GETROLFING the Rolfing and consulting practice of Adam Mentzell

phone (720) 878-2888 email [email protected]


Posts tagged: pain

Transformation at the Base





“How is it that Rolfing® creates lasting change ?” is a question that I field at least once a week as I work with clients. I can point to how Rolfing systematically organizes the fascial or soft tissue network, and how we help establish balanced relationships in the body, but have recently been pondering the more esoteric old Rolfing adage “awareness makes the change”. No doubt the 10 session series of Rolfing can be a life-changing process and is a powerful answer to many of the musculo-skeletal and postural challenges we can face, but exactly how? Changing our awareness and habit energies seems to play a large role.

Thich Nhat Hanh once gave a lecture about transformation during a retreat I attended in Key West, Florida many years ago. He spoke of true transformation and what were some of the elements required to transform and evolve our consciousness. In describing a model of our mind, he outlined how we have a store consciousness, or Alaya, which contains the seeds of all actions, past and present. By choosing to water the positive, or wholesome seeds within this storehouse these seeds sprout, grow and bloom. I am beginning to see how the Rolfing process allows individuals to touch aspects of themselves that have been living in a dormant state below consciousness awareness. Jan Sultan, one of Ida Rolf”s early students, speaks of how the process of Rolfing can activate an individuals dormant traits, resulting in a new revitalized and higher functioning person. I am beginning to sense that these two phenomenons may be one and the same.

As I work with clients in the Rolfing process we bring mindfulness to the present moment, and, in particular, body awareness. We often have strong conscious or unconscious patterns of relating to our body that have an opportunity to change during the Rolfing process.

“I have bad feet or arches” is something I hear a great deal from new clients.  Residing in the Alaya, or storehouse of consciousness, we often have beliefs about our body that are limiting. As an example,  an individual may have been told that their feet are inadequate at some point early in life by some well meaning practitioner and has spent years relating to their feet as a liability. This view dwells unexamined in the sub-conscious and can create real limitations for someone and begins to function as reality, when it may not be true.

As the process of Rolfing unfolds we balance the soft tissue in the feet, lower legs and the entire kinetic chain of legs to the spine, while bringing moment to moment awareness to the areas being manipulated. New freedom, range of motion and better support for the spine often emerge. The previously maligned “bad feet” may quickly become a positive resource as they become more functional, and, more importantly, the client gets to re-evaluate their beliefs. The mindfulness of functioning arches, ankle joints and the balanced connection of the legs to the lower spine can be a revelation for many clients. As a client becomes more embodied, meaning more at home in their flesh and more aware, a new sense of integration arises and person begins to relate differently to the world around them. “How is it this work lasts so long?”. Change has occurred in the tissues, in the function of the body, but most importantly in the awareness of the client. He or she is now moving through life with a new view of their body. The feet are now a resource and not a liability. This change in awareness happens mostly at the level of sensation. There is a felt sense, in the flesh, that things are healthy and vibrant. Seeds of wholeness and vitality are as a result being watered constantly and real change occurs. Change that lasts.

The tincture of time. Many of the patterns of poor posture, habitual tension and holding that we have in our bodies did not show up overnight but have been around for years. These seeds have sprouted and have a sense of permanence. In order to  steer things in a new direction of freedom and ease, it will take a bit of time. The traditional Rolfing 10-series consists of 10 individual sessions, with each being 75 minutes in length. This approach is not about chasing symptoms, but taking a larger view of the structural order and function of the body and creating change at a deep level. Often what appears at the level of symptoms, such as low back pain or headaches, is merely a manifestation of a deeper situation. By looking deeply at all the major structural and functional relationships in the body we can see how deeper patterns of dysfunction can be driving strain all over the body resulting in pain and discomfort. We can then gently intervene and release restrictions in the fascial system, allowing muscles to return to a balanced relationship and allow the body to release compensatory patterns. As this occurs, we assist the client in staying mindful of these changes and the contrast between “old” patterns and “new” possibilities. Homework between sessions is often directed at staying mindful and watering the seeds of a new pattern like feeling the breath move in three dimensions while sitting at work. Over a short period of time dramatic changes in function happen as a result of releasing restrictions and increased embodiment, or awareness.

The pace of our modern life is relentless. We are pulled in multiple directions and the amount of information that we are processing is staggering. One result of these demands is that we, as James Joyce said of his character in Dubliners, “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body”. In this living a short distance from our bodies we are operating in an unconscious state and likely repeating patterns of holding, tension and dysfunction which result in pain and discomfort.

