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Part Two: How Rolfing Improved My Energy Levels & Sleep

In Part One, I explained how I found myself in Certified Rolfer Sibyl Darrington’s clinic and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. It turns out this wasn’t quite the case. Here, I am going to try and explain what Rolfing did for me and why it has been just so transformative.

Rolfing Practice UK Hand Motions

Rolfer Sibyl’s personal assessment of me

It transpires that whilst I stand in a ‘strong’ and ‘grounded’ way, I am quite left-leaning. The outer sides of my legs also really take the brunt and this transfers a lot of pressure to my hips. My more left-sided balance, combined with this outer leg strain, places a lot of pressure on my right hip (the one I explained was a bit stiff from carrying children). My right shoulder is also not level with the left shoulder; it is sky high in fact probably from regularly having to tote a laptop around town as well as school bags in the morning. My toes slightly grip the ground.

The Process

I had to stand at the beginning of each session in my underwear, standing front, back and side ways, and then walk to and fro. Sibyl noted her observations and asked me how I was feeling. Then Sibyl applied her Rolfing technique on me with each session based around the framework laid out in Dr Ida Rolf’s Ten Series. Sibyl adapted this however to her own personal style and my own personal situation and feedback.

Being Rolfed is more dynamic than a massage; at times I had to stretch, stand, sit, lie or breathe in a particular way while Sibyl rolfed me. Sometimes I was asked to also visualise, for example ‘gaze out in front of you as if to an expanding horizon’, or ‘gently move your heel towards me whilst imagining a thin thread pulling your toe towards you’. I found the visualisation work combined with the fascial (connective tissue) massage particularly powerful.

Rolfing is a mix of massage without oil, osteopathy and mindfulness. I would describe the sensation of having my fascia worked on (the really tense areas) as an intense burning or ‘scratchy’ feeling which quickly subsides. There is a certain artistry in the way Sibyl works. I sometimes felt like clay in the hands of a sculptor, being gently moulded while Sibyl occasionally stood back to appraise her work. Certainly, I am not sure now that I could ever be content with just a regular massage after experiencing Rolfing, it felt much more profound.

At the end of each session, I was asked to walk across the room a few times with Sibyl observing me. I was usually deliciously spaced out at this time to feel self-conscious, although I found my strides getting longer and the room smaller as the weeks passed.

The results

There have innumerable positive changes however the easiest way for me to encapsulate them is as follows:

  • My right hip: session three was immensely powerful. I really felt that I was like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz when he is reunited with oil. My hips feel as good as new and I have much greater flexibility and ‘fluidity’ now. I can really understand why professional dancers and athletes so value Rolfing.

  • Greater awareness: at the end of the very first session, my arms felt really heavy and wanted to hang down like pendulums. It was a gorgeous feeling and I realize now just how strained they were, particularly the right arm and shoulder. I am now more careful to balance weight when I am carrying heavy items, and I also use my left hand more when scrolling down the phone or laptop screen.

  • Better balance: immediately after my first Rolfing session, I found my body leaning to the right more. I was far more aware of the weight that I put on my left leg and foot and it felt as though my right side was trying to auto–correct with an invisible gravitational pull/thread. Now I find myself shifting between my right and my left sides to maintain balance. I call it ‘subconscious mindfulness’, as once you experience real balance you really want to keep it!

  • Improved sleep: I was previously only able to sleep on my left side after having two children. Now I find myself wanting to sleep on every side as well as on my back. I sleep much better as a result of having greater freedom of movement.

  • Higher energy levels: in Session 5, I discover that I have only been walking with three quarters of my full leg potential. Walking actually starts deep inside the waist. With the new movement and fluidity in my hips, my legs feel like they are really slicing through the air. I stand and walk with my legs closer together now and feel so much more energetic and youthful as a result. I find I swim faster too.

  • Improved posture: I have always been conscious of my posture as I am tall, but I swear my back is straighter and I am taller. I still find myself exploring new ways of sitting as Sibyl encouraged.

  • More relaxed: I feel more flexible or ‘fluid’. I am more inclined to let certain things (usually the small niggles) slide more. I am guilty of setting myself ridiculously high standards sometimes but the world has not collapsed as a result and if anything, functioned better - people adapt around you if you give them the space. Rolfing teaches you all about space.

  • More confident: being more aware of the physical boundaries of my body has made me feel better equipped to withstand external stressors. Also the work that Sibyl did to release tightness in my jaw in Session 7 unexpectedly released tension which may have been residual from having Selective Mutism in my primary school years in France. I now think Rolfing can benefit children with anxiety generally.

In nutrition, I now realise we focus a lot on the physiological processes or ‘software’ of the body, and have only a surface understanding of the anatomical structures or ‘hardware’. In focusing on the internal scaffolding (the fascia or connective tissue) - the internal web that permeates our entire body, every bone and every organ - Rolfing really transcends the ‘soft-’ and the ‘hard’ ware, making it an exciting and, in my mind, truly holistic therapy that deserves far greater attention.

We upgrade our technology nowadays without a second thought, however what Rolfing has taught me is that it never too late to recalibrate oneself. I only wish I had discovered it sooner.

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