Show Notes:

32: Bodywork pioneer Art Riggs was one of the first Certified Rolfers™ to publish a book about “advanced” techniques. His textbook (Deep Tissue Massage) was adopted by massage therapy programs worldwide, and as a result, his teaching and style has influenced tens of thousands massage and manual therapists in the decades since. Art talks with Til Luchau about his work, aging, self-care, and more. 

Get the full transcript at Til or Whitney's sites! 

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Til Luchau Advanced-Trainings        whitney lowe
Til Luchau                          Whitney Lowe

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Your Hosts:

Til Luchau Advanced-Trainings
Til Luchau

whitney lowe
Whitney Lowe

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(The Thinking Practitioner Podcast is intended for professional practitioners of manual and movement therapies: bodywork, massage therapy, structural integration, chiropractic, myofascial and myotherapy, orthopedic, sports massage, physical therapy, osteopathy, yoga, strength and conditioning, and similar professions. It is not medical or treatment advice.)

Full Transcript:

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The Thinking Practitioner Podcast:
Episode 32: Art Riggs: Aging Well

Broadcast date: 02/17/2021
©Copyright The Thinking Practitioner Podcast, Til Luchau & Whitney Lowe

Whitney Lowe:

Welcome to the Thinking Practitioner Podcast.

Til Luchau:

A podcast where we dig into the fascinating issues, conditions and quandaries in the massage and manual therapy world today.

Whitney Lowe:

I'm Whitney Lowe.

Til Luchau:

And I'm Til Luchau.

Whitney Lowe:

Welcome to the Thinking Practitioner.

Til Luchau:

Welcome to the Thinking Practitioner.

Til Luchau:

I am Til Luchau, and I am pleased to be here today with a special guest who I'm going to tell you about in a minute. ABMP is proud to sponsor the Thinking Practitioner Podcast. All massage therapists and body workers can access free ABMP resources and information on the coronavirus and the massage profession at ABMP.com/covid19, including sample release forms, PPE guides and a special issue of Massage & Bodywork Magazine, where Whitney Lowe and I — Whitney's not here this episode, he'll be back next week — Whitney and I are frequent contributors. For more check out the ABMP Podcast available at ABMP.com podcasts or wherever you prefer to listen.

Til Luchau:

My guest today, Art Riggs, you're here with me, Art. Thanks for joining me. Thanks for taking the time.

Art Riggs:

It's great to be here, my friend.

Til Luchau:

And you are, just as a word of introduction for those who don't know you, and I got this off of your site at the last minute here because I realized I needed to give some introduction, you are a Certified Rolfer™, in fact, an Advanced Rolfer™, and a massage therapist who has been teaching bodywork since 1998. Your bio says you have a lifetime of hard physical activity and high level athletic pursuits including ultramarathons, which led you to bodywork. First as a grateful recipient and later as a student.

Til Luchau:

I know you worked in physical therapy doing manual work for about a decade. You've worked with professional athletes. You've published some very influential texts and videos and you've taught over the world. You've been a great booster of me and helped me imagine doing this work in a bigger format than I could have at the time, and I'm grateful to you for that. So I'm really pleased and happy to have this time to chat with you, Art.

Art Riggs:

Thank you.

Til Luchau:

Is there anything else that you'd like people to know about you here at the outset?

Art Riggs:

I don't know. I'll blab along and maybe some things will come out. I would just like to say, as far as influence, that you have greatly influenced me. And I mentioned this in a birthday thing, that I met you as a young Rolfer 33, 34 years ago, and I was just around 40 or something. And so knowing that I'm 75 now, you must have been about 25. And it really sticks with me.

Art Riggs:

I was just blown away after coming directly from massage school at how much you knew, at such a young age, but also, which I've seen in your teaching, is your low-key, relaxed, not trying to be on the grandstand, being a rock star. You just want to get information across. And it's been a little bit of a lesson to me, because I think you and I teach a little bit differently and I'm a little bit more hyper and fast-moving. But I think it's just really great that you are sharing and not afraid to have other people come on, and feel any competition. You're so sincere, just trying to make everybody the best bodyworker they can be.

Til Luchau:

Well, yeah, you're making me blush. I was going to interview you, but you've given me a nice introduction too, Art. So thank you for that. But back to you for a second. I know some of the story but not all of it. What were you doing before you were a bodyworker and what drew you into this work? What got you going in this region?

Art Riggs:

That's a long story. I do have a fairly extensive and educational background. I had a Bachelors in psych, a Masters in English literature, and then I got into running and training runners as well. So I came up to the University of California and their PhD program in exercise physiology, and luckily about two years into it I saw the light. And then my body was starting to act up from all the running and athletic injuries and I got Rolfed. And the rest of it led that way. I mean, Rolfing was just an eye-opener to me.

Til Luchau:

What about Rolfing opened your eyes? What drew you into that?

Art Riggs:

It's interesting. Some of the injuries I had, they couldn't deal with. I had some structural issues, a lot of injuries, torn ACLs, things like that. So I went through that, and luckily my Rolfer educated me that there's a lot more to life than pain. And being in your body, where if you're running 100 mile races you're dissociating, even though I tried to focus. And I had these subtle changes that friends were mentioning, and I was a hard body, hard-driving. And as I went inward in my body, I just felt these profound changes.

