The reset button for your body.
NEW HAVEN ROLFING
"Get the system sufficiently resilient so that it is able to change, and it will change. It doesn't have to be forced. It's that forcing that you have to avoid at all costs."
Dr. Ida Rolf
Rolfing is a form of manual therapy within the field of Structural Integration. Its goal is to open, align, and balance the body primarily by working in the fascia, or connective tissue.
In Rolfing our goal is to unwind the less-than-helpful patterns that have been imprinted through your lifetime. We do this because this creates deeper and longer lasting change, which ultimately transforms your body into a better self-healing mechanism.
Rolfing differs from other forms of bodywork in a few key ways. First view bodies as if they are a built like a suspension bridge on the inside (more specifically we think of bodies as biotensegrity structures). To give a vastly simplified analogy, if you picture the Golden Gate bridge in your mind’s eye, the reason why you would drive over that bridge is because every single cable is doing its job. If that weren’t the case- if some were too short and others too long- you would never think of driving on it. Alas, in our bodies we often have “cables”, or lines of support in gravity, that are too short or too long, which leaves us with compensatory patterns. These compensatory patterns cause us to be prone to injury, chronic pain, poor posture, limitations to mobility or hypermobility, and a generally revved up nervous system.
Rolfing addresses this by working in the connective tissue (rather than gliding over muscle bellies) to unglue the areas that have become short, dense, and adhered, as well as to wake up the areas that have fallen asleep on the job.
In short, Rolfing is very specific, strategic, and holistic in how it approaches the body.
WHO IS ROLFING FOR?
Rolfing is a good choice for people who are dealing with pain or discomfort, injuries that beget other injuries and heal slowly or not at all, chronic stress, and people dealing with repetitive overuse and postural strain.
Rolfing is also widely utilized simply to help people get in touch with a deeper sense of their bodies in order to experience more ease and fluidity of movement.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I’ve worked with people aged 3 to 80, with those who are coping with significant challenges such as neurological conditions, or severe trauma from accidents and injury, as well as those who are in excellent health but are interested in Rolfing to enhance their athletic performance, to deepen their personal journey through bodywork, or to just plain improve their posture.
It’s a pretty diverse group. However, through this broad group I can say that there has been a theme that runs through most everyone’s story: what I call the domino experience. The domino experience is what it sounds like; usually a person starts off feeling less-than-better with a specific ‘thing’. It could be pain that popped up and surprised you like neck spasms or low back pain, or an injury or other event that knocked you for a loop. Nonetheless, what I’m trying to get at is that there’s a ‘first thing’ which usually goes through fluctuations of feeling better and worse over time. Occasionally it even disappears. Then, with no warning, the first thing flares up and it often brings along a friend: the new ‘thing’ or ‘things’.
This “structural domino effect” is incredibly common. Its root cause is a myriad of compensatory patterns that have flown under the radar for most of one’s life until they got too agitated to be ignored any longer.
At your first Rolfing session we’ll spend the first ten or fifteen minutes going over your health history and talking about your goals for the work. Once we’ve had some time to chat, I’ll observe you walking and standing still. This helps me to see what patterns and compensations are happening in your body so that I can get a sense for what you need in order to achieve greater balance and openness.
Then I will give you a chance to undress down to your underwear (bra and underwear for women) and to get on the table. The work itself is very slow work, and so the session proceeds that way- with me tracking your response either with my hands and eyes and/or by checking in with you verbally.
We work on the body differently in each session, but it’s not compartmentalized work. For example, we wouldn’t progress from one session to the next as if you are a stack of blocks; working first on the feet, in the next session on the knees, the next session after that is the hips, etc. Rather we’re working related lines of the body as they support you in gravity.
One way I frequently describe it is that Rolfing is like the chess of bodywork in that it’s very strategic. If I do some work on your foot, for example, my next step before doing anything else is to track the impact that the foot work had on the rest of your body. By noticing how the opening in your foot impacted your body, I’ll decide what to do next. Besides tracking how you’re responding, I also determine how to proceed in a session based on knowledge of fascial (connective tissue) anatomy.
Sessions are $170 and last one hour. A first session (which is the same rate) usually runs closer to 75 minutes to allow additional time for the health intake and postural analysis.
Please note that on the online booking form each session is designated as 75 minutes, but it’s only set up that way so that I have a time cushion to keep me from running late for anyone.
Unfortunately, no. In the state of Connecticut Rolfing is licensed as a form of massage therapy (though in the bodywork world we are not considered a form of massage therapy but rather a form of Structural Integration- but clearly different laws for every form of manual therapy in every state would be challenging so we get put under certain umbrellas...) As such, we are not covered by nearly all insurance companies these days.
On the bright side, any health care savings plan that you have set up can often be used for Rolfing. I can provide receipts for the deduction.(*This depends on each individual HSA, so you'll have to check with your HSA in advance to see if Rolfing could be submitted.)
