Rolfing Stories, Legends and Lore

In the late 1960’s, I audited and practitioned with Dr. Rolf at the River-house in Big Sur, after which I took the first Aston Patterning/Rolf Movement class with Judith Aston at Esalen. In 1972, I took a second practitioners class with Dr. Rolf at the Adams house at Esalen and in 1978, I audited with Michael Salveson in Berkley. Finally, in 1979 I took the Advanced Class with Dr. Rolf in Philadelphia. Today I maintain a practice in Structural Integration in Port Orchard, Washington and also teach continuing education classes for Structural Integrators.

I was on the Esalen Staff, teaching Esalen Massage when Fritz Perls discovered Rolfing and brought it to Esalen. Dr. Rolf was teaching in Los Angeles. She thought it might be interesting to train Hector Prestera, MD, who was the Esalen doctor. She thought there was a good chance he would have an open mind. As Hector and I were a couple, I went to LA to keep him company while he audited. One afternoon I stopped by class and Dr. Rolf wanted to meet me. So she and I had tea in the kitchen. I think she wanted to get away from the class and I was a handy excuse. I remember not saying much and not knowing how to make tea… she made it in a good brown English teapot with a cozy. We had some lovely cookies with the tea that someone from the class had baked for her. She seemed content. I thought her kind.

A few weeks later I asked her if I could train as a Rolfer. She had just announced that she was training no more women, no one under 140 pounds, and no more non-professionals. (i.e. Esalen folk) She already required everyone to be at least 26 years old and have good bone structure. She had just told Jim Asher that he was to go to college and get a degree before she would train him. I was expecting her to tell me something similar – if she accepted me at all – I did not meet any of her prerequisites. She looked me over for what seemed like a very, very long time, then she turned to Rosemary and said, “I’ll train her. Put her in the next class.”

The next class was in two weeks at Jan Brewer’s River house in the town of Big Sur. This was very soon – most of her students had been waiting up to a year for class openings. The River-house classes were to be back to back audit and practition for me. This was also unusual – she usually wanted students to have at least six months between auditing and practitioning.

Everyone was required to read at least three Anatomy books and write her a paper before class. I assumed I was supposed to do this as well and rather foolishly I set out to do just that. It took me a week of frantic reading to determine that I was not going to make it. I had managed only four pages – it had been necessary for me to read two thirds of the book to understand those first four pages. When I told her I couldn’t finish the anatomy books and write the paper in time, she favored me with one of her looks and then mildly said that she did not expect me to, and that I could write my paper for her later.

Auditors were supposed to be a bit adrift in those early classes, with the vague assignment of learning how to see, but I think I felt a bit more adrift than most. She would get a big change and look up from working to ask us.. “Now did you all see that?” For the first few weeks, I would cheerfully admit to seeing absolutely nothing… I decided that even if I didn’t learn to see, at least I would be honest.

When I got tired of trying to see, I picked up one of the many anatomy books in the room to try and learn something. She saw me and told me to put the book down. I did, though I thought she meant that I was to keep looking even if I was tired and saturated. The third time she told me to put the book down she added that if I picked up another anatomy book, she would throw me out of class.

Later that afternoon, she came over and sat down next to me and quietly told me that the reason she did not want me looking at the books was that she didn’t want me to know anatomy. She wanted me to learn Rolfing the same way she had. She had not known any anatomy when she figured out this work, she did not use it when she worked, and that what we worked on was not in the books. She said that she only learned anatomy to be able to talk to the doctors. She recommended that when I got out of class, the best use of the books was to look at the pictures for relationships and to find as many different views of an area as possible.

The first time I saw something change she was working on a third hour line, and I saw that femur move about an inch and a half. I grabbed the leg of the student next to me (Bill Williams). I was so excited, my voice was high and squeaky as I asked him, “Did you see that?… Did you see that?” Then I realized that “that” was exactly what I was supposed to be seeing. I let go of Bill’s leg with a whispered apology and settled back down into my chair. But I was blazing with excitement inside, and I started watching like a hawk – especially whenever Dr. Rolf would work.