Art Riggs:

I was at a crossroads, and was about ready to go back and pick up some more educational training. I was certified in Iowa to teach, but I got Rolfed and I just said, "My God," and the rest has been just leading on from that. Just very quickly, as I first came out, I'm not much of a businessman. And I did start working at a physical therapy office when I finished my Rolf training, because I quit my other jobs. And they knew me quite well from five knee surgeries.

Art Riggs:

So they started me as a PT aide, and within a month they gave me a room and just let me start doing manual work, because they were very much using electrical and Cybex and stuff, and it got almost embarrassing because my skills were not that great. I overworked.

Til Luchau:

You had the Rolf training at that time?

Art Riggs:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

They put you in an office, you were seeing PT clients?

Art Riggs:

I probably work a third as hard as I did back then. But the funny thing is, is they said, "Can you give a little bit of work here?" And I'd spend 10 minutes doing some hands-on work, and the person would say, "I want to schedule with that PT next time." So they had to say, "No, he's just an aide, and we can't do that." That's fine. I will say that I had no exceptional skills. I overworked. Thank God for the Rolf training. But they were really good bosses. They ended up getting me about an 80% increase in my salary. Got me off from doing ultrasounds and putting ice on. They did that in about two and a half months and then gave me another increase about four months later and said, "Just don't tell the other PTs what we're paying you."

Art Riggs:

So that was my goal coming from a massage background, where I was taught, actually, to not work on injuries, and scared to death of doing anything. And working in PT was a huge-

Til Luchau:

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Sorry if you said, I missed it. But you had a massage background before you went to the Rolf training?

Art Riggs:

Well, you had to do that to get into Rolfing back then.

Til Luchau:

Yeah. Okay. So you had the prerequisite massage background.

Art Riggs:

[crosstalk 00:07:59] 20-hour massage class, pass the physiology and the anatomy, because I had that in grad school. And I knew that I was doing it to become a Rolfer. But the thing that I was about is that over the years, and I know you've had this as well from your teaching tale, that massage therapists would come and take a class. I just started teaching to earn a little bit of money and whatever, but massage therapists will say, "My God, this is totally different from what I learned."

Art Riggs:

So unlike you and Whitney [Lowe], Erik [Dalton], and tons of other people, I confined myself to teaching massage therapists here in the United States. Because to be honest, I would look at your work, and some of these other people's, and I said, "They're doing a better job than I could on the anatomical, the whatever." And I felt much more gratified changing someone's whole viewpoint of bodywork.

Art Riggs:

So I stayed in the massage world for quite a while, and then I did my book, and then I had my videos. So I start getting asked to go around to other countries. And then I found out in Europe and in Taiwan and in Japan and Australia, that two-thirds of the people I was teaching were physical therapists, because their training had nothing to do with touch. I won't mention his name, but a real well-known teacher, who has taken a lot of classes with physical therapists, said he'd much rather teach the massage therapists, because they know how to work with tissue.

Art Riggs:

So in Poland, it's just the opposite. Here people start massage and then they come out and they become Rolfers, or physical therapists, or any number of things. I don't want to be touting Rolfing as the answer.

Til Luchau:

Massage columnists, video producers. People become all kinds of things after they do massage.

Art Riggs:

So basically in Poland particularly, and in Taiwan I found this, is that they take their physical therapy training and they don't know how to work with tissue. So they become massage therapists after that training. Where in the United States, I'm afraid there's a little bit of elitism, that that's not applicable for me.

Til Luchau:

There's more of a divide here between the massage therapy world and the physical therapy world than there is in a lot of places abroad. I've seen that too.

Art Riggs:

Yep. For example, one of the things that I'm leaning toward is, I think there's a bit of a dichotomy in massage in the United States. So that's where most of the people listening are going to be interested. I am a healer, which, I keep away from those terms totally. I don't like those. But they'll say, "I do therapeutic work, I don't do relaxation work." And they denigrate relaxation work as something that is frivolous.

Art Riggs:

On the other side, there are a lot of people that are just fantastic at that work, and they do a huge service. But my feeling is that they are afraid to work with structural issues, with integration of the body. They don't have that knowledge. And there's many ways to get the knowledge. Obviously, you and I are Rolfers. Tom Myers has his own little... Not little, but big sidelight there, there's all sorts of other things. And you have to do what grabs you.

Art Riggs:

But my thought is that there are a lot of people that are stuck one way or the other. They just do fix-it work, they fix something, and that client is gone because it's more the physical therapy issue. And then those that just do relaxation work do not feel fulfilled. They don't know how to work on a shoulder problem, a knee, a back. And my thought is that you can combine both of those. And when I did my first video, which was much more technical, a lot of specific strategies and things like that, I would get a lot of compliments and people would say, "But there's my problem. I have people coming for a massage, and they want to feel good, and they want to relax. And I'm drawn. Which one do I do?"

Art Riggs:

My theory is that you can do both. And to do that you need to have a philosophy on integrating of the body, on timing, on doing repeat sessions so that you're not trying to rush in too much. So that's where I felt gratified over the years. I've had a lot of physical therapists that have come and studied, and felt it was very helpful, but the massage therapists that have gotten out of the spas, sorry to all the spa people, I think it's a great way to work for a lot of people and a great way to get your hands on people, but you're somewhat limited in very often the hour, which is now a 50-minute massage. So when people work for themselves, they can combine the feel-good work with really serious and important therapeutic work and kill two birds with one stone.

