Why would anyone want to be Rolfed? (Notwithstanding the name… I mean, it even sounds weird and obscure.)
I’ve been turning my attention recently to how I can create good maps or signposts for my Rolfing practice… or to put it another way: “How to let my future clients know that they need this thing called Rolfing?”
I put it like this as the majority of my clients arrive for the first few sessions without fully understanding what Rolfing is or how it works and are often (justifiably) on the sceptical end of open-minded. They might know that Rolfing is done over a series of 10 sessions. Or, they might not and that might give them pause for thought… after all, 10 sessions of anything can seem like a lot in our super-speedy lives. By the end of the 3rd, I would say 90% are able to say they feel some relief or shift in what brought them to Rolfing. By the 5th or sometimes 6th, most are beyond pleased with the changes they are experiencing.
(It’s a cumulative process. Even after they finish the series, the benefits just keep accruing, in the way that all sound investments should!)
So I’ve been on to some marketing workshops to figure out this sign-posting thing and they all say: ask your clients to tell you about their experience! Use that to sign-post future clients!
Unfortunately, if I ask my clients (this is called ‘market research’) to describe the changes they’ve experienced, it sounds so beautifully far-reaching and holistic in its benefit as to be, hmmm, abstract. It could be that they are just being kind to me (!), or complementary in the hopes of a free session (?), but given that they definitely look better in standing and movement after the 10 sessions than they did before the 10 sessions, I’m inclined to believe them.
Worse, if I try to ‘profile’ my clients, I end up with this:
Varied. Very Varied. All sorts of bodies, all sorts of motivation, all sorts of lifestyles… from hard- working professional dancers and yogis, to builders, to the recently-retired, to those presenting with occasional-but-acute-lower-back-pain… All sorts of ages, backgrounds and levels of activity.
One thing that is interesting is that most of my clients are referred by word of mouth – usually by a friend or family member or colleague or somebody else they trust who has had Rolfing. Or by another health practitioner who has had Rolfing themselves. The experience, it would seem, is powerful enough that people want to talk about it.
There are a minority of clients who have felt they did not experience what they were looking for. I don’t think this is a bad thing. I think it’s very human. I’m not a one-size-fits-all practitioner (nobody is) and Rolfing, despite its claims to the contrary, and my own claim of a variety of client shapes and sizes, isn’t for everyone. However, having said all that… it’s pretty infrequent that clients don’t return. If they don’t, it’s often because they are looking for a sort of ‘quick-fix’ solution. That’s one thing Rolfing does NOT do: the quick-fix. The magic pill. Sustainable change (for better or worse!) takes time and asks us to look at aspects of our habits that we sometimes avoid.
So, to return to the opening question: Why would anyone want to be Rolfed?
Anyone might want to feel better generally and for the most part (of course)! But, how about ‘better’ in a way that comes from skilful and sensitive intervention (hands-on) to help your body (aka ‘you’) deal with gravity in its best possible way? Gravity of course being that all-pervasive universal force (that old chestnut) in which you spend every moment of your existence. Unless you are an astronaut, obviously.
(I wonder if any astronauts have been Rolfed?)
Wouldn’t it be amazing if a fellow human were able to help you embody, in a compassionate and empathetic (yet still firm and clear! Gosh, I’d love to re-parent myself like that!) utterly bespoke process, your best postural pattern? The one that helps you feel light, but still grounded? At ease yet still alert? Able to relax as well as get into gear when you need to? One that helps you respond and relate to all the lovely oranges, apples and tart lemons life might offer?
In this light, Rolfing sounds like the elixir of life. Might be? I’m not crossing it out.
Fascia, in some ways, is the ideal medium for such a thing to actually be. (Fascia, incidentally, is the medium in which Rolfers Rolf) It is literally EVERYWHERE in our bodies. A kind of connective tissue, it comes in sheets, membranes, comparmentalising dividers… strands, ropes, cords… Muscles, wrapped in fascial envelopes, muscle fibres in smaller envelopes. Tendons, fascial force conductors transmitting from elastic myo-fascia to denser bony lever, glide along in yet more fascial sheaths. Nerves, yep, those too have their fascial wrappings. Ligaments… fibrous beds and bands of… locally dense fascial tissue. Organs? They come in double-bags of fascia. Fat, yes, that’s in the ‘superficial’ layer of fascia and is wonderfully insulating and squishable. Your spinal cord lives inside a lovely long fascial tunnel called the ‘dura’.
Fascia really is everywhere in us – where there is an organised bundle of collagen, there will be fascia. And thus was something called Rolfing born.
(Because collagen can also become dis-organised, like many things in life. And Ida Rolf, who is definitely on the time-travel bucket list of people to meet, figured this out back in the 50s)
It truly is remarkable stuff and hence the capacity to have such far-reaching benefit. That work within the fascial ‘net’ that is primarily responsible for inter-relating all of our various bits can bring about such system-wide shifts begins to seem less fantastical and more… sensical.
On a more pragmatic, feet-on-the-ground note: a Rolfer spends a lengthy time training their perception to be able to pinpoint where, in all the fascial connectivity that is you, they should aim their very specific quality of touch. It’s the best of global-local combinations: global perception (i.e., what’s your overall structural – movement – perceptual patterning?) coupled with local intervention.
To sum up my sign-posting:
- if the quality of your physical home (your body, your structure) is important to you and is making a difference to your daily life, either for better or worse;
- if you agree that sustainable change requires investment, in the shape of time, personal engagement and money;
- if you enjoy being able to move with ease and spontaneity;
- if you are interested in changing your overall postural patterning for long-lasting benefit; … Then you are a somebody who would want to be Rolfed.
N.B. If you are mostly interested in a cosmetic, quick-fix or objectifying intervention, then you will not want to be Rolfed. Sorry.
Details of Rolfing and how to book can be found here.