This article appears in the book Rolfing – Stories of Personal Empowerment, by Briah Anson

East Indian sage, Krishnamurti, defined human intelligence as “sensitivity.” Krishnamurti thought that one must be able to feel or read one’s physical, mental or emotional sensors from an extreme sensitivity base in order to react with extreme intelligence.

The process of Rolfing is a sensitizing experience that helps bring one in tune with one’s body. It is a study of and a practical application on “What one’s body was made to do.” Its emphasis is basic body alignment through correct positioning and use of one’s muscles.

In athletics, one develops an appreciation for sensitively refined, basic body movement. The benefit of spending hours and hours on “basics” is that athletes will eventually develop a wide base of correct movement that will allow the development of more advanced skills with relative ease. Metaphorically speaking, the athlete will widen the base of the pyramid of knowledge so that a new height of learning will be reached by the pyramid peak. Rolfing then will aid those who strive to naturalize or idealize their movements, and with Rolfing a sensitivity to very basic physiology will develop.

Rolfing makes conscious those physical problems that have arisen unconsciously. It then goes on to remedy those old physical habits and, in doing so, it opens previously undiscovered sources of energy that then create changes, not only on the physical level, but often on emotional and mental levels as well

Mark W. Pflughoeft
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Men’s Gymnastics Coach


Amy Acuff was involved in the thrilling Olympic High Jump Final on Aug 28, 2004, The final was won by Slesarenko Yelena in a new Olympic record of 2.06m. Amy finished in 4th place.

Amy Acuff is a 2× Olympic high jumper for the U.S.A. Track and Field team. Acuff is competing in Athens this week. She used Rolfing to prepare for competition and says it helps her performance as an athlete. She heard about Rolfing from Olympic high jumper, Erin Alrich. Acuff is an acupuncture student at the Academy of Oriental Medicine in Austin Texas. She has been interviewed in Vogue, Esquire, Glamour and Rolling Stone for both her Athleticism and personal style.

For an athlete, like Acuff, who is targeting a world record, unerring accuracy of movement is essential. Watching Acuff launch her jump, her coach knows Acuff has the skill that will place her in the precise target area to bring in the gold. Acuff, a 2× Olympian says, “As I come into my approach, I scan my whole body. I have to take off within a few inches of my ideal or the jump is ruined. As I run, my eyes take in information and send messages to my brain that help put me in that precise target area.”

Acuff’s training depends on body strength, flexibility, and fitness. Erin Aldrich, 2000 U.S. Olympic high jumper, recommended Rolfing to Acuff. Sports Illustrated For says Rolfing is “enjoying a resurgence among professional athletes.” Olympians like Michelle Kwan, Elvis Stojko, Wendy Wagner, and Ben Hindle used Rolfing to prepare their bodies for the 2002 Olympics. Wendy Wagner, an Olympic skier, told Sports Illustrated For Women about her experience with Rolfing, “I breathe easier, my balance is better. It gives me a competitive edge.

Rolfing helped Acuff improve her alignment so she could stand up straighter. “As an athlete, good alignment changes the whole way you receive information.” Says Acuff. “Your eyes are set to interpret spatial relationships based on where your head is. If your head is leaning forward or cocked to the side, it is harder to interpret distance and have an awareness of where you are in space,”

“As an Olympic high jumper, my motor skills, range of motion and power through that range of motion are critical. When I take off I have to be in position, and more important, I have to be powerful through the launch. I use Rolfing to increase my performance. It freed up a lot of space in my movement, increased my range of motion and gave me more efficient muscle control. The increased range of motion helps me refine the use of my proprioceptions, so I know where I am in space. It also streamlined my motor pathways.”

Acuff just won the 2004 U.S. indoor National Championships and has been receiving Rolfing for a year. She says “I received Rolfing in March 2003, before I went to the World Indoor Championships with the U.S.A. track and field team. Rolfing helped increase my endurance, so I was able to compete more frequently indoors. Normally I would not dare to compete for a few days back to back, it is too stressful, the joints feel jammed, and there is swelling and pain in my hip and ankle joints. Rolfing helped me do the jumps back to back, because I was putting less compression on my joints.”

The U.S. produces some of the world’s greatest track and field stars. Amy Acuff says the precision of her performance is vital to her success. “When I received Rolfing I was really impressed how I was able to make connections between distant parts of my body and see how they were related. For an athlete, this increase in connection can really improve your precision. The more I feel the connection and flexibility, the better I feel the precision in performing the jump.”

Olympian and team mate, Erin Aldrich introduced Acuff to her Certified Rolfer, Brian Beard at Acadamy of Oriental Medicine where Acuff is studying acupuncture. Acuff received three Rolfing sessions before the world team trials this May, and plans to get more sessions as she gears up for the World Championships in August.

Erin Aldrich, was ranked No.1 in the U.S. when she led the women’s 2000 Olympic team. She says Rolfing helped her make the Olympic team, “I credit Rolfing for turning around a really bad injury – my sprained ankle – in time for me to jump at the 2000 U.S. Olympic trials. I saw my Rolfer, Brian Beard every week before the trials. I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to jump at all. He turned the ankle around, got me back to 100% and I made the team.” At the Olympic trials, Aldrich jumped 6’4″ to make the team.