Art Riggs:

So that's where I go, and then I leave the more sophisticated techniques to teachers like you and a whole bunch of other people out there. And I feel happy working that way, but I also feel happy going to Europe and having physical therapists be open to this and have their eyes open up just as much.

Til Luchau:

You found a way to bridge that divide between those two ways of seeing it, and that's interesting that you started out in the physical therapy world but then ended up working more with massage people.

Art Riggs:

Yep.

Til Luchau:

What did you do first, a book or a DVD?

Art Riggs:

Yeah, I did the book.

Til Luchau:

What came out first? You did the book? The book was Deep Tissue Massage. Deep Tissue Massage was the name of the book. And that was 1990s sometime?

Art Riggs:

Yeah, middle-

Til Luchau:

'80s.

Art Riggs:

Yeah, middle '90s, maybe. I lose track. Yeah.

Til Luchau:

Okay. It was really one of the first of its kind. There weren't a lot of other books out at that time, other textbooks certainly, going into that viewpoint of bodywork being something that could both be helpful for a physical condition, and expanses in experience.

Art Riggs:

Yep.

Til Luchau:

Yeah. What was that like to write at that time and to put that out? What else was going on in the field? Did you have competitors then?

Art Riggs:

Well, you know, I don't know. I just did my little thing. Because I was teaching. And one of the things I noticed at massage school was that the students were... I teach a lot of techniques, and I teach a lot of body movement and body placement. Because one of my basic philosophies is that we want smooth movement through the joints. And most of the problems come with restriction at in range. So I like to test the restrictions on in range by moving close to in range. Not over-stressing it. And relaxing, and finding restrictions, and then increasing motion.

Art Riggs:

But I would see in class that my students were writing madly in their notebooks and drawing stick figures, and trying to imitate some technique as a posture. So I got tired of that, so I started making just a little syllabus, and over the couple years of that I had enough that another Rolfer, one of my major influences, Michael Salveson, knew a publisher. And he said, "Why don't you turn that in?" And they immediately said, "Yeah, let's do this."

Art Riggs:

So I threw together the book and thought I'd maybe sell a couple hundred a year to my students or something. But it did seem to be popular, and I think one reason it did is that I didn't name it after myself, or some complicated, cosmic name. It's just deep tissue. And every person I go to, I've taken your classes, I've taken quite a few other classes, I pick something up, and I really would not feel right putting my name on it. But I think it made it accessible to a lot of people in the massage field, that I don't want to be... I want to be a massage therapist. And just called it Deep Tissue Massage.

Til Luchau:

Deep Tissue Massage: A Visual Guide to Techniques. And it became a textbook for a lot of advanced massage programs and massage schools all over the world.

Art Riggs:

It still is, and there's some other books that I'm hesitant to look at because I feel a little bit [inaudible 00:17:24] but I think it's accessible. And it has been translated into about eight languages or something like that.

Til Luchau:

No kidding. No kidding. And then you published your DVDs or your videos, DVDs at that time. And I remember I was teaching at the Rolf Institute at that time, and it must have been middle, early '90s. And I remember you sent a free copy to the Rolf Institute of your new DVDs. And I was the guy teaching the entry-level, the first phase of the Rolf training. So they said, "Hey, Til, we got this video. It seems to be by a Rolfer, Art Riggs. Do you know him?" I said, "No, I don't know him." "It's about massage, do you want to have a look?"

Til Luchau:

I looked at it and I was like, "Wow, this guy's on to something." And for me it was a revelation, because at least within the Rolf Institute, I got to say there was maybe a tacit, maybe overt injunction against teaching to anybody outside the field. There was a taboo, as it were, on teaching non-Rolfers something like what we're doing. Did you ever run up against that?

Art Riggs:

Well, yeah. Because I got some flak for that. I bend over backwards to say this is not Rolfing, and if you want to study Rolfing... People say, "Can I learn how to do a series with you?" I say, "Yeah, go to the Rolf Institute, or go wherever you want to go." But I bend over backwards, and I've had people at the end of class not even know that I'm a Rolfer. But I do really try to get across the idea of an integrated body that all the parts are connected. So fluid connection between.

Art Riggs:

But the basic principles there is to let go of the cookie cutter, expand your knowledge, get a philosophy, whatever it is, of balancing the body, and then plan your bodywork around that. That's sort of where that...

Til Luchau:

That's great. That's an eloquent way to say it. I just thought of a memory. I was at a conference, Tom Myers came up behind me, I hadn't seen him for a while, and said, "Yeah, I've been meaning to tell you, Til, how dare you teach to non-Rolfers the stuff that we learned and were asked to keep to ourselves?"

Art Riggs:

Wow.

Til Luchau:

And I thought he was serious, because there are people that really felt like that, and I certainly caught that flak. But there Tom was giving it to me in jest, and totally pulled my chain. I thought he was really angry at me for this. Of course, he was in that Rolfing alumni club too.

Art Riggs:

Yep. There's one other teacher, one of my huge favorite teachers, but he talks about deep tissue work as just punching holes in fascia. And I think, to be honest, I think that's a little condescending. And I just have known so many people that get into a regular massage... I have just stories after stories after stories. And these aren't people that have just studied with me or using my techniques. Of feeling like they are changing people's lives because they are opening themselves up to expanding what they can do.

