Does Rolfing SI Hurt?
You should not have to experience any pain, but there may be some discomfort. You should communicate any discomfort to the Rolfer.
When some people think of Rolfing Structural Integration, one of the first words that come to their mind is pain. Often, this perception is based on anecdotal accounts of sessions performed during Rolfing SI's infancy, when it tended to be a less subtle and more intense discipline, frequently linked to popular emotionally intense types of therapies in the late 1960s and early 70s. Part of this reputation can be attributed to an often-quoted complaint of Dr. Rolf during her training classes that her students failed to work deep enough. Apparently, many assumed that what she meant was that they needed to work harder and deeper. However, we now realize that deep work is not necessarily synonymous with physical intensity.
Several factors determine the level of comfort or discomfort during a Rolfing session. One is the degree of trauma in the system; another is how long fascial distortions have been in the client's body. Long-term distortions create more tenacious and widespread compensatory patterns, which may require more sustained pressure to release.
Another factor is the degree of emotional charge associated with an area of injury or strain. Dr. Rolf made the point that during the therapeutic process, emotional pain is often experienced when deeply held emotional traumas and memories are brought to the surface and processed. Similarly, she reasoned, deep touch can result in a transitory experience of pain that is healing and transformative. However, there is actually a fair amount of variation in the level of intensity. Practitioners vary in the amount of pressure they feel is appropriate to affect the necessary level of change. It is recommended that the potential Rolfing client speak to several Rolfers about this issue, even experiencing the work of various practitioners, in order to evaluate both the level of intensity and the quality of the results you experienced.
A general guideline for the vast majority of Rolfing clients is that the intensity experienced is transitory, moving quickly from brief intensity to a decrease in sensation and finally to an easing of long-standing holdings which can prove both profound and transformative. To paraphrase Peter Schwind, a Certified Advanced Rolfer from Munich, Germany, "The art of Rolfing [SI] is to master a wide range of styles of touch and know when a lighter [or] more intense touch is required." Continuous communication with the client and pacing the level of intensity are essential, profoundly affecting the client's reaction to the transitory discomfort when seriously restricted tissue is softened, differentiated and reintegrated.
What Is The Difference Between Massage And Rolfing SI?
Rolfing® is the original brand of Structural Integration, which is its own modality, not a form of massage.
One of the most common misconceptions about Rolfing Structural Integration is that it is a nothing more than a type of very deep massage. There are many varieties of massage, which can be particularly effective for loosening tight tissue, reducing stress, detoxing the body and evoking an increased feeling of relaxation and well-being. Since these benefits are also a byproduct of Rolfing SI, the general public experience confusion as to the precise difference between our work and the proliferation of effective touch modalities currently available. Ray McCall, a Certified Advanced Rolfer in Boulder, once said that what Rolfers do can be summed up in three words: palpation, discrimination and integration. We palpate, or touch the tissue, feeling for imbalances in tissue texture, quality and temperature to determine where we need to work. We discriminate, or separate fascial layers that adhere and muscles that have been pulled out of position by strain or injury. Finally, we integrate the body, relating its segments in an improved relationship, bringing physical balance in the gravitational field. Other soft-tissue manipulation methods, including massage, are quite good at the first two, but do not balance the body in gravity. As Dr. Rolf used to say: "It is easy to take a body apart, but it takes skill and understanding to put it back together." The true genius of her method is the art and science of reshaping and reorganizing human structure according to clearly defined principles in a systematic and consistent manner for long term results.
In addition to our skill as structural integrators, we are also educators, a point Dr. Rolf stressed frequently in her training classes. The role of teacher is something every Rolfer takes seriously. In each session, Rolfers seek to impart insights to clients to increase their awareness and understanding, to help the client make the work we do their own. Our job is to make ourselves obsolete, by empowering our clients to take charge of their own physical and emotional health. Influencing the structural evolution of man on a global level was Dr. Rolf's fondest dream.
Is Rolfing SI Suitable For Infants And Children?
Both infants and children may benefit developmentally from Rolfing sessions.
A common misunderstanding about Rolfing Structural Integration is that its main value is in correcting long-standing structural patterns. Rolfing SI can also serve as a preventative measure to minimize potentially problematic patterns in the young. One of the things children learn from watching us is how we carry ourselves, and they will naturally imitate their parent's language, movement and other modes of expression. These patterns can be seen in family photos and are as much a part of a child's makeup as his hair color, height and predisposition to certain hereditary illnesses. Rolfing SI can begin to correct patterns, such as posture imbalances which may limit the child's development and mobility.