In my practitioner training Dr Rolf trained me differently than anyone else in the class. She would stop me frequently and ask me where I was going next. I would point, and with each confirmation, my confidence grew. She let me feel the tissue before and after she worked. She also worked through my hands to give me an invaluable calibration for what it felt like to change tissue. She pointed out that there was a distinctive hissing sound when the speed was right with back-work and with ironing.

One of the biggest moments for me was when was working a third hour and I had a forearm above the trochanter and a fist below. She told me to stop right where I was and to not move anything. I did. She then asked me to tell her where it was that I was working. I looked at the situation, and the only logical choice was to pick one of my two contact points, but that was not where I was working. I was working in between those contact points. I decided to go with honesty and the totally impossible. Fully expecting ridicule, with a wince, I pointed to the spot in between. She sounded quite pleased as she told me; “That’s right.”

She tapped me on the shoulder to go sit down only once. This usually meant you were in disgrace, but this time she did it out of kindness. She thought I looked a bit tired and wanted to save me the effort, so she told me that she could see that I knew where I was going, and to go sit down and she would finish that up for me. I sat, and for a moment I had to fight back tears.

Afterwards Dr. Rolf came over and sat down next to me and said, “You really wanted to finish that, didn’t you?” I nodded because I didn’t trust my voice. She patted me on the knee and said, “ Well, next time I’ll let you.”

She let me finish my sessions, even if I ran over her strict time limit of an hour. I was frequently a half an hour over limit. She stopped me only once, saying that I could pick that up in another session because she wanted her lunch.

When I got better at changing tissue, I felt overwhelmed with the responsibility of being able to change tissue that much combined with my lack of knowledge of where it belonged. Dr. Rolf noticed and came over saying she could see something was bothering me. I told her that now that I knew how to change tissue this much, I was afraid I would leave someone in trouble because I did not know where right was. She told me, “If you follow the direction of the tissue you will never get anyone into trouble because it always goes home.”

Dr. Rolf advised us to become educators. She warned us that my generation were probably were going to be considered pioneers. The year of my first classes, we held the first meeting of Rolfers. We counted forty of us – worldwide.

She felt that Movement education was very important, and she told us she’d had to short the teaching of it for us. She wanted us to have more training in movement.

Dr. Rolf would ask the person she was working for movement with without her hands on to help her see where to work. She did this throughout the session, especially after getting a big change. She frequently stood people up and had them walk around to check her progress. A good portion of the time she was working hands-on she would ask them for their cooperation and help by calling for specific straight-line movements.

She often took extra time to educate people about their new structure, pointing out new function, orienting them to their line and to the sensation of suspension from the top of the head that characterizes the “sky hook”.

She emphasized that what we do is lengthen the body all over. As the cervical and lumbar curves got longer, she would direct the “Top of the head up, waistline back and elbows out.”

When we did a pelvic lift she specifically wanted us to say , “Just turn your tail under.”

For Elbows she would use the image of you lying on a large flat piece of paper with pencils tied onto your elbows. You were to draw a line straight out and straight in, taking care not to go so far out as to arc up. She also called the straight out movement “the New York subway elbow.” Imagine you are on the train and it is so crowded you can’t even bring your arms up. You have to poke with your elbow to get that guy to move off of your foot.

She said using the word straight made for better results in your work. She coached us to say: straight forward and straight back, straight up and straight down, and straight in and straight out.

Our job was to free up anything that kept the joints from being able to move straight.

She used straight-line movements in tracking.

These are the movements she “called for” when she “put it where it belonged and called for movement.”

She did say once that she had started with those straight-line movements and added in the hands-on connective tissue work.

During all my classes with her we had some time to experiment with and experience a little of the kind of movement education she wanted us to have. Arm and leg rotations and straight-line movements were taught . She had learned these “evolutionary movements’“ from Amy Cochran, DO, and taught them to Dorothy Nolte, her long time student and friend. They became the foundation for Rolf Movement work.

