What is Rolfing Structural Integration?
Named after its founder, Dr. Ida P. Rolf, Rolfing Structural Integration is a form of bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissues, called fascia, that permeate the entire body.
More than fifty years ago, Dr. Rolf recognized that the body is inherently a system of seamless networks of tissues rather than a collection of separate parts. These connective tissues surround, support and penetrate all of the muscles, bones, nerves and organs. Rolfing Structural Integration works on this web-like complex of connective tissues to release, realign and balance the whole body.
Essentially, the Rolfing process enables the body to regain the natural integrity of its form, thus enhancing postural efficiency and your freedom of movement.
How was Rolfing Developed?
In 1920, Ida Pauline Rolf received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. Despite the resistance she faced as a woman in the field of science, she furthered her knowledge of the body through research in organic chemistry at the Rockefeller Institute. Driven to find solutions to her own health problems as well as those of her two sons, she spent many years studying and experimenting with different systems of healing and manipulation.
Throughout most of her life she was intrigued with and explored many forms of alternative healing including homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic and yoga. The notion that proper alignment, physiologic function and anatomical structure are related is the basis of many of these healing methods. Dr. Rolf agreed that the body functions best when the bony segments are in proper alignment. She added her observations that lasting improvement in alignment and an overall sense of well-being required a closer look at the effects of gravity on our bodies. She believed that the imbalances in structure placed demands on the body’s pervasive network of soft tissues: muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments, thereby creating compensations throughout the body structure.
Dr. Rolf posed this fundamental question: “What conditions must be fulfilled in order for the human body-structure to be organized and integrated in gravity so that the whole person can function in the most optimal and economical way?” Her life’s work was devoted to this investigation which led to the system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that we now call Rolfing. In order to pass along her work to others and to make the education process accessible, she developed an expedient series of ten sessions, which came to be known as the Ten Series.
Dr. Rolf continues to be recognized as a pioneer and leader in soft tissue manipulation and movement education. Since her death in 1979 at the age of 83, the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration has continued to share her work by certifying Rolfers and Rolf Movement® Practitioners, supporting research, and building upon her inspiration. Today, there are more than 1,550 Rolfers and Rolf Movement Practitioners worldwide.
How does Rolfing work?
When stress or trauma manifests in the body, connective tissue may become increasingly solid, rigid and sore, or, hold onto non-optimal experiences. These internal constrictions and lines of tension can restrict joint and spine range of motion, thereby causing pain.
Rolfing works by comfortably “melting” tight or constricted areas of the body’s soft tissue. This internal release generally results in increased freedom of movement and enhanced range of motion. And although every individual has a unique experience, it is very common to feel relief from pain and tension, move more easily with greater flexibility, and have an enhanced sense of feeling “at home” in your body.
What are the benefits of Rolfing?
Rolfing Structural Integration has the ability to dramatically alter a person’s posture and structure. Rolfing SI can potentialy resolve discomfort, release tension and alleviate pain. Rolfing SI aims to restore flexibility, revitalize your energy and leave you feeling more comfortable in your body. Athletes, dancers, children, business professionals, and people from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing SI. People seek Rolfing SI as a way to ease pain and chronic stress , and improve performance in their professional and daily activities. It’s estimated that more than 1 million people have received Rolfing work.
Research has demonstrated that Rolfing SI creates a more efficient use of the muscles, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement. Research also shows that Rolfing SI significantly reduces chronic stress and changes in the body structure. For example, a study showed that Rolfing SI significantly reduced the spinal curvature of subjects with lordosis (sway back); it also showed that Rolfing SI enhances neurological functioning. The term “Rolfing” is the nickname that many clients and practitioners give this work. It is now a registered service mark in 27 countries.
What is the Ten Series?
The hallmark of Rolfing is the Ten Series, a group of ten sessions that each focus on a particular region of connective tissue and structure. Each session builds upon the last and prepares the body for the next.
(Not everyone is ready for a Ten Series or needs one. I discuss all options with my clients to ensure they have the Rolfing experience that best matches their goals.)
Receiving a Ten Series is different from coming in for a few sessions to address a complaint, as the entire body is systematically balanced. Due to this holistic approach, receiving a Ten Series with an emphasis on a particular injury can offer a profound effect. A good strategy is to try a single Rolfing session or two, see how your body responds, and then decide whether a Ten Series is for you. Some of the typical results reported by clients include: relief from chronic pain, improved posture and ease of movement, a stronger mind/body/spirit connection, and enhanced athletic performance.
How the Ten Series progresses:
Sessions 1-3: These initial treatments strive to enhance the quality of breath, give the body a stable foundation from which to stand and walk on, and start to consider how the body’s major segments (hips, shoulder girdle, head) are aligned and move in relation to one another.
Sessions 4-7: The main focus is the core, or, the internal components that support the body much like a frame supports a house. Structures like the spine, back, legs, neck, and hips are addressed while considering how the body holds itself up and moves.
Sessions 8-10: Here, advancements made in the previous sessions, and ones still to come, are integrated in such a way that allows for smooth, natural coordination and movement. To facilitate this, I may ask a client to perform subtle movements in coordination with the Rolfing strokes. The resulting combination educates the nervous system and helps a person to better utilize and understand the transformations made during the series.