Art Riggs:

A quick story, the model for my second DVD set, which, one of the models for the first, it was hopscotch. We start at the feet, we move up, we do all this stuff. And then people say, "Hey, I work at a spa and this is great stuff, but how do I work it in?" So I did a second set which is how to do an integrated full-body massage with goals for the whole body rather than techniques. So what we do for the upper body. How do we fix the shoulder? We need to free the arm from the scapula. We need to free the scapula from the ribs. Where is restriction? How do we move? How do we test this?

Art Riggs:

Well, my model, to shorten it quite a bit, I became her mentor. She is Japanese and she came from a very strict, copy everything that the teacher does. And she went to a fine massage school and learned a great routine. And I started working with her, and she was getting into wars with her husband, and he wanted her to start working at a spa so that she was earning money, and he's not helping her. And I just recommended this to her, I said, "Get a job at a spa. It's great to get your hands on people. You'll be with people." So I'm not in any way denigrating spa work.

Art Riggs:

But I said, "You know, if you're starting with five days a week, when you need one day to get clients." And she expanded it. And for the last, after about three years, she was making six figures working totally out of her own practice. She doesn't charge a whole lot. And the main thing is that just, her clients when she worked at a spa after she learned her touch, which is my main thing. If you have good touch everything else will follow no matter what you do. And time after time, and she's not a bragger. She's very self-effacing. But people would come in and five minutes into a massage, they'd say, "What are you doing?" And she says, "Massage." "No, no, this... I've never felt anything like this."

Art Riggs:

She was getting $50 tips, things like this. She got one even more. She had a doctor come in, he was a regular person at the spa, and she said, "What are you looking for today? What do you need worked on?" He says, "I find it a lot better to just let you decide, because you find things that I don't know about." And I have to throw it back to you because that's one thing I love in your training is that you are not giving a lecture, you're having a conversation with the body. And I love watching you work. You work more slowly than I do. I'm a little bit, I try to bite off more than I can chew and all this stuff. But she has just a full practice from people that say, "I'm through getting regular massage," but they feel great. They fall asleep on the table with her. She works with their central nervous system, albeit unconsciously I think.

Art Riggs:

So I just am a real advocate for every person out there, if you're a new massage therapist, it's a little bit like when you saw you and you were 25 years old, I was feeling intimidated by all the Rolf people, and I feel like your self-effacing and calm demeanor was part of that. But I said, "You know, heck, I'm 40 years old, I'm 15 years older than this guy. If he can do that at 25, maybe I can at 60."

Til Luchau:

That's funny. That's funny. Because I saw your DVDs and I thought the same thing. It was like, "Wait a minute, if he can make it this clear and this obvious, and so different from Rolfing," we should say this to reassure our Rolfer friends and colleagues out there. You didn't go teach Rolfing. I didn't go teach Rolfing. But somehow you really showed me that it was possible to use the inspiration you got there and translate it into something that was useful in another profession.

Art Riggs:

Yeah. Well, we both [crosstalk 00:24:59]

Til Luchau:

[inaudible 00:25:00]

Art Riggs:

Yeah, yeah. But you make a good point about massage therapists that I think are [crosstalk 00:25:07] as I say, touch is everything. And you're, I think, a real master at having people start reading instead of always inputting. To have a good touch, you have to feel what is happening in the body in response to your touch. So you are leading people, but you're letting them lead you. And so again-

Til Luchau:

You're setting-

Art Riggs:

... you're not giving a [crosstalk 00:25:43] you're having a conversation, and you're not forcing people into anything. You are letting them, in some ways leading the way. I don't want to get too sidetracked, but there are things, and we experience this, where people have a resistance. And pursuing, my Rolfer Michael Salveson, I tease him for being a bulldog. He will keep going until the lesson comes across. Sometimes there's discomfort there, but if the person feels safe with you and trusts you, and realizes that any time you say stop or whatever, those are those eye-opening things that I had with my Rolfing, to let go.

Art Riggs:

You can do that, you can have the greatest golf clubs in your bag, and if you don't know how to swing them you're going to play like I play golf. So that's my main thing. We are solving problems. The biggest thing I have to do with massage therapists is that you're not doing a cookie cutter routine. And we are trying to stretch tissue, not squeeze tissue. So minimize lubrication. Take the tissue to its in range, which usually use your joints or whatever you are going to do to do that. And let the tissue let go. And that's not just fascia, it's neurological, [inaudible 00:27:18] organs, fear, pain, all of these things that restrict that.

Art Riggs:

So letting things happen, not making things happen. One of the big ways to do this is the length of your session. And Kay, my therapist I was talking about, she started out giving hour sessions, but one of the things so different from spas is that she has a thing right in her office, says, "Your time doesn't start until I start working."

Art Riggs:

I think I've seen this in the spas, and I go with a 50-minute hour, they jump in, there's no mental, emotional contact. People want their 50 minutes. The person says, "Hi," leaves the room, as you climb on the table. You're face down, there's no eye contact. There's no trust established. And 50 minutes later, you jump off the table, you have 10 minutes to change the linen.

Art Riggs:

She started out doing hours because that's what people, "The first time I'm seeing this person I'm going to see what I feel with her." I would say that she gives 20% of her sessions 60 minutes, she gives 30% of her sessions 75 minutes, which is a great compromise between 90 minutes and 60 minutes, and probably almost all the rest are at least 90 minutes and she occasionally does two hours. I think two hours is too much input to the body, but she's giving a lot of relaxation.

