Joseph Heller says, “All right Students, circle up for beginning “body reading. We’re going to look at your history and future in your posture presentation”
This is day one of our 1500 hour Hellerwork Structural Integration Body work training. We are at Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma. This room is a huge converted redwood water tank, circular, about 50 ft in diameter by twenty feet high with carpeted floors, one entrance door and six narrow, vertical windows allowing light in. There is a wood burning pot belly stove for warmth. There are two incense sticks gently wafting a sandalwood fragrance. “Deep Breakfast”, instrumental new age music by Ray Lynch is playing on the sound system. It’s 10:00 AM on a crisp Febuary morning. The Sun is shining brightly through the windows providing distinct shadows of our standing bodies. There are 22 of us students, 12 female, 8 male, all dressed in shorts and t-shirts facing inward to the circle attempting unsuccessfully to not be too self-conscious about this process. The subtle differences in posture are beginning to be noticed. Some are standing knock kneed and pigeon toed, some duck footed with their feet at 60 degree angles to each other. Some are slump shouldered. Some are forward head carriage with locked knees. Some have bellies that hang over tilted pelvises. Some are holding their guts in tight. Some have one shoulder elevated above the other, kind a chip on their shoulder, so to speak. Some are holding their shoulders back attempting to stick their chest out. Some are obviously holding their chest in to avoid being to aggressive with their breasts. Men and women both do this. Some habitually tilt their heads to the right or left. Everyone has unique unconscious and rigid ways of holding their hands hanging to their sides. These are all very subtle differences in posture, probably not noticeable to the untrained eye. And, they all mean something. There are stories behind all these ways of being and standing.
I am 39 years old and here to learn this bodywork process that is very similar to Rolfing. Joseph Heller was the first president of the Rolfing Institute. In the late 70’s he left and started his own school. This is his 3rd training since starting the school. Ida Rolf taught him to reorganize and bring consciousness and postural awareness to Human structure and movement. Before her work there was only an unrecognized or thrown or habitual way of holding and moving our bodies in space. We sometimes refer to this “just the way I am”. Ida Rolf taught that our entire psychology, physiology, mental and physical health are shaped by our relationship to gravity and our held tensions in our body. She taught us that we can reorganize each other and ourselves into optimal balance, health and even relationships with each other.
Joseph Heller and two of his instructors, Brian and Regina, are studying us. He was not kidding when he said our history and future are exposed in the way we hold ourselves. We will tend to take on the age related posture of the age when our emotional body first experienced trauma, danger or hurt. Usually before age 7 but can be any time from birth on.
I am doing my best Marine Corps standing at attention posture with my chest and chin up and not recognizing that my knees are nervously locked. I am busy pretending to not be checking out Sharon across the room with the too small t-shirt and ample perky breasts. This is one way of not being present to my own body. I go back to being a hungry one year old living in fantasy. The fantasies in my head ask for attention. The task is to not give them that attention. I stand at attention to the process.
Instructor Brian comes over to me and says,
“Ahhh a good little boy with locked knees back on his heels. That makes you a pushover”, He says, as he gently pushes on my chest and I lose my balance backward.
My training had begun.