A Path of Personal Growth and Development
By Paul Sympson
Published in
Kentuckiana Health and Fitness Magazine

Six years ago, fresh from a divorce and deep into work-a-holism, I was advised by a friend to try a ten-session body therapy process called structural integration, or Rolfing®. My responsibilities of being a single parent, sorting out emotional baggage and making personal changes had resulted in increased stress levels. The Weight of it all seemed to rest on my shoulders-and at night shoulder and back pain interrupted my sleep.

I knew little about Rolfing® when I arrived for the first appointment. I was impressed with the comfortable setting, the gentleman's calm demeanor and his genuine expression of concern about my whole state of being. Within 20 minutes I found myself discussing my physical and emotional concerns, my current take on my life's journey and hopes for the future. I had received good chiropractic work and massage, but this was quite different. It was less rushed, with an emphasis on working within a deeper, more personal relationship. We both agreed that we could work together.

n my first session I was asked about my perceptions of my diaphragm- its location, shape and function. I was asked to bring my breath and awareness up to meet my rolfer's® hands as he loosened fascial restrictions on the front, sides and back of my chest cavity. I could feel myself taking in more air. At the same my chest was more relaxed and I could feel more of the table's cushioned surface beneath me. I began to realize that I had very little awareness of this body I had inhabited for decades.

When I stood up at the end of that session, my rolfer® looked shorter. My body had lengthened in that first session! I was convinced there was something special about this Rolfing® stuff.

In the next session, I began to see how my body segments were out of proper alignment with gravity. In walking my head and neck were in front of the rest of my body. It was as if I was trying to get "ahead" as I scurried about with my never-ending "to do" list. I also got assistance in how to sit properly and arise from bed with ease.

As the sessions progressed my awareness was brought to deeper 'core" structures of my body, such as the adductor muscles, the pelvic floor and the psoas muscle.

I was encouraged to awaken my awareness of "my line" and to initiate my movements from this deep, centered place, rather than moving from my surface or outer muscles. I learned to walk in a way that gravity would provide a "lift" rather than dragging me down.

Embarrassing as it may be, I found the beginning awareness of my line when I discovered myself sitting upright comfortably on the toilet. I was no longer bent over with an aching back in the position of Rodin's sculpture, "The Thinker."

omething was moving inside me on many levels. I began to have dreams not only about my life and my line, but about my rolfer® and my own spiritual awakening. My passion for sculpting came to the forefront as I began to better care for myself. I became a college art student once again – Working in stone, a material that frightened me. As usual I was quite good at something I most feared. I enjoyed the medium tremendously!

My body seemed to be unwinding more with each session. Being an artistic type I found the deep physical sensations new and intriguing. With my eyes closed I would often see colors, shapes, images and visual memories. I realized that my body was becoming quieter and less filled with noise. I was able to receive clear messages from areas of my body that I hadn't heard from in years.

Those caring hands guided me into areas of unawareness in my body releasing not only facial, but also emotional restrictions. On a couple of occasions, tears spontaneously flowed. In one session, the moment my rolfer® touched under the front crest of my left hip bone, like a "jack in a box," I started wailing uncontrollably. I was transported back to a specific time and place in my childhood when a truly sad and rather fatalistic seed was planted in my mind. The concept that our body tells our life story and our cells have memory was no longer a lofty concept to me. I was told that not everyone experiences this type of release, that I was quite fortunate. I was blessed.

There is a lot of talk out there about how Rolfing® hurts. Whenever we got into those areas where I had used my muscles as if they were bones to "hold" myself up and erect, yes there was a bit of discomfort. I would describe it as a "hurts so good" type of feeling. Honestly, when my 90 minutes was up, I was never ready to leave a session.

Rolfing® is a very personal experience, different in many ways to each individual. Not everyone is looking for emotional release, nor is it expected. It is a wonderful process to work out compensations that have set house in our bodies due to sports injuries, repetitive motion problems and auto accidents.

For myself, as a Rolfing® client, it was one of those few periods in my life that I experienced a deep rebirthing on all levels. As you can tell I love this body therapy process… so much that I became certified in structural integration at the Guild for Structural Interation. I trained in skillful touch massage therapy at the Rolf Institute®, and the Guild for Structural Integration. I now offer the Ida P. Rolf Method of structural integration.

Paul Sympson received his skillful touch massage training from the Rolf Institute® in Boulder, CO. and his certified structural integration training from The Guild for Structural Integration, also in Boulder, CO. He is an art therapist and a sculptor. Paul has a M.A. in art therapy from the University of Louisville. As a graduate student he founded the Children's Art Therapy program at the YWCA Spouse Abuse Center. Paul's sculptures can be seen in the WKU Library Trustees Permanent Collection, at Ky Museum of Arts and Crafts 715 West Main St. Louisville, Ky, and at the Kentucky Artisans Center, Hwy. 75, Berea, Ky. His Office is located at 317 Wallace Ave., Suite 207, in Louisville.