It’s been a fantastic three days for news coverage of Rolfing SI in the San Francisco Bay Area. First, on December 4, the San Jose Mercury News re-published the October 7, 2010, New York Times Style Section piece about Rolfing SI. Here are some highlights from the article.

Popular in the 1970s, Rolfing once evoked hairy-chested, New Age types seeking alternative therapies — perhaps most famously spoofed in the 1977 football movied “Semi-Tough,” starring Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson. Today, Rolfing is experiencing a resurgence, especially among younger city dwellers.

I found the clip from “Semi-Tough” the article refers to on YouTube. Here, actress Lotte Lenya (spoofing Ida Rolf, Ph.D.) plays Clara Pelf who’s professional corporation is named the “Institute of Muscular Harmony.” Near the end of the clip notice the sculpture to the left of the front door titled “The Unreconstructed Body.” Is this scene one of the reasons why Rolfing SI continues to be hindered by a reputation for being extremely painful? People, this is satire! Est, pyramid power, and Doman-Delacato Patterning are also parodied in the movie.

Please excuse my veer off course, back to highlights from the New York Times article.

Russell Poses, a 39-year-0ld international equities trader on Wall Street, started getting Rolfing treatments after injuring his back. Chiropractors and years of physical therapy couldn’t accomplish what two or three Rolfing sessions did, he says. And he adds that he could still feel the results two weeks later. “It’s something that actually lasts,” he says.Rolfing SI on Oprah

The article also mentions the 2007 endorsement Rolfing SI received from cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Then, on December 6, Rolfing SI was featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”  This piece titled “Rolfing Back In Vogue, But With Shaky Evidence” was produced by San Francisco’s own public radio station KQED with reporting by Sarah Varney. Varney took the time to actually examine some fascia at Stanford University’s cadaver lab.

It almost looks like the thin layer of white film you have after you debone a chicken and pull the skin off of it. If this person had bad posture or a chronic injury, Rolfers say the fascia would tighten, throwing off the person’s gait and possibly leading to lower back pain or other aches.

The story quotes UCSF physician Wolf Mehling as well as USC physical therapist Rob Landel who say not enough research has been done about Rolfing SI and that it “probably couldn’t stand up in a clinical trial.” This has touched off quite a response in the Rolfing community and I suggest you read the comments following the article.

For my part I will restate that Ida Rolf had Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Columbia University, and she worked as a Research Associate at Rockefeller Institute from 1919 to 1927 during which time she published fifteen research articles. One of the primary missions of The Rolf Institute is to promote programs of research in Rolfing Structural Integration. To that end The Rolf Institute is a proud sponsor of the Fascia Research Congress and also supports the Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation.

Here is a list of resources I have compiled about Rolfing SI and fascia research.

The Rolf Institute’s own guide to available research.

The Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation

Fascia Research Congress

Cell Biology Meets Rolfing – Science Magazine

Rolfing structural integration treatment of cervical spine dysfunction

Fascia Research Project at Ulm University

Reversal of repetitive motion strain via manual therapy

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cov_esalenI recently spent some time at Esalen® Institute and while there picked up a copy of Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal. This book recounts the fascinating formation and history of Esalen Institute, the 1960s epicenter of the human potential movement. Many people are familiar with the deep connections between Ida Rolf, Ph.D., founder and developer of Rolfing® Structural Integration and Esalen. (In fact the institute still has a meeting room named after Rolf.) What I wasn’t familiar with, up to now, was the connection between Swedish scientist turned religious writer, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Esalen. After all, Swedenborg lived between 1688 and 1772; centuries before Richard Price and Michael Murphy, founders of Esalen, were even born.

As these sort of synchronistic events go, I received notice in my email this week of a newly published article by Theodore Jordan in the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine titled “Swedenborg’s influence on Sutherland’s ‘Primary Respiratory Mechanism’ model in cranial osteopathy.” Now there’s been an oral tradition in Rolfing SI (passed down to me) that Ida Rolf knew of, or had a copy of a rare book by Swedenborg titled The Brain. It had effected her thinking on the importance of cranial work in the structural integration process. In the Rolfing community we are highly cognizant of how Dr. Rolf’s thinking was influenced by her practice of yoga, the study of biochemistry, and treatments and training from pioneer osteopaths.

Jordan explains the connection between Swedenborg’s book and William Sutherland, DO, developer of cranial osteopathy, and how surprisingly Dr. Rolf carried on an oral tradition of that connection.

