What is Rolfing (aka Structural Integration)?

This week I am with Manny Aragon. He is an expert in Rolfing and Structural Integration. I wanted to learn more about Rolfing. That’s why I decided to interview Manny. Thank you for being here. Thank you.

So Manny. What is Rolfing? Rolfing is kind of the popular name that the work called Dr. Rolf’s work which is called Structural Integration is known by. So it’s the nickname that was given to that. And really what it is it’s a system of structural body work. It’s a progressive system typically of 10 sessions. There some in the field will probably disagree with me on this but for the most part Dr. Rolf’s legacy is the series of 10 sessions which systematically help to align the body segments to one another and also the body and gravity and thereby creating a body that moves more easily. Issues that people come in with such as pain tend to go away when the body is working correctly so trying to get the body working appropriately essentially.

Who would benefit from Rolfing? You know on the surface any body could benefit because we all have irregularities asymmetries in our structure. Parts and pieces don’t move as well as we like them to. Some of us have pain. Some of us have been through various physical traumas, car accidents and such of things. So pretty much anybody can benefit but the people who tend to show up in my office are the ones who all kind of named and those tend to be people who’ve had some specific injury whether be back, knee, hip, ankle, the joint injuries are the typical ones that you’ll see. They’ve had it for a long time. Usually they’ve had it for a long time and they’ve been to many practitioners. So they might have been to orthopedist, they might have been to general practitioner, they might have even had surgery, they might have seen acupuncturist, or chiropractor, or physical therapist. And massage. Sometimes massage. Right. Although those things work very well for many many people sometimes for certain people, and maybe they didn’t try a lot, you know, maybe they just did a little bit here but not there, but for certain people it just doesn’t work and they’re still searching. So they’ll show up in my office. That’s I would say the bulk of the people.

The other types of people who would show up are people who are just really averse to anything medical, and they don’t trust doctors. They’ve had bad experiences perhaps, or they grew up just not trusting doctors. And they just wanna go the natural route. So those people will show up.

But athletes, anybody who uses their body for a living, so construction workers, trainers, like I said athletes. Another actually really big demographic is weekend warriers. So the office workers. People who sit for a living which I tell I call that an extreme sport. I say treat your body like you’re in the X-Games because you literally are when you are sitting all day long. You might be driving everywhere, or you’re in a high stress job, in sales or something like that. Those people the body just falls apart. They’re great candidates. I see so the sitting job is extreme sport. You have to take care of yourself.

So how is it different from massage? Massage as you know is a very broad broad broad profession. There are so many subspecialties in massage. There are like actually more than 200 modalities in massage. I will say that in general massage tends to look a little more specifically at issues that a person presents with. I’ve got a knot on my back. Work on my back. So you work on the back. Great. And then next week you’re back cause the knots come back. And back and back and back. I know people progress and get better.

When someone comes in and says I’ve got really tight back I’ll tell them Great. We’re gonna work on your back but that may give you some temporary relief, but to get the long time relief we’ve gotta look at the system. Your whole body system. We’ve gotta look at how the different parts relate to one another. And we’ve got to look at you walking around in gravity and see where you are working too hard? Where are you out of balance? Between your agonist and antagonist muscle groups or your vertical stabilizer or various different without getting too technical. And how can we make small adjustments so that you’re gonna feel a difference there 1. Immediately but 2. Start you on a path towards really changing your body over the long term. And we’re always thinking of this course of 10 sessions. So somebody has never had the work we’re always thinking there’s some kind of a sequence. There’s a broad sequence that we use.

Maybe I’ll work on your foot and something in your torso releases whereas if I just work on your torso it might not release to the same degrees or at all. I see. That’s amazing if you release the foot and your torso releases. I think that sounds very like you know sophisticated but the reality is it’s pretty simple in practice. But those types of things. I make that example because I think what separates us from everything else is that we really are looking at system, the entire system always as opposed to a part of piece like everything else basically does. I remember when I was in massage school, I think I was in a Neuromuscular class. We worked on someone and she had a very bad migraine headache from a car accident years ago. The teacher worked on her leg or foot and the next day she came back and said the headache is gone. So I totally believe it. Wow you never know. So those who go to massage a lot and get the release and feel good but the pain comes back maybe they should look at the Rolfing option to have the long lasting result. For sure. For sure.

