Rolfing is a fascia massage, because it mainly uses the facial system for manual therapy. Fascia penetrate the entire body as an enveloping and connecting tension network. The art of fascial massage now consists in staying exactly in this intermediate layer and achieving targeted changes.
It’s like you want to make a rock jump over the water. It takes the right angle and the right force to hold the stone above the surface for a few jumps. Otherwise, throw only one stone through the surface into the water.
That’s how it is with classic massage. Of course, fascia are also touched there, but the force passes through it and thus has hardly any effect on the all-encompassing voltage network of our fascia. This is not a problem, because the real goal of this massage is not the fascia, but the muscles.
Massage? – Not a bigger word?
Most Rolfers will want to distance themselves from massage. Because masseurs or even masseuses sound ambiguous to many. That’s a pity, it basically shows our split relationship to our body. Already the word massage is an artistic variation from Arabic “mas” for “touch, touch” or Greek “masso” for “chew, knead”. There were probably no roots for it in our culture originally. But we only have our body and will not get a new one. So we should take care of this! A clear perception of the body is a good basis for dealing prudently with our body. Massage is irreplaceable. Or would you rather speak of manual therapy? Wikipedia writes so aptly without adding anything:
The effect of the massage extends from the treated area of the body over the entire organism and also includes the psyche.
Wikipedia – Definition of massage
How does the fascia massage Rolfing work?
It used to be believed that fascia could be mechanically brought into a sliding state by pressure and heat. But tests have shown that very large forces are necessary for this. Forces that are impossible to achieve in a massage. It would be like an elephant walking over us. But it also means that nothing can be achieved with force and strength. And pain, which is accepted with it with some applications, is completely wrong!
Fascia are traversed by a dense network of nerves. And it is these nerves that are currently used as the cause of change. Fascia massage actually speaks to our nervous system. This nerve-fascia-system is primarily responsible for the perception of the position and extension of our body, where, for example, our elbow is located in relation to our shoulder. This perception naturally also controls how close to the body we hold our elbows, what thrust we produce into the shoulder and what basic tension we may have in our fingers.
If fascia massage is actually a fascia nerve massage, then there is always the question of evaluation and acceptance by our nervous system. These are questions such as “Is the desired change good?”, “Do I want to get involved?”, “How did I experience the change?” It also follows from this that pain through therapy prevents an inner “yes” to changes.
What is the goal of a fascia massage?
The goal is that we can move painlessly and without wear and tear and feel comfortable in it. It’s about movement, because
Movement is the language of our behaviour.
That may not sound quite contemporary. Because despite our fitness hypes we move less and less. Not just that. We focus our eyes more and more through computers and mobile phones. This has far-reaching consequences for our entire body perception. We have fundamentally distanced ourselves from our grandparents. How far up do we stand to see peripherally? Can we still do our 10,000 steps a day?
Our time today is a special challenge to our body, which in the end is not made for it. All the more reason for the special training of body awareness. It follows for me that we should all experience bodywork on a regular basis. Call it massage, holistic manual therapy or Rolfing as fascia massage.
Relationships as the key to posture
Rolfing thinks in terms of relationships. For example, what relationships do the feet have to our hips? Tighten your toes tightly, as if you wanted to grip something with them. Depending on whether you are standing or sitting, this tension is transmitted to your hip joint. And you may feel this tension in your abdominal muscles. It is there mostly in your six-pack and reaches even further towards the head. You can discover different relationships your little finger in the throat. And there are many other ways. It is this fascia net that defines our posture, that makes our movement possible and that also restricts tensions. It is this network that enlightens our brain about how we orientate and move in space.
Ida Rolf has described our fascia net as an organ of posture. I’m sure she was right about that. Because our fascia define how we stand and walk. But we have also made ourselves at home in it. So domestic that our posture through our fascia makes us unmistakable. Therefore, a good fascia therapy goes beyond loosening a few adhesions of the fascia. Above all, it is very questionable whether we can do this without further ado at all by massage.
Relearning as a result of fascia massage
Fascia massage is actually a fascia nerve massage. I.e., our nervous system, our body perception is always there. And the intended changes are therefore a manually supported learning process. Some of us are constantly questioning the direction of the intended change. This naturally takes a little longer. For this reason, more is needed than “just” a locally acting technology. What happens if, for example, you can open your hip a little further? Then not only her stride length increases, but also her entire gait pattern. Your arms and shoulders are also affected. How far do they swing? How “smoothly” does this twist your upper body? This means that your entire body is affected and you must and want to integrate this new scope into your own body image. That’s why Ida Rolf called her work “structural integration” and “Rolfing” was only a “working title” in the beginning.
If fascia massage, then why Rolfing
The starting point of the entire Rolfing method is the fascia system. Not that other methods don’t work with fascia. Osteopaths have always worked with fascia. Or the connective tissue massage, which uses special techniques to reach the connective tissue. The difference in Rolfing is that not only the access to the facial system is trained and used, but also the effect on our whole body.
The goal is that we can move painlessly and without loss and feel comfortable in it.
The idea that it is sheer power that can change our fascia is outdated. A connection between fascia and nerves is currently being discussed in research. This means that our nervous system must be integrated in a fascia massage!