is a mystical virtue in right angles. There is an unspoken morality in seeking
the level and plumb. A house will hold together only if the joints are square
and the members upright. When the bubble is lined up between two marks etched
in the glass tube of a level, you have aligned yourself with the forces that
hold the universe together.
Scott Russell Sanders, from THE PARADISE OF BOMBS
Prosaic-Poetic / Scientific —
Reconciling Gabriel Marcel and Ida Rolf
Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.
Consign your body to gravity.
Ida P. Rolf
The force of gravity is always attractive.
I like it. I’ll take it.
Indeed, gravity is that force which holds the universe together.
And yet, we observe that the universe is expanding.
Then, gravity must be an expansive force too.
Scientifically, we know that gravity on Earth has two operations.
Everyone is quite familiar with the one, the downward pull of gravity.
“Let go your cup of Joe, you know where it go.”
But there is the other side of gravity.
It is expansive and lifting.
I know it is.
Not from a book.
Well, I also did read it in a book.*
But mainly and importantly from my own direct lived experience.
While learning how to live fully adapted with the gravity field of the Earth.
What is that experience?
Feet firmly rooted to the Earth.
A subtle yet definite and powerful liftedness toward the heavens.
In between . . . the great mystery of life, everything and nothing.
*Centripetal Force and Centrifugal Force
Centripetal force and centrifugal force [are the] action-reaction
force pair associated with circular motion. According to Newton's first law of
motion, a moving body travels along a straight path with constant speed (i.e.,
has constant velocity) unless it is acted on by an outside force. For circular
motion to occur there must be a constant force acting on a body, pushing it
toward the center of the circular path. This force is the centripetal
("center-seeking") force. For a planet orbiting the sun, the force is
gravitational; for an object twirled on a string, the force is mechanical; for
an electron orbiting an atom, it is electrical. The magnitude F of the
centripetal force is equal to the mass m of the body times its velocity squared
v 2 divided by the radius r of its path: F = mv 2/ r. According to Newton's
third law of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The centripetal force, the action, is balanced by a reaction force, the
centrifugal ("center-fleeing") force. The two forces are equal in
magnitude and opposite in direction. The centrifugal force does not act on the
body in motion; the only force acting on the body in motion is the centripetal
force. The centrifugal force acts on the source of the centripetal force to
displace it radially from the center of the path. Thus, in twirling a mass on a
string, the centripetal force transmitted by the string pulls in on the mass to
keep it in its circular path, while the centrifugal force transmitted by the
string pulls outward on its point of attachment at the center of the path. The
centrifugal force is often mistakenly thought to cause a body to fly out of its
circular path when it is released; rather, it is the removal of the centripetal
force that allows the body to travel in a straight line as required by Newton's
first law. If there were in fact a force acting to force the body out of its
circular path, its path when released would not be the straight tangential
course that is always observed.
An Initiative to Adapt Humans to the
Maybe it’s because I came from a background in marketing
communications that throughout my professional career I’ve been searching for
the best way to say what Rolf Structural Integration is about and why that is
significant. That notwithstanding I love to write and the project helps my own
understanding of what it is I have chosen for a service career. Rolf Structural Integration is easy enough to define, yet it
needs some elaboration. And, the marketing man in me wants to get it across in
such a way that it gets attention, consideration, and action.
“Get Rolfed!” “Better Sex!” “Live Longer!” “Really Live!” “Better
Golf!” “Faster Times” “Knock ‘Em Dead [on Stage]!” “Walk the Straight and
Narrow!” “Stay Young!” “Teach Your Children Well!” “It’s the Fountain of
Youth!” Sloganeering aside, after 31 years of practice I have boiled
down the definition of Rolf Structural Integration to this:
Rolf Structural Integration was originated by Dr. Ida P. Rolf. You
may know it by the nickname Rolfing®. In a nutshell this work is distinguished in its single minded goal
to evolve the architecture of the human body into an truly adapted relationship
with earth’s gravity field. It manifests as an effortlessly upright,
unstressed, vertical, symmetrical and level stance. The natural plasticity of the body — its ability to change and
adapt — is the prime mediating factor. The work is formatted in a multiple
lesson series using movement and touch and guided by a progressing set of
anatomical goals. Rolf Structural Integration proposes that we become conscious to
the easily in hand possibility of living fully adapted to the dictates of
gravity. That we become actively engaged in cultivating a correct stance on
this Earth, in life even. It is an initiative — also, an initiation —into
becoming fully human in terms of living, not just in gravity, but with gravity.
It stands for unfolding our real potential to become fully human.
To live with the makeup of the body fully adapted to earth’s energy field. To
enjoy the many benefits of living with a balanced vertical, level and symmetrical
stance on this earth.
So now, how about this . . . “10 [Straight] Toes in Front of 2 [Good]
Feet”. The feet are the foundation after all. And, a look at the wear patterns
on the soles of your shoes tell the true story. How you doin’? (High heel shoe
wearers, stop reading now. There’s no way to get with gravity in high heels.
You look pretty, though.)