Once she did an afternoon for us on the subject of doing yoga with “Rolf lines.” She said she was a practitioner of “yog”. She pronounced it like yoga but without the “a”. She coached a model into using extension and awareness of the Rolf line while she did yog. To stretch the hamstring, the movement started from the top of the spine- relaxing over segment by segment. You might not get over as far, but you would run into what was short. In a sitting twist the turn started at the head and went one by one down the spine. Extension was very important to her in any of the yog postures. She told us to avoid headstands because we would not be able to maintain enough extension. Her comment was “If God had meant you to stand on your head, he would have put feet there.”

She told us that if anyone ever challenges you to see if you can tell if they have been Rolfed… and you can’t decide by looking at them, put your hand down on the floor (some padding under your hand is nice) and have them step on your hand as they walk across. If they have been Rolfed, they will feel lighter than you expect; if not, they will feel very heavy.

She told us she had Rolfed Greta Garbo. All went well until the 7th session in which Dr. Rolf’s work changed her profile. Now apparently Greta Garbo had no idea what made her a star. She had decided it was one particular side of her profile that had made her a star. She had one special camera man who took all of her close-ups, and her profile shots were always to be shot from that side. She was horrified, certain her career was over because her profile had been changed – she was going to sue! What saved Dr. Rolf – and the future of Rolfing – was that this special camera man told Greta Garbo that he thought she looked better.

“Fred Astaire had knees.” She thought knees seemed a rather poor design, and observed that they were always getting into trouble. She said that after she died and went to heaven, she was “going to have a word with the maker about knees.”

“Sabu the Jungle Boy had shoulders.” (very old movies)

To Dr. Rolf it was the incident that caused the damage that was important. She would inquire after the history of the trauma because she believed that the tissue would not change without the history coming to consciousness.

She told us about two main strategies she used to plan a session. In the first one she would get as far away from the trouble as she could and feed length to the area. She called this “beating the bushes for length”, or “scaring up length. The idea is to generate some slack so the damaged area can have room to change. The second strategy was to simply dive into the center of the problem. She was a bit more likely to use the first strategy.

One of the most useful pieces of information for me has been her idea of imagining a big glass plate. Hold it vertically and position it so that its plane passes through the place where you see the most trouble in the structure. Where that glass plate intersects at junctures up and down the gravity line are a likely places for the compensations to settle. It gives you your session to do.

Dr. Rolf did one strange and fascinating third hour. She said wanted to show us something interesting and that she was not sure why it worked. With her hands together so the insides of the index fingers touch, and the backs of the hands facing forward, using the second knuckle from in from the finger tip with primarily with the index and middle fingers, she pushed in and then separated both hands about an inch and a half. She repeated this every few inches up the body from the knee up to the ear. She worked at about the same depth all the way up and she was centered on the gravity line of the side (not the anatomical ideal mid-line) It surely was a lovely third-hour change.

For the tenth hour there was a test to see if you had done your job. With them sitting on the edge of the table or on the bench right next to the table, you stand up on the table behind them and put one hand on either side of the head, over the ears, with the fingers down. Carefully boost the head straight up a little bit and give the spine a gentle side-to-side shake. From above, watch the movement of the whole spine. If you have freed up all the spinal segments, the spine will undulate freely all the way down like a snake.

She often spoke about the phenomenon of “age getting trapped into the body with the trauma.” She spoke of “ten year old legs” and “three year old feet”. I heard her ask one of our models to tell her about the bicycle accident he had had when he was five years old – and he did.

Dr Rolf worked on everyone’s kids. We always made time for the little ones in the classes. This was lucky for me because rather unexpectedly, Hector’s two small boys arrived into my life just a few days after I had completed my practitioner training. They were two and four years old. The first thing I did for them (after buying them some clothes and toys in town) was to show them to Dr. Rolf. She told me the older boy didn’t need any work, but that I should have brought the younger one in last week. I told her I had just gotten them three days ago, and she replied,“That’s what I mean, last week.”

She worked on the two year old and he did not like it. He cried and hollered, and tried to crawl right through me, but we did persevere with a few sessions. Then other circumstance interrupted our sessions and took him out of my care for six months. When I got him back again, I arranged for him to see Dr. Rolf. I had four days before his appointment and I spent them telling him that Rolfing hurt a little, but that it would make him feel better. The day for his session arrived. He took one look at her and started to cry. She said, “Oh how nice. He remembers me.” I had to drag and pull his clothes off so she could work on him, he was clinging to them so. In tears he climbed into my lap for comfort and burrowed in as she worked on his ribcage.