Art Riggs:

I would probably fall asleep during that. I like to solve problems, and I find myself, if I'm working too long... As a Rolfer, I was always doing an hour and 40-minute sessions. And people get used to that. So, "Oh, guess I'd better take about six more strokes here even though I'm not doing anything more." So the timing of your sessions, the communication, things like that.

Til Luchau:

That's great, just how important it is to have that connection and rapport, and then to create the space for someone to relax into it. I'm just thinking of Kay's sign you described, she actually has that sign in your office you say, that reassures people, "This is not on the clock until you get on the table." So we're going to take this sign to connect and find out what you want.

Art Riggs:

Yeah. It's just so important. I read a study of physical therapists, they had a controlled study, and the amount of time they talked to people, and asking people what they feel. What they think. Listening to them, where they don't feel like a body on the table. I do think that my physical therapy work was really helpful in that a lot of bodyworkers, including Rolfers, feel that the one road to Rome is to lengthen and soften tissue. And I see that a lot of problems I have are weakness. So being able to let people know that strengthening core muscles, that if a person's got a frozen shoulder issue you are going to have to start improving internal and external rotation, stabilize the scapula, teaching simple exercises.

Art Riggs:

Not only is that much more effective, but it separates you from the masses. And you don't want to separate yourself just to separate yourself, but it gives them, your clients, a feeling of trust, of, "Wow, I much prefer having somebody get some exercises. Stretching, doing whatever, instead of saying, "Can I see you in a week?" Say, "Let's let this sit. I want you to try these exercises."" And time and time again, somebody's got a knee problem, and I won't go into the specifics of how I work with that. I just think giving your clients a feeling of empowerment is just a huge thing.

Art Riggs:

So teaching strengthening. Not being afraid, without trying to sound like some psychologist, I think there's a fine line here. I've had bodywork from people that start asking about my parents and when I was weaned, and all of that stuff. But the people, there are emotions in humans, and you, in your classes, give time for people to express that when you're working and giving examples.

Art Riggs:

So just a simple, "How are you doing with this?" "Oh, well, it's pretty intense, but..." And then you go ahead. Again, I don't go into these deep, deep psychological explanations about why somebody has pain, but listening to people. And another thing that a couple of Rolfers that have been important to me, one Jason Mixter, who you knew, and had a rather sad ending, brilliant Rolfer. A Harvard graduate. He had a Masters in psychology or whatever. Did all this. And I was taught in my massage training and in the Rolf, you have to keep this lofty distance.

Art Riggs:

Jason was the first who just said, "You know, I find that when I talk to people a little bit, with a sense of boundaries, they have a sense of getting to know me rather than me just getting to know them. And it really increases the trust." So you're not going to be talking about your boyfriend, or your girlfriend, or your fight with this, but a little bit of self-revelation to other people makes this connection work.

Til Luchau:

Makes you human. Yeah. Person-to-person at that point.

Art Riggs:

Yeah. Yeah.

Til Luchau:

That's great.

Art Riggs:

The other thing I think is really important, and again, I'm a big fan of structural bodywork and integration. And of course, I don't want to make this an advertisement for Rolfing. There's some great stuff I've seen from other sources. But having this feeling of connection. So just a quick example with a client I had last week. Ida Rolf had this saying, "Go to where it isn't." And it is relying on the shinbone connected to the knee bone, all of this. And I think there's a lot of truth to that.

Art Riggs:

On the other side with my Rolfer, if I had a specific problem, as great as he was, I would often not mention if I had hurting somewhere because he's going to run away from there, because he's going to go to where it isn't. And sometimes I have to remind people that Sigmund Freud said a cigar is just a cigar, and if somebody's just a tennis player and has taken their backhand too late and they've got tennis elbow, I'm not going to work on their big toe. So striking a balance here.

Art Riggs:

But this client I had last week, he has had two years that he's stopped being a serious cyclist, he's in his middle to late 50s, because a one-time experience made his IT band really sore around the knee. So we did test, is it joint? Is it external? How connected it is? And I often do this. And instead of diving into his knee, which would be the, just go to where it definitely is, often if you can explain to people that this is all connected. So I had him stand and on the side with his knee, I noticed that his foot supinated twice as much. So all that shock was going up the outside of his leg.

Art Riggs:

So I got him on the table both in prone and supine, and I tested internal and external rotation of the hip, abduction and adduction for weakness, and instead of starting on his IT band down by the knee, which I knew was going to help him because it was all fibrous, I freed up his hip. He was very limited in internal rotation of his hip, so you can imagine as a bicyclist, he's probably getting a little bit of a figure eight when he's doing this.

Art Riggs:

I had him stand, and I do a lot of work in gravity. I worked on his foot to get a little bit more pronation. Pronation has this O. We pronate. That's the way the body absorbs shock. That's the way it balances. So I worked on his hip, and his foot. And you have to explain to people, "I'm going to get to that problem." Because they've had other people, that, "I'm the expert, I'm not going to work on this." And he stood up and he said, "Wow." He said, "You didn't even touch my knee and it feels so much better." I said, "Good. Let's go into the knee now."

Art Riggs:

And if you can do that lesson to people, whether it's a shoulder, whether it's a back, start looking for the other issues that may be contributing to that, and you can do that in a massage. When you're two months out of massage, if you test and you have people move around, and it just blossoms from there. So what you really need, and I have to really deal with this with people, is you really need to give people the freedom to feel uncomfortable and not knowing. And to experiment. Because there's so much safety in doing a routine.

