What is Rolfing? An interview with Ea Holm

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I have decided to share with you from time to time some insight from my fellow movement and bodywork specialists. So, to kick off this series of interviews, I would like to introduce you to Ea Holm, a Certified Rolfer and Licenced Massage Therapist from Denmark.
Ea Holm working her Rolfing magic on a client.

Ea completed her Massage therapy training in New York in 2003 at the Swedish Institute of massage therapy and continued to work as a Massage therapist in New York and London for the next 7 years doing both therapeutic and clinical massage. In the search for new skills to develop her work she came across Rolfing and fell in love with the ‘Rolfing touch’ and the way it could create longer lasting postural changes. She embarked upon the Rolfing training in Munich and graduated as a certified Rolfer from the Rolf Institute in 2010. 
Funnily, I just recently found out that, being from Munich myself, the European Rolfing Association has her seat in the same building than my brother’s architecture office. And yet, Ea and I first met in Hong Kong where she is now runs a successful Rolfing and clinical massage Practice.


Ea, Can you explain in 2-3 sentences what Rolfing is?

Rolfing is a holistic type of bodywork that aims to realign the structure of the body. During the course of 10 sessions we use soft tissue manipulation techniques to re-balance the fascia (connective tissue) that permeates the entire body as well as movement re-education techniques to achieve freer effortless posture and movement..

What are its main benefits?

Rolfing can change a persons posture to become more effortless, upright and comfortable. Movement becomes freer and more fluid as tension and strain patterns are relived. People who have been rolfed tend to stand and move with more surety, stability and less strain, breathe more easily and deeply and move with more ease and grace. Long-term injuries that were based in postural problems often resolve as the body is rebalanced. Emotional issues and trauma stored in the tissues can also resolve during the process and often clients report increased energy and a more positive outlook on life.

What makes Rolfing different to a sport or deep tissue massage?
A deep tissue or sports massage aims to take tension out of tense muscles. Often a client will complain of tension in a certain area and the Massage therapist will work on that particular area to resolve the issue. A Rolfer will be aware of the problem area, but will work with the aim to re-balance the structure of the entire body rather than targeting the problem head on. The problem will then most likely resolve as the structure becomes balanced. Resolving injuries this way can be more time consuming, but the results will last longer, and sometimes forever.
 
What brought you to Rolfing?
I had been a massage therapist for 7 years when I started my Rolfing training. I felt frustrated that my massage clients kept coming back with the same aches and pains every week, even though I had relieved the pain the previous week. At the same time I was struggling with a nagging recurring pain in my right hip. A friend of a friend offered me to be the demonstration model of a Rolfing course that was taking place in London where I was living at the time. I had my 10 sessions; my hip pain resolved and I fell in love with Rolfing. A year later I started my Rolfing training in Munich.
 
There is a rumor that Rolfing is painful – is that true?
Rolfing can be intense, but it is less painful these days than it used to be. When Rolfing was developed Rolfers used a lot of pressure and strength to lengthen shortened areas of the body’s fascia. This approach is effective, but as rolfing developed and ideas were exchanged with other areas of bodywork such as the  osteopathic and the craniosacral communities, the Rolfers realized that more subtle techniques can be as effective. You will find Rolfers who work with a lot of pressure and Rolfers who work more gently, depending on when or where the Rolfer was trained and what his/her preference is. Personally I do both. Certain bodies are very responsive to the subtle techniques, while others call for direction through deeper pressure. Different areas in the same body may also respond differently and I will therefore choose to work in different ways on them. I will however always work within the clients pain-limit. If the area I am working on tenses up because of pain I will back off until the client relaxes and I can resume the work on the area more gently. I can not achieve anything if the body is tensing up in pain.
 
What types of people take Rolfing sessions? Is there such thing as a ‘typical’ client?
Anybody can benefit from Rolfing. I have clients with serious injuries and postural problems that desperately seek relief of pain that bothers them on a regular basis and I have clients that are dancers or yoga teachers who have no serious problems, but who want to fine-tune their bodies to achieve better movement or perfect a particular pose that they are working on.
 
Rolfing sessions are quite costly (often more than a regular massage). Why is that?
The benefits of Rolfing last longer and can be potentially life changing. Most people who receive massage sessions have them on a regular, often weekly basis. After your 10 Rolfing sessions you might need an occasional touch up session, but you should not need to come back every week, because the change in posture and movement patterns will reduce the daily aches and pains you would normally go for a massage to relieve. Another reason for the higher cost is that the rolfer uses more energy in the sessions. Having been a massage therapist before I became a Rolfer I can say that I get mentally more tired after doing a Rolfing session than after a massage session because the subtle techniques requires a lot of intense mental attention in order to communicate with the clients body. For that reason I can not do as many Rolfing sessions in a day as I could do massage sessions.
 
You have co-hosted two Pilates and Yoga retreats – how can Rolfing benefit a person’s Pilates or Yoga Practice?
Yoga and Pilates aim for alignment and graceful movement, just like Rolfing. I always encourage my clients to do yoga or pilates (or something simliar), because these practices work to align the body and strengthen the core and therefore complement the work I do very well. The changes that take place in the body during the Rolfing process can really be felt during a yoga/pilates class. Poses that were previously difficult are suddenly easy and the experience of using the body with the structural changes will make it easier for the nervous system to remember the changes and keep them. Rolfing supports a yoga/pilates practice and vice versa.

In the world of bodywork, do you have an idol, mentor or other person who has marked you? How important is it for you to have such a mentor?

Ida Rolf is obviously the hero of all Rolfers as she discovered the importance of fascia in the body and came up with the 10 session process. Her method is brilliant and the more Rolfing I do, the more I start to understand the cryptic quotes she left behind. But besides her I admire Thomas Myers a lot. He has done very valuable research for the Rolfing community and the world of body workers in general. He conducted a number of dissections to determine the directional lines of pulling that are present in the fascia in all bodies. After carefully determining these lines he came up with a map of lines that is very similar to the meridian lines of Chinese medicine. When the methods of Western medicine comes to similar conclusions that Eastern medicine came to 4000 years ago then I think we might be on the right track. Reading Thomas Myers books gave me a lot of inspiration and faith in the work I do. I think this type of inspiration is important, especially when you live in a place like Hong Kong where we are only 2 Rolfers and nobody has ever heard about Rolfing, so it is difficult to find inspiration through the Rolfing community in Europe and the States.

Besides Rolfing, you dance, fly trapeze and do acro-yoga… do you need to be Rolfed as well?

Yes! All bodies are a work in progress. To improve in my many activities I can always use a fine-tuning session. I use the Rolfing principles in everything I do, but sometimes we need somebody else to remind us of the things we already know.

Comments

  1. great! I had to look up “fascia”, and I got Ida Rolf sorted out! thanks…

  2. Rolfing is great! 35 years ago it transformed my body and my life.

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