At one point, she stopped working to talk to someone about her lunch, and he quieted down enough for me to get the words in edgewise between his sobs: “feel better”. He stopped crying and thought it over. You could see him checking out how his body felt. He gave me a tiny smile and I smiled back and nodded yes as I repeated; “ It makes you feel better.” He looked up at the ring of Rolfers around him and gave them a little bit bigger smile, and they smiled back and then he laughed, and they laughed back. His face was like a sunrise.

Then she was ready and started to work on him again. He squirmed around as if to get down. I tried to pull him up to my lap again, but she stopped me and said, “Let’s see what he will do.” He climbed down out of my lap, went over to her, climbed up into her lap and sat there while she worked on him for a good fifteen minutes, quiet and happy. After that session she told me, “Now you can work on him.” He would bring any small hurt to me for inspection hopefully asking “Rolf-me-Rolf-me?”

Dr. Rolf liked the classroom space to be clean and orderly, saying that having order was conducive to learning our work. She especially liked the sheets hanging straight. When I was in class, I made sure all was in order for her. I also made sure no one woke her up from her afternoon naps.

She liked having tea, and when people found out she had a sweet tooth, they brought in all sorts of homemade treats. She did make the remark that life was not worth living if you couldn’t have a cookie with your tea.

She wore a flower in her hair every day and told us a story about her flowers. In the early days of her work she helped a fellow who was from a very well-off family. She had “saved him from his misery and he knew it”. He told her she should teach her work. She asked him, “Teach what? He said she would figure something out. Then he started arranging classes every year for her. He handled everything. He screened the students, collected the money and found a classroom. All she had to do was show up and teach… something. He set up classes for her for many years, and she said that he sent her flowers regularly. She said she always knew how he was doing because either the flowers would arrive or he would arrive – bringing the flowers with with him as he showed up on her doorstep for more work. I repeated this story to Rosemary, asking if she remembered who this guy was. Rosemary remarked that she didn’t know who it was, and that she remembered buying some of those flowers…

Dr. Rolf spoke of Amy Cochran, Jeanette Lee, Carl Jung, F. M. Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais, Wilhelm Reich, Emanuel Swendenborg, William Sutherland, Andrew Still, Alfred Korzypski and Benjamin Whorf.

She kept most of her personal history to herself, refusing to discuss her life with us. She said she didn’t want to become a cult figure. She did not approve of us calling her work “Rolfing”, she wanted us all to say Structural Integration. But Rolfing stuck and she finally gave in, grumbling that it was her family name… I once heard her say to a reporter, “You don’t want to talk to me, I am an old woman and I won’t be around for very long. See that nice young man over there? He will be around for a good long time. You go talk to him.”

She did say she discovered this work trying to help one of her sons who had severe abdominal cramping that no one could help, but I never heard her say anything else on that subject.

She also related a story about the first person she Rolfed. She was talking to a friend in New York over lunch about the very particular ideas she had about the teaching of music. She told her friend she was looking for a teacher for her two boys. Her friend said, “You should talk to my sister, but she has had an accident and can’t teach.” Dr Rolf said, “Well, why don’t you give me her number anyway.” The bargain was if Dr. Rolf could get her so that she could teach again, she would teach Dr. Rolf’s two sons. Dr. Rolf said they worked trial and error with Dr. Rolf asking if this felt better over here, or over there. Dr. Rolf was successful, and her sons got their music teacher.

Esalen offered Dr. Rolf a place to live. We would have built a house for her, but she was a New Yorker and would not consider living anywhere else. I heard her joke once, “California. That place. That’s the place where half of the people work on half of the people for half of the year and then for the other half of the year, they switch.”

She really did appreciate what Esalen did for her work. She trained about half of the staff, whose number totaled roughly one hundred good souls. Many of my dear friends from those days are still at Esalen. For many years, those of us who were Rolfers on the Esalen staff made sure that a lecture demo of Rolfing was given to every group that came through Esalen. We felt it a good deed to let folks know that such wonderful physical transformation was possible.

