Naomi Wynter-Vincent is the founder of London Rolfing and works from London and Luton. She is a certified Rolfer™, having completed her training at the British Academy of Rolfing Structural Integration, an affiliate of the European Rolfing Association and the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.
Naomi is also a qualified yoga teacher (RYT 200, YogaLondon), YMCA exercise-to-music instructor, massage therapist, reflexologist and aromatherapist.
She also holds a first degree from Cambridge University, Masters degrees from the University of Sussex and UCL, and a PhD in psychoanalysis and literature from the University of Sussex, focusing on the work of Wilfred Bion.
I grew up with my mum and my grandmother, and have fond memories of giving little shoulder massages to them when I was a child. Little did I imagine that the skills I learned then would become the foundation of my career as a Rolfer. While at university I signed up for a professional course in massage, and achieved professional qualifications in reflexology, aromatherapy and aerobics instructing in the year after I finished my degree.
To some of my friends, I suspect, my persistent side interest in touch therapies seemed anomalous, and in the meantime I developed a first career as a university administrator, fundraiser, and project manager, interwoven with two self-funded, part-time Masters degrees. Overall, I spent my twenties sitting for the most part uncomfortably in various offices, trying to summon enthusiasm for Powerpoint presentations and always hoping for more interesting biscuits in meetings. Yet the more I tried to establish my place in that world, the less things worked: on turning thirty, I was made redundant.
I first tried Rolfing as a client, at a point when I was struggling with chronic fatigue, lower back pain, tight shoulders, mysterious skin problems, and painful hips. No amount of stretching ever made the slightest bit of difference to my inflexible hamstrings. There was a long, horrible period after the redundancy where the slightest exertion made me out of breath (I was a chronic over-breather). I used to lose my train of thought mid-sentence, to the point where I took refuge in Facebook status updates as the only place where I could more reliably express myself. At a certain point, I vividly remember the feeling that I was ageing beyond my years. Nothing felt good: I was heavier than I wanted to be, had very little self-confidence, and couldn’t help noticing that I always looked terrible in photos. I had always enjoyed dancing, but I had lost my wiggle and my feet felt leaden. For good measure, I also developed the painful foot condition, plantar fasciitis, which took months to resolve and made walking painful. I seemed to trip and slip with depressing frequency, and became almost phobic about falling down stairs.
But my next stumble was a more positive one. I wish I could remember exactly how and when I first found Rolfing, or – perhaps – when Rolfing found me: caught me unawares on a late night most likely, trawling the Internet for an answer to a barely formulated question which started with my health but was really about my professional identity. I remember thinking that I could do with a massage every day, and I had a lightbulb moment: if I need a massage every day, I realised, I need something other than a massage, and the promise of a therapy that could potentially transform my posture was a very appealing one. It was to be the start of an entirely unanticipated and challenging personal journey, culminating in my graduation from the first British Rolfing training after nearly three years of training.
I love what I do. It’s a fascinating way to work with people, and an unending opportunity for continued learning and development. For the first time in my life, I don’t have to park my mind, heart and physical self when I go to work, and – y’know what? – my lower back doesn’t any more, and nor does my CV. My friends have grown accustomed to my strange second career, and I’ve learned to style out the inevitably awkward pause when I tell people what I do.
Rolfing is both an art and a science: there are endless layers of anatomy, movement, and human behaviour to fathom. Every Rolfer will come at the complexity of the embodied human being from a point of view that reflects their own interests, skills, and values, and I trace lines of connection between a number of my personal and academic interests, in writing, movement and the work of writers such as Wilfred Bion, Marion Milner, Donald Winnicott, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Adam Philips and Hélène Cixous. Discovering the words and wisdom of Rolfing’s founder, Dr Ida Rolf, has also been a delight, along with the growing body of thinking and writing from within the world of Rolfing itself, from writers and practitioners such as Peter Levine, Hubert Godard and Tom Myers. The practice of Rolfing requires and combines the rigours of anatomical knowledge, manual skill and personal empathy with a refreshing openness to creative and non-dogmatic thinking. For me it is finally this expansive, creative and analytic quality that sets Rolfing apart from similar posture-oriented therapies.