What is the difference between massage and Rolfing®?

One of the most common misconceptions about Rolfing® is that it is a nothing more than a type of very deep massage. There are many varieties of massage, which are particularly effective for loosening tight tissue, reducing stress, detoxing the body and an increased feeling of relaxation and well-being. Since these benefits are also a byproduct of Rolfing®, 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 and former student of Dr. Rolf, 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: “Anyone can take a body apart, very few know how 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.

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.

How is the Feldenkrais Method® different than yoga and Pilates?

Feldenkrais® focuses on function rather than form and does not have a goal of attaining an ideal body type or physical construction. The Feldenkrais Method® is intended to improve the sensibility, awareness and quality of functional movement through one’s own body feedback rather than teaching predefined or static forms. The Feldenkrais Method® works with your ability to regulate and coordinate your movement; which means working with the nervous system. We refer to this as a functional approach (or “functional movement”) wherein you can improve your use of self, inclusive of whatever structural considerations are present. Feldenkrais® does not have a goal to achieve “correct” positions as with yoga, but rather seeks to develop a more dexterous, painless and efficient body in motion.

What, exactly, is connective tissue?

Connective tissue, or fascia, (seen below) is strong, tough, fibrous tissue that acts as the support system—and spacers—for the entire body. Composed of the protein collagen, connective tissue accounts for half the protein in the body. No tissue in the body is as abundant. It binds cells into tissues, tissues into organs, connects muscles and bones, wraps every nerve and vessel, laces all internal structures into place and envelopes the body. When tightly bundled together, it forms tendons and ligaments; around muscles and organs, it is thin and often transparent; in the low back and outer thigh, it forms large, thick white sheets that are amazingly strong.

All these linings, wrappings, cables, and moorings are continuous, connecting everything to everything else. Connective tissue so thoroughly permeates the body that if you removed everything else, there would still be a three-dimensional, recognizable human form.

Healthy connective tissue is characterized by flexibility, elasticity, length, and resilience. The tissue absorbs and responds to the earth’s gravitational force, illness, injury, emotional trauma, and everyday stress. Any of these factors will, over a period of time, cause an imbalance in the tissue system. Imbalance is identified as a shortening, thickening, and dehydration of the tissue, which impairs joint mobility and muscle function. This is usually felt in the body as chronic pain, stiffness, or decreased flexibility and impaired movement.

The fact that fascia changes shape as a body deteriorates indicates it possesses “plasticity,” a quality that can also be used to restore the body to balance. Connective tissue, unlike muscle tone, changes very slowly. Under the sustained and careful pressure of the Rolfer®’s hands, the tissue can be loosened, lengthened, and shifted to balance and align to the body.

How long are the sessions?

Allow an hour and a half for your first session and 75 minutes for following appointments. Session goals, the intensity of the day’s work, health history, client energy level and ability to integrate work, are just a few of the factors that Rolfers® consider when determining session length.

Does it hurt?

It is interesting that most people who have the opinion that Rolfing® is extremely painful have never experienced the work firsthand. Much of the reputation for pain came from the early days when Rolfing® was first gaining public recognition. Since that time, the process has greatly evolved. As far as the actual experience is concerned, the area being worked will vary in sensation and feeling depending upon the severity of chronic stress, injuries, and other factors specific to your body. Feelings can range from pleasurable release to honest-to-goodness discomfort. Fortunately, the work proceeds at your level and pace. Nothing is forced, and skillful Rolfing® never feels sharply painful or invasive. When discomfort occurs, many clients describe it as a “good hurt” that the body wants and needs. Others say Rolfing® significantly reduces the pain experienced in their daily lives or increases athletic functioning to such an extent, that discomfort on the table is worth the trade.

Unlike massage, Rolfing® is a participatory process. You may be asked to “breathe” into tissue to help it release, to make small movements under the practitioner’s hands, or to “stretch out of a place” being worked. Participating in the functional movement feels very different than having work “done to you.” Additionally, Rolfing® proceeds slowly and deliberately; there is ample time to relax into the pressure.

Why a ten session series?

Whether you’re quitting smoking or training for a marathon, long-term positive change takes time. Your body didn’t get this way overnight; helping it find a new way to be will take some time too. Each Rolfing® session works different areas with different objectives in mind. Often, you will see changes as soon as you step off the table. But the time between sessions is just as powerful because this is when your body takes changes — such as greater range of motion in the shoulder, a shifted pelvic angle, or improved foot flexibility — and integrates them into your system (makes them yours).

