Gravity and Rolfing

Rolfing - Berlin & München

With gravity it is like with fish in water. We humans are so used to this field of gravity that we pay no attention to it.

The unique thing about Rolfing is that Ida Rolf brought gravity into play. This visionary insight was a new element in the field of body therapy and is still the cornerstone of Rolfing today.

The three basic principles

Rolfing® is based on three basic principles that influence the human body.

  • The body is a unit. If one part changes, this affects the entire system.
  • The fasciae are plastic. The fascia system gives the body its shape.
  • Gravity influences our body in every second. We always move in the field of this force.

Body as a unit

If you look at the structures of the body, you will see that it is composed of many elements – head, chest, pelvic area, legs, etc. These individual structures, which are in spatial relationships to each other, must be understood as a unity. If an element changes, this has an effect on the body as a whole, on the overall structure. For example, if you have a kinked foot and therefore limp a little, it affects the pelvis, the spine, and the neck that carries the head. Rolfing takes advantage of this correlation and changes the relationship of the units to each other. In this way the shape of the body is changed, which in turn leads to an improved function.

Fascia system

The muscles are covered by fine, white, more or less thin skins, the fasciae that run through the entire body. Fascia covers not only the muscles, but also the blood vessels, nerves, organs, brain and bones. Fascia is the packaging material that gives the body its shape. Fasciae hold joints together, form tendons and ligaments and thus transmit the forces that make the body stand upright. Fasciae are plastic. When an athlete exercises intensely, the body strengthens the fascia of the heavily stressed joints. If muscles are used less, the fascia’s properties change: they stick together and no longer glide so well, resulting in a restriction of movement. In yoga the fasciae are therefore stretched. In Rolfing we make use of this plastic property of the fasciae. With the slowly melting pressure of our hands and elbows,the Rolfer stretches exactly those fasciae that prevent the body from straightening out completely.

Fascia and Tensegrity

Fascia and ligaments connect bones and joints with each other. The way they do this is called Tensegrity. The special thing about Tensegrity is:

  • If the tension is changed somewhere in the system, this has an effect on the entire system.
  • The system only works as a whole. If an element is damaged, the entire system is damaged.
  • The body’s ability to spring, absorb and release forces while remaining dimensionally stable is enormous.

In this video you can see Tensegrity structures: Tensegrity Demonstration

In Rolfing we work with this tensegrity property of the body. We don’t just loosen everything, we just change the fascia structures that hinder the body’s ability to be up right. Based on the model shown in the video, you can now understand why a change in your feet can have an effect up to the throat.

Gravity as a structuring force

In humans, the foot, the legs, the spine and simply all statically supporting structures are constructed according to the Tensegrity principle. This entire construction has only one purpose: The human should be able to move with flexibility and resilience in the gravitational field of the earth. The entire human tensegrity construction has adapted to the conditions of gravity on Earth. In this respect, gravity is the shaping and structuring force. The more optimal the adaptation of each individual human being to it is, the more effectively he can move. This is exactly what athletes can sing a song about, as well as the Neanderthal when he hunted his mammoth, in that Neanderthals and sportsmen try to reach their goal as effectively and quickly as possible. If, as described above, we intervene in Rolfing by arranging the relationship patterns of the body elements, then we do so with the aim of adapting the sum of all these structures as optimally as possible to gravity. If there are no more blockages in the body, the force of gravity can flow unhindered through it. The client then has the impression that he can suddenly move easily, elegantly and effortlessly.

Gravity and wear

However, if there are blockages in the body, these lead to movement restrictions. The body can no longer move effectively. Gravity intensifies the process, wear occurs. In the end, the joint is replaced during an operation. If the body is dysfunctionally organized, for example if the head slips forward between the shoulders, the body must use muscles that are not intended for this purpose. This leads to tension and pain. Now the body is fighting a hopeless battle against gravity, because gravity will always win. As a result, the head will slide deeper and deeper, the neck will shorten and the upper back will become rounder. Therefore Rolfer do not work on superficial symptoms. Rather, they improve the functionality of the body. Clients use their Rolfers to find ways to move more effectively. These are learning processes. In order to simplify these learning processes, the 10 series was created. The Rolfer has less the role of a therapist than that of a coach.

