For those of us who have passed the half century mark, the word “Rolfing™” conjures up some strange amalgam of hippie happiness and sacrificial torture.
No wonder, because this form of bodywork was christened at Esalen, the legendary consciousness-expanding center in Big Sur. And in the early years, people who got Rolfed™ talked a lot about how much it hurt.
Biochemist Ida Rolf developed the technique of Rolfing™, and named it after herself. Some say it all started with a horse. Ida had been kicked by a horse and afterwards suffered symptoms of acute pneumonia. Her symptoms were relieved not by drugs but by bodywork. She figured out how to heal herself and others.
The first person I met who had been “Rolfed™” told me it “hurt like hell” but he loved it. I always suspected that he was more than a little bent, so this didn’t make Rolfing™ any more attractive to me. I had no need for it, no interest in it and no desire to experience it. That was back in the 80s.
Fast forward thirty years, when something happened to me to change my perspective. I broke my back, as loyal readers of my blog know. Before my accident, I was fit, so I expected to heal quickly. I’m tough, so I expected to get back in the saddle quickly. I fully (and naively) expected that I would be the same rider I had been before my fall. I was wrong on all counts.
Sure, my skeleton mended. But the collateral damage that all the doctors ignored — the muscles and tendons and ligaments that had also suffered when my back broke — had been injured along with my spine and continued to deteriorate as I spent my days immobilized in a back brace.
When I finally got back in the saddle, my body didn’t work the way it used to. I was crooked and stiff and slow and every jarring motion sent a small shock wave up my spine. I got a sheepskin seat saver. But I had lost my seat.