“By the end of the ten Rolfing® sessions, Eric was almost unrecognisable. In his last email to me he said: ‘You took fifty years off my life and now I feel like a teenager!’ Says Begoña Fontana Urriza.
I am speaking to Begoña Fontana Urriza, a Certified Rolfer® in Spain, and her client, Eric Weber (66 years) who lives in Geneva. Begoña owns the Body Mind health centre L’atelier in Sant Cugat del Vallès, just outside Barcelona, with her husband, Hervé Baunard, a Certified Advanced Rolfer®, Rolf Movement™ Practitioner and Pilates instructor. Begoña is also the Chairperson of the Spanish Board of Directors for The European Rolfing® Association.
“When I first met Eric for Rolfing, I saw a tall, thin man… fragile, sweet, a gentle person, walking slowly. He was a very articulate and a social person who enjoyed interacting. I could guess that pain was an inseparable friend. He had so much tension. It was as if he was held up entirely by his shoulders, like a puppet… Eric moved but his feet hardly touched the ground. It looked like he was fighting gravity.” Explains Begoña.
What was going on in your life? I ask Eric.
When I was a teenager, I had what they call ‘Scheuermann disease’ [a developmental disorder of the spine]. In the early Sixties, there was not a lot they could do about it and my doctor proposed breaking my spine, applying plaster and for me to lie completely flat for about six months. My reaction was ‘oh wow!’ as six months is a very long time and especially when you are sixteen. As you can imagine, my answer was ‘No way!’ and so I lived with the back problem. A pain in my shoulder started up about ten years ago without any warning but my back and my shoulder weren’t to know that I would discover Rolfing and be able to fight the pain. I used to take painkillers but now I have almost completely stopped after my Rolfing sessions. I turn 67 in January and I feel like a teenager both in body and spirit!
Did Rolfing really helped you?
I felt the first sensation of wellbeing immediately in comparison to all the chiropractor treatments I’d had in the past. Rolfing really gave me the joy of rediscovering my body, my feet, and the pleasure of long walks without experiencing any pain. Now I can control and manage my pain, if I experience any at all. My wife and I now walk on average ten kilometres a day and it is beautiful because you are regenerating both your body and your spirit.
I have to say that Begoña is an extraordinary Rolfer and I thank her once again!
What led you to try Rolfing?
I was doing an Ayurveda cure in Sri Lanka and mentioned my back problems to a German lady. She asked me if I knew about Rolfing and explained how it works. In the past I have tried Physiotherapy and Chiropractic but with little to no success. I thought that the Rolfing method of treating pain was more than interesting and so when I returned to Geneva, I searched for a Rolfer online. This led me to France Hatt-Arnold who referred me to Begoña.
I registered for the full ten series and was rolfed every two weeks for five months.
Was there a Rolfing session that you found particularly impactful?
The ten series were all powerful in a different way and very difficult to explain. I felt more and more in touch with by body, especially my feet and my balance.
Definitely the second session! Eric made a great discovery: he said he found he had feet! Now, he could articulate, he could walk, and I think that was the biggest session for him. He was like a baby when it starts to stand up on his feet for the first time and walk. He abandoned himself to gravity, challenging it and swinging his tall body in space.
Eric discovered new things with every session, but to have the ground under his feet and to feel the temperature, the texture of the surface, for him that was ‘wow’. After that Eric told me he didn’t like to wear socks and shoes in his apartment, and that he likes to walk barefoot for the simple pleasure of walking. Before, Eric could hardly walk because he was in so much pain.
Did Rolfing surprise you?
The big surprise with Rolfing is the approach. For once, the patient is considered a human being and not a case number. The problems with my back and left shoulder, which I’d suffered for fifty years, were treated in such a gentle manner.
Yes, what I really like about Rolfing is that we guide, care, support and treat the whole person to facilitate self-healing. In French we describe this best as ‘Accompagner la personne’. It isn’t just that you work on someone and that’s it, and it isn’t like you are just doing a massage to someone. The person isn’t passive. Rolfing is like a kind of dance together.
Some people come to Rolfing when they feel like they are in a dark room and they can’t or don’t know how to get out. We show them the different doors, opening a door just a little to show them that there is some light coming in. The Rolfee then goes and chooses the right door for themselves; possibly trying out a lot, if not all the doors in the process, but they always choose their own path. We don’t ever put the person into a situation that they don’t want to be in. It is always their choice and the Rolfer is just there to give them some clues, some different perspectives. That goes with some physical manipulation, working in 3D, and then there is the educational aspect, and of course the movement.
Rolfing isn’t just physical though. I find clients are often surprised to see a link with their emotions. Sometimes they even can remember things from their childhood when emotions are released. The body is related to your history, and all the emotions you have, all your stress is right there in your body. So when we touch a part of the body, we are effectively opening a door, we are directing something.
Were there any challenges for you with Rolfing?
As I was feeling better and better, the challenge was to persevere day after day with a little practice, and to believe that the beneficial results will be with me forever. Rolfing is like a meditation for my body.
Everybody is different and the results as well. At the beginning Eric was in such pain, that I had to be very careful. Initially Eric couldn’t lie on the bed as he was in so much pain, so I had to work with Eric in a different way using cushions to make him comfortable. However, little by little, step-by-step, things started to happen and we achieved movement. We trusted each other from the outset and that is so important as Rolfing is a relationship of based on care and respect that we build with the patient.
You were a jewellery designer for many years. What made you train as a Rolfer? I ask Begoña
Yes, I was a jewellery designer until ten years ago. However, before Rolfing, I studied naturopathy and acupuncture, more for my own interest, as I wasn’t thinking about pursuing a career in either. I have also been involved in our health centre since it opened eight years ago – that was a big thing for us! However, with Rolfing it was different. Once I experienced Rolfing®, I knew I wanted to become a Rolfer and I undertook my training in Geneva.
What was it about Rolfing that appealed to you?
I realised after studying naturopathy and acupuncture that I needed to continue working with my hands, and also to work in volume. Working in 3D is very important to me. When working with a body in 3D, you are working with the whole person. You are holding a body and you aren’t just working on one part of it. In Rolfing, if you work with one side of the body, it reflects to the other side of the body as well. This is the important thing to understand about working with fascia, that everything is interconnected. For me, coming from an artistic background, I was used to working in 3D, in sculpture … I see Rolfing as similar to sculpting or modelating someone. The difference is that you have someone who is filling, someone who is integrating a new way of being. There is an interaction… an exchange.
Eric started to open himself during the ten sessions. He started to become conscious of his body, his movement, the floor, about everything. Eric started to paint and to play the guitar. He was like a child discovering new things that gave him pleasure. Eric started walking every day! His doctor can’t believe his progress and it is lovely that Eric has told him how much Rolfing changed his life, and just how beneficial it can be for any condition.
Escuela Española de Rolfing® will be offering Rolfing Training in Madrid in 2019.
Photography credit: Marc Gatsby and Begoña Fontana Urriza