Because people will be asked to move around some during a session, Rolfing is done partially clothed. Most people wear underwear that they’re comfortable in (for women a bra and underwear). If you prefer more coverage, you can also wear athletic shorts and, for women, a tank top. Long and short sleeved shirts, pants (even yoga pants), and shorts of a thicker cargo-type material don't work.
Everyone’s favorite question to ask about Rolfing! First let me say that nearly every new client who comes to see me arrives nervous and leaves saying, “I don’t know what I was so worried about…”
While Rolfing is deep work that can sometimes feel intense (though that lasts briefly most of the time), it is not fast, rough, abusive, or what I would call "painful". The reason for putting "painful" in quotations is because there’s a very clear distinction between “good pain”, or pain that comes from opening an area that is stuck and glued together, and “bad pain”, which is what we usually think of when we hear the word “pain”. This is pain from injury. Rolfing does not cause this kind of pain. “Bad pain” is what causes most people to seek out this work.
Thus, in addressing areas that are already in pain (of the bad variety) and opening up areas that have significant compensations, it can be briefly uncomfortable. That said, it is important to bear in mind that Rolfing is not so much something I do to you, as something that happens in partnership. That means that if some portion of the work is too intense for you, there is always another way to approach it. Always.
In case you're interested in a little history, to be fair, this rumor about Rolfing and pain does come from somewhere. When Rolfing was first being taught, it was an emerging modality that was characterized as “deep” and because of this practitioners often made “deep” and “push harder” synonymous, when the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. This way of working gave Rolfing a reputation for being painful, and unfortunately that reputation has lingered even as the work has evolved. Pushing harder than necessary only makes the body tense up, which means it is counterproductive since you can’t access tissue layers on a tensed up body. To work deeply means that you have to work very patiently and slowly. Current fascial research has helped us to understand just how we can most effectively effect tissue (we now know less is more for example), and current education and practice reflect that.
Oftentimes words aren’t the best at articulating physical sensation, but I’ll give it my best shot. The sensation varies quite a bit through the session from very light and subtle, to stronger pressure that, at its most intense, can feel slightly burning-esque. My clients also frequently describe feeling like they are in a deep stretch, feeling pleasant tingling and the warmth of blood flow returning to an area, and feeling pleasant “un-snagging” or “un-hooking” sensations at areas that are distal from where we are directly working.
Because of the variation in intensity throughout a session, people don’t feel overwhelmed. As your practitioner, I’m always tracking your response and working very consciously with you. As I mentioned, this work also happens very slowly. Watching a Rolfing session is like watching paint dry, so there aren’t any sudden movements or surprises.
In general Rolfing is best at treating things that are not in the acute stage. What that means is that if you’ve had a recent (within the last week or two) injury that involves tissue damage, such as a broken bone or a sprain with a good deal of acute swelling, or a surgery, then it’s best to wait until your initial healing response has a chance to do its job while you follow up with your doctor or surgeon through their acute treatment protocol.
Those who are currently undergoing treatment for cancer are also not good candidates for Rolfing, though I work with many clients who are in remission from cancer.
Lastly, in my experience neuropathy caused via chemical means, such as from chemotherapy, does not respond to Rolfing.
*If you’re reading this and are disheartened because one of these conditions describes you and you don’t know what to do next, don’t hesitate to contact me. I have a referral list of outstanding practitioners in a myriad of specialities who may be able to assist you. Each situation is unique, so I prefer to talk to you individually so that I can suggest what can be of the most benefit to your situation.
Dr. Rolf designed Rolfing to happen in a ten-series format as a way of ensuring that the whole body is attended to. It was also primarily created as a teaching tool so that her students could start thinking and seeing structurally. Her reason for doing this was to ensure that clients will have significant and long lasting change in how the body looks, moves, and feels. Ultimately as Rolfers we’re always looking to transform people’s bodies into better self-healing mechanisms.
Because I have been in practice for a number of years I am not particularly rigid or conventional about the ten series. As one of my teachers once said, “We must not cling too tightly to our models.” However I still find that people benefit from a series of sessions that looks at how that person is utilizing or not utilizing lines of fascial support in the body.
What I usually tell people is to try between 1 and 3 sessions so that they can get a feel for how they respond to the work and we can go from there.
When people first seek out Rolfing for a particular issue they usually do a series of sessions spaced one to two weeks apart until their issue and their alignment has resolved or improved. For most this still winds up being in the neighborhood of ten sessions. People have spaced this initial grouping of sessions as far apart as one a month, but sometimes at that interval we lose some of our momentum in making the changes happen. Then again, sometimes it works out just fine. We will have a better idea of what interval works for you as we see how you respond to sessions.
After people have done this initial series of work to get their body more fully aligned, people then do “tune up” sessions at whatever interval makes sense for them. Some people like to have a regular session set up monthly or bi-monthly, while others will only want or need to get tune up sessions a handful of times per year.