Art Riggs:

So time and time again... I'm not a super insecure person, but I'll assure you, when I see some of the people I've studied from, it can get pretty easy to feel like, "Oh, I'm just never going to be anything like that and I don't dare go there." And I've been at this for a long time, and I still keep getting better. And to do that I have to experiment. I have to go down a road and say, "Oops, I think this is a dead end," and stop.

Art Riggs:

Again, I'm blathering along pretty long. But I was teaching in Denmark about three years ago, and 90% of these were physical therapists, great people. And I'm doing a series. They said, "Can you do a full session?" Because I was doing piece, piece, piece. So one of the physical therapists brought in her client, who was a professional saxophone player, and he had scoliosis. He looked like Quasimodo.

Art Riggs:

I worked on him the day before, said, "He's really responsive. Let's do this." So I said, "We're going to take a couple of hours here, I'm going to show you how I do a session." So I had him move, I had him bend, I checked for mobility. And then I said, "Okay, here's my game plan." So I started working, and this is another one, is listen to your hands rather than my brain, on what I think is supposed to happen, and I'm going to do. There's my safety in that.

Art Riggs:

So I kept diving into this body, and I kept changing plans, because, "Oh, I'm feeling a real strain when I work on the gluteus medius. It's going all the way up to the scapula," say. So these people were intrigued by that. And I said, "You know, I'm going to change course here a little bit." And finally I'm working on something where I go, and I'm really tense, and I'm not teaching as much, and I'm really in there, and I'm feeling things. And somebody says, "Excuse me. What exactly are you doing and why?"

Art Riggs:

I stopped, looked up and said, "You know? I don't have a clue. I don't really know. But all I know is that my hands are telling me to do this. And I have to tell you that 50% of the time I'm doing things I'm winging it." And at the end of the class, several days later, people wrote and several of the people said the biggest lesson I had is that, when I'm in my physical therapy training I was told to do this and this and this, and I always had to just keep following that. And the freedom to be comfortable being uncomfortable was a huge lesson. And I'm still fumbling along after 33 or 34 years of Rolfing, but at least I don't sit and berate myself and decide that I'm going to send this person to someone else. So anyway, I think that's a great lesson, to really let yourself be free and adapt.

Til Luchau:

That's great. Thank you. The comfort in being uncomfortable.

Art Riggs:

Yep.

Til Luchau:

And we don't always have to know what's happening, but we can trust our hands and listen to our hands, you said.

Art Riggs:

Yeah. That's [crosstalk 00:40:53] because you get so many people, "Am I doing this right?" And I said, "There is no right. You're doing this a lot better than I can. And just don't look at that as right or wrong. But you do have to see how the body is responding, and not try to force yourself into it if it doesn't want to go there."

Til Luchau:

Yep. Well, Art, I got some good stuff here. I got your thinking about goals versus techniques in your early video. Yeah?

Art Riggs:

Right.

Til Luchau:

One of the keys, you said, was teaching strengthening, not just loosening things.

Art Riggs:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Til Luchau:

You were giving time to emotions and taking time to connect with the client.

Art Riggs:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Til Luchau:

You're being human yourself, albeit with boundaries, you're still making human connection. You were educating people about the connections in their own bodies, say, how the knee could get better from just working the foot, say.

Art Riggs:

Yep.

Til Luchau:

Freedom to experiment. Listening and trusting your hands.

Art Riggs:

Yep.

Til Luchau:

Good stuff. Anything else you want to add in there?

Art Riggs:

Well, there's one thing that pops in there for me is I'd say one of the biggest problems I see, particularly with relatively new therapists, is a lack of confidence and looking at what you think you're not accomplishing rather than what you are accomplishing. And if you're under-confident, you're going to lose that magical feeling of having something happen.

Art Riggs:

I was really competent, in all my educational, with my athletics, with my work, but I'll tell you what, when I got into bodywork and I saw what my teachers were doing, what the other students who had been doing bodywork for a long time were doing, I mean, I really seriously doubted myself enough to say, "Maybe I'm just not cut out for this." And another great teacher who taught physical therapy at Stanford, and got so interested in Rolfing she became a Rolfer and she started a big program up at Fresno and State. Helen James. She's 96 now, and she's still giving sessions. She's just a fabulous woman. And I talked to her about my doubts.

Art Riggs:

This really helped me. I still remember, I sat and talked to her about what was bothering me, and she said, "You know, Art, I just get a sense you don't trust the work, and you think you have to add something to that. Whatever your work is. If it's good enough that it worked for you and you've studied this, don't take too much responsibility for what's happening, or what you think is supposed to happen." And if you are positive, and optimistic, that comes across to a client. And I think we've all had bodyworkers that are, "Is that okay? Are you doing okay here? Is that too much?" That removes that feeling of competency, that, "I can trust this person."

Til Luchau:

Simply trusting the work, trusting the value of what you do. Trusting's going to have a beneficial and positive impact on a client.

Art Riggs:

Do the best you can, and an outcome often comes days or even weeks after your session. Throughout my career I do a lot of fix-it work. I don't just do the 10 session. In fact, most of my work is fix-it work. And I see somebody for a shoulder, and people walk out and say, "That feels really good. When can I come see you?" And I say, "Well, why don't you let it sit for a while? Let's keep it moving and see what you can do, and if you start stagnating you can come back." I never see them again. I'd say, "Well, that's always great. You get a placebo effect and then they say, that wasn't worth anything."