The connection between William Sutherland, DO and Swedenborg’s book, The Brain, is described by a person with close ties to osteopathy: Ida Rolf, PhD (1896–1979). Dr Rolf is best known as the creator of ‘structural integration,’ known commonly as ‘Rolfing.’ Structural integration is a unique form of deep bodywork that focuses on the remolding of the connective tissue of the body with the goal of restoring body symmetry and alignment.

While Ida Rolf was Ida_with_Client_lgdeveloping her approach to structural integration, she was known to have had an excellent rapport with a number of osteopathic physicians with whom she shared, discussed and demonstrated her ideas. For example, David Patriquin, DO, in a personal communication, described how she presented her ideas at an osteopathic conference in New York in 1955.

Ida Rolf stated in several lectures that she knew Dr William Sutherland and in a transcribed lecture, she told the audience how she learned about Sutherland’s methods after being hired as his secretary. Rolfing instructor Jim Asher reported she often showed off a signed copy of Sutherland’s book, The Cranial Bowl, that was dedicated warmly to her.

It was probably through her contacts with various osteopaths that Ida Rolf heard rumors that Dr Sutherland’s ideas were inspired by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Ida Rolf even went so far as to identify that the book used was Rudolf Tafel’s translation of Swedenborg’s The Brain. In a taped lecture to one of her advanced structural integration classes, Ida Rolf described this connection to the students:

[Tafel] made a translation which is pretty hard to get. And there are books [by Swedenborg], the titles of which are the Animal Kingdom, and the Economy of the Animal Kingdom, and those are not the same books …. And then there are these books, The Brain. Now The Brain is an impossible thing to get a hold of. Originally there were 6 copies, (or was it 4?) printed, and that’s all. Old … Sutherland haThe_Brain_V1d one of those. And when somebody accused him, or suggested to him, ‘Oh I see where you got some of your ideas,’ that book disappeared. And it hasn’t reappeared. Even after his death it hasn’t reappeared ….

Ida Rolf may have exaggerated the scarcity of this book (there were obviously many more than six copies published), but she is correct that Sutherland’s model seems to borrow heavily from the proposed physiology as described in The Brain.

To read more about the connection between Swedenborg and Sutherland I refer you to David Fuller’s “Swedenborg’s Brain and Sutherland’s Cranial Concept” from the Swedenborg Scientific Association.

So how was Swedenborg’s influence felt at Esalen through a separate line of transmission than Ida Rolf? Well, Kripal says Esalen was impacted by two different but connected psychological lineages:

the psychoanalytic stream, which focused on various mystical, occult, and erotic understandings of energy; and the gestalt stream, which focused on the nature, creative constructions, and awakening of consciousness.

Kripal sees the Swedenborg influence come in through the psychoanalytic or energy stream.

. . . Swedenborg became fascinated with the correspondences he saw in altered visionary states between spiritual union, sexual union, and the intellectual life.

This may sound a bit like Tantra and it is likely Swedenborg was exposed to Asian Tantric cultures. He wrote of a mystical energy, called influx, “that permeated the entire universe and descended into his own being in moments of inspiration.” This has much in common with the early hypnotic healers of the 18th and 19th century who used something called animal magnetism to induce trance, altered states of consciousness, and healing. It is this lineage of access to the sacred through the body, through the arousal of a certain type of energy that alters consciousness which gave rise to the psychological model of unconscious and conscious levels of the mind. Indeed, Freud himself had experimented with hypnosis later to abandon it for the “talking cure” eventually to become what we know today as psychoanalysis.

It is this lineage Kripal speaks to:

. . . much of modern psychological thought—that modern “soul-talk” (psyche-logos)—is structured around what are essentially secularized versions of what were once esoteric practices and altered states of energy. Much of Esalen’s history, particularly its rich psychological culture, is simply incomprehensible without a very clear awareness of this historical fact.

And that is how 18th century Swedish scientist turned Christian mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, in search of the underlying unity between the physical, spiritual and divine worlds influenced osteopathy, Rolfing SI and the flowering of the human potential movement at Esalen Institute during the 1960s. Thank you Jeffrey Kripal for enlightening me!

I found so much material in the process of writing this first piece, I needed to write a second. Please read More Connections Between Emanuel Swedenborg, Ida Rolf & William Sutherland, DO.

© Carole LaRochelle, 2009.

The Today Show with Kathie Lee & HodaOn October 15, 2010 Jan Sultan, Rolf Institute Faculty member trained by Dr. Ida Rolf herself, and Rey Allen, Certified Advanced Rolfer™ will participate in a ten minute segment featuring Rolfing® Structural Integration on The Today Show with Kathie Lee & Hoda.

