Why Did I Let This Man Put His Hands on Me?

So recently at a party my buddy Jared says to me: “Hey, have you ever tried Rolfing?” Now, we were each drinking some but I wasn’t feeling the slightest bit sick.

“Um, no, I’m fine – no need to throw up. Why do you ask?”

“No, not ralfing, Rolfing!”

“Like the Muppet?”

Jared was buzzed, but he was not inarticulate. He proceeded to describe Rolfing, a hands-on method of muscular and skelatal change that frees restrictions in the ligaments, tendons, and muscles, freeing up your body to to be footloose and fancy-free. Then I remembered: A friend of mine back in Georgia who suffered for years from the rare disease Dystonia had gained some benefit from Rolfing. Of course, that friend described Rolfing as “flaying the muscles from your body.” Didn’t sound too pleasant at the time.

Now Jared is the kind of guy you love to hate – athletic, like -2% bodyfat, a real go-getter. Why on earth was he of all people getting this Rolfing? Well, it was helping his posture, for one thing. And improving his biking and martial arts practice. I don’t have biking or martial arts skills to improve – sadly – but as a desk-jockey, I can always improve on my posture (though my posture is leagues better than many in my – ahem – position, thanks to Dr. Joe at North Raleigh Chiropractic). This was brought home to me in September when my friend Brandon snapped off an otherwise-amazing pic of me giving an announcement from the stage of Big Tent Christianity – I look like some kinda hunchback! (Brandon, why don’t you come down from the hills of West Virginia for a redo once I have my extreme makeover? You make even toads look good with your signature photography style – I can’t wait ’till I more nearly resemble a prince!)

“So who’s your Rolfer?” I ask Jared, trying to make it sound like it was all my idea.

Jason Sager of Raleigh Rolfing,” Jared replies, smiling. I know Jared likes to see a man in pain.

So I give Jason a call – I figured I could use some help with these lingering posture issues, and – who knows – maybe getting more comfortable inside my own skin will get me one step closer to not being nuts?

Session One: The Experience

After a free consultation with Jason (which included about 20 minutes of actual Rolfing), we decided that a Ten Series would be best for me. Jason describes the Ten Series as follows:

While people often come to bodywork for relief from pain, Rolfing takes a longer view than simple pain relief and works to reorganize the body. While massage on a specific spot usually creates temporary relief from that pain, the alignment issues creating that pain will often cause the problem to crop up again within a few weeks. By realigning the entire body over 10 sessions, Rolfing creates long-term health as a more permanent solution to pains or disfunctions.

For a fairly typical complaint such as neck or lower back pain there are often extentuating circumstances. Shoulder rounded forward from hours at a keyboard [that’s me!] take the shoulders away from the support of the hips, various shoe issues keep you from effectively using your whole foot when standing or walking, the head is held out in front of the body rather than balanced on top of the spine, and often more than just one issue contributes to the pain. The back pain, while important to relieve, is often a symptom of a larger systemic problem which must be dealt with to achieve a long-lasting pain solution.

Dr. Ida Rolf designed the ten-series as a blueprint for covering the entire body in a way that the body can support the change with minimal relapse. Each session builds on and finishes up the work of the prior session and builds support for the body to integrate the next session.

It makes sense to me. I went in for my first session, which focused on my ribs, shoulders, and abdominal muscles. So how did it go? Well first off, it didn’t feel like flaying the muscle from my bones. Jason works very slowly and methodically, and so while there might be a sustained intensity for 10 seconds, or 30, there was never any sharp, harsh motion that could cause injury. I knew I was in the hands of a professional.

And..? And it was quite helpful. He noticed that while my breathing was more abdominal than most, that the goal for optimal breathing is not (contra to Yoga instructors everywhere) “deep belly breathing” alone – good breathing should be like a bit of a seesaw between chest and belly, inflating in tandem like a two-part hot air balloon. After my initial session, I am definitely (my wife and others will love this) more full of hot air.

Who knows how this will all turn out. But so far, so good. I’ll keep filling you in as I experience each step of the Ten Series. If you care to try it with me, find a Rolfer near you.

10 Responses to Why Did I Let This Man Put His Hands on Me?

  1. Bobbie Morrell November 17, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Thanks, Mike! I’m trying to hook up with the Rolfing school here in Boulder, CO next year for a “ten series” and appreciate the preview!

    • Etienne November 24, 2012 at 7:54 am #

      There was actually an XP (eXtreme Programming) user group in the Triangle a few years ago, but they dindbsaed due to lack of interest. Hopefully this group will fly. Most of the groups I attend are language-specific, so it’ll be interesting to see how a language-agnostic group is received.

  2. Brandon January 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    haha. Thanks Mike! I’d love to come down and shoot you. No extreme makeover necessary! 🙂

  3. Archie Underwood January 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    Great to hear you are having a good experience! This work can bring amazing and sometimes surprising changes to your structure as well as how you feel in your own skin. The journey can bring everything from pain relief to nothing short of an entire life change. Everyone experiences it differently, stay open to the possibilities.

  4. Birth Support June 5, 2018 at 8:12 pm #

    Excellent post. I’m going through a few of these issues as


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