I love Oprah. I mean who doesn’t? It’s because of Oprah that I’d had actually had a very brief introduction to Rolfing by way of a Dr. Oz special where he partook in a Rolfing treatment live on stage. However that was circa 2010 and my memory on the practice was very fuzzy at best. But of course if it’s on Oprah it must be a winner, so I had no qualms about trying this unique therapy as part of my endeavour to release my neck and back muscles that have been tight for nearly two years.
What the Heck is Rolfing?
Ok the name doesn’t inspire much, nothing pleasant sounding at least. Even the founder of the practice, Ida Rolf Ph.D., wasn’t keen on it, but for some reason it stuck and here we are 60 years later with people being ‘Rolfed’ on the regular. But don’t let the name deter you.
The practice of Rolfing is a holistic system of bodywork, manipulating the soft tissue (muscles and fascia), and inviting and awakening new movement capacities to effectively realign the body’s structure. Fascia is the web of supportive connective tissue that is found throughout the body, surrounding and penetrating our muscles and tendons, connecting them to our bones, surrounding our internal organs keeping them in place, and stabilising the entire body. It’s important stuff! Fascia is also where we accumulate tension and stress, which manifests as tightness and knots. Over time this tension pulls on your bones, joints, and internal organs, which can result in chronic tension, poor posture, and pain. Our bodies are always doing their best to heal and repair from the strains of our lives. Rolfing aims to release or balance these tensions, freeing up the body’s energy to heal effectively.
Petro Kohut – Certified Rolfer
It’s important to note that many alternative therapy practitioners out there claim to be Rolfers, when they are in fact not. Make sure you find someone that has completed study at the Dr Ida Rolf Institute. Here on Mallorca I visited Petró Kohut at Lucky Bodies & Happy Souls in Santa Catalina. He himself happened upon Rolfing during his years practicing Remedial Massage.
Petro explains, “After years of doing good work helping to alleviate peoples pain or discomfort, only to see them return with the same issues from the same causes, it made so much more sense to get to the root cause by helping them change the relationship with their body and the way they interact with their surrounding environment.” These thoughts are what sparked his interest in Rolfing and prompted him to embark on studies to become a certified Rolfer.
Rolfing is typically a cycle of ten or more sessions, aptly referred to as ‘The 10 Series’. Each session is between 60 and 90 minutes long and follows a logical process focusing on particular goals and areas of the body whilst still being tailored to the individual’s own issues and needs. Petró tells me that following this process allows the practitioner to “not get distracted by the obvious”, and to work through sequentially to thoroughly cover the body’s structure in its entirety.
After the initial series is complete, the patient has a break of three to six months to see how the treatments have settled. Surprisingly, Petro tells me this is when the most significant changes actually occur. “The biggest changes happen after the work, as you integrate the movements into everyday life”.
Petró tells me of one client he treated in Madrid. The man had plenty of imbalances that Petró studiously worked on, and he could feel his body responding very well to the manipulations. Petró was sure he was having great success. However each time the man returned for a treatment he seemed to have reverted back his old patterns. Was the Rolfing not working?
Almost a year on, Petro ran into the man at the train station and was completely taken aback by what he saw. His posture had changed so dramatically he was almost unrecognisable. After speaking to him, the man described how much his life had changed since their last meeting. Not only was his posture completely different, but he had changed his career, partner, and was pretty much on a completely different path.
But how can Rolfing possibly change you mentally I hear you ask? Well the premise is, that we move the way that we feel. When we can feel and inhabit our bodies differently and move and gesture from a more authentic place, we accumulate less tension as we are not holding our body in unconscious movement patterns. This change means that mentally and emotionally we are viewing and responding to our surroundings with more presence and ease.
The fascinating thing about Rolfing is that once you’ve completed the initial Series the results should be permanent. Your body has learned the new patterns effectively and chances are you won’t revert to your old ways.
Petro asks if I’m comfortable with getting undressed down to my underwear. To receive the treatment as intended I put my shyness aside and ditch the clothes. He assesses my natural stance before I hop on the massage table. Petro uses his hands, forearms and elbows to apply pressure to various points on my body. It feels like he is ‘creating space’ between my muscles and is a very strange and not at all unpleasant sensation. He gets into areas that I can confidently say have never been manipulated in my entire life.
While he’s applying pressure he asks me to perform several slow movements. Rolfing is an interactive treatment. It feels like he is deeply stretching my muscles one way while I am assisting the stretch by moving in the opposite direction. All the while I am instructed to take deep breaths through my nose and out my mouth. The aim is to get the tissues to relax, and the brain learns how to move under guided pressure.
As he works on my chest I feel my airways open. As he works on my hips and tailbone area I feel my lower back relax. The most surreal feeling is when Petro is working on my face and jaw. I am asked to open my mouth like I’m at the dentist while he applies pressure. It proves very difficult. I can now see how Rolfing can work as a treatment for Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) – that annoying jaw clicking, popping, locking and pain caused by inflammation and tightness of the joint that connects the jaw to the skull.
But Does it Hurt?
There is a lot of talk that Rolfing is painful. I can say the only pain I experienced was when Petro started working on the area where I had cracked a rib a couple of years earlier. The injury had healed, but Petro explained the scar tissue could cause sensitivity. He assures me he isn’t causing any damage, as I wince and try to breathe through it. Although this is the only ‘pain’ I experience in the session, I can see how if you have many old injuries or tender spots on your body the overall experience might be one of discomfort. For me, rib aside, the myofascial release and craniosacral techniques Petro uses produce that kind of ‘good pain’ feeling. Like you’re getting a really good stretch.
As I hop off the bed, Petro asks me to stand and feel my new stance and to remember back to how I was standing prior to the session. He asks me to re-enact it. There is a definite difference. After the treatment everything feels more open and I’m not hunching forwards.
The After Effects
That night and the next few days I observe how my body is feeling post Rolfing. I feel balanced, stable, and grounded, and I’m turning my head with greater ease. There’s a wee bit of tenderness across my chest where fascia was released but it actually feels good, like I’ve had a good workout. The mental effects are more unexpected. I feel eerily calm and peaceful, like my mind has slowed down and I’m very sure of myself. Very odd indeed, but definitely no complaints! My Rolfing experience has been completely positive after only one session, and I am very eager and intrigued to see what my body feels like after the a full Series.
Overall Petro sees the practice of Rolfing as a guide to wake things up in the body so you can be yourself. After all, as Petro says “we are all on the path to express ourselves more authentically”. I like the sound of that!
LUCKY BODIES AND HAPPY SOULS
Calle Caro 56
Santa Catalina, 07015, Palma, Mallorca
+34 629 019 249
Written by Ché Miller
About the author
Ché has always had a passion for hospitality having completed a conjoint Bachelors Degree in International Business and Hospitality Management. She has spent the last 15 years working in the hospitality industry. This passion led her to working in a premier health retreat in Australia in her twenties. There she found the knowledge she gained there inspired her to start living a healthier life.
Now Ché loves to combine her two favourite things, hospitality and wellbeing. She scours the island for the best nourishing restaurants, products and services. Ché has been living in Mallorca since early 2017, having moved from her home in New Zealand. She absolutely loves the energy of the island and everything it has to offer.
Ché’s other interests include ashtanga yoga, boxing, reading, writing, and really good coffee.