certified advanced rolfer®
rolf movement® practitioner

Heidi Massa

Rolfing®: Beyond Conventional Wisdom

Are you willing to entertain unconventional ideas of what it means to be in good shape? If so, read on -- and consider Rolfing® Structural Integration.

Have you ever said you’d come to the meeting and bring you body with you?

Of course not! The popular notion of a “mind-body connection” presupposes the mind and the body as distinct entities somehow cobbled together. That's nonsense: There are no free-floating "minds" disassociated from living bodies; and your mind is an aspect -- not a part -- of what you are as an embodied being.

If it hurts, make it stronger?

That won't work if one part hurts because another isn't doing its fair share and needs to be engaged. Your Rolfer's office is a lost-&-found for body parts that are either shirking their duties or have fallen off your brain's Body Map altogether.

Are your hamstrings “too short”?

Are you fed up with pulling yourself like taffy? If you've had enough of those tiresome forward bends, here's a good reason to stop: muscle lengthening is not a mechanical event but a neurological one. Because the brain has to ask a muscle to let go, mechanical approaches often won’t do the trick.

Are you struggling with sit-ups to “strengthen your core” or relieve low back pain?

Then please stop. Unless you do sit-ups with the right muscles - and most people don’t - you're only shortening your "core" and weakening your low back.

Is symmetry overrated?

Absolutely. Living things grow in spirals - not straight lines -- and when a human spiral is wound tightly enough it's called "scoliosis". But the fact is, your uneven pelvis or short leg might well be an intelligent adaptation -- not a problem to be corrected.

Want to really give your brain a wake-up call?

Feet should be sense organs -- more like hands than stumps at the ends of our legs. Trade those orthotics for some 5-finger shoes and take a hike on uneven ground. It will enliven your senses, and maybe even help your plantar fasciitis. Don't worry -- be haptic.

Do our psychosocial and perceptual biases affect how we relate to our surroundings?

Absolutely. These biases are part of who we are, but if we don't recognize them, they can limit us.

Is that "turtle" neck that juts your head forward all about your hair?

If your hair is in your face, it might be. We can adopt dysfunctional neck and head posture trying to see past our own hair; and our heads might not sit right until the hair is out of our faces.

Why do babies put everything in their mouths?

Babies use their mouths for both prehension and comprehension -- as an organ of perception and understanding, as well as appropriation. Even to our adult brains, hands and mouths are just different aspects of the same thing, which might be why "carpal tunnel" and "TMJ" symptoms often appear together.

Might premature toilet training encourage scoliosis?

Proper neurological equipment for sphincter control takes about four years to develop. Kids forced to control themselves without it will use whatever inadequate tools are available - such as leg muscles. When did you last see a grown-up trying not to pee by twisting himself up and squeezing his thighs together?

Did we evolve dexterous hands only after we came to stand on two legs?

More likely we couldn’t balance on two legs until we'd developed well-coordinated upper limbs. And hands bring awareness as well as uprightness: to quote George Orwell, "When we cease to work with our hands, we lose a huge chunk of our consciousness."

What's the best strategy for good head alignment?

Because the head's horizontal line of balance runs through the ear holes, imagine your head being lifted from the tips of pointy ears. Better yet, imagine wearing heavy ear rings. Once you know where down is, up is not hard to find.

Do we really need to look both ways before crossing the street?

No. We cross by ear based on the Doppler effect, which tells the movement brain when the oncoming car will arrive based on changes in our perception of the engine or tire notes. The movement brain, which asks "where", does the calculus our higher brains, which ask "what", can’t do fast enough. The movement brains of cats, dogs and squirrels do the same calculus. Let's get the upper cortex out of the movement brain's way.

What's the greatest challenge for most bodies?

Is it mechanical -- that we lack adequate cardiopulmonary capacity and need hours on the treadmill? No. Is it structural -- that our bones and muscles are too weak to do a good day’s work and need more time in the weight room? Unlikely. Most likely it’s electrical. The greatest restriction for most of us most of the time is in our perception and coordination. Because we're just plain clumsier than we need to be, the shortest path to better function is often through the information system.

Rolfing®: Change Happens