Also, when children are injured from falls or minor accidents, they may seem to be fine on the outside once the cut or bruise has healed. However, as Dr. Rolf pointed out, they are not really the same. Minor changes have taken place in the connective tissue, in their joints and in the muscles that were injured. Small tears or pulls cause the tissue to thicken. Soon, muscles begin to adhere to each other and are less able to function as discrete entities. These changes may express themselves as a slight limp, lower energy, a decrease in range of motion or strength.
Early intervention by a Rolfer aware of the unique needs of infants and children can make a profound difference in a child's awareness, comfort level and self-esteem. The importance of receiving loving supportive touch in and of itself is of immeasurable value to a developing child. Rolfing SI, however, can accomplish so much more, creating palpable change in the child's connective tissue matrix. We have also found that adolescents who receive Rolfing SI during and after puberty, a time of great insecurity and emotional turmoil for most of us, frequently experience, in addition to the obvious structural benefits, a profound effect on their awareness and level of comfort in their rapidly changing body and mind.
Does Rolfing SI Relieve Stress?
All clients may experience benefits from Rolfing SI; an important benefit for most is that they become less stressed and more at ease in their bodies.
When people come to Rolfers, they frequently complain about their high level of stress and how it affects their everyday life. They are seeking some means of reducing their stress. Often, they have explored allopathic means such as muscle relaxants, painkillers, liniments, balms and other topical treatments. When these treatments fail to achieve a satisfactory level of improvement, those still suffering seek other forms of relief such as exercise, meditation and yoga..
They may also seek a myofascial (neuromuscular) solution and start receiving regular massages or some other similar soft tissue therapy. In many cases, these therapies are good at providing transitory relief of the physical causes of chronic stress. Those seeking a more permanent solution to the problem are more likely to have success with Rolfing Structural Integration.
Rolfing SI creates a higher level of integration in the body, balancing and educating the body and the psyche. As the body approaches balance, it is more comfortable in the gravitational field. As the body becomes more comfortable, physical and emotional stress can diminish. This chain of events is a more typical sequence of events as a body changes during the Rolfing process. Ultimately, however, the results as experienced by the client are more important than the process.
What About The Emotional And Psychological Effects Of Rolfing SI?
It is impossible to touch the physical body without touching the emotional body. All individuals develop compensatory patterns, ways of the body holding and defending itself against a variety of physical and emotional traumas.
For most Rolfers, emotional catharsis is not something consciously desired nor intended for their clients. Rather, the person is approached with reverence and compassion. When emotionally charged areas of the body have been identified by the client, or intuited by the practitioner, they are normally accessed slowly and with constant communication between the Rolfer and the client.
Sometimes, however, repressed memories or experiences will arise for which the client and the Rolfer may not have any advanced warning. In this situation, the goal of the Rolfer is to provide a safe container for their release, taking the requisite time to integrate the experience into the physical and emotional body in a way that promotes maximum resolution and minimal trauma to the system.
Rolfer's are trained to ease a client through such an experience but are not trained as therapists. The nature and quality of accessing and resolution of emotionally charged material may be the most profound portion of a client's Rolfing experience. However, the client should not enter the Rolfing process with anticipation of such a major release but should remember that the Rolfer's area of expertise is integrating and balancing connective tissue. The emotional component, as attractive or dreaded as it may be, remains an ancillary aspect of the Rolfing process and not its primary intention.
Is Rolfing SI Helpful To Musicians?
Musicians who have experienced the basic series have consistently noticed profound changes in their level of physical comfort, energy level and internal awareness. This increased freedom of movement noticeably impacts the performer's pleasure in performing and often leads to greater creative abilities.
Musicians often face a number of unique physical challenges brought on by years of diligent practice and performing. Sometimes, even the best musicians develop habits which lead to chronic pain, mostly in their hands and wrists, forearms, neck and shoulders and lower back. Rolfing Structural Integration and Rolf Movement Integration can help in a number of ways.
Physical adaptations to a musician's chosen instrument, including the voice, which often lead to discomfort and imbalance, are normalized in a traditional Rolfing Ten Series. The Rolfing Ten Series can be specifically adapted to address such patterns as carpal tunnel, chronic muscle imbalances and long-term effects of odd stances and body position caused by the exigencies of playing a given instrument.
Another tool many Rolfers employ is movement work. Those trained in Rolf Movement Integration observe you in the act of playing and call your attention to subtle ways you hold or translate force through your body which reinforce strain patterns that interfere with your performance. The movement teacher's intention is not to change how you play or to inhibit your unique approach to the instrument. Rather, they help you find creative alternatives to stressful patterns in your current mode of performance.