Gravity and aging

Aging processes are increasing rapidly, with astronauts in weightlessness, as NASA research has shown, with “couch potatoes” and with people in retirement homes. Why? Well, gravity is not the force that causes you to age prematurely, but it is the force that your body consumes to function correctly. Gravity is your friend. The more often you deal with gravity, e.g. when you jump on a trampoline, climb stairs or just get up from a chair, the better. If you learn in Rolfing to handle your body more effectively in order to move upright in gravity, you will also learn to understand its signals and needs better. This form of mindfulness has anti-aging character.

Rolfing - Berlin & Munich

Photo by Brandon Morgan on Unsplash

Gravity, Balance and Coordination

If you can stand still, you will feel your body constantly “preventing” you from falling over. What you observe there are many small reflexes that allow you to stand upright effortlessly. The body does that for you. If you now have a blockage in one part of your body, this stiffening has to compensate for another part of your body with more mobility. If this increases, you will have problems with your balance. Elderly people have more problems with balance and coordination. Astronauts have the same problem when they return to Earth. Their bodies have forgotten how to play with gravity. Gravity challenges him to constantly deal with it, to constantly adapt to it, so that he does not fall, fall over, stumble, wobble, become insecure and lose balance, but remains in balance. In a body without blockages, the many small reflexes that keep it in balance cause it to remain in constant motion – each element remains a little bit in motion. Through these many micro movements, the body remains healthy, it can maintain itself, it can repair itself, it can heal itself. As Rolfers, we want this process to get going again. That is why we help the body and the client to stand up in gravity.

Rolfing - Berlin & München

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

Gravity and relaxation

Relaxation is only possible in the plumb line or vertically.

  • In the first step you completely straighten up in gravity. You now stand upright.
  • In the second step you allow your body to automatically keep itself in balance through the many small reflexes. Ideally, your head will balance on the first cervical vertebra. It wobbles slightly back and forth like a ball.
  • In the third step you can now observe how your body relaxes.

You stand and relax at the same time. Upright and relaxed, that is the goal of Rolfing.

Gravity as an evolutionary force

In the development from ape to man, evolution has erected man. Dr. Ida Rolf now says that this evolutionary step of erection has not yet been completed. The Rolfers task is to accelerate this process.

Gravity and spirituality

Form and function: Once the body has assumed its upright form, it can fulfil its function. Then gravity can flow unhindered through it. Then the energy that connects heaven and earth can flow through him. Then he is the connecting element between heaven and earth – between the divine and the material. Dr. Ida Rolf was well aware of these considerations. However, she emphasizes that in Rolfing the body is only seen from a physical point of view.

Book recommendations:

Dr. Ida Rolf,  Rolfing and Physical Reality 224 page, $14.73, Healing Arts Press November. 1990,  ISBN-13: 978-0892813803
A warm and wise self-portrait. Ida Rolf writes about her life, about the miracle of the human body, about life in general and explains her technique how muscles and connective tissue are manipulated and aligned. She does not present her thinking as a closed system, but raises questions that she does not answer directly.

Dr. Joan Vernikos,  The G-Connection: Harness Gravity and Reverse Aging,  294 page, $14.80, iUniverse, Inc. November 2004 ISBN-13: 978-0595329311
The book presents the results of 30 years of NASA research. When there is a lack of exercise or bed-resting in a nursing home and weightlessness in the space station, physiological aging processes are accelerated. Joan Vernikos comes to the conclusion that humans have to deal with gravity as often as possible in order to counteract ageing processes. The book recommends to office people that they get up briefly from their office chair every 20 minutes and sit down immediately. This is better than going to the gym 20 minutes a day.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me in my practice in Berlin or Munich. Here you will find the contact page.