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Is it (Real) Rolfing® Structural Integration?

As thinkers go in the structural integration world, just like everywhere else that I know, we have those who proclaim the “letter of the law” as handed to them on personal flaming tablets.

Truth is, the average person has no way of telling who is really doing the (real) structural integration.  One big clue: a dead give-away for lack of concept is when someone claims to be doing the (Real) Rolfing SI.  As opposed to us other poor misguided folks, I guess.

So, when Deb Stucker came around with her new idea (she was classically trained at the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration) she wasn’t claiming to be a (Real) Rolfer™.  She knew she was one. We all knew it. There were a few grumbles from those folks who consider themselves keepers of the flame, and they quickly realized that she didn’t constitute a threat, except if all you folks out in the blogging world found out about it.  (Here goes the neighborhood, haha.)

She was using the (Real) concepts of structural integration. There was ONE huge trouble for some….she was using the structural integration concepts without putting her hands on people.

She was using her hands to create structural change, but she wasn’t directly touching the client.

This sounded pretty woo-woo; so of course a friend and I  (Ellen Freed, Wilmington Rolfer and current chair of the RISI faculty) hot-footed it up to New York to participate in a mini-workshop which we organized with just us and Deb so that we could know what was going on.

It was fascinating.  Deb was being totally true to the spirit of the work as we know it, and yet she was taking the work into a different articulation, a technique which ruined our facile Rolfing SI description that we often use: “hands-on” bodywork, but not massage.

Most notable for me, she was able to create a front to back balance in my right rib cage area that had been mostly lacking since my fall and breakage of some thoracic vertebrae a few years before, thusly freeing a nasty off-and- on nerve entrapment.

Then we created another little mini-workshop where we worked on 2 family members under Deb’s supervision.  One of the family members loved it; the other hated it.  I gave him a session the next day with the regular stuff just to keep him from feeling grumpy.

Fast forward 5 years and I am still using the technique off and on, and kind of testing out where the best places for it are.  Then, recently on our RISI forum bulletin board a Rolfer wrote that she had studied with Deb and got fabulous results with about 50% of her clients, and nothing much at all with the rest.  (Diana Philips C.A.R. www.bostonrolfer.com)

I have been mulling this over for a couple of days, and come to this prevailing thought:

Hands-off (energetic traction hook) works better for some, and hands-on (physical heat and pressure) works better for some. Some need a combo of both.  In all 3 cases, “put it where it belongs, call for movement”.

Here’s how the hands-off works:  It skips down through the layers and goes right to revealing the integrated pattern at the bones, especially the periosteum wrap of bones, the bony bed.

Here’s how the hands-on works: the layers starting from the subcutaneous fascia just under the skin on down to and through the bones are revealed into the integrated pattern.

Thusly, hands-off works some better on folks who need work from the inside to the outside.   Hands-on works some better on folks who need work from the outside to the inside.

You heard it here first, but it didn’t come down on a flaming tablet.  The kicker is that you can use either the hands-on, or the hands-off, once you know what you are up to with the inside out or the outside in.  So far, it seems it is may be easier to use hands-on or hands-off with some folks, though, depending.


This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. ..and there was light! ( and it was energy-saving.)
    How much of what this work is comes through verbal cueing-or do you just stare at the client and will the restriction to release?
    I actually am interested, here, as this reminds me of what you told me after reading my article on my foot re the importance of working through verbal cues and descriptions while teaching dance.
    Books on this?

    1. Hey Rob. Deb’s session looks pretty much like a regular Rolfing SI session. Deb takes pictures, she develops a goal in terms of structural integration, i.e grounding and lift, front to back balance, side to side balance and so forth, and asks questions about our experience of our body. Then, she perceives an related energetic restriction, a glob in the etheric body, if you will, and puts a traction hook on the part of the body that the restriction goes to. Mind you, the restriction is like a line out of the body, you could put the hook on anywhere on it, though in practice to be a little further out, like 8 or 10 feet feels like there is a little better leverage. The operator’s hand feels the tension. When the tension lets go, the restriction is gone. This goes on for a session of goals.

      The “after” pictures show the change. I felt like I had had a “regular” session.
      Actually “call for movement” mostly is not really needed, because the body doesn’t set up resistance as it does in hands-on work, but I often do “call”.
      Verbal cueing is not needed here, or even my considerable will. (lol)

      No books that I know on hands-off work, although in a different vein Mary Bond’s book is a good verbosity around ideas for movement teaching. (Rolfing Movement® Integration, a self help approach to balancing the body.) I disagree with some and agree with a lot of it as helpful.

      I will give a breakout session in Boulder at the RISI member’s conference in October titled, “Jazzing it up: Improvising Movement lessons within the Rolfing session”.

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