6 Questions to Erik Dalton

1. When and how did you decide to become a bodyworker?

I had developed chronic shoulder/rib pain playing drums in a ‘70’s band called the ‘Flying Burrito Brothers’. Following a San Francisco concert, Janis Joplin’s drummer told me of a eccentric older woman named Ida Rolf who had fixed his problems. Well, the Carmel Valley Inn was our next gig and oddly, Dr. Rolf just happened to be a few miles away at the Esalen Institute. Intrigued with the possibility of learning more, I had to meet this amazing woman.  Her extraordinary lecture and stunning demo was so motivating, I was determined to have Rolfing® treatments upon my return to LA–but sadly, in the 70’s the Rolfer tribe was small due to the Rolf’s high selectivity of future students. A few years later, I took a job teaching biofeedback at the Health Institute of San Diego and during my first workday, I heard a fellow colleague discussing a great Rolfer, Victor,  in Del Mar so I immediately made an appointment. He not only fixed my shoulder problem but encouraged my interest and fascination with Rolfing and spurred me to follow my passion.  In those days, the Rolf Institute required all applicants be graduates from an approved massage college. In 1979, I enrolled in San Diego’s Mueller College of Massage–three years later I was granted the distinction of being accepted for training at the Rolf Institute. Initially, I found myself a little frustrated with the lack of structure in the Rolf training, but subsequently hooked up with some of Ida’s original instructors (Jim Asher, Emmett Hutchins and Jan Sultan). My fervor for structural integration began…and I haven’t looked back.

2. What do you find most exciting about bodywork therapy?

Hands-on therapy is special gift that always keeps giving. The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know which inspires dedication. With experience comes passion, and passion develops intent. Soon that wondrous inner mind/body dance begins as we refine our ability to unconsciously monitor and beautifully adjust to our client’s body rhythms. Our best work takes place on a subconscious level as our hands develop better listening skills. We must remember that the innate wisdom of the body is the real healer… but I still like to take credit whenever possible.

3. What is your most favourite bodywork book?

From 1992 until 2002, I had the opportunity to participate in post-graduate continuing education workshops with the legendary Philip Greenman at Michigan State College of Osteopathic Medicine. Out of fond memories from that exceptional learning experience, I’d have to say Greenman’s original little red textbook, “Principles of Manual Medicine”. However, following the death of my dear friend Robert Calvert (founder of Massage Magazine), his wife Judi gifted me with an original textbook authored by the father of osteopathy, Andrew Taylor Still. I’d drooled over this textbook written in 1897 when my wife and I visited their World Museum of Massage in Spokane, Washington, and it remains a crown jewel in my manual therapy library. We’re privileged to stand on the shoulders of giants like Rolf, Greenman, Still and others whose genius continues to infiltrate every part of our industry.  

4. What is the most challenging part of your work?

My obsessive-compulsive personality disorder keeps me working 70+ hours a week. Attempting to juggle a 30 year full-time Myoskeletal Alignment pain-management practice while teaching workshops, authoring books, articles & DVDs, leaves little time for a healthy relationship with my wife, daughter and two lazy dogs. In an attempt to redirect my OCD, we’re building a house in Costa Rica and hoping to soon retire to a life of writing and thriving in a holistic self-sustaining community with like-minded friends. 

5. What advise you can give to fresh massage therapists who wish to make a career out of it?

Bodywork is a passion…not a profession. Love the work you do and you’ll always be successful…and most of all…never ever ever quit learning. I’m a video junkie with a collection of over 300 manual therapy titles. Each morning while running on the treadmill, I play something new or one of my old favorites and it always inspires me to try something new that day in my practice. A favorite quote from my first book sums it up beautifully: “ The Truly Educated Never Graduate”…author unknown. 

6. How do you see the future of massage therapy?

On the upside, I see a more scientifically based approach but on the downside…more bureaucracy and less passion for the work. As my 89 year-old buddy Doc Atwater, a 32 year instructor at the second chiropractic college founded in America used to say: “Erik, talk is cheap, research is rigged…so what matters most is how well you perform ‘one-on-one’ in the therapy room”.