Operation Organization: Body Be Rolfed
I had heard that being Rolfed was deep and painful bodywork, and not to be surprised if there was screaming or sweating. Indeed, most people associate Rolfing with pain, and fear of that pain. My own experience, though, was one of relief, and of a more finely honed internal awareness. The pain had my soul hum, “Yes! This is freeing me.” As long as I was willing to breathe deeply, the process was gentle and I felt that, layer-by-layer, I was loosened down to my core.
I was Rolfed after having spent nearly a decade in a blur of body pain. I expected temporary relief of my symptoms from the depth of the work, and instead found a permanent shift in my life experience, my 300-days-a-year of being in pain shifting to less than a week of body discomfort annually. I was reorganized, and my body was programmed with a paradigm of relaxed comfort. I still feel more freedom and understanding of how I am. I’m aware now of how I created spirals of tension, and have gained skill to unwind these tightenings on my own. By the third session of ten in the Structural Integration method, I was committed to studying this potent modality for educating my body. I resolved to spread this hands-on recipe to unwind body tension throughout my community.
Having chosen Structural Integration as my obsession, I’m biased in my view of its significance in stepping-up the evolution of our species. With around six thousand practitioners worldwide—despite a low public profile since its origin 50 years ago—we are on the brink of an era where being Rolfed will rival chiropractic for receiving body care aimed at structural integrity. I envision this process as an initiation rite, a step toward owning our bodies with full awareness and a sense of individual power. A rite of maturation, the Structural Integration process puts our parts together, encouraging us to become our whole and integrated being.
We are relying on a shifting of energy levels, energy ideas, as a means of mental and physical healing, and by healing I’m not talking really about fixing up a broken bone, or remedying a stomachache. I’m talking about making a man a whole man.
[All quotes are from the audio archives of Dr. Rolf's lectures, unless otherwise noted.]
Structural Integration bodywork, known as Rolfing, a term coined by Dr. Ida Rolf half a century ago, uses gravity as an educational tool, aligning the body and allowing new awareness and an experience of relaxed length. After experiencing the initial ten-session recipe, which covers specific territory in each session and in a certain order, Ida considered you an ‘organized body’ rather than a ‘random body.’ We are structurally organized to collaborate efficiently with gravity. The Rolf method is a recipe, because body territory is influenced in a certain order, so that the shifts that occur can be maintained.
After being run over by a wagon in her youth, Rolf became familiar with a range of modalities in healing. Before she began practicing her observations and insights, Ida dedicated decades to forming her recipe. She found, over and over, that when she tried to get to the felt source of a problem, shifts were temporary. When she practiced her recipe by covering a larger territory, the results held. She found that her process unwinds the fascia matrix, (also known as connective tissue), so that our bones can adjust and hold their optimal position more readily. The principle is to bring us into alignment within our structure, stacking the segments of our bodies—from ankles to knees to hips to shoulders to head—so that all elements are supported with minimal energy.
This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.
A trained observer helps us to tune in to areas of constriction. The outside stimuli of the practitioner’s hands will focus our attention to unacknowledged holding patterns, or to patterns we knew of and need help to shift; our limbs are restrung in new relationship to our spines; the consistency of our bodies becomes more resilient and flexible.
A man is a something built around a line.
The tilt of our pelvis reflects how our segments are stacked, and how our line goes through us. Our pelvic alignment is a barometer of the integrity of our structure, reflecting how competently we juggle the contents of our lives. This is further reflected in how our feet meet our earth. The more relaxed and settled our feet claim the ground and gravity, the more integrated the web matrix of our human form is with our earth’s field, and the more readily we perceive and manoeuvre our psychic experiential web.
One of the keys to her process is freeing the psoas, the muscle attaching from the lower ribs to the hips, behind our abdominal muscles. Freeing our psoas to fully extend is a multi-step process, and a symbol of embracing our planet and gravity as our friend, integrating the parts of us that shy away from the parts of us that chose to love and trust. Having our psoas free is indicative of freedom throughout our structure, including hightened range of breath. Several times a year as I walk this path of study, I take a deeper breath than I ever have before in this incarnation.
The psychological realm is an expression of the physical being, the physical body. And it is possible; it is simple relatively, to deal with that physical body. That physical body is a something which is out in a physical world; you can see it, you can touch it, you can affect it. And in seeing it and feeling it and affecting it you are changing its psychological responses towards environment. Now this is a big order, and this is what we are proposing to do here. We are proposing to look at how to change physiology in human beings, because the physiology—the function of the man—is what is the man.
This body education allows a honed listening to better integrate life’s influences—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. When our bodies works more directly in concert with the vertical plane, with joints functioning in a horizontal manner, we access the key to being powerfully in the center of the three dimensional planes of physical reality. Experiencing Rolf’s idea of being ‘on-line’ awakens the body. It is a metaphysical occurrence that radiates through and beyond our heads and our feet; its unfettered functioning is dictated by our relationship with gravity.
Our culture of vigilance encourages flexing our muscles rather than extending them. Such practices as yoga, breath work, Feldenkrais, and Continuum Movement aid in bringing consciousness to “being on-line.” Our center changes itself when we remove the external forces pressing in on it. Receiving kinesthetic knowledge through hands-on touch allows muscles to separate in new ways that fuels progress in other practices.
In our age where our personal physical development has been outpaced by technological advances, integrating body structure awakens our ability to tap more readily into centered personal choice.
As a result of the lesser compulsion that is in the muscle, you can get a lesser compulsion in the mind in terms of certain attitudes, and you can begin to look around and see some other things.
The definitions of strength must change when our world is teetering on the edge of massive shifting, and our thriving is in our ability to be flexible and resilient.
So, our awareness sharpens. Our segments shift in relation to one another and we listen in: “How am I strung from my spine? Where are pulls happening? Where can I let them go such that my inner core of alignment reigns?” Our body has made small shifts to access functioning with ease; pains disappear, talents manifest.
I observe transformation especially in those clients who are willing to breathe and reach continually to the edge of their web of awareness. The process is aided by having a safe container in which to dismantle the body armor. Spirals of muscle memory unwind in layers.
We experience our spine in constant minimal internal adjustment, as a growth of pond weed wafting in its rooted home, or the essence of the octopus constantly weaving, subtly listening into its floating movement. As we evolve, this bodywork allows us to more powerfully direct our evolution.
When I ask people what animal part they would choose to add to their body, a large percentage wants wings. Where does this desire for flying come from? Is it partly brought on by simply choosing to feel more efficient within our skin?
The Greeks, when they wanted to represent the principle of transportation, the principle of getting around, represented a young man with wings on the outside of his heals. They were saying, not that they thought there was a god that came around with wings on the sides of his feet at all, they were saying that the principle of transportation – of getting around, of getting around fast and satisfactorily – consisted in walking as though you had wings on the side of your feet. It still is the same. And it’s not wings on the inside of your feet.
The Structural Integration process is an education in enhancing your game, accentuating your gifts, and honing your discretion. Shifting consciousness through body-mind input, integrating as we go…