Why I Became a Rolfer® - KaylaAnn

KaylaAnn McGowan 

Rolfer® - Reflexologist - Reiki master - Gut Coach, Full Body Connection 

My decision to become a Rolfer® was highly influenced by my dad. Later in life, he was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease (which ironically is no longer classified as a disease). A few months after his diagnosis, he just wasn’t able to live how he used to. He wanted to be active, but the resulting pain was just too much to handle. He went through several back surgeries, none of them ultimately successful. I think it was during the third surgery, I was in phase two of Rolfing® school and we were doing session 5 - the front of the spinal column. My instructor Libby Eason said, "I know your dad had back surgery, so please feel free to step in and get closer to the table if you need to, I know today is an emotional day for you.

Ellen Freed was there too, and they were doing a switch-off during this teaching and I remember calling my dad and saying, Hey by the way - the entire class is here on the phone with us. And I remember Libby, she was so sweet - she just gave me room to have my own family there even though it was a hard day, and we were actively in class. At one point she said, You became a Rolfer because of your dad's surgeries. And it was true. I mean there we were doing session 5 – the spine. And my dad has just had surgery and I'm learning how to work in that area. So sure, it felt obvious to me that Rolfing was going to play this incredible role in my life. And up to that point, he had tried everything available - PT, dry-needling chiropractic, acupuncture, and nothing had helped – including painkillers.

On the one hand, it was hard to see him in pain, unable to get any relief. But at the same time, I was gaining this incredible hands-on education and understanding of why he was in pain. Once I became certified, I didn’t work on him myself – I was too new a Rolfer. But even knowing I could give him the name Rolfing, which led him to find a teacher, was the best gift I could ever give him. He ended up going up to session 7 of the 10 series – honestly, he just looked so great after those first 6 sessions. After that, I did the rest of the sessions for him. By the end of the series, he was back to the quality of life he wanted – playing golf, but also, he’s always lived on the land, and outside work is a big part of life. And he’s completely back to that lifestyle with no issues and not feeling like he has to take a Vicodin afterward.

It was an incredible journey – he went from his everyday pain on a scale of 1-10 being a 9.5, to about a 1. Looking back, I suppose there were a few other reasons that I was attracted to Rolfing. I had very flat feet and I had also been in several car accidents. At the time I was leading yoga classes, and I was thinking about going to massage school because I wanted to help my dad. And in one of my yoga classes, there was a Rolfer, she’d been coming to my class for maybe a year. I’d given her some hands-on postural adjustments and after class one day she came over and said, I think you could do a lot more with your hands than massage - I think you should try Rolfing – and, your feet are flat and your heads crooked, do you want to live that way for the rest of your life, or work with it?.

So, I started working with her and after session 2, I had arches in my feet for the first time. Then I was really interested in Rolfing. I was curious about how it might help my dad, but I also knew there was something there for me too. And I knew it worked based on the radical changes in my feet. As I continued studying, I began to see how (and I don't mean this as a criticism, just an observation) doctors aren't trained to look at structure, they're trained to look at Physiology. And that’s true today – I looked into taking an Anatomy and Physiology course at UVM to add to my study of the fascia. When I looked through the course listings all the study was centered around organs, chemical reactions, and musculature. But there's no mention of fascia.

The reason mainstream doctors don't know about things like fascia is that it's just not part of their curriculum. So, for me, it feels like an amazing time to be a bodyworker.

Starting in 2008 there have been several Fascia Research Congress conferences coordinated by the Fascia Research Society. And every Congress demonstrates how there's a tremendous depth of research behind all this work. And it’s helping to bring the understanding of integrated bodywork, fascia, and Rolfing into the mainstream of people’s understanding. At the same time, it can be frustrating that even in 2022 it can feel at times like there’s still a roadblock to people on a larger scale understanding what Rolfing is. I see my role as helping to help get the word out there, to inform and educate people on what fascia is, how it works, what it does.

That’s actually one of the reasons why I made a TikTok account. When the pandemic happened business slowed – I was bored one day, so I started posting videos to TikTok. Like how to properly use your arms when you walk in a way that compliments and works in concert with your legs. Seems so basic. But people really don't understand how to coordinate your movements properly.

It turned out, the first year I had my account so much of the interaction with people was debunking a lot of myths and dispelling a ton of wrong information about Rolfing. I was in contact with other Rolfers who also expressed frustration when encountering organizations or people who still didn’t have a clear understanding of what Rolfing was. I don't mean an academic understanding - like a basic 101 understanding of simply what Rolfing is, and what it does for you. So, for me the last couple of years I feel like now I have a platform where I can continue educating people on the incredible benefits of integrated bodywork.

The most satisfying feedback I get on TikTok is people thanking me for helping them understand what Rolfing is – and being grateful that now, they can go out and find someone to work with. And that’s all I ever wanted for anybody, was for people to discover Rolfing, to understand what it is, and how it can help them. The way it helped my father.

KaylaAnn lives in Vermont with her husband and the world’s best cat, Hobbs.  

You can find her on TikTok at, @fullbodyconnection.