The only reason we bother being so particular about attending to the whole is because all things are connected (honest, it’s not just an airy-fairy idea, if your arm is in a different room than the rest of you, something pretty lousy has happened…) and without attention paid to the connections between things, whatever is symptomatic for you can’t heal fully. This means that ultimately you would spend only more rather than less time visiting practitioners like me, as the Band-aid approach is never the most efficient way to deal with any problem.
For example, say you come in for neck pain. As I look at your posture, I can see that you’re holding your head way out in front of you. Depending on the size of your head, that’s 8 to 12 lbs suspended out in space that your neck has to work very hard to support. Because your head is ideally designed to be effortlessly supported by your spine, this forward head alignment means that certain muscles are supporting significantly more weight than they are designed to. They rebel by going into spasm. If I were to address this by taking the compartmentalized view, I would work only on those particular tight muscles. Unfortunately, if no attention is paid to changing the orientation of your head and neck, those neck muscles are going to get really tight again, really quickly.
As Rolfers, we’re much more interested in getting your head in alignment with the rest of your body so that when the neck muscles relax, they can stay that way. To do that we’ve got to look at a base of support for your head through your feet, pelvis, core, thorax, shoulder girdle- you get the idea- the whole body. At the end of the day, we Rolfers are a pretty pragmatic bunch. Our primary goal is just to see things get better and stay better for as long as possible.
HOW I CAME TO BE A ROLFER
I grew up with chronic pain and neurological challenges as a result of a birth injury (cord strangulation). By the time I was in my early twenties I was faced with the reality of a very broken down and painful body. Unable to open my mouth, turn my head to the right, or to bear much weight on my right leg, I worked with numerous doctors. One of my main doctors thankfully recommended that I seek out bodywork, and that led me to find Rolfing. (Thank you Dr. Murad Padamsee at the Tufts Craniofacial Pain Center!).
After (and during) my initial ten-series of Rolfing sessions I experienced a pain-free body for the first time in my 23 years. Elated, inspired, and deeply grateful to this work, I knew I wanted to train in Rolfing and share it with others who might be struggling similarly.
Hi I'm Brooke Thomas.
I graduated from The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado in 2000 and have been practicing Rolfing since that time.
I have had practices in Napa and Sonoma, California and Brooklyn, New York before settling in New Haven where I have been practicing since 2009.
WHAT CLIENTS SAY
I was tired of my neck/back issues ruling my life, walking around with pinched nerves, a stiff neck, and making emergency physical therapy appointments just so I could deal with the pain and try to return to work.
It was at this point that I crossed paths with Brooke, and decided to give Rolfing a try.
I found immediate relief and within a few sessions, it was clear that my problem was losing to Brooke’s healing powers: my pain was gone, and I didn’t feel like I was tiptoeing around a chronic problem any longer. Now, 4 years later, I still have not had a single eruption of what was once a monthly issue.
Brooke is obviously a skilled healer – but she didn’t just treat my neck – she addressed my issues as a whole person. She helped me sort out habits that may have been contributing to my problem, taught me exercises to help when away from her, coached me on the anxiety I endured due to it, and clearly articulated the mechanics of the problem and the solution as she saw it. She does all this while dropping amusing witticisms which keep you chuckling and looking forward to seeing her again. I would return to her in a heartbeat.
As a Rolfing practitioner Brooke’s professionalism and skill had a profound effect on my life. I am not exaggerating when I say that my experience with Rolfing was life changing.
Living in the world of bodyworkers and health care professionals I have had the opportunity to meet and work with more than my share.
To me one of the finest traits a bodyworker can have is humility. When someone with humility puts their hands on you the transmission is genuine and heartfelt.
It is a huge distinction in our business as those with ego are often wrapped up in how they can fix you and what they can do for you. Someone such as Brooke is tapped into a much deeper energy, one of healing and grace.
I have also had the good fortune of referring many of my clients and students to Brooke. I never heard a complaint from any of them and almost always heard amazing comments both about Brooke and from the results of the treatments.
As a practitioner who refers clients to other professionals, the value of having someone that you know and trust completely to refer clients too cannot be understated. The work we do is all about trust and having Brooke on my team was a guarantee that that trust would never be broken.
I can’t imagine anyone I would recommend more highly than Brooke.
I went to Brooke for Rolfing after suffering multiple joint injuries and working with a long history of scoliosis.
Prior to meeting her, I had some concerns that Rolfing would be too challenging, or quite simply “scary.” WIth Brooke, it was not. Suffice to say that she is one of the best bodyworkers I have had the pleasure of working with.
I learned so much about my body and felt that the ten sessions completely changed my relationship to my customary aches and pains.
Brooke is a lovely person who immediately makes you feel comfortable with her warm and compassionate manner and grounded presence. She makes the whole experience safe and comfortable.
In short, she allayed any fears I may have had about Rolfing.I have sent friends to her with utter confidence, knowing that not only would they be in safe hands, but that Brooke would change their lives, physically, spiritually and emotionally.