Why don't Rolfers just fix specific 'things'?
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Humans are always trying to understand things, and we build models in our heads of how we think they work. We then base our solutions to problems on those models we have built. One issue for how we understand our bodies and how we try to solve the problems we develop with them is that we are poorly equipped by our education to really understand them. Bodies manage that amazing task of coordinating a flexible bag of muscle, bone and 'innards' into something which can do all the range of things we ask of it. Rolfers know that you manage that task by working with the relationship between parts of the body, not by simple strength. Understanding and tuning into the connections of the body is a huge resource and pleasure. If we have great connections in the body, we can really load and strengthen that system as a whole. If we have less good connection, we have a lower limits on what we can do and dysfunction can show up as pain.
For instance, if you have problems with your knee, using a lever and strength based model of how the body works, you may feel that you need somehow to 'strengthen' your knee. But there IS no localised knee muscle that you can strengthen. The knee is just the place where 2 long bones meet, and those bones have to be lined up and held in place by a series of long muscles which run from as far away as the foot and the pelvis (and even further). So the knee is intimately connected to parts of the body which are quite far away from the immediate source of pain. An alternative image of the knee to have in your mind is one which sees how those long bones can line up better thus avoiding wear and tear, by using these long muscles which hug and direct the whole leg bone system. Once you find the way to 'think' about your knee differently, and you appreciate how connected is that hinge point in the leg (which is the place we call a knee) to what is above and below, you have the chance to enjoy the amazingly strong, elegant design of the knee and improve its resilience. Your knee might go from something which feels vulnerable and risky to something which you really can load and trust because you are using it properly.
As a Rolfer, one of the key things I am aiming to do is to show you how you are made up of longer relationships than you may sense in yourself, and how it appears in simple anatomy diagrams. I want to show you that you have many layers of muscle - especially on the back of the body where the number of layers is greatest - and each part has a specific role to do in different movements. Clarifying the roles and positions of muscles is one of the key take-aways for clients - by using body work to give them a sense of what is really there.
It is very common for clients to be surprised by how by working quietly and carefully one one part of their body they feel the effect - immediately, and/or longer after a session - on something quite far away from the specific place being worked on. So Rolfers work all over the body, and get the overall Structure to work better. That can improve a localised problem, but can also have wider benefits.