Although Dr Ida Rolf pioneered Rolfing in the US sometime in the 1950s, most people still don’t seem to know much about this type of transformational bodywork. Now with a Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in the UK, 2017 is the year of Rolfing, and Lizzie Reumont at Indaba is London’s go-to for this holistic system of soft tissue manipulation.
What is Rolfing?
Rolfing works with the body’s fascia – the soft tissue that covers every muscle, bone and organ that interconnects throughout the body, like a matrix of clingfilm cobwebs (scar tissue is fascia that has been bundled up and held). The fascia becomes dehydrated as we age, and condenses as it holds onto lifestyle habit patterns, causing aches and stiffness in the body. Rolfing is a process of releasing that tension and creating suppleness, which in turn improves posture and restores energy.
How do I get ‘Rolfed’?
It’s important to find a good practitioner that you can be comfortable with, as the process of Rolfing takes place over ten sessions of firm and occasionally intimate body work. For me, that person is Lizzie Reumont. Originally from Baltimore, Liz is a yoga teacher who first discovered Rolfing when seeking relief from shoulder pain. The work not only got rid of her pain, it transformed her life. Liz now Rolfs from a spacious treatment room at Indaba Yoga Studio in Marylebone, where she also works as a yoga teacher.
Is it like a massage?
Although at points Rolfing feels like a deep tissue massage, it’s more intense and can be borderline painful — albeit in a good way. It is also more long term solution to aches and pains. By focusing on improving the organization of the entire facial structure rather than solely tending to tense spots, the problems, rather than compensatory symptoms, are addressed. And aside from table work, part of the Rolfing process is to re-educate the body’s habit patterns, that brought the tissue into strain in the first place.
Why ten sessions?
‘The 10 series’, is like a systematic tune-up. The process organising the tissue based on themes and territories, with each session building upon the last and preparing the body for the next. After ‘The 10 series’, the fascial matrix within the body has been reset. And from personal experience with Lizzie Reumont, who works like a sculptor through my tissue’s ‘sleeve lining’, I now feel I have better alignment and more space under my skin. Sounds strange I know, so let me try to explain the process…
The superficial layers
It was while Lizzie was working on my foundation – including the lower legs and feet, that I was first intrigued by the possibilities of Rolfing. With fingers sinking deep into my fascia, the pressure swung dramatically between borderline unbearable, to never wanting it to end. When asked to walk around the table half-way through the session, I saw a dramatic change from one side of my body to the other. One leg was actually a little longer and felt lighter, and the foot sounded different to the other – making a supple squelching noise on the wooden floor, while the other was creaking, like an elderly person’s. Once the other side was worked on, I left this session feeling more grounded, with better balance and a sense of amazement at the change in my body already.
Liz starts and ends each session starts with a body reading, and it was in the 4th session that she observed my tail was dropping and tucking under. She explained that my pelvis was tilting backward, which was putting pressure on my bladder and making my knees buckle. By the time Liz had worked her magic on my hip area – my front felt longer while my tail was perky as a show pony with with a noticeable curve in my lower back. Even my bottom felt more pert – bonus.
In the 7th appointment I experienced what I imagine those facials, where the inside of your cheeks are massaged, feels like. Not only did she go in my mouth, but Lizzie even went inside my nostrils, and although the sensation felt strange, it wasn’t unpleasant. The result was less tension in my face and a visably softer appearance.
Integration & closure
During the last few sessions, Lizzie focused on further releasing the denser tissue in my fascial matrix. Manipulating outwards some slightly inverted spots – such as my ‘knock knees’ and a recovering twisted ankle, she also drew my attention to my everyday postural habits. I’m now more aware of how I stand with my weight on one leg, hip jutted, and cross my legs as I sit. Helping me find healthier ways of being in my body, to allow for better distribution of my weight in gravity, I have been given more freedom of movement, and feel measurably taller.
Observing that earlier on our journey, she had noticed a disconnect between my busy mind and a body that I wasn’t present within, Liz saw this gradually improve. She had managed to keep me engaged with sensing the changes in my body, instead of drifting back into my thoughts. I even learnt a new word: palintonicity. Created by Rolfers to describe the sense of expansion in all directions, that you experience through this process.
Now, a week after my last session, I have a newfound sense of ease in my own skin. It’s like my center of gravity has moved backward and I have more space to breathe. Not dissimilar to the relief you get when you take off a tight outfit and heels after a night on the tiles, and slip into something more comfortable. Like coming home, to your own body.
Lizzie Reumont is at Indaba where one, 75 minute Rolfing session is £115, while the Ten Series is £1,000. Mention this Country & Town House article during the month of January for 10% off.
For further information: www.freeliz.com, or to find a Rolfer in your area, visit www.rolfinguk.co.uk
First published Jan 2017