Conversations with a Master Rolfer part 1

In this first part of an ongoing series, Russ Pfeiffer, Certified Advanced Rolfer , discusses his practice with an anonymous patient. This is an excerpt from an actual session and with full permission and encouragement of the patient. 

In this session, Russ and his patient discuss Fascia manipulation, what it is, why he manipulates it and what role it plays in the body

Patient: Why do you manipulate Fascia and what is Fascia?

Russ: Fascia is a kind of netting. Dr. Ida Rolf called it “the organ of structure” because it connects everything. The muscles are merely hamburger meat without Fascia. Fascia is what holds it all together. When you see a steak it’s why you can cut the steak and it doesn’t just fall apart.

Patient: It’s the marbling?

Russ: Yeah, but with the marbling, there can be fat in there. The fat is Fascia with adipose tissue in it. So, you have all these fibers that are like a spider web that connects everything together. A ligament is where the tendon, bone, and muscle connect. So, it’s a whole web that connects everything, it’s all-inclusive. The thicker parts that are showing are the tendons, they are not muscles.

Patient: So why do you manipulate the Fascia? 

Russ: Because of the forces placed upon it. If I’m doing some repetitive motion exercise. Like if I’m a baseball pitcher, the pitching motion is going to build up a lot of Fascia because of the force coming in there. Then the collagen fibers go and make it thicker because it’s being used in response to a forced placed upon it.  We can also break down the tissue and that’s what I’m doing here with you. One of the biggest repetitive motions that we do is walking. If you walk well, you’re distributing the load. If you have the right timing and coordination, those things and the Fascia don’t build-up. If you could walk flawlessly then you would be using all 600 muscles as you move. But most people are just using 50 muscles and banging their heels on the ground when they walk. For them, there’s going to be a buildup of Fascia because they’re not distributing the load throughout their bodies. So, it gets thick in certain places and starts to restrict motion.

performing fascia manipulation is crucial for ones body

Patient: So, you manipulate the Fascia because when the muscles are not working well together or when the individual is not using the muscles to their full capability the Fascia starts to accumulate to compensate for the muscles not harmonizing well together?

Russ: Yeah, and using the skeleton and the bones together with the muscle and fascia to distribute the load is a big concept. People are mostly unaware that Fascia can start to restrict motion.

Patient: When you’re manipulating the Fascia does it release anything into your body? Like when you get a massage and they say “drinks lots of water because it’s going to release toxins.”

Russ: Yeah, what happens more than anything is blood gets into areas that it hasn’t been for a while because of the Fascia is thick so there’s no movement around there. Then blood doesn’t get in there. There are many places where there are muscles right next to each other and the ability and job of the Fascia is to hold structure but allow for muscles to move against bone and against themselves.

If Fascia gets too thick, the muscles are moving in a clump, and that isn’t good. We want things to be really moving altogether. When you see extraordinary movers, you can see that things are working more harmoniously. Watch good basketball players, Dr. Jay, James Harden,  these guys just aren’t seven foot tall and amazingly coordinated. Those types of guys are so fluid its different. They are on another level. They are gifted and it just comes naturally for them. But for most of us, its a lot of work.


fascia manipulation can help the muscles work together

Patient: Are you a big basketball fan?

Russ: Yes, in terms of movement that you can see. Football is so brutal its just tough.

Patient: Full impact football?

Russ: Yeah, I love it.


Patient: I used to, but it’s like, it causes brain damage.

Russ: Yeah. That’s why I can’t believe they don’t want to improve the helmets. They are just a piece of foam around a helmet you know? They are very elegant basketball players because you can not foul them.

Patient: Who is the hottest basketball player right now?

Russ: Well there’s a few for different reasons Lebron being one.

Patient: Lebron vs. Kobe?


Russ: Well Kobe’s gone now but the difference is LeBron is more of a physical beast. LeBron trains as good as Kobe did. But he is more of a physical specimen. Kobe is more of a mental specimen. What do they call him? The Black Mamba. He’s an assassin and LeBron is a guy that lost a championship and said there’s more to life than basketball. Which made

his wife and kids cheer a lot I’m sure and made the fans boo. I want to copy psychopath Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, not nice guys. So, if you have this nice guy that mediated was unproductive and then you had some ruthless dude that was like I’m the best computer repair guy you ever saw. I’m going to go out and show you every day that I’m the best computer repair guy that you ever saw. He would be productive.

Patient: Yeah, but look at Phil Jackson “The Zen Master”

Russ: He had Kobe. He had Michael Jordan and he had those guys coach. He didn’t have to coach. Then what happened when he went to the Knicks, don’t get me started on that guy.

Patient: You think Michael Jordan was a psychopath? I felt Jordan wasn’t cocky like Kobe

Russ: Oh, they are different in their own way

Patient: What about Magic Johnson?

Russ: Magic liked to play basketball. He just loved to be with the boys and play. It was always back and forth with those guys.

Patient: Well Kobe has won championships right?


Russ: Yeah, but he’s retired. He’s not in that league. You know when you get people like Korea Duel Jabara he is more of intellect and intellect is the best. But with Kobe when you talk about physicality this guy has physicality he is like seven-foot-tall and really embodied. He made it look easy. Some people have this physicality look at Kobe and Michael Jordan in terms of NBA history. They have amazing timing and coordination above anyone else.

Patient: Sure.


Russ: Now you do get the advantage of being small because you can go between their legs. I should be able to be faster in terms of cutting not maybe the straight run, but that’s why I’m impressed with these guys because they’ve got the height and they can still maneuver really well. I mean I’m really impressed with someone like Shaq who is a beast of a human being and can still breakdance. He demonstrates a level of body control. Now is he the best breakdancer? No, but he’s seven-foot two.

Patient: Yeah. It’s like the odds you don’t want. You don’t want to be starting with Kareem.

Russ: Well I would say that Kareem was an intellect because he went back.

Patient: Did he have an actual PhD?

Russ: Yeah, he also grew up in a time when education was very respected. He went to UCLA did his four years. These other guys don’t, LeBron came right from high school.

Russ Pfeiffer works with some of the most forward thinking entrepreneurs in Los Angeles to improve their lives. When Russ is not helping his customers, he is working on a virtual reality project that he believes will change the world. He lives in Venice Beach with his wife Sue.