Ten sessions can change your life. Bold, but true. By creating time to reconnect, and come home to our body through the Rolfing process we have the opportunity to really change underlying patterns and move in the direction of freedom and ease in our body. The seeds to a more vibrant, balanced and comfortable body are already present in us. We only have to bring them into awareness and water and nurture them. The Rolfing process provides an opportunity to do just that and is a gift we can give ourselves that will create lasting change and transformation. By closing the distance we live from our bodies we become more whole, more complete, more fully human.

What are you waiting for?

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Foam Roller – Friend or Foe?







“Getting stepped on by a blind rhinoceros may fix your problem, but the odds are pretty slim that he gets you in the perfect spot.”

At the gyms, recreation centers, and parks, you can’t help but see people rolling around on some version of the popular foam roller. They have appeared in fitness classes, are prescribed by professionals for home use by a wide variety of healthcare practitioners including PT’s, Chiropractors, and others.

As a manual therapist (Rolfer) who works with a wide variety of people, including a large number of serious athletes it seems most people have jumped on the foam roller bandwagon. I have been watching this phenomenon for a number of years now and have been asking myself:

Does all this rolling really help us?

What areas of the body should be avoided or “rolled” with great attention?

How are people using these things.. really?

So here are my conclusions thus far:

1. Mindful Rolling is Key! Much of what I see people doing with foam rollers does not seem to be useful in any long lasting way. I think the primary factor is using the foam roller indescriminatly, moving too quickly, rolling over muscles that are being actively contracted. The result is lots of intensity, which we sometimes confuse with progress. Just  because it is intense does not mean that there is a positive change happening and it can in fact  be a clear signal to STOP. Try slowing way down, using your breath as an awareness tool and relaxing into the input from the roller. If you are finding this difficult to do it may mean the pressure is not useful. Our systems are wired to protect us from injury. As much as we may want to override this process, it is my assertion that real and lasting change comes from working with ourselves, not against.

2.  Rollers can Flatten us out. Our myofascial system is a complex web of layers meant to slide gracefully. As an example, the much maligned IT Band lies on top of the most lateral quadriceps muscle (vastus lateralis), which lies on top of the femur. These layers are meant to slide freely from each other as we move through life. I wonder whether repeated rolling may compress these structures down to the point where layers no longer slide freely, thereby actually restricting the very flexibility we were seeking. Let’s not forget that these myofascial networks also include nerves which can easily be compressed and irritated as we compress myofascial layers against underlying bone. It has been my clinical experience that folks who have been using a foam roller on their IT band for years seem to have compressed and restricted layers on the outside of the leg. I wonder whether other manual therapists are observing similar patterns.

I recently saw an advertisement from a company marketing foam rollers that featured a large suction cup that was to counteract this type of compression. The user was encouraged to place the suction cup on the skin following foam rolling to “lift” layers off of each other after intense rolling sessions. Makes one think, huh?

3. Where you think it is… IT AINT! Often where we hurt is not the source of the problem. Many people that I have worked with are foam rolling areas of pain and sensitivity. Sometimes this is just the trick, and sometimes we are actually creating more irritation. Many of the musculo-skeltal problems we face are regional or body wide patterns that result in strain showing up in a particular area. Resolving them requires a holistic approach, which could include a foam roller as a part of the approach. If we find ourselves chasing pain with a foam roller we may want to seek out a good manual therapist to assess what in the kinetic chain may be causing the problem in the first place.

4. Hands are connected to a brain and can perceive, feel, adapt. It is, of course, self promoting for me to tell you that finding a good manual therapist is infinitely better than foam rolling but that does not make it any less true. I think using a foam roller in specific, mindful ways can play a positive role in keeping us feeling good day in and day out.


A sensitive, educated and listening touch of an experienced manual therapist can result in real resolution of long term strain patterns.  Often, differentiating the complex layers mentioned above, through intelligent, vectored, fascial manipulation is the key to restoring function and well-being. An experienced manual therapist can also instruct you on how and where to use a foam roller to get the most benefit without some of the side effects mentioned.

If you are finding yourself chasing your tail with a particular problem, consider getting yourself  some good hands-on work. 

Some additional tips on Foam Rolling:

1. Slow down. Use your breath as a tool to unlock tension and keep your awareness on the sensation level. Is there a release happening or is more tension being created? Can you breath calmly while using the roller? If not, you may be creating tension.

