Can Rolfing Help with Trauma?

“Physical stress mirrors emotional suffering, relief from physical constraint markedly affects emotional misery.”Dr. Ida P. Rolf

The Irish say, the past is not the past. Each of us has a history. We are formed by both our physical and emotional experiences. The important things that happen during our journey leave their mark upon us, and shape our structure. Your unique movement pattern reflects athletic and career choices, psychological and physical health, as well as your genetic predispositions.

We are all moving around our physical limitations. When we recognize someone a block away it is often their movement pattern that distinguishes them first. How we walk and move through life is idiosyncratic. Traumatic injury, such as a physical accident or an emotional wound becomes part of our structure.

Consider an ankle sprain. In response to pain, we hold the ankle rigid. This internal bracing is an unconscious and instinctual – we do it to avoid more pain. In a matter of weeks, the fascia, the fabric of the body that organizes the structure, adapts by shortening. This shortening becomes a part of our structural pattern. The fascial shortening influences our movement patterns and our pattern of organization.

What happens when the ankle sprain heals? The fascial shortening remains and stays with us. Without therapeutic intervention the new pattern often remains with us throughout our life. Our freedom of movement (range of motion) becomes  limited by the injury and the internal “repair.”

Psychic injuries are also formative of the structure. We often absorb sexual violence into our physical and emotional bodies. The experiences that we are unable to process become “stuck places” in the structure. Young children who become chronically embarrassed will often go through their lives with their shoulders elevated and rolled in, and their head forward.

This defensive posture actually becomes cemented into the structure. The pectoral and upper trapezius fascia shortens and thickens. We may carry these structural changes throughout our lives. Both the ankle sprain and the embarrassment create chronic holding patterns that influence how we stand, move, feel and think.

It is with great tenacity that we propel ourselves forward into space despite our physical and emotional wounds. Our survival depends on our ability to move. We find inventive and unique movement patterns to compensate for our losses.

These compensations come at a cost. Sometimes, the price we pay is the loss of efficiency. It takes extra energy to stay upright and to move when the body is not well aligned. Sometimes, we pay with the loss of confidence. Emotional trauma becomes lodged in the structure.

Rolfing supports the structure to become better balanced. The Rolfer uses deep pressure to release the chronic shortening in the fascia. As the tensions in the fascial network become more balanced, the structure becomes more upright. The stuck places become “unstuck.”

The implications of releasing these chronic shortenings from old injuries are far reaching. As the body changes and becomes more open, the heart and mind changes too, inevitably. 

Rolfers use a ten session format to work progressively through the structure. Each session works on a different part of the body. Our goals include helping you become more vertical and upright, with openness and span. Ultimately, we want to help you become more comfortable in your own skin.

Five Element Acupuncture is also a wonderful tool for addressing old wounds and creating balance within the structure. Each area of chronic holding is present in our energetic field as an energetic block. As the acupuncturist removes each of these blocks, the body and the mind and heart move towards balance. Change within the structure offers great possibility and promise for change within the heart and mind.