One afternoon in Boulder, she was telling a small group of us about an interview she had given to a young magazine writer. This fellow had heard her say that she was a Victorian and proud of it. She said that ‘Victorian’ meant that she had values like hard work, but the interviewer thought it meant she was a prude. He set out to make the theme of his magazine article “Victorian prudery versus Esalen scandal.” He kept trying to make her say shocked things about Esalen and its co-ed baths, but she kept dodging the issue and changing the subject and he could not get his quote. Finally he asked her directly, “Dr. Rolf, how do you feel about Esalen?” To which she replied, “Young man, how do you feel about your mother?”

She did like ironic contrast. She liked to have me show up the big, large muscled, extremely well educated, smart, mature guys She would tap them on the shoulder and say, “Go sit down. Sharon, you go over there and show them how to do that.” This drove my friend Al Drucker to distraction. He took to calling me “The idiot savant of Rolfing”.

After Hector and Al had been Rolfing for about half a year, they spent a day visiting one of Dr. Rolf’s classes. Of course she put them to work. Later, Hector told me that my name had come up. In total exasperation, it seems, Al had asked her “Why DID you train her anyway? Her answer was that she had trained me because I saw bodies the same way she did.

Years later at Pearl Street Dr. Rolf was talking with some folks and she allowed as how she had trained a few “artistic experiments”. She was looking right at me when she said it. I do believe I was one of her artistic experiments.

In my Advanced class, she put my ability to see to work: I was to alert the rest of the class if I saw anything interesting. In order to do this, I often sat on the floor next to the table while she worked. Staying low kept me out my classmates’ line of sight for watching her work. I could catch the small early signs of a big change from close up and have time to tell the others so they had a chance to watch it happen. Being that close to her was great for me, and now and then Dr. Rolf and I talked about what we were seeing in the sessions. I once commiserated with her about how it must be difficult for her because almost none of her Rolfers could see what she was seeing. She said to me, “ What I can’t understand is how they don’t see it.”

She liked a good laugh, and I remember one on her. We had a fine straightforward mechanically-oriented session where a fellow got his leg straightened out and was very happy. After this session, she pronounced to the class (with a few significant looks at us Esalen types) “There is no such thing as psychology, there is only physiology.” The very next day we had the same session on another fellow who recalled a trauma with an explosion of emotions, family dynamics and all. He got his leg straightened out and was very happy. After this session, Dr. Rolf said, in a small ironic voice that carried into the stillness of the room, “There is no such thing as physiology, there is only psychology!” We roared with laughter – and she did too.

There was a good one with me, too. I was working on a third hour hip using an elbow. I was sliding up the tissue line when all of a sudden it ran out and I lost my balance and had to catch myself. I said “Whoops!” Dr. Rolf didn’t miss a beat. She said, “ Oh, my dear; never say: “Whoops!” Always say “There!”.

I hope someday to be as good as she was at this work, and I told her that in my Advanced class. She gave me one of those looks, and told me “ I expect you to be better than I am because I trained you.”

Dr. Rolf had some memorable rules and sayings.

“Put it where it belongs and call for movement.”
(also: “Put it where it ought to be.”)

“Life is movement.”

“Where you think it is, it ain’t.”
(also; “Wherever you think it is, it ain’t.”)

“Where you think it is, it ain’t” had a related one liner: “Where they think it is, it ain’t either.” This was illustrated by the following story: She was working on a model in class and he told her his trouble was in his neck. He kept asking for neck work and couldn’t understand why she was working on his legs. She saw it in his legs. In one of the later sessions on his legs he said, “The Ropes!, The Ropes!”, and she asked him “What Ropes?”, and then he told her that her hands felt just like those ropes on his legs. The story came out that he had been five years old and his family had a bit of money. Someone crept into the house at night and kidnapped him from his own room. The kidnapper stopped at the garden shed to tie him up, and before he could escape, the household discovered him missing and started searching. The kidnapper fled, leaving him tied up in the shed. The family searched all night for him, but no one thought to look in the garden shed until morning. They rescued a very cold little boy who was despairing of ever being found. She told us he said that he never had anymore neck trouble after this session. She added that if we let them tell us where to work, we won’t help them much. You have to stick to your guns and do what you see.