Art Riggs:

Maybe four or five years later this person would call and say, "You know, you saw me five years ago for a shoulder," and I'd figured that the guy didn't like my work, and he said, "You know, you worked on it once and my problem totally went away. Now my knee's bothering me." And that makes you feel a little better, but don't beat yourself up. I think I demand too much of myself, and drawing that line to test yourself, and to try to be better, without pushing it too hard.

Til Luchau:

That's great. Thank you for those. That's an amazing set of pearls of wisdom there. You mentioned this earlier, you came to my birthday party last week, my virtual birthday party where I was turning 60. And really what I decided that I wanted for my birthday was conversations like this with people that I admire and respect, and who have had an influence on the way I think and what I do. You're high on that list. And there's a question that I'm still trying to formulate. I'm still trying to get the question, but it's something about getting older-

Art Riggs:

Oh [inaudible 00:46:21]

Til Luchau:

... and something about... What's that?

Art Riggs:

I've had a lot of practice at getting older.

Til Luchau:

Okay. Good. Because I'm getting practice. I can see it coming. I'm going to get more practice, like it or not. What do you know about taking care of ourselves as we get older? How well do you do? What's challenging for you? What helps? Those kind of questions.

Art Riggs:

Boy. I have a lot of physical issues. A lot of injuries. As far as people getting injured while they're working, I think it's trying to make things happen [inaudible 00:47:05] I think there's, not a fine line between accepting your limitations as you age, but it's not Ezra Pound, I can't remember the British poet, but, "Do not go softly into that dark night." Tossing in the towel and saying, "Oh, I'm too old. I'm doing this. I just got to lighten up." I think we all have to have something to look forward to with growth. And I continue to get better at bodywork.

Art Riggs:

I'm always looking for something new, and you and I discuss things, and light bulbs go on. I still remember some of the things you've done with me in the sessions we've traded. And it was an eye-opener.

Til Luchau:

Likewise. Likewise for me.

Art Riggs:

[crosstalk 00:48:00] so much, but no. And don't be afraid. It's not stealing or plagiarism to expand your skills. But get bodywork. But I think the main thing just in life in general is to not try to just get by. And yet not push yourself too hard.

Art Riggs:

I went out about a year and a half ago. I'm not supposed to run. I've had two knee replacements. But long story, I do a little of that, because I think I have pretty good shock absorption. And I ran a half marathon without training at all. Which-

Til Luchau:

I remember. I remember you told me this.

Art Riggs:

But I used to go on 50 and 60 mile runs training for 100 mile runs. You just do this. And I said, "I just want to see if I can get through this half marathon." And I ended up running half the distance of a marathon in three-minute less time than the time it took me to run a full marathon, and I think I felt better about that than I did any marathons I ran.

Til Luchau:

And this is how long ago? This is a couple of years ago, wasn't it? When was this?

Art Riggs:

It was about a year and a half ago.

Til Luchau:

A year and a half ago.

Art Riggs:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

So why did I think I could ask you for wisdom about taking care of yourself? How do I get there?

Art Riggs:

It's a do as I say, not do as I do. But just say that fear. And you know, let me just, one other thing when you talk to people. I'm in Berkeley, and everybody is doing this and that, and the therapists are going to the other therapists and trading, and all these questions are feel your pain. Feel your anger. I find that so many people are really uncomfortable being happy. And I think it is important to see what people are afraid of.

Art Riggs:

So, people come in with a problem, and you're looking at that shoulder, that back, that knee, but behind it all is, "I'm getting old. Is this what old age is going to be about? What is this going to do to my athletic pursuits and things?" And if you can clarify that with people about, "What does this mean to you?" And you can just listen. You don't have to give them an answer on that. But they don't go that extra step of what the infirmity or what the complaint is.

Art Riggs:

Since I coached running and athletics, because I had exercise physiology background, Kay, my friend, brought in a person who'd had foot surgery and he wanted her teacher to look at this. I spent most of my time talking about why he was so sure that on March 15, when the surgeon said six weeks had passed, that he wanted to get back to running. And I didn't play psychologist at any deep level, I say, "Your body doesn't give a whit what your doctor or you or whatever-"

Til Luchau:

Or the clock.

Art Riggs:

I said, "Look, you've got to listen to your body." And just that light bulb go out in him. It was like, "Ah." Because he was scared to death about going out on the 15th of March, or whatever, and his foot problem coming up again. I said, "You don't know. And if you have a little bit of a setback, it isn't that you're back at base one, it's a lesson to you." And those are the gratifying things that we do.

Til Luchau:

Yes. Yes. Well, thank you. I know why I asked you about taking care of yourself. I know that.

Art Riggs:

Well, that is certainly... I don't look at myself as any paragon of wisdom, and I go fumbling along through life, and I can sit and talk about all those problems, or I can look at them and say, "Well, here's a learning experience. Let's see how I'm going to deal with that."

Til Luchau:

That's great.

Art Riggs:

Just don't ask me anything about women.

Til Luchau:

Don't ask you anything about women?

Art Riggs:

I'm just looking back at some of my relationships, and they're all good. But there are certain areas that try as I might, I just think there's a basic something in me that I'm probably a little limited in that.

