“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” — George A. Moore
First year of practice
In my first year of practice I steeped myself in the whole ethos of Rolfing. I read anything I could find about bodywork and Rolfing, articles and books written by people who had been practising for years: Shultz, Feitis, Myers, Leigh, Johnson, Juhan. The more I read, the more it became apparent how wonderfully deep the subject was. Initial doubts about maintaining a practice gave way to an ever growing curiosity and desire to improve.
I grew in confidence and each session, each client, gave me new valuable information that helped to improve my touch skills and get progressively better treatment outcomes. I morphed from fresh Rolfing graduate to bona fide Rolfer with an active practice, supplementing my knowledge by doing the Body Control Pilates course about two years into my practice.
Professional development – workshops
Over the years I have attended many workshops given by Rolfers such as spinal mechanics, visceral manipulation and trauma energetics. Continuing education is a very important part of maintaining a professional practice. Workshops provide opportunities to learn from good experienced teachers who have reached a high level of skill. At workshops we meet other Rolfers, swap ideas and learn from each other — and also blissfully receive Rolfing work!
Qualifying as a Craniosacral therapist (a two-year diploma) proved to be an excellent decision which made me a better Rolfing practitioner. Hours of using extremely gentle touch on fellow Craniosacral students taught me the value of patience in giving space to the client’s organism to process, and gave me an enhanced appreciation of the immense organising intelligence of a person’s body. The waiting and ‘listening’ of Craniosacral therapy was the perfect counterpoint to the direct ‘doing’ of Rolfing, the yin to balance the yang.
Advanced Rolfing training and assisting classes
The Advanced training in 2006-2007, in Soloturn and Munich, profoundly altered my way of working as I became more confident in applying a range of touch. Eventually I became able to mix the Rolfing and Craniosacral touch, to be able to work deep in the fascia while combining the ‘listening’ sensitivity of the Craniosacral way; in other words, to effectively modify my depth and quality of touch in response to the body’s subtle motility.
Lately the process of assisting classes is helping me to grow further. I have assisted several Touch and Movement modules and an eight-week Phase Two class in Munich this year, which was a significant learning process in itself. Teaching is a rich and meaningful process and finding ways to pass on what I know to students has the effect of sharpening my clarity of thought and further improving my own touch skills. And teaching something is the best way to learn it.
Why I love Rolfing — the people
My clients have always been a fascinating mix of people from all walks of life: some bodily aware, some not; many employed in offices, some self employed; creatives, academics, scientists, yogis, dancers, teachers, busy mothers, CEOs, sports people, the occasional celebrity. From the scaffolder to the princess, all types of people have turned up for Rolfing because they are aware on some level of the need for improvement in their body. Perhaps they are in pain or feel they are not moving as easily as they were before an an incident such as a ski accident.
I don’t think it is possible to be a Rolfer for so long without being interested in people. Each client that walks into my office has a unique story which is always interesting. Topics of conversation can range from the practical considerations of how to physically move through life with minimal physical pain (sleeping positions, how to sit at a computer, exercise recommendations etc.) to talking about life goals, movies, books, travel, food, philosophy or topical subjects such as the physical and mental impact smart phones and social media are having on our lives. Some of this conversation is simply friendly banter, sometimes it is directly relevant to the treatment.
Why I love Rolfing — the work
“‘Finding yourself’ is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-pound note in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. ‘Finding yourself’ is actually returning to yourself: an unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.” — Anonymous
It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that Rolfing helped me to ‘find myself’. When I came across Rolfing in 1993 in Japan, I was searching for something and receiving my own Rolfing Series and doing the training was life-changing.
Looking back to that time 24 years ago when I was reading Ida Rolf’s book, I remember the feeling of a wide path opening in front of me. The path metaphorically led to Boulder, the Rolfing training and ultimately to where I am now, being and living the life of a Rolfer.
Going to Boulder in 1994 without having even received any Rolfing treatment amounted to a leap of faith. My decision was based on my interest in Ida Rolf’s ideas from reading her book, along with a strong intuition that it was the right thing to do.
So was it the right thing to do? The answer to this is an unqualified ‘Yes!”
I don’t meet many people who love their work, but I do, and feel very fortunate for this. It is difficult to find adequate words to describe why doing this work is so fulfilling, and remains so fascinating and personally rewarding even after doing it for twenty years. The deeper one goes, the more interesting, challenging and engaging it becomes.
Firstly, it is intellectually stimulating with many subjects to explore under the overall rubric of Rolfing Structural Integration: Anatomy, Rolfing Movement, Trauma Energetics, Visceral manipulation, the phenomenology of human perception are all fascinating subjects in their own right.
Secondly, it is personally extremely satisfying to witness how people respond to the treatment, how they become more comfortable in their bodies and express their joy at the disappearance of a chronic pain. It is wonderful to see the ‘blooming’ that happens in a client’s volumetric shape as s/ he goes through the Rolfing Series.
Being a Rolfer
The Rolfing Series is a joint venture, requiring participation from both Rolfer and client in order to get the best results. The Rolfer provides the skills and the client engages in their own process in a kind of somatic exploration. The privilege of being a participant in these collaborations is something I do not take for granted.
How important you regard your body to be in your experience of life may vary according to where you believe the essence which is ‘you’ resides. If you believe you are an immortal soul contained, trapped even, in a machine-like body, you may rate your bodily experience relatively low on your list of values.
If, on the other hand, you believe you are primarily a physical being whose consciousness is an emergent property arising from your body, perhaps even a kind of illusion, then you would rate bodily experience more highly.
Or perhaps your perception of self is somewhere between these two extremes. But whatever your beliefs about the essence of ‘you’, you would probably agree that less pain in your body, more ease of movement and a more pleasant physical experience will increase your quality of life. This is what Rolfing can do. Rolfing helps people to flourish, both physically and, by consequence, mentally: in corpore sano mens sana.
The human condition itself is like an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Nietzsche said:
“What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going.”
These words evoke the fluctuating levels of a human being between an earthbound animalistic existence and airy mental experience, somewhere between a beast and a god.
Being a Rolfer is to be constantly reminded of the immense intelligence and awesome design of the living human body, to meet people and to have the skills to help them, to be both demystifying the body and embodying the mystery. What more could one ask for in a profession?
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