“If at first you don’t succeed, get the hell out.”
(If you have to work too hard, you are in the wrong place.)

“Any fool can take the body apart. The trouble is, they don’t know how to put it together.”

“Grampa was a pretty smart guy, and if you start with his premise, you will get to his conclusion. If you want to get to a different conclusion, you have to start with a different premise.”

“The body is a plastic medium.”

“Connective tissue is the organ of spatial position.”

“You can always do something about anything.”

“Don’t weary of well doing.”

“If your symptoms get better, that’s your own tough luck.”

“We are after no less than the integration of the human body with gravitational field of the earth.”

“Gravity is the therapist.”

“There are no rules in Rolfing, including this one.”
(Said with a gleeful little smile.)

Dr. Rolf had a method of working that was consistent from my first class to my last. She never did a session the same way twice, but her method stayed the same. First she would look at the body and choose the place to work and then she would give the body a little push to rock the whole structure slightly. She might push in a few directions to get precision, like triangulating, and then she would work – always following the direction of the tissue. She worked until she got the structure unstuck. To verify the change, she would look at the body and push it again. Sometimes, as a timesaver, she gave the body a push on the way out to see if it was done. Then if she was satisfied, she would go on to the next right place, which she determined the same way: looking first and then using those small rocking pushes. She often integrated or consolidated her gains after she got a reasonable amount of change. She constantly would check on her progress while working to see what else might be involved that would need to addressed before the end of the session. She never stopped thinking and evaluating, even when the session was finished – she would still be looking.

Once in my Advanced class, I lost the patten of the next right place to work. She noticed my predicament and said; “You can’t find where to go next, can you?” I agreed with her and did some little pushes up and down the body to show her how the pattern was not there – anywhere. She said she would show me a little trick and she came over and leaned deeply into my lady’s hip for a few moments. When she was done, she stood up and gestured for me to go ahead. I did and in those few moments, she had reestablished the pattern, which I could then follow again for the rest of the series.

While she really did emphasize science and general semantics, she did know how to use a pendulum. One day in my Advanced class, she borrowed a crystal from my keychain to use – however, she did say she would deny it.

Dr. Rolf did other unconventional things like feeling the energy coming out of the top of someone’s head. And once I saw her settle down an emotional lady who was crying by making circles in the air about two feet above the solar plexus with her hand.

She was fairly sure that there was an electrical field around the body, and possibly an aura, but she said that she did not see that field or aura. She told us that the really interesting information for us to come out of the UCLA Hunt study was not published in the study. The aura readers said that before Rolfing, the subjects’ auras were uneven in shape, with various dark areas and random colors. After ten sessions all the subjects’ auras became full bright silvery ovals with golden plumes of energy coming out of the tops of their heads.

She an did have an interest in psychics. In our advanced class, she brought in the John Rogers crowd. Their representative, a reformed ex-heroine addict, told us how he was “directed to us” and that “right now (!) a Rolfer was behaving unethically and was having sex with one of his clients.” We were in grave danger – and he was the only one who could save us…for a really big sum of money. From the time he started talking, he would frequently interrupt himself to announce an impressive string of etheric arrivals. He said he knew we were of value to humanity when Yogananda arrived. Mother Teresa dropped by to hover in a corner while various Saints and Sufis arrived along with a host of entities, masters, and holy men. About an hour and a half into his pitch, he announced that Rolfing must be really important to the planet because the Great White Brotherhood had just arrived. One of us (I don’t know who) intoned in a soft western drawl, “Gettin’ mighty crowded in here.”

After this episode, someone asked her why she entertained psychics. Her answer was she was hoping to find a psychic who could see in the aura something that corresponded to what she saw in the physical body. She also told us that she never did find a psychic who did.

On one visit to Pearl Street, I heard her say something that has really stayed with me: “All we can really say we know about Rolfing is that we push on it and it changes. All of our theory about the line and symmetry and balance is just that: theory. Those things are observations after the fact. They are what happens to a body when you do this work all over.”