I’ve also heard that the Rolfing helps to correct the posture and even grow taller. Is that true? So the Rolf work is known for its improvement in posture. You’ll see over and over these before and after pictures that people who have had the work and after 10 sessions or after a few. It’s a marked difference for most of the clients. There’s occasional clients who don’t see the difference. They’ll feel it and that’s what’s most important. But these visual improvement in posture is pretty when you first see it’s I remember even as a teenager seeing ads for Rolfing and going wow I would love to have that in my body. It seems so there’s like a marked improvement. So absolutely. That’s a great question. So posture, big thing. Some people do gain a little bit of height. I don’t measure my clients but there are records of people who have measured themselves before and after the series. Particularly if they’re slouched and the posture is really poor and then they’re very up right. When you have these dramatic increases you’ll probably will there’s higher likelihood that you’ll see an increase in height.

This actually was me. I got into this work because I have severe scoliosis and I was suffering a lot. And kind of by stumbled upon a Rolfer. And in three sessions I decided I needed to be sharing this cause there was such a significance change. This is my first 10 session series before and after and basically what you can see here is my torso is very short. It looks very short. You can see my legs look very long compared to my torso. And if you just look at that and compare to this one here you can see there’s a big difference in the length of the torso appearance wise. Now if we were to measure I don’t know if there’d be a difference but appearance wise it’s very clear that there’s a difference in length.

The other thing you can see here. Where’s lumbar curve. It’s very shallow. Here you can see a much longer span. I mean this is significant. My original practitioner was so dedicated to this work he just followed the process and trusted. Another thing you can see here is if you look at the angle from my belly to my pectoral muscle. It’ very it’s more acute here. Here’s it’s broadened out I’ve lengthened out. So you can see this upper body is really opened up. I become taller and even the way my head comes out you could see there’s a kyphotic curve here and then my head kind of there a bit of kink in my neck and comes out. The shoulders are really rolled forward here. Here it’s come back. This is more vertical. You can really see the verticality of this and the length of appearance wise in my neck. My hair is a longer here.

Even interestingly enough just look at the contour of the forehead to the nose and see how this comes out. Can you see how it’s more pronounced here? This is very common where the nose appears to like there’s an expansion in the bridge of the nose area like in here and perhaps some of the lift that you see. If you were to look here you could say my ear, my shoulder, my hip and maybe my knee are lined up. I’m still canted forward but not like I am here where I am completely bending my knees to keep my balance. Here I’m just there’s no way I can stand up straight without falling backwards. Here I’m more straight.

And today it’s completely different. Completely different. This is 1995 I believe. So 21 years ago. I can really see that the torso is kind of compressed in the before picture. And you really opened up and stretched. So it’s quite significant. So that’s why I use it. One. And the other reason is because if I use my own picture I can never be accused of showing somebody else’s picture without consent. In fact, I had somebody call me years ago when I first I used this in an ad in a newspaper when I first started. And I had someone called me up and threatened me with a lawsuit that I used their picture. And I said I’m sorry this is actually my picture. But nice try.

Since it has this elongated or stretched effect, and you mentioned anti-gravitational even and you feel lighter. And just looking at this picture I do see the structural difference in the face. So could this be a good anti-aging solution? That’s another great question. I don’t market it as such but I can say that I’ve worked on clients up to age 93, 94 and the older clients because they’re so compromised usually in their movement, they love this work because it just opens their body up and they can move more easily and do things.

I’ve heard it hurts a lot. Does it hurt a lot? It’s a great question. Everybody asked. Rolfing is known for. In fact people that’s all they’ve heard about it. Oh Rolfing. Oh yeah I heard it’s really painful. Just for the record, the way I practice this work I find the pace at which the client’s body is prepared to make the maximum rate of change and usually that’s just below the pain threshold. Some areas don’t hurt at all. They feel quite good people will tell me. It varies so much from client to client. Sometimes they’ll say “Oh that feels so good” and I think to myself. You know on another client that would be quite tender. But there are certain areas of our body that are quite tender in general. So iliotibial (IT) band, for example. If I’m doing a work in your armpit, inner thighs, these are the places that this is just a very tight structure. And these are the places that people don’t get worked. So there can be area that are tender but the goal is not to create catharsis, which may have been in the past. Again, some Rolfers are gonna look at me and say oh the guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But I wasn’t alive in the 60s when they were doing this cathartic Rolfing type of work. Dr. Rolf’s work was never like that. Her students may have done that. But her work was not like that so I think you know perhaps taking of license.

But these days it’s been that was back in the 60s. Things have changed quite a bit. Ok so you don’t have to be afraid of it. Some clients will be very sensitive. And for the most part I will sense before the client. Much like you will if you are working with a client you can sense. Sometimes client is “It’s ok. It’s ok.” But they are really tightening their body. Right. Hurt me. Hurt me. But then you know I learned this as a new practitioner. When I was a brand new practitioner you work on your friends first. And some of my friends many martial arts friends at the time so they were little macho. Oh do it really hard. You know what they would get sick. They would literally get ill. They would get cold or flu like the next day. Then it happened enough times where I went that’s really not a good idea. It’s just not helping them. It’s triggering a traumatic response. They don’t wanna be put a trauma in their body. Trying to get it out.

