Pianist and piano teacher, Michael Köllner overcomes pain through Rolfing

Why did you try Rolfing® and how did you discover it?

I started taking piano lessons when I was 7 years old. I played regularly and practiced up to 5 hours a day until I graduated from high school. Eventually I developed back pain, which was clearly noticeable in everyday movements as well as during practice. It went so far that I could no longer play certain pieces, although I had trained them intensively for months.

One of these was Rachmaninoff’s Prélude Op. 23, No. 5 with a middle section that demands a continuous, long run in the left hand. Also Chopin’s famous and difficult Prélude No. 1 in C. In both works I had to stop after a few bars or after a few pages, because the pain in my back and the resulting cramping of the muscles in my arms became so severe that further playing was impossible. I had to stop and shake out my arms. My teachers could not help me, especially since the lessons were less focused on the whole body-mind-soul, but almost exclusively on the technical aspects of playing the piano.

Fascia work was not yet a familiar topic in the 80s. So I dragged myself from therapy to therapy, did sports, trained muscles, was diagnosed with scoliosis and got shoe sole elevations. Everything brought a little relief, but did not solve the core problem. In the 90s I heard about Rolfing® for the first time by chance and went looking for it. Still relatively unknown in Germany, there were even three therapists who offered this in Freiburg. So, I got in contact with the Rolfer®, Ulrike Trescher, and decided to do the Ten Series.

Have you tried other therapies before Rolfing?

Of course, I tried everything that the health insurance companies recommended as 'good and effective' and that they supported financially: Physiotherapy, massages, stimulation current treatments, countless visits to the doctor. But already at a young age I knew from my own painful experience that you have to look for other forms of therapy besides those accepted by health insurance companies in order to get healthy. And I also knew: real help means having to pay for it yourself. I paid for my Rolfing sessions out of my own pocket, which was difficult for me as a freelance piano teacher and artist. But I have never regretted it!

How has Rolfing helped you?

In the beginning, before and after photos were taken and a medical history of my condition and problems was taken. The Rolfer said it would take time, but the Rolfing Ten Series would be enough to change my condition for the better. As far as I remember, the sessions took place every 2 to 3 weeks. I could feel a change in the perception of my own body relatively quickly; the inner as well as the outer eye became more precise and deeper. Above all, the feeling of the body or the spine straightening up was quickly established.

At that time I walked around with my eyes constantly fixed on the ground. I was aware of this, but I could not really change it. As soon as I did not think about it any more, my gaze was already turned towards the ground. Through Rolfing my head was raised and my gaze was horizontal – I was looking forward. This was a great experience for me, who at that time in the 90s was in a massive mental and physical crisis. Rolfing literally opened the horizon. It opened an access to my inner self.

After the intensive Rolfing sessions I went for a walk for about an hour each time. The manipulation of the fascial tissue and the muscles loosened some psychological blockages, which were than successfully addressed in a psychotherapy session.

After the Rolfing Ten Series I returned to the Rachmaninoff piece that I couldn't get through entirely before. I had not touched it for years. And it was unbelievable – although I hadn’t played it since then, I could play the middle part right away, without getting cramps in my hand and arm, without pain, without mistakes, as if my left hand had been loosened. I was also able to play Chopin’s Etude page by page through his never-ending runs. The back pain was gone. It stayed away for over 10 years. I had to undo the shoe sole elevation I received to help with my scoliosis at the beginning of my journey with Rolfing and I still don’t need them today.

A story about my Dancer friend and her Rolfing experience

A friend and ballet co-dancer had a serious car accident with whiplash. At that time she was in the last stages of her studies and had to write her thesis. But the accident put a damper on her plans; writing and working on the computer were unthinkable. She was about to drop out of her studies. The conventional treatments hardly worked for her. I recommended that she try Rolfing. After a few months she thanked me – because with the help of Rolfing she was able to overcome the consequences of the accident so quickly that she could write her thesis and finish her studies.

My Rolfing Ten Series were now over 25 years ago. In the meantime some physical imbalances have reappeared, so I take a few sessions every now and then.

How has Rolfing influenced your life?

The incisive experiences with Rolfing have greatly influenced the way I think, work and pass on my skills and knowledge as a piano teacher. I have been in this profession for over 30 years now, and my way of teaching, of really “seeing” and meeting the person at the piano, is very much influenced by Rolfing, among other things. My view has become holistic. Since my Rolfing experience I have sent many of my own students to Rolfing and every one of them has benefited in one way or another.

I believe that anyone who seriously wants to play an instrument (generally to express themselves artistically) can be helped by Rolfing to achieve a better, lighter, more balanced posture. More elegant playing and ease in movement are some of the positive consequences. The energy can flow better and many of the problems that can result from prolonged practice are, with my knowledge of Rolfing, far less prominent and require much less attention.

And what more do you need to show your emotions through your own body or make them audible through an instrument than smoothly flowing energy.

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