“After the first Rolfing® session, I found I could breathe again and I actually thought, ‘do I really need all ten sessions, I feel so much better already!’ Then overtime, I realised it made sense as each session is just one part of the whole thing, and I experienced fantastic things in so many of the sessions.’ Says Tanja Wego.
I am talking to Certified Rolfer® Aman Andres Kohlbach and his client, Tanja Wego (42), both based in Cologne, Germany. Mother to a 15-year old daughter, Tanja works in the finance division of a property management company. She turned to Aman for Rolfing after two emergency hospital admissions with a suspected heart attack; all follow-up treatments failed to resolve her chronic health problems and anxiety.
What was the problem Tanja?
For years, I experienced terrible problems with my body. The pain in my body got so bad I was admitted to hospital twice because I thought I was having a heart attack. The doctors investigated my heart but they couldn’t find anything wrong. They recommended I try psychotherapy and physiotherapy. I was also told to see a psychiatrist.
Did you follow the doctors’ advice?
Yes. I went to see a psychotherapist, a physiotherapist and a psychiatrist! The psychotherapy helped me a little as my life was very stressful at the time, particularly my job… that was very demanding. The physiotherapy scarcely helped at all. The psychiatrist told me to take antidepressants but at that point, I was 37 and I just thought, ‘No, I don’t want to do that!’ I’d tried out so many different therapies and I was slightly giving up, however something inside me thought ‘there must be someone or something that can help me’.
Were you working very long hours when all this happened?
Yes. I was the PA to the boss and I was working a huge amount.
Was Tanja suffering from burnout? I ask Aman.
That was the word she used when she came to see me. It was a vicious cycle. She was very anxious and she could also never venture very far from home for fear that something would happen to her.
What made you try Rolfing? I ask Tanja.
On my way to work, I always used to pass by one of the clinics where Aman practices. I called in one day actually looking for an osteopath but the doctor recommended I try Rolfing with Aman instead.
I thought I’d give Rolfing a go, however I have to admit that I am not one to easily talk or show my emotions to other people, nor do I really like being touched. I don’t even like massages that much. It is easy if you know what is going to happen but Rolfing was something totally new to me so I was a little bit apprehensive at the beginning. However, Aman was very good at explaining how it worked, the process of The Ten Series, and I did the full ten sessions. That was three years ago and I’m now planning on seeing Aman for a top-up session!
So you had absolutely no knowledge about Rolfing prior to meeting Aman?
No, I went along to the first session with almost no expectations except a faint hope that I might feel a little bit better afterwards. It really was a case of ‘let’s see… let’s give it a go’. In a way, I had nothing to lose. I thought I would try one session, and then, if that was any good, continue with the remaining nine sessions. However, I felt the benefits from the very first session, I could breathe again. I then wanted to see through the complete Ten Series as each session is a part of the whole treatment. It was like a ten-piece jigsaw puzzle.
Did you like the fact that that Rolfing is structured as The Ten Series, that it comprises ten sessions with a clear ‘beginning, middle and end’?
Yes, very much so. It is especially attractive to somebody like me with my experience of having tried out so many therapies over the years! For instance, take physiotherapy… I was getting this thrown at me. It can go on and on and on, but at the same time, I had the feeling it wasn’t helping me. I see Rolfing totally differently. From session to session, it was releasing stuff, strengthening, preparing me for the next session… you can really follow the process where it is making you whole again.
Rolfing has given me a totally different quality of life. Not just in terms of my body, but my mind and spirit.
Was there a particular session where you thought ‘wow!’ Rolfing really is helping me’?
There were two sessions that positively surprised me and made me think ‘oh wow’, and there was one session that totally finished me off but in a really good way!
The first session… I had always had this pain in the chest, around my heart, which frightened me, and Aman was able to provoke this pain and tension by touching some spots in the body and then release them. It really felt like he physically grabbed hold of the pain and removed it from me. That really helped me relax and let go.
There was also one session when Aman told me to stand up slowly and I felt like I was drunk as I felt the floor completely differently. It was like I could walk in a different way and I had to learn to walk all over again as it was so totally new to me. I have a different movement pattern now and I find it easier to walk. I now take much longer walks with my Golden Retriever. Before I used to find that walk pretty intense but now the dog is the one that is more exhausted!
My head is more freed up for walking and I am enjoying nature. I have a totally different perception of everything around me. Now I don’t have to walk with a mobile for fear of falling over and dying of a heart attack.
I don’t remember one particular moment however it was already evident in the first session that Rolfing helped Tanja. There was a change in her attitude to the whole thing. However what I really liked was Tanja’s openness to go through the whole process. She was actively engaged, ready to really process it, go through it, integrate it and carry it on in her life. For me, she was really great to work with.
Yes, I was really willing to try something new, even though previous therapies had not helped me. It was only really after I felt the benefits from the first session, however, that I really opened myself up to the whole process. That is even though I like to think that I am usually quite open to trying out new things!
Tanja, did Rolfing help you address your work life balance?
Yes! I still work full time with the same company but I have a different role. I am no longer assistant to the management. I found a job where I am more my own boss and this enables me to leave work when I want to.
Rolfing has really helped Tanja strengthen her boundaries.
I feel more in my own body. That part is hard to explain to other people. I’ve spoken about it to some of my closest friends but I have to admit that I get some odd looks!
Did Rolfing present any particular challenges?
Yes, Session Seven which works on the neck and jaw area. I was ready for the session when it came round but It would have put me off Rolfing if that had come at an earlier stage in the process.
Since you completed the Rolfing Ten Series, has your life changed in other ways?
It is a good question! Rolfing and my partner (since 2015) brought me back to life. Before I was just fighting… doing my job, managing the house, the dog, my daughter… I wasn’t going to parties or anything, or if I was, I stayed very much on the sidelines. Now I am very much looking forward to participating in the Cologne Carnival. I have always been a big Carnival fan and now, having stood back for a while, I’ve got right back into it. In fact, my daughter is dancing in the Carnival. I am again able to go and watch all my daughter’s dance performances. I am also travelling further afield. For a long time, I didn’t dare to go on holiday outside Germany and even then, it would always be a beach holiday, never to the mountains. Since Rolfing, I have been to Scotland with my family and that was just wonderful. I really have got my life back!
Photography credits: Daniel Hahnfeld