2. Avoid long periods of compression in a particular area. Be especially attentive when rolling along your spine.

3. Avoid areas where nerves or blood vessels can easily be compressed. Generally speaking do not roll near the back side of the knee, or medial or inside of the leg near the groin. Be attentive when rolling along the hamstring area as the large Sciatic Nerve runs in this area as well. Any radiating sensation should be an indicator that you may be compressing nerves and, trust me, they do not like that.

4. Assess how you feel afterward. Are you moving easier? Feeling more integrated? You should. If not, maybe you are concentrating your efforts on one area and creating imbalances.

5. Softer is better. Yeah, PVC pipe is cheap but your body will respond better to dense foam that will mold to your body to an extent. This can help you avoid compressing nerves, blood vessels and limit the pressure you may apply.

Adam is a Certified Advanced Rolfer and Instructor at The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, CO. With over 10 years experience as a Rolfer, Adam also draws on his long career as an exercise physiologist and competitive endurance athlete. He understands the active lifestyle and finds great satisfaction in helping people to live more easily and happily in their physical bodies. He lives in the Boulder foothills with his wife, daughter and dog Ziggy.












Barefoot Running






I have been getting a ton of questions lately about barefoot running. Mostly from people who are trying to make the transition to minimalist shoes such as the Vibram 5 Finger. I have seen a number of people in my practice make some basic mistakes in making this switch. My intent here is to throw out some basic guidelines on how to more safely make this transition.

While I am a big fan of reawakening the intelligent movement and support of our feet, it seems it is not as easy as strapping on a new pair of shoes. No surprise here. We may have been struck by the romantic argument being made by many barefoot running advocates: shoes are a recent creation and over supportive, we should go back to basics and run and walk like our ancestors. Ok. I get the argument, but let’s be realistic here. Our structure – bones, ligaments, tendons, etc., are the way they are based on the forces that have come their way. While it does seem clear that a more forefoot oriented foot strike creates far less stress than heel striking keep in mind that we may not be ready for this change. The good news is that tissues (bones, ligament, muscles, tendons) will respond to new demands and become stronger. That is, if we give our body time to respond. These same tissues go into breakdown mode if we load them too much and too quickly. I am advising that the “tincture of time”, as Ida Rolf used to say, is an important element here.

From Shod to Unshod – sort of. Here are my top  tips for making the transition without injury

1. Take your time. Walk in the new shoes before you run. Two weeks at least.
2. Begin running 10% of your weekly mileage in the more minimalist shoes. Put them on for cool down or warm up miles or a short loop around the neighborhood.
3. Increase this by 10% a week. Slow, I know. You will thank me.
4. Stick to more forgiving surfaces if you can and PLEASE don’t trail run right out of the gate.
5. Pay close attention to how your body is responding to the new gait and support, which brings me to my final and probably most important tip…

6. Change your gait to a more mid-forefoot landing. No heel striking. It turns out that 1/2 of us who put on minimalist shoes go on with heavy heel striking which drastically increases the impact forces and injury possibilities. Is Barefoot Better? NYTimes

Tips on Proper Forefoot or Midfoot Strike Form

There is no single “perfect running form.” Everyone’s body is different and no single technique could be best for everyone. Here are some general tips:

  • A good landing should feel gentle, relaxed and compliant. You typically land on the ball of your foottowards the lateral side. After the front of your foot lands, let the heel down gradually, bringing the foot and lower leg to a gentle landing as you dorsiflex your ankle under the control of your calf muscles. It’s like when you land from a jump, flexing the hip, knee and ankle. Again, the landing should feel soft, springy, and comfortable. It’s probably good to land with the foot nearly horizontal so you don’t have to work the calves too much.
  • Do not over stride (land with your foot too far in front of your hips). Over striding while forefoot or midfoot striking requires you to point your toe more than necessary, adding stress to the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and the arch of the foot. It often feels as if your feet are striking the ground beneath your hips. It is similar to the way one’s feet land when skipping rope or when running in place (as runners sometimes do when waiting to cross a street).
  • A good way to tell if you are landing properly is to run totally barefoot on a hard, smooth surface (e.g. pavement) that is free of debris. Sensory feedback will quickly tell you if you are landing too hard. If you run barefoot on too soft a surface like a beach, you might not learn proper form.
Get some coaching on running form. 
If you are in the dark on all of this and want to get some assistance. Ask around at your local running store or running club. Finding someone who has studied the POSE technique would be a helpful way to get some feedback on your form.
Have fun out there.
Adam Mentzell