"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rolf and Roll

After years of curiosity and wanting to try it, I've finally been Rolfed.

Before you go thinking that I'm engaging in some weird binge/purge behavior, know that Rolfing has nothing to do with vomiting. It is an unfortunately named technique--named so after the woman who invented it, Dr. Ida Rolf. It's a structural integration technique wherein the practitioners manipulate your fascia tissue.


Okay, I admit when I first hear what it was, I was perplexed. Fascia is the connective tissue that helps your muscles work. Over time, repetitive movement, injuries, and gravity bind up your fascia so that your body isn't moving the way it should be. For instance, I've got an old ankle injury that flares up and hurts, and it makes me walk somewhat differently by redistributing my weight and balance. Also, I've been a chronic sloucher for most of my life. I couldn't help it. Standing or sitting up straight was a real effort for me, and if I wasn't consciously thinking about straightening my body, it would slouch down, slumping on top of itself like a bag of wet sand. I felt heavy and clumsy and generally blorpy. What a Rolfer does is apply pressure to parts of your body to sort of move the tangled up, misaligned fascia back to where it should be. This lets your muscles move the way they should and realigns your body. As my Rolfer explained it to, it's helping your body to work with gravity again, instead of against it.

This might sound very mumbo-jumbo to you. It might also sound like massage. It's not. Rolfers don't work on your muscles, they work on the tissue over it. If you look at those drawings of anatomically correct skeletons that have muscles on them, it's the white stuff. From the Rolf Institute website: "Essentially, the Rolfing process enables the body to regain the natural integrity of its form, thus enhancing postural efficiency and your freedom of movement."

To learn more about Rolfing, go to the Rolfing Institute site. 

My cousin had Rolfing done years ago and raved about it, and I wanted to try it out myself to help with my own issues, but I'd not really had the money until now (even now it takes some budgeting, but I think my well-being is worth it). Rolfing is expensive and usually not covered by insurance, but it's also really effective. Unlike massage or chiropractic work, once you go through the series on your whole body, you're usually good to go. My Rolfer told me that sometimes people come in a year or so later for a "tune-up" but the effects tend to last a good long while.

This morning I had my first session, which lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. You work in your underwear, which I was a little nerve-racked about because OMG who wants to stand about in their underwear. I feel so exposed. But I went out and got some cute little girl boy briefs, which make me feel a little more covered and a little less exposed, and that was fine. Also, this woman clearly sees all types of people in their underwear because it's her job, and knowing that what she'd be doing would help me got me over my inhibitions mighty fast. What's a little cellulite exposure if it means you'll feel better?

My Rolfer's name is Daphne and she works at the Cambridge Health Associates. She's great. Very nice and friendly and effortlessly sets you at ease. First she asks a series of questions about your general health and any injuries or concerns you have about your body. Then you strip to your skivvies and she has you stand facing her and turn in different directions so she can see you from different angles. Then you walk across the room a few times so she can see your gait.

Most of the work is done lying on a table in various positions, though I did do some work where I sat up and hunched over my knees. It is a different feeling. Some of it feels like pressure, like a pressure point massage or a reflexology type of press on you. Some of it is a more intense digging pressure that almost feels like a knot is being untangled under your skin--a "hurts so good" type of feeling that people have with deep tissue massages. And some of it is honestly unpleasant. She did some work on my chest and along my spine that felt like a really intense, uncomfortable Indian burn. That wasn't fun, but it also wasn't unbearable. And as soon as she stops doing the work, the feeling goes a way. I am right now a little tender and sore in those areas, and around my neck, but it's not all that noticeable.

Today she was doing some realignment on my arms and hamstrings, loosening my hips, and working on opening my chest. Amazingly, she knew that I was right-handed just by looking at me, and by touching my neck and skull, she was able to deduce that I get headaches. She did some work there that should help reduce those.

Deep breathing helped me get through the more unpleasant periods. Daphne is also lovely and we had some fun chit chat initially, which helped me relax. But there were some periods where I felt semi-meditative. While she worked on my hips, especially, I felt my mind clear a bit, and even though there was some pressure, I felt almost relaxed. It was interesting. The whole experience isn't passive, though; you do have to move about in certain ways to help the Rolfer work. 

So after being poked and prodded what happened? It's not like I was suddenly transformed and completely fixed, but I have already noticed that I DO NOT SLOUCH. I've stopped slumping over. My shoulders are straight. My chest feels open. I look a little taller. Even sitting in my chair now typing, I am sitting up straight effortlessly. I'm not even thinking about it. My body doesn't WANT to slump over the keyboard. I don't want to hunch in my chair. It feels just a tad easier to breathe. And one lovely thing that appeals to my vanity about this new posture is that because I'm not folding in on myself, it puts my bosoms on a bit more of a display.

I'm sort of amazed at this. Obviously I know I have a lot longer to go in terms of getting my whole body aligned and feeling good, but I really didn't think that after just one session my posture would be better.

I'm looking forward to continuing this process (I go back November 5) and will continue my missives reflecting on the process. It should continue to be interesting, though, and I am looking forward to it.

This is the Rolfing logo. It might seem a bit exaggerated, but seriously, my initial posture was not that unlike the fellow on the left. Yeah. It was THAT bad.


Jill said...

So fascinating!! I have been having trouble with my shoulder lately and also have always struggled with my posture. Perhaps I should learn more about this! Keep us posted!

Fran├žois said...


Raquel said...

Say what you want, Frankie... but ask Jeremy how surprised he was to see me when he got home today.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to try this woman, Raquel. Great write-up.