ROLL ON Suf­fer­ing with long-term aches and pains? Why not visit a Rolfer, says prac­ti­tioner Keith Gra­ham

Triathlon Plus - - Rolfing - Words Keith Gra­ham

What is Rolfing?

Rolfing Struc­tural In­te­gra­tion is a method of deep-tis­sue ma­nip­u­la­tion and move­ment ed­u­ca­tion that aims to bal­ance the body so it can deal more ef­fi­ciently with the force of grav­ity.

Named af­ter Amer­i­can bio­chemist, Dr Ida Rolf, who de­vel­oped the method in the 1950s, Rolfing ad­dresses pat­terns of ten­sion that can de­velop in the body’s fas­cial or con­nec­tive tis­sue sys­tem.

Over 10 care­fully struc­tured ses­sions, Rolfing un­winds lay­ers of tis­sue strain, which may have built up over years due to in­jury, ha­bit­ual move­ment pat­terns, trauma or emo­tional hold­ing. Un­der­go­ing the full Rolfing se­ries is like giv­ing your body a 100,000-mile ser­vice and will im­prove pos­ture, bal­ance and mus­cle co­or­di­na­tion for more en­ergy and greater free­dom of move­ment.

Why is it dif­fer­ent from nor­mal sports mas­sage or os­teopa­thy?

Rolfing dif­fers from other body­work meth­ods, like mas­sage or os­teopa­thy, in sev­eral ways. The first is in the way that Rolfers view the hu­man body, not just as a me­chan­i­cal struc­ture but more as an ‘on­go­ing event’. So, while a per­son may have pain in a par­tic­u­lar place, Rolfing recog­nises the in­ter­re­lat­ed­ness of the mind and body and so treats the en­tire hu­man through a sys­tem­atic ap­proach, which tries to be sen­si­tive to all that each in­di­vid­ual brings to the ta­ble. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily

“chas­ing the pain” by loos­en­ing a tight mus­cle here and there, but notic­ing how those mus­cles co­or­di­nate with their neigh­bours and the sur­round­ing tis­sues. Notic­ing un­con­scious hold­ing pat­terns that may be at the root of on­go­ing pain and in­jury, and work­ing with the client’s per­cep­tual and some­times emo­tional re­la­tion­ship not only to them­selves but also to the spa­ces they move through.

The sec­ond dif­fer­ence is based on our strat­egy for bring­ing change and what we ac­tu­ally do with our hands. Chi­ro­prac­tic and os­teo­pathic treat­ment tends to fo­cus on bone align­ment and joint mo­bil­ity, and var­i­ous meth­ods rang­ing from gen­tle tap­ping to high-ve­loc­ity thrusts are used to ma­nip­u­late and cor­rect boney le­sions. Rolfers be­lieve that un­less the ten­sion and strain in the soft tis­sue is ad­dressed and re­lieved, the bones will con­tinue to be pulled out of align­ment and so will need con­stant re-ad­just­ment. The Rolfing method in­volves slow, sus­tained and fo­cused pres­sure in a spe­cific di­rec­tion, to af­fect the en­tire tis­sue bed in which the bones and nerve fi­bres of the body are em­bed­ded. The Rolfer’s goal is to achieve bal­anced ten­sion which en­ables the bones to move back nat­u­rally into their proper re­la­tion­ship and align­ment.

How can it help triath­letes?

Rolfing aims to bring max­i­mum free­dom in all three di­men­sions of move­ment, while also im­prov­ing the abil­ity to re­sist the desta­bil­is­ing force of grav­ity.

Rolfers work very specif­i­cally with the bodyʼs “tonic sys­tem”. The hu­man my­ofas­cial sys­tem con­sists of two types of mus­cle fi­bre: “tonic mus­cle”, which helps keeps us up­right and sta­ble, and “pha­sic mus­cles”, which move us.

What can you ex­pect from a ses­sion?

What you take away from a Rolfing ses­sion de­pends to a large ex­tent on how your life jour­ney has been be­fore you came to Rolfing, and how avail­able you are to the work.

At the out­set, the Rolfer will watch the client per­form­ing sim­ple ev­ery­day move­ments and then talk about their feel­ings and con­cerns. A list of mu­tu­ally agreed goals for the work and a strat­egy for achiev­ing them will then be drawn up. The work of re­struc­tur­ing and re­hy­drat­ing the mus­cle and con­nec­tive tis­sue net­work is done by ap­ply­ing var­i­ous de­grees of pres­sure and di­rec­tion. Work is done with the client in un­der­wear or a swim­suit so that the Rolfer can see and pal­pate more eas­ily dur­ing the ses­sions.

Al­though the pri­mary goal of Rolfing is to re­align the body in grav­ity, emo­tions can be re­pressed within the body’s con­nec­tive tis­sues, so emo­tional as­pects have di­rect rel­e­vance to Rolfing. An ex­am­ple of trapped emo­tions, is a child be­ing told not to cry and sup­press­ing this nat­u­ral emo­tion by wil­fully con­tract­ing cer­tain mus­cles (eg. the pelvic floor, shoul­ders or jaw), an ac­tion which, if re­peated over time, be­comes an un­con­scious hold­ing pat­tern, which is evoked ev­ery time the adult feels up­set.

When the chron­i­cally tight con­nec­tive tis­sue fi­nally re­leases dur­ing Rolfing treat­ment, emo­tion­ally charged ma­te­rial can be re­solved. In this sense, Rolfing acts as a cat­a­lyst for emo­tional growth and change. Rolfers are trained to con­tain this process safely. This as­pect is partly what makes Rolfing po­ten­tially such a pro­found ex­pe­ri­ence. A treat­ment lasts be­tween one hour and 90 min­utes, de­pend­ing on the prac­ti­tioner’s pre­ferred work­ing sched­ule. It is im­por­tant to al­low the body to in­te­grate the work be­tween ses­sions, while keep­ing a sense of con­ti­nu­ity, so that each sub­se­quent ses­sion can build on the gains of the pre­vi­ous one.

There­fore, ses­sions are usu­ally sched­uled one or two weeks apart.

Are there any af­ter ef­fects?

Af­ter a treat­ment, there can be feel­ings of tired­ness or, in the worst cases, of toxic re­lease, mild flu-like symp­toms might be ex­pe­ri­enced. The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple, how­ever, leave a ses­sion feel­ing more re­laxed, with looser move­ment and per­haps a greater feel­ing for the ground. Some also re­port a greater sense of con­fi­dence and over­all well­be­ing, and many come back to their next ses­sion say­ing that their part­ners or work col­leagues had no­ticed “some­thing dif­fer­ent about them”.

To find a qual­i­fied Rolfer visit

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