Til Luchau:

Well, yeah, maybe that'll be Episode Two.

Art Riggs:

Yeah, yeah.

Til Luchau:

Who knows.

Art Riggs:

I probably could answer some questions about that. Yeah.

Til Luchau:

You got any parting wish at the end of the interview, here, end of the conversation, a wish for us, your colleagues, your students, those who have been following in your footsteps? Have you got a wish for us?

Art Riggs:

Not really. I'm no sage. I would just say, "How can you enjoy your work? And how can you let go of false definitions of success?" If you're working on four people a week and those people think you're special, and you're not going broke and on food stamps and stuff, maybe that's enough. Because a lot of the Rolfers we got out of class, they maybe had had more experience, I'm not a businessman, they were working on 20 people a week inside of four months. And I'm stumbling along picking up a few people here and there, and I judged myself and said, "I must not be a very good Rolfer, and I'm not a good businessman." But don't judge yourself. Look for what you are doing and get enjoyment out of that, and don't beat yourself up. I would say that's the main one, and I've seen that with so many of my students. Giving them some confidence and saying, "You're doing great here."

Til Luchau:

That's great. Be a friend to yourself.

Art Riggs:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

Thanks, Art. Where can people find out more, if they want to check out these amazing videos you've made, or the books, things like that?

Art Riggs:

Well, my website, because all the names were taken, my website is deeptissuemassagemanual.com.

Til Luchau:

Uh-huh (affirmative), deeptissuemassagemanual.com. We'll put it in the show notes.

Art Riggs:

Yeah. But you can just look up Art Riggs and it'll lead you there, and they've got my stuff for sale, and it's on Amazon. You can look me up there. And I very much appreciate, and again, you are offering my stuff on your website. And I think that's another example of your wanting to share knowledge wherever it comes from and make people better. So anybody watching this that is going to Til's website, I don't get many hits, I don't advertise, I don't do webinars, I don't do any of that stuff, but you know, check out the stuff. I do think we have a digital format that a lot of people are liking, and that you can put it on your tablets or your phone or stuff like that. But yeah.

Til Luchau:

No, we have very few other teachers on my site besides the work that I teach and the people that are doing it. But I'm really honored and pleased to be able to host your videos there. They're a great complement to what we're offering.

Art Riggs:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

So yeah, check it out. Either on your site, deeptissuemassagemanual.com or on our site, and we'll put the links in the show notes. Anything else, Art?

Art Riggs:

No, no, that's great. I appreciate you having me on, and apologies, I've been blabbing on quite a bit.

Til Luchau:

Not at all.

Art Riggs:

But you know, I love it and I'm enthusiastic about it, and I just want everybody to be enthusiastic about the work they're doing, and confident in it, and realize how much they're giving. And you may not get that feedback, particularly if you're working in a short time period where people go off and all that stuff, but you're doing a lot more than you realize you are.

Til Luchau:

Well, thanks. I mean, I know your clients are grateful. I know your students are grateful. I know that I'm grateful for all the inspiration and support, and leading by example that you've done.

Art Riggs:

Yeah. Well, it's been both ways.

Til Luchau:

Thank you, Art.

Art Riggs:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

All right. Okay, so our closing sponsor, Books of Discovery. Books of Discovery has been a part of massage therapy education for 20 years. Thousands of schools around the world teach with their textbooks, e-textbooks and digital resources. In these trying times, this beloved publisher is dedicated to helping educators with online-friendly digital resources that make instruction easier and more effective in the classroom or virtually.

Books of Discovery likes to say, "Learning adventures start here." They see that same spirit here on the Thinking Practitioner Podcast and they're proud to support our work, knowing that we share the mission to bring the massage and bodywork community enlivening content that advances our profession. They invite you to check out their collection of e-textbooks and digital learning resources for pathology, kinesiology, anatomy and physiology at booksofdiscovery.com.

So thanks to Andrew Biel and to Books of Discovery for their support. Be sure to check out their site. Thanks to all of our other sponsors. Whitney Lowe will be back with us next episode. His site, where you can find show notes and the links we talked about here, academyofclinicalmassage.com. My site, advanced-trainings.com, where we'll put, again, the same, the full transcript and all of the links that we've mentioned, the link to Art's site, et cetera, deeptissuemassagemanual.com.

Til Luchau:

Questions or things you'd like to hear us talk about, just email us at info@thethinkingpractitioner.com, or look for us on social media, Whitney Lowe, or myself Til Luchau. Follow us on Spotify, rate us on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you listen, and tell a friend. Thanks again, Art.

Art Riggs:

Can I say one other quick thing? Just very quick.

Til Luchau:

Yeah. Yeah.

Art Riggs:

You know, webinars, all of these things, I am a great believer in hands-on teaching rather than just looking at books, but I do have to say that your two books are among the best that I've ever seen. It's so easy to sit down and watch a webinar, do all this stuff, but I would say I always bring your books to my classes and set them out and let people look through there. And I just think they're a wealth of information that you can settle down and take your time, and go. So I really do want to say both your books people should check out.

Til Luchau:

Oh, you're too kind, Art. It's great to be in the mutual fan club with you.

Art Riggs:

Yeah. Okay.

Til Luchau:

So thanks for that again. Take care, Art.

Art Riggs:

Okay. Thank you, my friend. Talk to you later.

Til Luchau:

Bye-bye.

Art Riggs:

Okay. Goodbye.

 

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