Olympic MD, Dr Karl Ullis of Santa Monica, CA, who has worked with Olympic athletes in track and field says, “The Olympic athletes wouldn’t have as many injuries if they had soft tissue manipulation. Rolfing is valuable for all athletes in high level competition to address the build up of scar tissue and the disarrangement of myofascial tissue that occurs from training, scarring and injury. Athletes always need help with chronic injuries, muscular strain and overuse. Sports therapies help with circulation and relaxation but Rolfing supports structural realignment for greater efficiency of movement and more precise movement.”

Read more about Rolfing, Sport and Athletic Performance.


This article appears in the book Rolfing – Stories of Personal Empowerment, by Briah Anson

When I was 18, I started practising Aikido. I’m 25 now and teaching at two schools in Kansas City. Aikido is very different from any other martial art because the main focus is not to break and maim, merely to get out of someone’s way and redirect an opponent’s energy. I call it the karma-free martial art because no one gets hurt. Some people say the best defence is a good offence. Well that’s just total nonsense to us. If you’re trying to hurt other people, something is wrong, Aikido is a very gentle, free-flowing martial art. Some of the other martial arts can cause back or knee problems, but Aikido is very healthy.

Aikido appeals to people of all ages because it isn’t necessary to be big and strong to throw somebody. If you can do this, you know how to use your rhythm and chi or life force.

When I was teaching Aikido in Colombia, Missouri, one of my students, a professional psychologist, told me about Rolfing and how wonderful it was. I thought, “Oh, great. I don’t need a massage, and I’m not going to pay 50 to 75 bucks for one.” He spent several months trying to get me to go, and finally, because of chronic back pain, I decided to try it once. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t go back. I scheduled an appointment with a man named Mark, who was fresh out of Rolfing school. I didn’t expect much because I thought I already knew all about my body from Aikido, but lo and behold, my eyes were opened.

The first session was incredible. I felt wired afterwards. I had so much energy. He worked on my chest and rib area and all this air came rushing into my lungs. My ribs were expanded and I felt like could really breathe for the first time in years.

Some of the Rolfing was uncomfortable, but I knew I was releasing a lot of tension and it was great. I loved it. When I walked out of there I could take in three times the amount of air. I was energized for weeks after that.

The next sessions were less intense, and the experience was more subtle, but I noticed many changes. My posture was improved. I’ve always had this kind of pouch in my belly, even when I was underweight. That started to straighten out because my posture was getting better. I could stand straight without any effort or tension. My clothes fit and even though I gained a few pounds, my pants seemed looser. I believe my shape was moulding itself correctly to my body structure.

\When Mark worked on my feet, I felt a lot of fear. I’ve been injured there, and it’s a sensitive area. Sometimes I would laugh hysterically. It was very uncomfortable, but I could feel the energy being released and see the changes in my performance when I practised Aikido. I noticed as I’d turn, move and hop that my feet were making better contact with the mat, especially when I landed after jumping. My weight would find a comfortable place very quickly. My balance was so much better.

My neck relaxed, and I held my head up naturally. The Rolfing process with Mark took a year, and the changes in my body were incredible. About two years later, between a difficult relationship and a stressful employment situation, I felt that I was falling back into my old postures and habits. I had a list of little aches and pains, things that were starting to go wrong from my toes to my head and many stressful things were coming together. Being Rolfed seemed to be the best thing I could do for myself at that time. So I came to Briah.

She did a lot of work with my legs and knees, and I could feel an incredible difference in how they were tracking, moving smoothly without the joints rubbing together.

I also feel more comfortable about my abdomen, hips and certain other parts of my body. As a child, I had got some negative messages about my body. Rolfing helped me develop a positive self-image.

My reactions to Briah’s Rolfing have not been as intense as those with Mark. Her technique is more gentle, but also I am older now and have already worked through and released some of my most intense emotions.

In the first ten sessions, I had more turbulent reactions emotionally. I went from feeling ecstatic in some sessions to really disturbed in others. I felt a lot of fear when Mark Rolfed my feet. I’ve always been injured there, and it’s a scary area in my body for other people to touch. Sometimes I would laugh hysterically when he would Rolf my legs and abdomen. I could not stop laughing, it was such an intense feeling. Again, I was remembering things from when I was little. I was putting different aspects of my life together. Images would come to me. When I was Rolfed in my solar plexus area I had a dream that night about this Indian dying in a field. He had an arrow stuck right there going through him and he was hunched over, dying. I had been hit in that area several years ago, and it was all I could do to hold myself in that position. Until the pain went away, I was doubled over.

Three years later, the emotions are more subtle. I’ve had three sessions with Briah, and when I look in the mirror now, I can see that my muscles have stretched and my knees and legs are straighter. I don’t have the vocabulary to talk about what Rolfing is, what it does and how to describe the changes, but basically I look longer, stretched from my knees to my collar bone. I went for a walk after my third session and felt that my hips were more fluid, not stuck and rigid. I really enjoyed the walk.

I would recommend Rolfing to anyone who feels stuck and is ready for a change. I knew I had some physical problems when I was younger. I didn’t know what to do about it. Rolfing gave me a kind of mirror to see myself in. I saw other people balancing their bodies, and even though I practised and practised Aikido, I still felt as if I were being held back. After the first session, I firmly believed that Rolfing could help break that rigidity and let me go forward. It was an incredible revelation for me. I wish I had found it when I was twelve.

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