To penetrate the hardest armor,
use the softest touch.
Yielding melts resistance
Density is filled by light.
Good work accomplished without effort.
In silence the teachings are heard;
in stillness the world is transformed.
In the early 1980's I worked as an aide in a nursing home for the elderly. It did not take me
long to realize that the nursing home was a study in out of balance behaviors and posture from
from undeveloped aspects of the patient's personality. As people move towards the the end of their
lives, their fascial holding patterns tend to dry up and become more rigid. For instance, fear
very often settles into the flexors as people pull back from their environment.
There was one individual who was rigidly confined in the fetal position. We would pick him up
and put him into his wheelchair in the shape of a little ball. Many people walked around with
vacant stares; seemingly nobody home in their abandoned physical space suits. The question always
arose in my mind about their embodiment in their early years. What deterioration of systems,
mental or physical, had turned them into shuffling withdrawal from themselves and each other.
Had they ever shown healthier connection to themselves and other people? Why did Lucy incessantly
scream the rhyme about the cow that jumped over the moon at the top of her lungs while Jack stood
in a corner like a stuck robot out of options? Sometimes you could sense the reasons behind the
anomalies and sometimes not. I suspected that Lucy's rhyme had carved a particularly deep groove
into her consciousness as a girl. Jack would stand in a corner until turned around and then he
would shuffle the whole length of the hall only to become stranded in the opposite corner 300
feet away. For Jack it seemed to be a way to express his inability to really go anywhere, but
also a way to get people to give attention to him.
The amazing thing was that these people also had astonishing attributes. one might have
perfectly shaped feet, legs and hips and then have a huge widows hump. Another might have a fine
right side the left withered, a possible disorganization in the male/female aggressive/passive
aspects of personality. One man would scream in anger and try to hit the nurses with hands that
would not release from formed fists.
These experiences made me wonder, what is holism? It became clear to me that if one did not
pay attention to developing the four-body system of, mind, body, emotions and spirit, in a
balanced way, whatever unresolved issues a person had would become glaring issues in old age.
But even further, it it appeared these people were not grounded enough to promote balance.
Whether the issue was mental, spiritual or emotional, the tissue registered it all in very
personal and and physical ways. After a while it became clear to me that when one aspect became
out of balance that it began to pull on the other aspects. So, from a therapeutic standpoint
when someone experiences a stress, the way that it enters the body is important. As Rolfers our
main therapeutic way of intervention is is through the physical body. We can point with
intention in the direction of the initial issue, if it is not primarily physical, and create a
strong enough, grounded enough, physical body to effect healing the other aspects within the
In his book "Spacious Body", Jeffery Maitland defined "Rolfing as a form of
wholistic, integrative somatic education and manipulation that deals with the whole person in
gravity". He then went on to say that "the wholistic paradigm is devoted to enhancing
the natural tendency of the whole person to seek higher and higher orders of functioning and wellbeing at every level of
existence from the mind to the body to the spirit. The goal of Rolfing or
any holistic principal is somatic integration".