Rolfing in the News

Rock'n'rolf for your aching bod.
By Dmitry Danilin
Athens News Special Projects Contributer


Life at the university is great. It's so full of events and interesting people. Every day we learn something new, acheive unthinkable professional heights, and set even more ambitious goals. But for our bodies (well, unless you are a Sports Science major) the university life can become a source of various problems. Typing mile long papers or crafting other projects on the computer often results in excruciating pain in the hand, known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

According to some OU students who have experienced CTS, the feeling is similar to that famous scene from the "Evil Dead" movie where the guy's hand had become posessed by an evil spirit and revolted against its master. The sedentary, car-classroom-car-computer lab-home desk lifestyle is yet another challenge for our bodies: we become stooped, overweight, acquire constant pain in the back, and, God forbid, hemorroids.

For the purpose of this article, I'll leave the latter illness out of scope. If you've got THAT, you must be off to Hudson Health Center right now.As for the oooh-my-aching-back, swollen-hand, stiff-walking parts of the Athens NEWS readership, let me introduce the help your exhausted bodies have long been crying for -- Rolfing, or Rolfing Structural Integration.

Rolfing is a massage technique for reordering the body to bring its major segments --head, shoulders,pelvis,and legs toward a vertical allignment. It takes place in a series of ten sessions lasting about an hour each, which are usually spaced a week or more apart.

The main idea behind Rolfing is that through the years (sometimes accompanied by injuries) our bodies become imabalanced and that brings about all the trouble. Rolfing holds that an average individual has let the body slip out from the vertical axis: head slumped forward, buttocks carried under and back. Oftentimes his/her body is slumped and one shoulder or hip may lead another as the person walks. Knees may track out or in, and misaligned ankles may throw weight to the outside of the person's feet.

These patterns develop throughout an extended period of time. Once established, they feel comfortable and natural, while, in fact, they are not. Gravity becomes an increasingly destructive force for the body. In Rolfing, gravity is one of the key terms. Dr. Ida Rolf, formerly an organic chemist with the Rockefeller Institute and the inventor of Rolfing, perfected the technique over many years before establishing a systematic training professional organization.

Nearly 700 certified Rolfers and Rolf Movement Teachers are located throughout the world. One of them is Michael Lucas, whom I was lucky to meet in Athens when he performed one of his Rolfing sessions. Michael has a Master's of Fine Arts Degree from OU. He became a Rolfing convert after breaking his pelvis years ago and implementing the technique brought him back to health. Besides being an artist, he believes that bodywork is a natural creative extension of making art.

He is a certified Skillful Touch Massage Practitioner, Certified Rolfer, Associate Polarity Practitioner and a Registered CranioSacral Therapist. Michael also works with the United States National Synchronized Swim Team to prepare for the Olympic Championships. In other words, he's cool.

According to Michael, Rolfing is a deep connective tissue massage that reorganizes coordinated muscle function. It helps to change harmful patterns of body use that contribute to physical discomfort. A certified Rolfer is trained to re-educate the coordination of muscles so that they function more efficiently. In a series of sessions with a client, he or she may also work to improve the entire self-organization of the body for better posture, flexibility and support, and educate about proper movement.

As the hardcore skeptic that I am, I decided to challenge Michael and offered him to perform a couple of sessions on me. Being a writer, I've got the whole package of body problems. Sometimes I fear my fragile skeleton will invariably mutate in such a way so that I will only be able to sit and nothing else. In other words, there is hardly more suitable patient for a Rolfer than your humble servant. Michael accepted the challenge.

My expectations of the session were pretty standard. Just another massage thing, I had thought. Well, while it was a massage, it was nothing like I'd ever experienced before. Instead of your normal skin twisting and bone drumming, Michael used quite unusual manual techniques. He would apply long and slow pressure against my body by his hands and elbows. To an extent, it felt like getting ironed or run over by some delicate road-roller. As Michael explained along the way, the Rolfer must apply sufficient force to stretch and move tissue. It didn't really hurt, yet it felt pretty strong.

But the most surprising to me was the result. Even though I had only two sessions with Michael, I must admit that my body hasn't felt so good in years. THere was the feeling of lightness as if I had been carying some heavy thing for a long time and finally got rid of it. Of course, two sessions were not enough to relieve me of many of my ills, but this time I did feel that Rolfing would work for me.

Michael choose a more scientific way to describe my feelings: the body acuires a lift, or lightness as the head and chest go up and the trunk lengthens; the pelvis, in horizontalizing, brings the abdomen and buttocks in;the knees and feet track more nearly forward and the soles of the feet meet the ground more squarely. There is less pitching of the body from side-to-side in walking and less raising of the body weight with each step.

Normally, people acheive significant improvement after at least a year after their Rolfing sessions, so what happened to me was just the beginning. I would certainly recommend Rolfing and Michael to anyone who is at war with his or her own body. Send Michael an email to or call 614-263-3739 for more information. And who knows, maybe what you need is just some Rock'n'Rolf!


More Rolfing in the news:

WOUB Rolfing interview of Michael Loukas

Oprah's Dr. Oz and the medical benefits of Rolfing.

Vogue's March 2007 issue

As swimmers attest, Rolfing lines up body.
Columbus Dispatch 2004

Craniosacral Therapy in the news:

Channel 4 on craniosacral therapy.