by Jan Owens
(Journal of Well Being: Integrated Natural Health Care in our Community,
Vol 12, Number 3, May-June 1997)
I have just been Rolfed by Ellen Freed. I had asked Ellen to share
profound changes she has observed in her clients. She was reluctant
to do this to preserve confidentiality. Instead, she Rolfed ME: my first
experience!!! My muscles are saying to me: "We are leaving you as wounds.we
will remain only as memories.You can have your body back now." It is a profound feeling.
stripped down to socks and panties, and she evaluated my body for alignment
from four directions. My left hip was high, I was very grounded, she
said. My upper body was somewhat constrained, and breathing shallow.
I was in a small room in the old Quaker Meeting House, now the Breckstone
Group on 10 th and Harrison in Wilmington. On the wall was a "Dimensional
Man', its paper layers of drawn muscle, circulatory, skeletal, digestive,
lymph metaphoric reminders that bodies are not skin deep. As she
worked, deep, certain fingers searched out Golgi tendon bodies, releasing
long held muscles to explore a new place of comfort.
At her direction I breathed through her fingers.
I felt pain with promise. I knew I was on the road to health.
I reviewed aspects of my life from a distance, as if they were projected
on a slide screen. They seemed to be saying: 'Notice us..we are in a
different place now.' I was aware that muscles were being unleashed
from decades of armoring; I said good-bye without regret. I cried
from a deep inner kernel when she worked around my solar plexus.
Afterwards I sensed a new comfort, a new naturalness, a new sense of
well-being with breathing that was to grow noticeably greater over the
next week or so. She said to me, "Drink lots of water, you may
sleep very well.'
SUMMARY OF ROLFING
Rolfing is bodywork which seeks to release bound-up fascia. Rolfing
releases the fascia, which build up along lines of stress. For example,
if I 'hold my shoulders' in a fight-or-flight response, this physical
stress causes the fascia to thicken. It becomes, in effect, a
band-aid or scar tissue. Rolfing breaks up fascia via a process
that has two main explanations: 1) Rolfing fingers press so hard that
the fascia are converted from a gel state to a solid state, a 'silly
old theory' according to Ellen, but stated here with her permission.
2) Rolfing stimulates the Golgi tendon organs in the end of muscles,
allowing them to stretch, secondarily pulling the fascia. The fascia
wraps everything in the body, including the nuclei of cells. "If
everything melted except the fascia, you would still be recognizable-it
is the organ of form. The fascia give structure and shape to everything
and, along with the circulatory, lymph and other fluid systems hydrates
everything. If the connective tissue is all bound up, it typically causes
a less hydrated area." Additionally, body segments can assume
balanced and supportive relationships. In such a system gravity
works as a supportive and uplifting force. Otherwise, the body is at
war with gravity.
COMING TO THE PROFESSION
Ellen came to Rolfing to deal with her own physical pain.
She had scoliosis and whiplash in her 20's, and spent a lot of time
in pain. If the pain became severe she would have to lie down for a
week or two. Rolfing got her better. She had been selling real estate
and felt the need to change. She drove to Philadelphia to get Rolfed.
"It was not just pain relief, but he mind-body connection. My mind-body
experienced an ease it hadn't experienced before. She had the entire
10 Rolfing sessions. Her mind opened up because her body felt
better. She found that where she was stuck emotionally, she wasn't stuck
Ellen attended the Rolf Institute in
Boulder, Colorado. The whole thing surprised her. It was
a wonderful experience and an enormous amount of work. She asked questions
and people answered, listened, and heard. ('Rolfers are a funny
crew. They come from a place of independence and self-sufficiency.')
The Institute was founded by Ida Rolf, who had received a Ph.D. from
Columbia University in biochemistry in the 20's. Ida frequented
places like Esalen, at a time where there weren't many places like that.
She would teach her classes in hotel rooms, people's homes, etc.
Her office was in her car for a long time while she did the commute
from East Coast to the West Coast. She 'yanked the chains' of
psychologists by saying: "There's no such thing as psychology, only
Ida Rolf made two great contributions to bodywork:
naming 1) gravity and 2) connective tissue as forces to be reckoned
with. When doing dissections Ida had been instructed to "rip of
the white stuff to get to the underlying structures". But during
the course of the alternative renaissance in the 20's in New York City,
she watched people doing Yoga and simultaneously watched their bodies
change. Ida's neighbor, a piano teacher, had injured herself falling
off a roof. Ida bartered sessions with her in exchange for piano lessons
for her children. Ida didn't do much talking at that point about physical/emotional/spiritual
pain. In the 40's and 50's Ida devised 10 lessons; in the 60's she taught
these to lay people.
PROFESSIONAL HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY
Ellen Freed has practiced Rolfing for 7 years. The 10 sessions
are $75/session, reasonable considering the $60-$100 range nationwide).
She encourages people to have sessions once a week, or short of that,
in clumps (3-4-3). Most of the people who come are going through or
approaching a change. "What I see is people becoming more themselves."
How can an individual maximize the Rolfing experience? By thinking
about the 'ripple effects'-for example, exploring patterns of movement,
identifying what one does when nervous, by attending to the patterns. "Once we understand our pattern(s), then we have choice. People's
patterns point to their pain. They injure themselves where they hold
themselves. Aches and pains go to those places too. The most profound
changes are subtle. There is a lot of emotion ('professional catharsis')
and a lot of pretending there's no emotion ('professional just-finers').
There's a line where people are more comfortable mucking around in their
stuff or ignoring it rather than doing the work of growing towards health. People have to be at a place where they choose to move on; as a Rolfer,
I facilitate that."
Ellen mentioned a hypothetical study done in 1959 and mentioned
in Job's Body (Deane Juhan of Esalen Institute) which stated that the
fascia is composed of hollow tubes of collagen which contain cerebrospinal
fluid, still thought by many to be located only in the central nervous
ISSUES IN THE BODYWORK PROFESSION
Ellen sees an unfortunate tendency towards exclusivity, leading
predictably to unnecessary competition. "If you are good, people
will come to you; if you are not, they won't come. It's as simple
as that." One of the horrors of bodywork is that people go to a weekend
class and call themselves a reflexologist, or an Ayurvedic doctor. The
certification/licensure movement sanctions validation by hours rather
than by mastery. This mentality to some extent is the dark side
of the certification/licensure movement.
What does Ellen Freed do in her personal life to take care
of herself? She does Yoga with a teacher who attends to structure
and detail. She drinks a lot of water, a metaphor for inner fluidity. She has a good marriage with a wonderful husband.they mountain bike, do
water colors, and play together. Life is good, she has a good practice
She is much healthier now than she was 20 years ago.
AND DIRECTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
"I am at a fork in the road. My first focus is on the belief
that mind and body are pretty much the same thing. Lately, I have
been studying movement, and am certified in Rolfing Movement.". In the limbic system widely known as 'the reptilian brain', movement and
sexuality are processed. She wants to facilitate change at the limbic
system level. The work is physical; there is some verbal processing, but
the focus is on the physical. She is currently doing some Rolfing movement
work, and looks forward to the house she and her husband are purchasing
in the near future so she can have a larger treatment room.