I never got so casual as to call her “Grandma”, but my friends, most of whom were at least ten years older than I was certainly did. It did make her smile.

Dr. Rolf and Francis Wenger, MD, got along famously. She thanked me for “bringing him in”. I took her down to meet Francis and his wife Nan at their home on Chalk Point on the West River. Francis set up a lecture demo for Dr. Rolf at the Washington Hospital Center. I went, of course, and thought it was going very well until she worked on a baby at the very end. The baby cried a whole lot, and quite a few of the more tender-hearted members of the audience got up and walked out with disapproving words about the “torture of babies.” The baby went from being stiffly over-extended and unable to relax, to being able to curl up and snuggle. The mother was quite amazed at the changes in her little girl and very happy with the work, but by then a lot of people had left the room. I know Dr. Rolf wanted to show the doctors with how much good this work does for children in trouble, but the walk-out made for an unfortunate looking finish.

Francis devised a plan to slip Rolfing into the medical literature in such a way that the doctors would think they had discovered us on their side of the fence. Then we could say to them, “You don’t know about Rolfing? Why, it’s in the journals.” Francis was a sought-after lecturer for the American Academy of Physical Medicine and a world expert in electromyography. He was an engagingly droll speaker and anytime he wanted to give a talk, the Academy gave him whatever he wanted. They knew they were lucky to have him. So, one year he proposed to them that he give a lecture on Rolfing and they gave him three hours to present. He was so excited. He called me and told me that this was it ! I was to gather all my “befores” and “afters” and round up anyone who had anything he could use for this presentation. We were working hard to help him gather together the little that we did have. Then, three weeks before he was to present – the Academy called him to ask what Rolfing was. He told them. A week later, a letter arrived telling him his presentation time had been cut to twenty minutes. He cancelled out.

Francis helped Dr. Rolf and her family through her last illness. He was their interface with the medical world. I know they were grateful for his help.

She made it a point to tell me goodbye. She told me she wasn’t sure she was going to make it through the surgery and wanted to be sure she said goodbye to me. She died from complications from the surgery.

I attended her funeral. Her hands were most eloquent – gnarled, calloused and twisted from a lifetime of this work.

In my workroom, I keep a beautiful Ron Thompson picture of her that Randy Mack gave to me. She has on her white sweater with the little boy pin done in mother of pearl inlay that Ritchie Mintz made for her. I remember this session from my Adams house class. Most of the tiny babies Dr. Rolf did in class would cry, but this one thought Rolfing was just wonderful and laughed and smiled. The picture was taken right after she finished working – quite pleased and bemused.

I am grateful beyond measure that the tapes of my River-house classes have survived the years and also that Jeff Linn posted the audio to them and had them transcribed for us. When I hear those, I can see in my mind Dr. Rolf and my classmates. Those were happy days for me which I never thought to hear again.

Friends gave me a brass planter she had owned; they bought at her family’s estate sale. Rosemary gave me a white tea cup and saucer that had also belonged to her. I cherish a copy of a photo of her with John Denver that Joy and Alan gave me. She is wearing some clothing that I made for her. I used to sew clothes for my friends in Big Sur, and Rosemary asked me to make some for Dr. Rolf’s birthday in 1972 as a present from our whole group of Rolfers. Rosemary helped pick out the fabric, a swirling blue and white knit that had a reverse print, so I made two nice sets – blue on white and white on blue. They were designed for her with Rolfing in mind: stretch fabric, pants with an elastic waist and sleeves that were not too long so she could use her elbows.

Dr. Rolf would have been deeply happy with the Facial Research Congress. Francis would have had that twinkle in his eyes as Nan Wenger established a Rolfing Research Foundation at the Congress. Francis mentored Tom Findley, MD, who generated the Facial Research Congress. Thanks to Tom’s efforts and published research on Rolfing, we are in the journals now.

She would be ever so pleased to see so many of us all over the world, though I did hear her say once in a class, “ I asked for students, dear God, but these?”

© Sharon Wheeler-Hancoff 2008 all rights reserved.

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