I Got Rolfed And I Liked It

This year I finally crossed off something I’ve had on my to-do list since I was 20: I got Rolfed. Rolfing, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is a type of bodywork “that reorganizes the connective tissues, called fascia, that permeate the entire body.” If massage therapy addresses the muscles, and chiropractic work addresses the joints, Rolfing focuses on everything in between, literally. It’s thought to greatly improve posture, release tension, alleviate pain, restore flexibility, and generally help someone feel more energized and comfortable in his or her body. I first heard of Rolfing in one of my college acting classes. Or maybe it was “movement” class. Did you know that’s a class you can take in college? Basically, for two hours a day, two days a week, you get to stretch out, dance around, roll on mats all over the floor and pound on your classmates’ backs in warm-up circles. Hell yeah, I was a theater minor. It beat the hell out of taking classes that might actually prepare me to make a living. At least, it did at the time.

You know how you can get a massage and it hurts so good you can’t wait to have another? Yeah, Rolfing isn’t like that. It’s not a pleasant kind of pain … but it worked.

Anyway, Rolfing. Back when I first heard about this particular bodywork in college, I was way too poor to afford a course of it myself. It’s an expensive venture, to be sure, and a full course of 10 one-hour sessions can set you back anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500. But I made a mental note of it and I researched it a bit more on my own and decided if I were ever in a place financially where I could afford to try it out, I would. That time finally came this spring when I decided that as a newly married woman living in a two-income household in a rent-controlled apartment with no kids, no mortgage, no car payment, and God bless the USA, no freaking wedding to pay for anymore, there was no better time to do this thing than the present.

Besides that, over the last few years, probably as a result of my job where I spend hours upon hours hunched over a computer, I’ve been having a lot of pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders. It had gotten so bad in recent months, I could barely turn my head. Massage helped, but only temporarily. A day after an appointment, I was back where I started. Yoga helped, too, but not as swiftly or dramatically as I’d like. I needed big results and I needed them, like, yesterday. The time was ripe for Rolfing.

So I did what any modern woman who needed a referral would do and I read reviews on Yelp. A week later, I was standing in my underwear in a nondescript office space in Midtown Manhattan in front of a man I’d just met while he assessed my body from head to toe. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly modest person, but I generally wait until after the first or second date for this kind of thing. Still, I’d done my homework and I knew what to expect going in and this was just part of the deal. I also knew things would be getting much more intimate if I continued with a full course.

As I stood in front of him, the Rolfer had me do a full turn-around and asked me to stand like I’d stand if I were waiting in line. Then he had me walk around the small room as he inspected the way I moved. Again, definitely not my comfort zone, but I sucked it up. When he asked me what my goals were for the course, I told him I hoped to alleviate the pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders, release some tension, and “feel more awake and alive in my body.” Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure what I meant by that last part, but I knew how I felt walking down the streets of Manhattan — agitated, closed off and maybe overly protective of my personal space — and I desperately wanted to feel … different. “I think you’ll really enjoy Rolfing,” the Rolfer replied.

The one thing that’s most associated with Rolfing by people who know anything about it is pain. And I’m not talking about the pain it’s supposed to alleviate. I mean, the process itself is thought to be incredibly uncomfortable and as much as I’d like to say that’s just a misconception, it isn’t entirely. My sessions hurt. You know how you can get a massage and it hurts so good you can’t wait to have another? Yeah, Rolfing isn’t like that. It’s not a pleasant kind of pain. While most sessions were a tolerable “4” on a pain scale of 1-10, there was one session in particular that hurt so bad I almost gnawed my lip off and ended up crying on my walk home (for some reason, my pride kept me from crying during the session). But I went back the next week, and the week after that and the week after that, and not because I felt obligated to (I didn’t), but because it worked.

Last night was my seventh and final session — my Rolfer said I really didn’t need the full 10 sessions; my wallet and I agreed with him — and I have to say: I haven’t felt this pain-free in years. I can move my head again! Not only that, but my posture is pretty perfect. (Admittedly, it was good to begin with. Childhood ballet classes will do that to a girl, I guess.) I feel more limber and flexible; I’m sleeping better; and I’m not so agitated walking down the street. Dare I say? I feel more awake in my body! And this may be TMI, but I’m having better-than-usual sex with my husband, too. Oh, did I mention he’s been getting Rolfed as well? After he saw what it was doing to me, he decided he needed to check it out himself. He has notoriously bad posture — like old Jewish man posture — but after four sessions, he’s standing straight with his shoulders back and looks about five years younger. Seriously! Just the other day, someone asked if he’d been working out or something. “Nope,” he replied smiling, “Just getting Rolfed.”

Hey, maybe those college theater classes weren’t such a waste of time, after all.