I recently received a question on my other YouTube video if there is a massage or acupressure to change the facial structure to make it even. So would this help to make the face even? Yeah that’s another great question. I rarely have people come in specifically for that. Within the 10 session series session 7 is typically a head and neck session. And we will do work in the mouth and nose and on the cranium and face and such. There are people who specialize in changing the cranial structure. Osteopath. If you have cranio osteopath they could be a really good resource. Some structural practitioners do. It’s a pretty rare specialty. But occasionally I have someone come in and they’ll say my bite is totally off and I can’t chew right and my jaw’s hurting. That’s real common. TMJ. So often times I’ll ask them let’s see you chew. Let’s see what happens to this and you’ll see the jaw it’s moving all over the place. So I can’t say it’s perfect. It’s never perfect and we’re always asymmetrical but you can improve symmetry.

For example, I had a client recently who is probably his late 50s. He’s a very physical guy grew up on the farm, was a bull rider, was a Bronco rider, and age 7 I think you know so jockey. So he has his nose broken about 9 times by the horse bucking into him. He has his teeth knocked out. He’s been kicked by the horses. You know major major head trauma. That guy broke his neck 4 times. And then other body part trauma. You know. Many many traumas. And I spent a lot of time working in his cranium and facial structures because there were so much cumulative trauma in there.

All I can say is the major change I noticed in this man was one he was very very grateful for the work because nobody had ever been able to help him with that stuff even identified it. You know kind of patching him up here and there. And two that his cranium started to release and relax and face started to open up. Everything had been compressed, just kind of locked down trauma. So he felt like he could speak more easily, could chew more easily. Just whole area’s like a lifting of tension as he was describing. So one of the 10 sessions is the face. Session 7 has the head and neck session. Typically that would be in the traditional Rolf 10 series. There are various set of schools that have different series length. Usually they are few more sessions. I don’t think you really see a shorter series than 10.

And you also have the follow up after the 10 sessions? Yeah some of our structural patterns are driven by the way we use our bodies. Some of it’s driven by compensations to injuries, the way we learned to move originally, our genetics, various trauma over the lifetime, those types of things. For most people who come in for very specific issue if it’s not driven by the current movement patterns, maybe supported by but not really like driven by it, they’ll get better and then I might not see them. And that’s ok. I mean I do people to come back but my goal is for them to be self-sufficient. And we never talked about this but I also coach them through learning how to take care of themselves outside and there’s whole another aspect to my work that involves that type of things especially because of that. Learning how to move, learning how to sense how you move.

Say I have a client for example who is a computer programmer. 14-hour a day, 7 days a week, sometimes weeks on end. Weeks on end. And when he first came to me we went through the series. He had headaches, just in terrible shape, flabby, eating poorly, and all these other things were going. I can’t take a full credit. He did a lot of work himself but he went through the 10 session series. And I told him look, you’re doing extreme sport so my recommendation is you’re here every 3-5 weeks like consistently and I believe we can keep getting progressive change in your body. So 8 years later, this guy now is a high level Ashtangi yoga practitioner, he’s ripped, he eats better than any person I know. Like this guy really went to town you know. And now when he comes in we work on he’ll say like oh I’m learning this new Yoga progression and I’m having a challenge. My teacher is saying I’m having a challenge with this particular part of the pose. Great. Get in the pose and let’s see what you do. And let’s work and see if we can improve that for you. So we’ve gone from triage to potential. So this is possible. I see so is he still a programmer? Yes he has not changed that but many other things in life have changed. I see. Wow that’s a total change in lifestyle. He’s like my start client. So I brag about him a lot.

So I hope this was a good introduction to Structural Integration and Rolfing. How can people contact you? My website would be the best way to contact me. Although I know you’ll put a link it’s TheRolfWorkshop.com. And if people have specific questions they can just go to my contact page, fill out their information so that I can reply. And then there’s a space in there to write your question and I’ll be happy to answer them. Just mention that you saw Yasko’s video and I’ll roll out a red carpet for you. Great. So I’ll put the link below so you can contact him with any questions. Thank you Manny for your time and information. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Thanks for watching. I’ll see you back next week. Make it a great week. Feel free to comment below and please don’t forget to subscribe.

Massage Monday #326 – Acupressure Points for Fever http://bit.ly/mm-012317