During this time, the body experiments with unfamiliar movements and awareness, builds new neurological pathways, and influences your structure, movement patterns, and experience. This is why Dr. Ida Rolf used to say, “Gravity is the therapist.” At the beginning of the next session, we will observe what is changing and what hasn’t and use this information to refine our strategy. Ten sessions allow us to devote appropriate time to specific areas and issues that are common structural challenges and to customize work that is meaningful to your unique body and lifestyle.

Do I have to commit to the whole series?

Of course not. Plan to come in for the first session and see how you respond to the work. Most people notice results by session three. This session is the last of the “superficial” sessions and a natural place to stop if you don’t feel you’re getting what you need. If, like so many of us, you get hooked on Rolfing®, session three is the time to take stock of changes and refine goals and expectations for the remaining sessions. If you do plan to continue, it makes sense to commit to completing the series in the next six months.

How much does it cost?

Every body is different. You will come to the table with a different energy level, age, emotions and questions than the next patient. The first step is the conversation. Judi values the interaction, either over the phone or in person, as part of the discovery process. Questions can be answered, anxieties can be lessened. Judi will develop a custom approach for your needs. Your first session will be an hour and a half and will most likely include Rolfing®, stretching, tissue work, cranial sacral therapy, and homework for you to do on your own. Every session is individualized and follow-up appointments are modified to address your body at that point in time and your overall wellness goals.

Does insurance cover Rolfing®?

Rolfing® work may be covered by your health insurance, but often it is not. Many times a letter of medical necessity is required from your doctor or chiropractor; it is best to check with your insurance provider to identify their requirements. Sometimes it’s a matter of wording — “myofascial release” or “neuromuscular re-education” may be terms your provider prefers. We can supply you with a receipt, but we do not bill or accept insurance.

Check to see if your employer provides flexible spending options (sometimes called a “medical spending account” or “cafeteria plan”). These plans set aside a portion of your annual income tax free to be used for medical, dental and childcare expenses. Plans such as these usually cover Rolfing® and don’t require a referral.

Is Rolfing® suitable for chidren?

Yes. A common misunderstanding about Rolfing® is that its main value is in correcting long-standing structural patterns. Rolfing® can serve as a prophylactic measure to reverse potentially problematic patterns in the young. Rolfing® can assist children and adolescents with growing pains, scoliosis, poor posture, leg imbalances such as knock-knees or pigeon-toes, and headaches, among others.

Also, when children are injured from falls or minor accidents, they may seem to be fine on the outside since the cut or bruise 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 children can make a profound difference in a child’s awareness, comfort level and self-esteem.

Sessions for children are usually shorter than for adults, and the Ten-Series is usually not received until adolescence. Work on children is gentle, and always within the comfort level of the child and parents.

How are Rolfers® and Feldenkrais® practitioners trained?

Rolfers® are trained and certified by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado — the only school accredited to teach Rolfing®. Successful applicants complete a training program that usually requires two years of study. Following certification, ongoing continuing education is required to maintain active status in the institute. Training covers anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology; Rolfing® theory and structural analysis; soft tissue manipulation, spinal mechanics, and joint mobilization methods; Rolfing Movement Integration® techniques; individual research and written essays; and extensive supervised clinical sessions. After a period of usually 3-7 years of practice and meeting continuing education requirements, Certified Rolfers® can do additional training to become Advanced Certified Rolfers®. Practitioners may also pursue an additional certification in Rolf Movement®.

A certified Feldenkrais practitioner is one who has successfully completed a 4-year intensive training program approved by the Feldenkrais Guild. The Feldenkrais Movement Institute offers the programs. Trainees participate in Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration lessons, lectures, discussions, group process and videos of Dr. Feldenkrais teaching. Eventually students teach Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration under supervision. Trainees gradually acquire knowledge of how movement and function are formed and organized. The main purpose of the training is for the trainees to acquire for themselves a deep understanding of movement and its formation, to become aware of their own movement, to become astute observers of movement in others, and to be able to teach other people to enlarge their awareness and functional movement skills. The training process is based upon the vast body of knowledge Dr. Feldenkrais introduced. Dr. Feldenkrais integrated into his body of learning theory aspects from a variety of scientific fields such as Newtonian mechanics, physics, neurophysiology, movement development, biology and learning theories.

Judi Clinton is an Advanced Certified Rolfer®, a certified Rolf Movement® Practitioner and a NES Health Certified Practitioner. Judi’s training includes Feldenkrais Movement®, Matrix Energetics, and the Yuen Method. Judi has been practicing Rolfing® for over 25 years.

Call Judi and discuss how her services can help you improve your overall health and wellness. After the call you can take time to consider your options before starting a program that will help you live your life healthier. Call (319) 541-6957.

Go around the problem; get the system sufficiently resilient so that it is able to change, and it will change. It doesn’t have to be forced.  It’s that forcing that you have to avoid at all costs.
Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.