(303) 887-6764 (in Colorado) robmcwilliams@mac.com
Comment on the Idea of Integration

Comment on the Idea of Integration

At the end of almost every session I tell people to take a walk to help further integrate the work. I am specific ‘letting the hands and arms free, no iPhone, no leash, walking at a leisurely pace ( no more than 100 beats/minute.’ I usually exhort people to ‘let your hips be hips, ankles move like ankles, relaxed back and neck.’ These comments don’t make much sense, until they make ‘felt sense’ after a treatment.
During the session, that is also how I like to include subtle movement inquiry and information – when the body is already expressing something new in motion, time and space, and we have a brief window of time to integrate: hook up a newly informed, functionally differentiated coordination and new set of sensations in simple breathing, standing and walking that can be sensed, and even labeled with a gesture (that’s part of what I mean by ‘a unique dance for each person’ on my website).
I used to try to work with people’s gait in more detail, finding the kiss of the eye of the foot (just forwards of the heel bone) on the floor in the stance phase, or emphasizing lengthening back through the heel which allows the psoas to lengthen nicely above, or the big toe-hinge, connecting foot, hip and spine in a way that completes the movement of the stride though the entire body. Now I mostly watch and see what the newly re-informed body ( usually after some work on the table or seated on the adjustable bench) wants to explore naturally, and gently direct the client’s curiosity to that area. “What do you notice in your walking now?” “How does that show up through your whole body, spine, eye placement in the room, sense of the space, feel for the carpet, or sense of flow?” For me the trick is to find the questions that their body is already posing to this client and find language and opportunity for this to make itself known to their conscious mind.
That’s Integration, for me.

Success Story

Success Story

A client who’d had multiple injuries related to a horrendous motorcycle accident a few years ago was told that she had two options: surgery with a 33% of feeling better ( and 66% chance of feeling worse after) or being on pain medication for life. She cried a long time after getting that news. Fortunately for her she had a general practitioner MD who knew better. ‘You have more options’ he said, researched Rolfing near Oklahoma City and found me. Something about my YouTube videos, he told her, led him to believe that I might be the right fit. It had been a long road for her leading up to working with me, but after our first session together she started doing a lot better. I mean a whole lot better. Now, after four sessions ( strung out over four months), special exercises that I give and in combination with working with a local chiropractor whom I respect very much, she can report: ‘I feel my whole body, not just parts.’ She is smiling and happy now, pain-medication free and mentions that a lot of her benefit has been emotional as much as physical. That is probably a key part of Rolfing® Structural Integration/Rolf Movement® work. We don’t just focus on the problem areas. We work to link together differentiated ( i.e. non-stuck together) parts – a dictionary definition of the word integration.

Response to a client concerned about instability and my work in Rolfing® Structural Integration

Response to a client concerned about instability and my work in Rolfing® Structural Integration

I got a long and very detailed history of a client’s pain and dysfunction. She has a lot of pain areas, and was concerned that the Rolfing® work we did would make her even more susceptible to instability and pain in the future. This was my response:
Thank you very much for this. There is a lot of info in here, and I will keep it to stay connected, to keep our treatments congruent with the info in this report, and to inform a constant inquiry into your comfort ( or lack of it) with the work.
I want to say one thing, in response to your document: I aim always to mobilize where restrictions in your body, in the fascia or joints, have a pull on the more painful, unstable, areas. The goal for me is to NOT to hyper-mobilize an area that is unstable.
There is, then, a real important role for good, clear stabilization work. I look to facilitate that in many sessions, including giving specific awareness and strength exercises (not so much, some times, when there is so much “structural restriction” to work on) that involve
1. enhancing sensation>awareness and naming of that, i.e. perception,“feelings about it”
2. using the enhanced resources of this sensory awareness to help improve coordination
3. developing though this a definite, felt stability
4. using that as a basis for strengthening work.
So, the idea is developing strength through what is sometimes called “perceptual core stability.” (For me, the words ‘perceptual’ and ‘stability’ are more descriptive, as everybody has a different idea of what “core” means) The strength work really helps because we shouldn’t need to always hold a conscious intent to be stable. The muscular work, informed by improved awareness, coordination and “perceptual core stability” becomes a really helpful habit.
How is this landing?
Let me know.
All the best to you and yours,
The Calm Center in Motion