This segment comes on the heels of last week’s New York Times Style Section article about Rolfing SI which featured an interview with Rey Allen.

What a wonderful opportunity to expose our work to a wider audience. I hope you will tune in to watch and tell your friends, who may be interested in Rolfing SI, about this exciting event.

Update: The segment ended up being extremely abbreviated. It seems they ran out of time at the end of the show. Let’s give Kathie Lee & Hoda some feedback that the public is quite interested in learning more about this work, and would like to see a longer segment about Rolfing SI. Please go to their Facebook page and leave a note saying as much.

Here’s the clip of the segment from the msnbc website.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To celebrate the very first Rolfing® Structural Integration National Awareness Week, September 18-26, 2010, I am offering the public a chance to experience a FREE 30 minute mini Rolfing SI session at my San Francisco office on Monday, September 20 as well as at my Santa Rosa office on Friday, September 24.*

This is a fabulous opportunity to try Rolfing SI for the first time! Let’s meet each other. Receive a structural evaluation and consultation. Experience first hand how Rolfing SI addresses problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome and limited neck mobility.

Benefits of Rolfing SI:

  • Recover from an accident or injury
  • Improve posture & balance
  • Deepen pilates or yoga practices
  • Re-pattern habitual ways of being & moving
  • Increase flexibility
  • Boost physical fitness & athletic performance
  • Enhance body awareness

Here is how it works, simply phone my office to schedule your mini-session or go to my scheduling website:

www.Redwood-Empire-Rolfing.Genbook.com

select my San Francisco office for September 20 or my Santa Rosa office for September 24, and book a free 30-minute consultation. It’s that easy!

The Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration has created Rolfing SI National Awareness Week to honor the legacy of Dr. Ida P. Rolf, who developed Rolfing SI over fifty years ago. During these nine days, Certified Rolfers™ throughout the United States will hold local events and activities to promote the benefits of Rolfing SI. The Rolf Institute, headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, will host an open house on Thursday, September 23 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. featuring free Rolfing SI demonstrations to the general public along with the opportunity to meet renowned faculty and local Colorado Rolfers. More information about National Awareness Week is available at www.RolfingWeek.RolfingEvents.org.

Rolfing SI is a form of hands-on manipulation and education that systematically reorganizes the connective tissues, called fascia, to release, realign and balance the whole body. It may bring dramatic results, such as recovery from injury; reduction in chronic pain, including headache and back pain; improved ability to move with ease; reduction in physical and mental stress and tension; and increased balance and flexibility. Unique to the process is the incorporation of Rolf Movement® Integration which brings the structural work into activities of daily living allowing for greater ease and freedom throughout the body.

Since its inception in 1971, The Rolf Institute has trained and certified over 1700 Rolfers worldwide. The Rolf Institute, including its international sites, is the only organization that teaches Rolfing SI and graduates Rolfers™. Its rigorous training program is supported by an esteemed international faculty, some who trained directly with Dr. Ida P. Rolf, the school’s founder and developer of Rolfing SI.

*Discounted 3 and 10 session packages offered to those who come in for a Rolfing mini-session on September 20 or 24.

To help spread the word about Rolfing SI National Awareness Week please share this post. You can use the simple sharing tools below.

© Carole LaRochelle, 2010.

Sitting Rolfing SI back workI was recently interviewed by reporter Marissa Capodanno for an article about bodywork modalities she wrote for http://www.iVillage.com. The slideshow turned out well with Rolfing SI being featured in its very own slide. However, due to space limitations, much of the interview was not included in the piece. I thought I would publish the full interview here on http://www.RolfingJourney.com because many of the questions I answered are of interest to people who are unfamiliar with Rolfing SI. It seems like a good thing to make this information available to the public.

What is Rolfing SI? What is the underlying philosophy behind it?

This is the simplest analogy I can give you. You know how when you get in a car accident, bend the frame on your car, and have to take it to the auto body shop to get it straightened out? That’s what Rolfing practitioners do for the human body.

Rolfing SI is somatic education the main purpose of which is to improve the structure and alignment of the body. It is not a form of massage therapy. Rather, Rolfing practitioners are the structural experts of the human body. We use skillful hands-on techniques as well as movement education to empower clients to take charge of their own physical and emotional health.

How specifically does it differ from massage therapy? What is the process like? What can someone trying Rolfing SI for the first time expect?

