Devastating accident led to an award-winning career in Rolfing for Cuenca therapist Roosvelt Rojas
By Stephen Vargha
A career in Rolfing for Roosvelt Rojas began by accident.
“I was living in Loja at the time, and I was rushing to Catamayo City Airport as I was late for my flight,” said Rojas. “I crashed and had major injuries as I could not move my body.”
Doctors told Rojas there was nothing they could do to help him. “I did everything you could to help myself without any good results,” said Rojas.
It was that point his family hired an American Rolfer who was living an hour south of Loja, in Vilcabamba. “After the first Rolfing session with him, I could move my upper body,” said Rojas. “He finished the ten sessions, which is the protocol.”
Rolfing is named after Ida Rolf, who throughout most of her life was intrigued with and explored many forms of alternative healing of the body, including chiropractic, homeopathy, osteopathy, and yoga.
Rolf received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University in 1920. Despite the resistance she faced as a woman in the field of the male-dominated science, she forwarded the notion that proper alignment of the body and physiologic functions were the basis of healing the body.
She believed the human structure could be organized in relation to gravity. “When you work with Rolfing, you break tissues down to get them back to the original structure,” said Rojas.
This life’s work to the system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education became mainstream by the 1970s. Today, there are around 2,000 Rolfers worldwide.
Rolf developed a standardized “recipe,” a series of ten sessions for recovery, which came to be known as the Ten Series.
“After those ten Rolfing sessions in Vilcabamba, I had 11 months more,” said Rojas. “During those 11 months, I committed to myself if I ever walked again, I was going to commit myself for the rest of my life to Rolfing.”
In December 2009, Rojas left Vilcabamba for Medellín, Colombia for his first Rolfing lessons. His background and experiences were perfect for Rolfing lessons as there are very strict entry requirements for all applicants.
The founder of Rolfing said she had no time teaching people maturity, so all candidates need to have a college degree or a successful career, be over 25, have good knowledge of the body’s functions, and have life experience.
For two years, Rojas attended classes at University of Buenos Aires in Medellín. The two centuries old university is the premier institution of higher learning in the country and one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America.
In 2007 and 2008, Rojas studied and worked in Haifa, Israel. He did conservation work and restoration for items found at archaeological digs. “I restored Persian rugs, lamps, and the dome of a shrine,” said Rojas. “Because of that, I learned a little bit of Hebrew and Arabic.”
Rojas said he had two choices for his Rolfing education. “I could go to the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute in Boulder, Colorado or in São Paulo, Brazil,” said Rojas. “The other choice was to learn from a first generation Rolfer, so I chose an American in Medellín.”
The American Rolfer told Rojas that he had good hands, which made Rojas wonder how long it would take. “I asked him how long before I would become a Rolfer. He told me I had to see 1,000 clients,” said Rojas. “I asked him how, and he told me to start at one.”
His teacher added that a good place to go would be the beach as there are “a lot of willing people.” Rojas made the 15 hours trip north to the coastal city of Santa Marta, where he easily got 1,000 clients.
After completing his lessons in Colombia, Rojas went on the road. He went to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay to hone his skills. “While in Buenos Aires, I brought my table to Tres de Febrero Park,” said Rojas. “I did small chiropractic corrections for free.”
In 2016, Rojas returned to Cuenca to take online courses. He got a degree in Neural Therapy from National Autonomous University of Mexico, a public research university that is consistently ranked as one of the best universities in Latin America.
A trip to Brazil the next year is where Rojas learned cupping therapy, also known as myofascial decompression. It can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and Chinese. The theory is where there is stagnation, there is pain.
While in Brazil, Rojas also learned about dry needling, which involves a thin filiform needle. The needle penetrates the skin and stimulates trigger points, muscles, and connective tissue. Tendonitis is a popular symptom for dry needles.
To expand upon what he learned, Rojas moved to Lima, Perú to learn basic acupuncture at National University of San Marcos. “It is really a nice school as a lot of the professors were Chinese,” said Rojas. “One of the professors was a Chinese surgeon who was practicing acupuncture.”
The years of learning have paid off for Rojas’ clients, who he mainly treats at their homes. “Hot cups and acupuncture are the most common treatments in the world,” said Rojas. “I am doing this for an American in Cuenca who wants it for body maintenance.”
“All the work Roosvelt has done has me more mobile,” said Carol Watkins. “Roosvelt has been treating me for 3 1/2 years every two weeks.”
Watkins has had scoliosis for most of her life. It is an abnormal curving of the spine, and the cause is usually unknown.
“In the States, I was seeing a masseuse, a chiropractor, and getting Jin Shin Jyutsu for 19 years,” said Watkins. “But it seemed to do no good. Roosvelt has been my savior.”
Ralph Wells first contacted Roosevelt with shoulder pain, back pain, and leg pain. “He explained that this was not a massage therapy, but practiced something called Rolfing,” said Wells. “After a number of sessions, my shoulder and back pain have been relieved, and a significant reduction of pain was removed from my leg.”
The American is thrilled that Rojas could help him with his constant pain. “The treatments have provided long term relief,” said Wells. “Relieving the inflammation I was experiencing in my musculature has had a positive effect on my daily wellbeing.”
It is not only the clients Cuenca vouching for his work, but an international massage contest in Quito, “Latitud Cero,” recognized the work of Rojas. In August, Rojas won the freestyle massage competition among 250 participants from 18 countries.
“The judges said I had the most innovative massage,” said Rojas. “I did three things. I used music and dance as I massaged the person, who really liked it and became very relaxed. The second way was the way I treated the body. You have to understand the person’s body to treat it correctly.”
Rojas attributes his Rolfing expertise for coming out on top. That was the third contributing factor to winning the competition.
“I won the competition because I treated the body gravity up. I started at the feet and worked my way up. Most masseuses start at the head and work their way down,” said Rojas. “The way I treated the body was in a manner the judges had never seen.”
His win has led to lectures on Rolfing for alternative therapy doctors. It was hosted recently by Congress Spa International in Santa Marta, Colombia. In September, Rojas will be a speaker at their 21st conference.
Because Rojas is now internationally recognized, he will be a judge at the 7th International Congress Spa | Doctor | Micropigmentation in April. “It is an international massage competition in Monterey, Mexico,” said Rojas. “I am now committed to being a judge for their competition that is held every two years.”
And you can judge Judge Rojas in your very own home.
Roosvelt Rojas, Physical Health Services, 098-870-9134, Kimyar20@gmail.com
Photos by Stephen Vargha
Stephen Vargha’s new book about Cuenca, “Una Nueva Vida – A New Life” is available at Amazon in digital and paperback formats. His blog, “Becoming Cuenca,” supplements his book with the latest information.