In this article, former SFZC resident and body worker Tanya Deeley describes how she finds the disciplines of Zen and Rolfing to be mutually supportive. If you are inspired to explore life in a Zen temple, you may want to consider one of our many Guest Student and Apprenticeship opportunities at Green Gulch Farm, City Center, and Tassajara (summer months). Stays can be as short as 5 days; longer commitments are also possible.
By Tova Green
For Tanya Deeley, a resident of City Center and a former Tassajara resident, her new Rolfing practice has been greatly enhanced by her years of studying the self, on and off the cushion.
“Rolfing is the Zen of bodywork. Each session is an opportunity for me to guide the client to focus on the felt sense of letting go instead of on what is tightening.”
Although Rolfing Structural Integration is a new found passion for Tanya, being a healer is not. She began her bodywork career as a massage therapist and acupuncturist in Ireland. Ireland is also the place where her Zen journey began. She met Ryushin Paul Haller in 2005 at a sesshin for Black Mountain Zen Centre. He became her teacher and gave Tanya the Dharma name Medicine Peak, Trust the Way.
“I am forever grateful to Paul for the Zen teaching that ‘the whole world is medicine.’ This is my life’s koan.”
During her years running an acupuncture clinic, Tanya was increasingly drawn to hands-on therapy, in particular osteopathic techniques and deep tissue, myofascial release. When Tanya left Tassajara in 2020, a friend suggested she study Rolfing. Tanya decided to receive the Ten Series from a certified Rolfer and became hooked! She enrolled in the seven-month program held at the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The program started shortly after her leaving Tassajara amid the pandemic and wildfires, so Tanya didn’t have a lot of time to fully investigate the curriculum before enrolling. She decided to make the leap anyway.
“I walked into a dark cave and learned that it was a jeweled palace. I’m very intuitive. Something in me knew it was right.”
Tanya feels that the holistic approach Rolfing Structural Integration takes toward the body is a very Zen approach. While researching the human gait, Tanya stumbled upon a verse from Case 42 of The Blue Cliff Record in an article on Rolfing by Caryn McHose, who co-authored the book How Life Moves. McHose uses the verse to talk about human posture.
Each one landing
No place special.
“Within our bodies there is space. There is an intrinsic freedom and ease. With each step, our body is rediscovering falling and landing within our body-frame. We think that the body is composed of separate parts because we label them. However, the body is one continuum where every part is unique and inseparable and inter-related with the whole. When the part gets dis-integrated from the whole, we might experience pain, tightness, or heaviness. It becomes ‘special’ because it’s in pain. We tend to dissociate when there’s pain. Rolfing is extraordinarily effective at helping us reconnect with the body and removing obstacles that prevent us from experiencing nothing special.”
One of Tanya’s Rolfing teachers said, “Do not chase after the symptoms. Work enough for the tissues to change and the body will take care of the symptoms.” Thus Tanya does not see herself as the therapist—the body is the therapist. “I am a guide. It goes back to the hands-on connection. It can be light and very deep.”
Tanya is now fully certified as a Rolfer. Since returning to San Francisco from Boulder a few months ago, she has opened an office in the Marina, which she shares with an acupuncturist. She has named her practice Coyote Rolfing. Coyote is her spirit animal, which she sees as an expression of freedom.
“Rolfing is about freedom to move. This is a freedom from both conceptual and physical limitations. How we experience our world is imprinted in the body. Rolfing has a profound effect on the psycho-emotional state of being and how we perceive ourselves. The Rolfer creates a safe space in which the client, if they are willing, can change. Rolfing creates space within the body that is tangible and can be perceived.”
Clients have told Tanya they feel taller, feel their feet more firmly on the ground after treatment. “When there’s no fixation, the body is fluid, tapping into the endless transformations from moment to moment. Transitioning is the nature of life.”
Tanya works with anyone who needs help reconnecting with their body, people who are interested in how emotions and trauma are stored in their bodies. Referring to the Bodhisattva Vow to live and be lived for the benefit of all beings, she says, “I’m here to help. With every client I revisit the meaning of suffering, liberation, and connection.”
Tanya Deeley/Coyote Rolfing can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.