Ida Rolf, Ph.D. created a 10 step process whereby the practitioner systematically works through the entire body to bring it to a higher level of order both structurally and functionally. Rolfers address whole body patterns. A client may come in with an issue in a specific area, but instead of just focusing on “the problem” intelligent evaluation is done to figure out what is happening structurally the may have caused the issue.

For example, in repetitive strain injuries of the wrist, evaluating and educating the client on how to sit in a supported way is essential. Looking at what is happening higher up the muscular chain of connection to the elbow, shoulder, neck and indeed the entire ribcage and spine is essential to create lasting change for the client.

Rolfing SI Before and After PhotoSome specific differences with massage therapy are that a structural evaluation is done at the beginning of every session to observe structural patterns and set goals for the session. Usually this is done with the client in their underclothes, but it can also be done in a bathing suit or shorts. This allows the practitioner to clearly see the structure of the body. I personally also take time during this part of the session to educate my clients about their patterns so we can begin to create awareness which ultimately leads to long-term change.

Rolfing practitioners do not use a lot of oil or lotion to glide over the skin as in massage therapy. To access and effect change in the deeper layers of connective tissue it is necessary to have a little traction on the skin.

Rolfers work with clients in different positions than you would see in a typical massage. Practitioners will frequently work with the client in a sidelying position. We will also work with the client “in gravity” which means while sitting on an adjustable height Rolfing bench or even while standing.

In general, Rolfers ask clients to more actively participate in a session than you would see in typical massage which is passively received. We will ask the client to change positions more frequently, stand up for more structural and functional evaluation, or make slow precise movements while we manipulate their tissues. These things helps facilitate the change and awareness process for the client.

What are the benefits? Are there any risks? What precautions should someone take who is considering Rolfing SI?

Rolfing SI has the ability to dramatically alter a person’s posture and structure. Rolfing SI can potentially resolve discomfort, release tension and alleviate pain. Rolfing SI aims to restore flexibility, revitalize your energy and leave you feeling more comfortable in your body.

Athletes, dancers, children, business professionals, and people from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing SI. People seek Rolfing SI as a way to ease pain and chronic stress, and improve performance in their professional and daily activities. It is estimated that more than 1 million people have received Rolfing SI.

Research has demonstrated that Rolfing SI creates a more efficient use of the muscles, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement. Research also shows that Rolfing SI significantly reduces chronic stress and changes in the body structure. For example, a study showed that Rolfing SI significantly reduced the spinal curvature of subjects with lordosis (sway back); it also showed that Rolfing SI enhances neurological functioning.

Make sure you see a qualified practitioner. That means someone who is trained and certified through The Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration, or a Board Certified Structural Integrator(CM), or at least a professional active member of the International Association of Structural Integrators. Watch this video demo of a Rolfing session with Hubert Ritter from Berlin. You can really get a sense of what a session is like without getting distracted by focusing on language.

The usual precautions apply as with any form of hands-on manual therapy. Care should be taken with people at risk of embolism or thrombi from atherosclerosis or varicose veins, and certain autoimmune diseases if in an active phase such as lupus, scleroderma and psoriatic arthritis. People with loss of sensation from diabetic neuropathy or other nerve damage need special attention from the practitioner when receiving work. The same holds true for people with blood clotting issues or who are taking anti-coagulants. There is much research being done on whether it is safe to work with someone when they have cancer. This is a big discussion which I will not delve into here. It is generally a good idea if someone is actively working with an oncologist that they receive approval from their physician.

When would you recommend Rolfing SI?

For relief of musculoskeletal pain which can come from many different causes. For people who are worried about their posture and recognize they would like to have better posture. For people who are on a path of personal development and want to increase their self-awareness. To enhance athletic performance and support yoga, pilates and other mindful movement practices. See also the benefits listed above.

When should someone avoid it?

Acute intervertebral disc problems, during the first trimester of pregnancy, no active work on broken bones, and post-surgery after approval from the attending physician.

Note: As a resource for the precautions and contraindications listed in this article I used Contraindications and Cautions for Deep Bodywork 9th edition, May 2008. This article is written by Robert Schleip, Ph.D., Til Luchau and John Schewe all of whom are Rolf Institute Faculty.

© Carole LaRochelle, 2010.

Beatles and MaharishiLong before Michael Murphy and George Leonard coined the term “human potential movement’ in 1965¹ and The Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in August 1967 Ida Rolf, Ph.D. was interested in the development of human potential. In addition to osteopathy and homeopathy one of the biggest influences on Rolf’s understanding of the human body was yoga. Throughout the 1920s she participated in a group that practiced yoga asanas and held meetings and lectures in Nyack, New York with American yogi, Pierre Bernard. Rolf has this to say in her 1978 book Ida Rolf Talks About Rolfing® and Physical Reality.

