Thursday, October 8, 2009


I have a client/customer who called me the other day to talk about nutrition and health issues (as many of my clients do). He is a guy in his 80s who has faced a lot of health challenges in his life, but manages to keep going through good diet, exercise, chiropractic care, and rolfing. As we talked about his various illnesses and structural problems and the way he had gone about treating each one, he illustrated how he had achieved the most success when seeking treatments that addressed the causes rather than the symptoms of the various ailments. I found that I was aware of most of the issues we discussed with one exception, rolfing. While I knew what rolfing is on a very basic level, I didn't understand the science behind the practice. I equated it more with getting a heavy-duty massage than anything else.

After my client's unequivocal endorsement, I began thinking that maybe I ought to look into more of what rolfing entailed. At age 43, I'm probably over halfway through life, and I thought it might be a good thing to go through a series of sessions that might realign my body to get it ready for the next 2-4 decades. So I began checking around and speaking with people who had been through the ten steps of rolfing. All, with the exception of two friends, claimed to have experienced mild to profound changes in how they felt after the course of treatments were done.

I checked names of good rolfers in the area through friends and websites, and made an appointment. Over the next few weeks before my first appointment, I thought about canceling several times a day. A full compliment of rolfing takes ten or more sessions. I had heard from a lot of people that rolfing really hurts. Since it deals a lot with work on the fascia - the connective tissue that maintains our structural integrity - it almost seemed impossible for a session not to be painful. It was with great trepidation that I walked into the office for my first experience. I figured that if I was able to survive it, I could always just bail on future treatments.

The session started with me standing and walking around in front of the rolfer in my underwear. Thinking that the experience was going to be like that of other massages I'd gotten, I had brought shorts to change in to. As my rolfer explained that rolfing was done with the client in his/her underwear, I thought furiously to try to remember if the underwear I was wearing had holes in it. After dropping trou, and noting (praise Jesus) that I had somehow put on a good pair that morning, the session began. For the first treatment the focus seemed to be on my front core, neck and arms. I certainly noted what was being done, but I can also say that, in my case, it wasn't painful. I felt something in my neck release, and my head changed its position a bit. It immediately felt more comfortable than the position it had been in - presumably for the past 20 years. Next came rib and chest work, which again, slightly changed the position of my shoulders. She (my rolfer) had me do some breathing pattern that was associated with what she was doing. I felt some subtle changes. Finally came arm work.

Those who know me well, know about the ongoing issues I've had with tennis elbow. I've had acupuncture, hour-long massages only on the arm, physical therapy, cortisone shots, and painkillers to try to get it fully under control. I mentioned this to my rolfer who began to work on the area. In the course of her efforts on my arm, I did learn a couple of things. I found that my right hand doesn't stretch out flat without a bit of effort on my part. I also learned about tingling sensations (um, the kind in your hand and arm), and places in your chest and shoulder where blood flow can be restricted causing this sensation to occur.

I won't say that there was a major breakthrough with my arm during the treatment, but it seemed pretty promising. Instead of moving forward to a second area for my next session, we're going to focus on the arm again, for what my rolfer deemed as session 1.5.

As I walked out of my first session, I didn't feel nearly as relaxed as I do when I leave a sports massage - the type of massage I normally get. But I did notice something very dramatic. As I took a few breaths, I found that I could inhale deeper and with much more ease. And now, a week or more since the first experience, I still have the ability to breathe much better. The rib work she did on me has somehow allowed this enhanced respiration. It is pretty amazing. Because, even though I do a good amount of aerobic work each day, I always have had trouble breathing deeply. For the past week, that has not been an issue.

I'll certainly have more updates on rolfing as I progress through the stages. But, for me, I'm turning into a believer that one can receive some noticeable benefits from the experience.

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