The Calm Center in Motion

‘Feeling the calm at the center of the cyclone.’ ‘Feeling the stillness within motion.’ These are some of my favorite metaphors for how dance can feel for me.
Think about it: most movement does not seek to “stabilize” but rather to move though space, whether the motion is small or large. It’s important to develop balance, sensitivity and control in place, like doing dance adagio movements that mostly stay still around a planted standing foot, or “stabilization work” on a boss ball or some such. That will not be enough to develop coordination skills for moving through space, which is a different use pattern, IMO.
I am not working ‘scientifically’ here, though it may sound like that. I am trying to express the feeling that showed up for me in the course of ‘discovering’ or uncovering what had already been going on for me and probably most “movers”.
I’m working with the large Gym Ball to help people explore eccentric muscle contraction, but also while going off-center in movement. I feel that this more than many things I have come up with helps develop the sense of staying ‘centered within the movement’ in a coordinative sense.
This is as usual a work in progress. Stay tuned.

A Recent Session

These posts are written for a diverse audience: potential Rolfing® clients who are trying to get a feel for what the work is like, and if it’s for them, as well as newer Rolfers™ looking for ideas for session work, and possibly even more experienced practitioners comparing notes and looking to get new ideas or insights. I do it all the time. Why not? If you’re a Rolfer, red the whole thing! If you’re a potential client, skim through it and see what stands out to you as interesting. It may not all make much sense. Contact me if you have questions. I love talking about this work.
There contemporary client is often like this. DS had major spinal fusions in her lumbar and cervical spine areas after a bad motorcycle accident that she had initially ‘walked away’ from with nothing except knee pain. MRI on the knee revealed no damage, but on the lower spine, later imaging revealed major problems which required surgery.
Today was my second session with her, the first being a month ago. In that one, I mostly ‘put out fires’ by easing peripheral nerves, but also gave her tools to strengthen the support around her lower back and sacroiliac area. Today I decided to start really working to improve her support from the ground. After gentle work to release the nerves in her neck for 15 minutes, I began the deep work into the legs that is one of the hallmarks of Structural Integration: work on the calves and feet to help the back ( we call it “Second Hour” type work). When I do any second hour, I always check the peripheral nerve involvement first, be it from the lower spine, abdomen, thigh or in the leg (calf region). I am also checking the basic shape (morphology) and axes of motion in ankle, knee and hip.
When you pay attention to the nerves, your hands get sensitized to problem areas. They just stand out to me as a tightness or a cable-like feel when they are inflamed or otherwise impinged. Joint levers don’t work normally, either, making a leg or arm feel unnaturally heavy in motion testing ( which I do constantly). Sometimes I focus on treating the nerve itself through slacking, pulsing or stretching it at the depth that I sense will do it some good ( often not very deep, including skin manipulation called dermoneuromodulation created by Diane Jacobs). Sometimes, though, I will work a complementary structure at the other side of a joint that I feel is pulling o that nerve and causing the problem ( ok, I probably will hedge bets and do both, but put more time and attention in one tan the other as appropriate). In DS’ case, strain in the tibial branch of her left sciatic nerve was markedly eased by working to ‘un-bow’ her left knee, including but not limited to rolling the quadriceps tendons medially, work at the back of the knee on popliteous and soles at the line of insertion.
To beginning Rolfers out there: when I do “Session Two” work, I also will ‘feather in’ work from related sessions such as four or six. Deep work along the adductors ( relating to session four) hamstrings ( after that sciatic nerve eased; from Sixth Hour in intent but in First Hour position), and even on hip abductors ( from Thurd Hour, lower body aspects).
It’s also important for me to just respond to the first thing I see. When DS walked, she held her arms very still at her sides. She had always had people remark on that, even before the accident, she said. She is small in stature at maybe 5′ tall, but her arms and shoulders are kind of large. I asked her if she and any feelings about how they looked, and she mentioned that she does feel self-conscious about them. Now this was actually the first stuff we worked on, before we did any “table work” today. I had her just stand and feel into the whole size of her body, and let herself occupy her whole space. I did not look at her while she was doing this, nor when she took that sense into walking, until after a minute of her own experimentation with that. “What is it like to breathe when you let your self fill your whole space like that?”” A lot easier!” “Do you notice you let your arms move more, too”” Yes!”
That ‘body image’ work at the beginning, combined with fascial (we were able to deep neck work in a seated position, opening scalenes and levator scapula through simple head rotations with deep contact from me in these areas), neural, joint release ( we did gentle yet effective osteopathy-derived techniques to release and balance the bones of the pelvis/lower spine) and reviewed her fitness goals ( walking; twisting exercises to cinch up the lumbodorsal fascia through waking up the internal and external oblique muscles). She has been doing lot better since the first time she came in a month ago, and was really happy about the progress, sense of ease and smoothness in gait and lack of lower back pain.
Basically, if you made it this far, you’re probably either another Rolfer or just naturally really curious. Great!!
What do you think? Let me know.

