Enjoying the Complexity of the Human Being: My Perspective as a Rolfer®

By Certified Rolfer® and Rolf Movement™ Practitioner, Åsa Åhman, Stockholm, Sweden

In the world of anatomy and bodywork, understanding the human body is a dynamic process. From classical approaches that look at bones and muscles to more intricate models delving into connections within muscles and fascia, the exploration is vast and constantly evolving.

As a Certified Rolfer® and Rolf Movement™ Practitioner, I share in this article my approach to understanding complexity not just as a professional philosophy, but as a celebration of the uniqueness that is the essence of every human being.

From Classical to more Complex Models of Anatomy

I have learned about the body, and anatomy, in different ways over the years. My journey began with classical anatomy, unravelling the mysteries of bones, muscles, origins, and insertions. This foundational knowledge served as a solid base, providing insights into movement and the mechanics of the body. It was intriguing and got me a long way in understanding movement and the body, even though it is quite a simple abstraction of what a body is.

However, as my understanding deepened, I ventured into more complex models of anatomy. I found out you can look at muscle and fascia connections to better understand how things influence each other, even though they are not directly touching.

Tensegrity, another lens through which to view the body, presents it as an intricate 3D web of bones and soft tissue, emphasising the holistic nature of our physical form and how everything is connected to everything else. But the truth is, even tensegrity is only a model, a tool to aid understanding rather than an absolute truth.

“Our bodies are so much more complex than that! A model is a great way to learn and understand something new, but it is not the truth or a representation of the whole picture.”

Once you have learned about and from a model, you need to ‘forget about it’ as the late Stephen Braybrook, author of The Evolution of Biomechanics: Bringing movement theory back to life, used to say: Use the model and then move forward.

Enjoying Complexity, Confronting Fear

The heart of my philosophy lies in not fearing the complexity of a human being but rather relishing it. What I train myself in, every day as I work as a Rolfer, is to not fear the complexity of a body, of a person, but rather to enjoy it.

Acknowledging that I may never grasp every nuance of the human form, I rely on the body's inherent wisdom to self-organise based on its unique experiences and perceptions.

I trust the body, and I know that it knows how to best organise itself with what it has and what it can sense. “

What may seem like a familiar pattern is never identical, given the intricate interplay of individual histories. If I have seen a pattern in one client and then another client comes in and present him/herself with ‘the same’ pattern, I know it will not be the same. For this second client has a different body, a different life story, different stresses and traumas and relationships, hardships, and joys.

This realisation underscores the beauty of my profession – a perpetual journey of discovery and learning. As a Rolfer, I wear the hat of a detective, piecing together the narrative of each client's body. The patterns I observe are not standardised templates but rather personalised expressions of the body's responses to life's myriad influences.

For every different body and client that I see, I gather information and clues to where to look and what to do. That is one reason why I love my job! I get to be a detective every day and remain a student for life.”


Author: Certified Rolfer® and Rolf Movement™ Practitioner, Åsa Åhman, Stockholm, Sweden

Photos: Provided by Åsa Åhman

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