Scientifically we know an upright vertical anatomical stance
is our birthright. Also, it is dictated by the fundamental laws of nature. That is something every
architect and trade worker knows: plumb and square (straight and level) . . . is
the rule for all physical structures on Earth. But, with the human body and how we learn to negotiate the
medium of gravity, we are demonstrably living below our natural potential. We
are mostly self-taught with a good measure of bad habits and accidents and
traumas mixed in. The models we follow more often than not are not exemplars of any real healthy normal in respect to body makeup. Even more telling, we don't have any purchase in the culture that cultivating or encouraging a healthy stance in gravity has any recognized value. We deal in palliatives, ignoring the underlying cause. As Dr. Rolf plainly put it, "[We] are at war with gravity."
Rolf Structural Integration proposes that we become conscious
to the possibility and actively engaged in cultivating a correct healthy stance with
gravity. We go to school for so many things. Why not learn this? We research to a fare-thee-well
into the causes and effects of poor health and low productivity. Why not investigate this? This is significant in that if you bother to notice you will
see that we humans individually, and as a species, are not living up to
anywhere near our natural potential to live in harmony with the simple fact of
the pull of gravity on our bodies. One reason is that gravity is such a
constant and ever present force we are unconscious to its presence.
Furthermore, the condition of being out of sorts with gravity is so widespread
in human culture we are accustomed to it. Inured, if you will. We don't see it for what it is. Finally, there’s
this business of leaving the matter of how we learn to use our bodies in the
basic ways to happenstance. We do automatically grow bigger and stronger as we mature. Not the same with developing sound body structure. That is learned. It is in fact a central life issue — this business of operating under the influence of gravity. Our bodies don't get to be the way they are automatically without us giving it any thought. It does take some doing.
Rolf Structural Integration works with a notion of healthy and
normal which is based on well understood anatomical body-part relationships and
what is also well understood in the science of Physics in terms of how
structures must be arranged in relationship to the gravitational constant. In sum you could say that the goal of Structural Integration
is in fact structural integration. As applied it is a method which offers individualized assistance — training, really — to
significantly raise the level of structural order in the body along the line of gravity. You feel it, and it shows. As
a concept it is an initiative to awaken us to adopting a conscious and active
relationship to that ecological fact, gravity. As a percept, an actual lived experience, it is the joy of living free and unencumbered, with a steady tangible guide for living well, staying healthy, and achieving your goals.
It should be obvious I recommend it highly. Afterthought . . . My interpretation of Rolf Structural Integration may not jibe with what you may already think about the subject; it may even contradict what some may have taken away from first hand experience with a qualified professional. So let me explain. Any practitioner trained by a recognized school of Structural Integration* should not have any quibble with the above description. I am confident Dr. Rolf herself would assent, but perhaps choose her own inimitable words. She, after all, said it best. (Search "Ida Rolf Quotes" and get a treasure of practical wisdom.) But, there are practitioners who for one reason or another don't necessarily represent the work in its fullest and true expression. Most individuals coming to Structural Integration are seeking remedies for immediate problems; and, now please. It is the duty of any practitioner worth his or her salt to explain that any symptomatic relief is a byproduct of the global goal of balancing the entire body. To make it clear that symptoms of pain and stress will resolve themselves when the body gets working appropriately — aligned with gravity. Alas, some however may succumb to pressures of convenience and provide the work by focusing mainly on manipulative techniques applied locally to areas of pain in a session or two. There is nothing preventing this and it is not a problem in itself. Except, when it is represented as Structural Integration, it does not serve the profession or the public's understanding of what the work is actually intended to do. The work is more process than procedure. One session does not mean that you can say, as the expression goes, "I got Rolfed." Not is the same way that after a fifteen minute massage, you say, "I was massaged." In fact, even after the usual 10 session series it's not always a sure thing you can make that claim. "Rolfed" as understood in the field itself is a result. And, if by now from reading so far you don't know what that result is . . . well, I don't know. When I hear someone talk, boast even, about having many dozens of sessions, I wonder if the goal of alignment with gravity has been conveyed in the first place. There is such a thing as tune up work and the Advanced Series for refining. But, after a point there is no need for work to continue indefinitely. There is a point of diminishing returns. And, besides, the goal of Rolf Structural Integration is to get the client to a point where he or she is self-sufficient with enough physically ingrained knowledge to continue on their own to grow and evolve in cooperation with the supporting, uplifting, and nurturing effects of gravity. Also, not all students of the work understand the what it is in the same way. There are practitioners who come into the field of Structural Integration having first been trained in therapeutically oriented modalities; for example, the many types of Therapeutic Massage and Physical Therapy/Physiatry. Those may have a predisposition and preference for applying the work locally for symptomatic relief. Again, nothing wrong with that; but it doesn't represent the work accurately if the client isn't informed about what's going on. Then, of course, there are those practitioners who are not trained, or improperly trained; those who may operate even with the best intentions who represent themselves as Structural Integrators. This further confuses the situation and the impression of the work in the general understanding. The identity of Rolf Structural Integration is not yet so firmly established in the public mind that there is a ready and clear understanding of what it is, what it's for, what one should expect, and how it looks to receive the work. Misperceptions abound. Best to verify that any practitioner of Structural Integration you are considering working with is properly trained by a recognized school*. Also, if you want to receive the work in its traditional format for purposes of balancing the whole body with gravity as described above, be sure to establish that the chosen practitioner works with that orientation. Rolfing® and Rolfer® are trademarks of the Rolf Institute of