His father had been a tantric and he was brought up as a tantric. He had spent most of his childhood in India. In tantric families, boys of seven years of age are taken from their families, put into another home of the same culture grade, and are brought up with the other family. In Hindu tantric families, through the centuries, the basis of the boys’ education was the Tantras—the five Indian sacred books. These they had to learn by rote, which is something like the mental equivalent of doing five hundred cartwheels.²

I believe Rolf is referring to Sylvais Hamati here, a Syrian-Indian, who Bernard met at the age of thirteen in Lincoln, Nebraska. Hamati was an accomplished Tantric yogi and he and Bernard traveled together from the late 1880s into the early 1900s. Bernard made his first dynamic splash into public view on the front-page of the New York Times on January 29, 1898. “He had given a public demonstration of his Kali-mudra or ‘death trance’ to a group of physicians in San Francisco, during which he seems to have successfully slowed his vital functions sufficiently to mimic death.³”

American Yogi Pierre BernardBernard capitalized on this publicity becoming known as “The Hypnotist Dr. Bernard” and quite a famous personality in the San Francisco Bay Region before he left the area around the time of the 1906 earthquake. He published what is likely the first Tantric publication in the United States, the International Journal of the Tantrik Order.

By 1909 Bernard was in New York City and had emerged as a successful teacher of yoga. With the help of New York’s elite, including Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, in 1919 Bernard moved to a 73 acre estate in Upper Nyack, New York. It was here where Rolf met and trained with Bernard in the 1920s.

Robert Love has just published a biography of Bernard titled The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America, a name modeled after “Omnipotent Oom” given to Bernard by the local press after reported accusations of such things as “wild Oriental music and women’s cries, but not those of distress.⁴” I refer you to Love’s lively biography for more details about Bernard’s life.

What Bernard offered Rolf through his teachings was unique at the time and is, I feel, still relatively rare today: physical experience as a pathway to spiritual enlightenment, or the evolution of consciousness if you will. Yoga aims to develop the whole person through the practices of breath awareness, meditation and movement. Rosemary Feitis writes of Rolf:

In those years of practicing yoga and discussing its principles, she was establishing the basis of all her future work: that bodies need to lengthen and be balanced, and that a balanced body will give rise to a better human being.⁵

How fascinating to me, as a Rolfing® practitioner for 15 years now, to see the early origins of Rolf’s work. From the turn of the 20th century popular interest in hypnotism, Theosophy, and the self-proclaimed mystics such as G.I. Gurdjieff, to the Jazz Age roots of yoga in America, it seems the interest in the “human potential movement” has been with us quite a long time indeed.

Notes

1. Jeffrey J. Kripal, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), p. 207.

2. Ida Rolf, Rolfing® and Physical Reality, ed. Rosemary Feitis (Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 1990) p. 7.

3. Kripal, p. 236.

4. Kripal, p. 237.

5. Rolf, p. 8.

© Carole LaRochelle, 2010.

A guide for all you 21st century internet savvy, Facebooking, Blogging, Twittering Peeps out there

Ida_with_Client_lgLong, long ago in a century far, far away lived a woman named Ida Pauline Rolf. She observed that the structure of the human body affects its optimum function, and set out to do something about it. Receiving her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Columbia University in 1920, she worked as a Research Associate at Rockefeller Institute from 1919 to 1927 during which time she published fifteen research articles. In addition to biochemistry, Rolf’s thinking was influenced by her practice of yoga and treatments and training from pioneer osteopaths.

Rolf started working hands-on with people in New York during World War II. By the 1950s she was traveling the country teaching structural integration to chiropractors and osteopaths. It was in the 1960s Rolf ended up working with Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt Therapy. That was when structural integration become known as Rolfing and got caught up in the human potential movement.

Rolfing structural integration is somatic education the main purpose of which is to improve the structure and alignment of the body. It is not a form of massage therapy. Rather, Rolfing practitioners are the structural experts of the human body. They use skillful hands-on techniques as well as movement education to empower clients to take charge of their own physical and emotional health. Rolfing also has the potential to support personal evolution through enhancing the vertical alignment of the body, facilitating the upward movement of energy through our systems and the subsequent evolution of consciousness.

And now a visual guide . . .

rolfer_client7_lg

This IS Rolfing


vomiting

This is NOT Rolfing


ROFL

This is NOT Rolfing


Any questions?

© Carole LaRochelle, 2009.