too; we are beings more plastic than concrete. The wounds which mark our persons are not indelible or cast in stone, because we can always grow, change, develop, expand and create by participating in the creative process of the universe by helping ourselves to create ourselves. We are the most adaptable of creatures and Rolfing is one of the ways we can access this creative energy and reshape our bodies so we can better adapt to the events of life. A course of Rolfing is therefore the undoing of a life time of reactions to our lives which have contorted and contracted the body, becoming to ourselves the personal burden of ourselves.
The treatment is physical for it is the restructuring of the person by putting the myofascia into their correct alignment and relation to the whole. It works on a physical level, but by undoing the physical effects of anxiety, fear and anger which are fixed in the myofascia and perhaps going back to infancy, it is also, from my experience, a key to the undoing of equally rigid tendencies in the character to respond in certain ways to particular events.
For example, before I started Rolfing, when I practised hatha yoga I felt pleased with my greater subtlety but the consequent increase in awareness of my self led me to notice deep physical resistances to various postures as well as seemingly involuntary painful muscular contractions to events around me or even to emotional thoughts that passed through my mind. Perhaps I had found the resistances, mentioned in Wilhelm Reich’s ground breaking Character Analysis, which fix themselves in the mind and the body. He discovered that resistance in one will be found equally in the other and although his treatment involved psychotherapy he came to recognise that the undoing of resistances to life might be more simply and directly achieved by means of the body. The treatment that Ida Rolf discovered which we call Rolfing cuts out the psychotherapy and goes straight to the point. In this sense it is much easier, for finding words to express memories of events that might have happened when we were two or three years old might be impossible, but the wordless imprints of our resistances on our physiques are clear for all to see and for the Rolfer to understand. There are some analogies with a building I would like to make, because even the name structural integration lends itself to a structure like a building.
Lets say you want to buy an old building. All the old architectural plans are gone, even the plans of subsequent alterations. You do not know much about the people who have lived in the building or why you find damage in some rooms but not others. You have no access to the mind or memories of previous owners, the architect or his successors but you can study the house in front of you. You may not know exactly the details of why or when or how damage to the structure of this building occurred, but you see that it has. Having decided what needs doing, you repair the structure before you do anything else like rewire it, fit it or decorate it. You do all this before you reuse the building, but you absolutely must begin by repairing the structure.
If my body was the old damaged building, the Rolfer, like Alan, is the home improver who sees what is there and reorganises and undoes the damage to the structure which previous alterations, or the physical imprints of reactions to fortune, have done to the original true blueprint of the body. By working on the repair of structure it then allows improved use of the body to follow.
So although I am learning both the Alexander Technique and the highly beneficial Feldenkrais Movement, I believe that Rolfing is the initial key to opening the door to flexibility and freedom. It is the repairing of the structure which must come before improved use can happen. To this end I acknowledge that A.T. and Feldenkrais Movement have been invaluable in better integrated use of myself with resulting better function and movement of my psychophysical processes. Whether I could have achieved the greatly improved acture (correct alignment in movement) I now experience without Rolfing using only A.T. and Feldenkrais I will never know. If so I think it would have taken much longer, rather than the dramatic improvement which Rolfing can offer in five months. For example , I can already go further with yoga asanas I have been doing for a few years such as nearly do a full Ardha Mukha Savasana (downward facing dog) or a squat, both now with heels on the floor . This, before I started Rolfing, was unattainable. My chest has opened out and I have become aware of the structural support needed for the neck to be free and the head to be forward and up, which Alexander discovered, but with myofascial constriction in the torso no amount of directing could have achieved this end so quickly even though I continue directing to improve this particular use. By continuing to do three Rolfing treatments a year, I am hoping that the painful contractions in my body which I suffer in circumstances which I find difficult or conflicting will cease, or at least I will be able to control them. They have decreased in quantity considerably since I started Rolfing and the treatment which Alan gave me has often brought me great relief. Greater agility in the lower back has likewise freed the pelvis and so walking is becoming much easier. Swimming has greatly improved and constantly gives me feedback on the greater agility Rolfing has brought me. Aesthetically, many people have commented how well I am looking now. Someone even said that I look more together than hes ever known me, although he had no idea that my physical togetherness is in fact the structural integration of Rolfing. Only this morning a woman said to me I was looking younger. This is because the integrated body is one associated with youth. All this is certainly good for the morale.
So why did I begin seizing up when I was a little boy? Why did I stop being able to bend, move, turn, run about like other kids? What fears, terrors, anxieties and consequently resistances fixed themselves in the bodymind until I became so fixed that I was, to quote my old osteopath, rigid like a plank of wood? Why did I get loads of headaches and backaches and have to go for a long treatment to the osteopath when I was only twelve years old? Why couldnt I coordinate my heels and toes and found walking any distance painful? Why did all this happen so that I felt alone and excluded from the life of normal children and then suffered from frequent depression? Why?
I dont know and dont normally ask anymore and Rolfing doesnt ask these questions either; because past events cant be changed. But the effects of them can. What I do know is now I can bend, twist, turn and jump and am beginning to walk freely too. I am more alive now at 43 than I was at 13, 23 or 33. I wish Id known about Rolfing earlier and that Rolfing were known about to parents whose children seize up and withdraw into themselves. If they received Rolfing as children they would not have to wait thirty years to get themselves together and undo the resistances to life which have become imprinted on their bodyminds and so find a little happiness sooner. And thats only if they are lucky enough, like me, to ever find Rolfing at all.
Huxley wrote What we think determines what we are and do, and conversely, what we are and do determines what we think (Ends and Means, p 329). Rolfing begins with changing what we are by putting our structure into correct alignment so we may better do, just as A.T. and Feldenkrais Method help in what we do and think so that we may better become what we truly are. With the help of Alan Richardsons skilful hands I thank God I can say that I am doing – and am – just this.