Rolfing for Hairstylists

I work with a couple of hair stylists and theirs is a particularly challenging profession when it comes to neck and shoulder pain. Their arms are constantly raised to work with the client’s hair. I asked a client today to show me how they work with a client while cutting hair. She stood with her feet held tightly together holding her arms up, miming working on somone’s hair. In this stance and body attitude she was narrowing her base of support, focusing all of the work into her neck and shoulders. Imagine standing and working like that all day!
In addition to working to release tight fascia in her neck, all around the shoulders and more, I try to teach her how to use the ground to support the work in the arms and hands. Some of the ideas I worked with her on included staggering one leg forward, one back to broaden and engage the base of support; shortening the distance from the front foot to the hair-cutting action to allow the arms to be a little closer to her center line, thus decreasing the effort to hold them up; using that support in a fluid way, switching the forward leg depending on the action taken with the client (i.e., it was easier to bring the same-side leg forward to support extensive work on one side of the client’s head).
A key concept: finding breath and ease at the back of the armpit while allowing the shoulder blades to ‘drape’ over the ribs. This appropriately engages the serratus anterior muscles, the primary stabilizers of the shoulder girdle on the ribs. When we find this use of the breath in relation to a freed up sides of the ribs in breath and a loose feeling in the neck and trapezius, it feels like ‘moving from the back’ or ‘moving from the hips.’ It is a ‘connector’ in that way, allow us to lengthen and expand even while working our body/mind.
It also helps a lot to feel low back support while standing to work in this way. Feeling the whole foot in contact with the floor while working, even when twisting the body can also engage the transverse abdominal muscles, which stabilize the low back/pelvis relationship. I teach awareness of this kind of support as well as twisting exercises for the muscles of the waist ( not shoulders!) with resistance to strengthen the oblique muscles’ pull on the limbo-dorsal fascia ( it attaches there along the lateral rap he of fascia). When this fascia is cinched up in this way, it supports the lumbar vertebra and helps prevent low-back injury or pain.
How did today’s client react to this? After her functional movement check in described above, and deep hands-on work to release her stuck Sacro-Illiac joint ( SIJ) , to open the shoulders from the ribs and neck, free the arms from her shoulder, as well as opening the abdominal fascia, plus work to free adhesions between pleural layers and lungs or ribs, we got a good release.
The degree of shift towards a fully upright posture was a bit disorienting for her. I had her play again with her work position in relation to the ‘rocker stance’ described above. She then gained a much better awareness of the natural postural sway in the body, as if coming to the realization that fluidity and motion are the natural way to avoid getting stuck in painful and awkward positions at her work. After receiving the hands-on work, it was easier for her to implement the functional and postural changes in how she stands and moves to work.
This is how I work: free the nerves; mobilize major fulcra like the SIJ, open fascial adhesions, work on body awareness and movement behavior, work to train weak muscle groups that need to be stronger to buttress and support the change we want.