Rolfing, also known as Structural Integration, is a system of deep body manipulation and movement education. It is a sophisticated technique for lengthening, aligning and ordering the human body in the gravitational field. If you are injured or in pain, or feel limited and restricted in your body, Rolfing can restore mobility and good functioning of joints and connective tissues. It can reduce, and often eliminate, pain and movement restriction caused by whiplash accidents and work- or sports-related injuries, and can help correct disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, scoliosis, sciatica, joint dysfunction, TMJ-syndrome and repetitive stress injury.
Rolfing achieves its remarkable results through manipulation of the myofascial system, which includes both muscles and connective tissue, also called fascia. Connective tissue surrounds, penetrates and connects every part of the body, including bones, muscles and internal organs. Through a Rolfer’s refined and intelligent touch, the connective tissues are loosened and lengthened. This allows the body to re-organize and re-align, improving its relationship to the gravitational field.
Research indicates that Rolfing creates a more efficient use of the muscles, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more refined patterns of movement. Rolfing has the ability to dramatically alter a person's posture and structure. It can reduce chronic and/or acute pain, relieve stress, aid in the healing of injuries, and improve performance in the daily activities of children, adults and seniors. Rolfing offers a holistic approach to healing, offering perceptual insights and understanding that often reaches beyond the merely physical
THE ROLFING SESSION
A Rolfing session typically begins with a brief visual evaluation of the client's body structure and gait pattern. By walking with the client and observing their flow of movement, the practitioner can identify the places where movement is restricted. This process also allows the client to “check- in”, bringing their full awareness to their body.
Using various diagnostic techniques, derived from the methods of Rolfing and Osteopathy, “local listening” and palpation is performed. We evaluate joint mobility and soft tissue tightness, and identify restrictions, asymmetries, and rotation patterns in the “fascial web.”
The main portion of a session is done with the client lying down on a treatment table. He/she often participates by performing suggested movements while the practitioner applies very precise and direct pressure into a given area. Through these manipulations, connective tissue restrictions and imbalances are released and corrected. Tight and restricted tissues are loosened, lengthened and re-aligned, returning them to a more fluid, resilient state. When vertebrae or ribs are “stuck” or have moved out of alignment, the practitioner can release the fixation through slow and gentle manipulation of the surrounding ligaments.
When needed, the practitioner performs visceral manipulation techniques to release restrictions and adhesions in the membranes surrounding the internal organs and nerves, thus restoring their mobility and “gliding capacity.” The body's musculoskeletal, visceral and craniosacral systems are all perceived and treated within a holistic sensibility.
The session typically ends with a more subtle energetic or craniosacral balancing, followed by a discovery and integration period where the client stands, walks, and has the opportunity to sense and express what has changed and been improved from the session.
Rolfing, though it may greatly alleviate symptoms of pain and discomfort, is, above all, an educational and transformational experience. These sessions serve as a guide to finding a better way to live in, use, and enjoy the human body.
ROLF MOVEMENT INTEGRATION
During a Rolfing session clients are guided to become aware of unhealthy movement patterns and to identify the areas of their physical self that are not well integrated into the whole. Through this process, new, healthy patterns are learned and dysfunctional habits are changed. The client and the practitioner work together to improve coordination, in gestures, such as pushing, pulling, reaching, bending and extending; and in everyday activities, such as sitting, standing and walking.
For example, lower back pain is now seen by many researchers in the field as being a repetitive stress injury caused by faulty walking, the injury being aggravated by every step taken. By helping the client “push off” with their toes, landing correctly on the outside of the foot, and allowing more side-to-side motion through the hips, one can lessen the strain on the injured area. The client can reclaim walking as a healthy and life-affirming activity, every step building health and strength rather than destroying it.
The hands-on work of Rolfing often produces a dramatic sense of freedom and spaciousness in a client’s body, a feeling of being effortlessly balanced and supported in the gravity field. Movement education helps clients to integrate this new-found freedom, openness and balance into their daily life. We work with movement cues, images and metaphors to “anchor and ground” newly discovered perceptions. Simple coordination exercises are practiced, and clients learn injury prevention and rehabilitation techniques tailored to their specific situation. In this way, movement education makes it possible to fully embrace the awareness and insights gained from a Rolfing session.
Usually, movement education is offered in the context of a Rolfing session. Sometimes, however, a session specifically dedicated to movement can be scheduled. This allows a client to focus more deeply on issues such as coordination, rehabilitation, and/or performance in an artistic, athletic or work-related activity.
MOVEMENT EDUCATION CLASSES
Movement and Somatic education classes are offered periodically throughout the year. These are small, personalized 1 1/2 –2 hr. sessions where the client learns about coordination, good body mechanics, proper alignment and perceptual expansion, in an atmosphere of curiosity and mindfulness.
QUESTIONS ABOUT ROLFING
How was Rolfing developed and how did it get its name?
Rolfing was named after its founder, Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D. In 1920, Ida Rolf received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University, while continuing her research in organic chemistry at the Rockefeller Institute. Beside her strong foundation in Western science, Dr. Rolf was strongly influenced by osteopathy, yoga and other alternative approaches to health. In the 1960’s she was invited to teach at the renowned Esalen Institute, a center for the newly emerging human potential movement. It was here that she further developed her method, and started training Rolf practitioners. In the late 1960’s Ida Rolf founded the Rolf Institute, located in Boulder, Colorado.
Who can benefit from Rolfing? Is it for me?
Rolfing can help you if you are injured or in pain, or feel limited or restricted in your body. Your Rolfer is trained to evaluate and treat injuries and imbalances of the musculoskeletal system. People riddled with chronic pain, athletes, dancers, musicians, business people; people of all ages and from all walks of life come to Rolfing not only for relief from pain and distress, but also for improved performance in their professional and daily activities. If you are injured or overwhelmed by bodily discomfort, Rolfing can help you find pain relief and help speed up your recovery. Rolfing can also benefit people in psychotherapy by facilitating a deeper connection to their emotional process, and it can effectively deepen practices such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi. Your Rolfer is part of a network of holistic health care practitioners. If he finds that your situation requires care that is outside of his field of expertise, he will refer you to another qualified professional.
Is Rolfing painful?
Pain, in the true meaning of the word, is not inherent to the Rolfing process. There may be moments of intensity of sensation as the tissues are stretched and loosened, however, the gentle and refined techniques used by a skilled Rolfer will produce the desired results without significant discomfort to the client. The experience may actually be quite pleasant, with sensations ranging from the subtle to a deep, intense release.
What can you expect from Rolfing?
Many clients report a sense of lightness, ease and well-being following a Rolfing session. Relief from many symptoms, including chronic pain, stiffness and tension frequently occurs as the body is balanced and brought into better alignment with gravity. By literally changing the shape of your body, Rolfing gives you the chance to let go of old habits and holding patterns- psychologically as well as physically. Flexibility and efficiency of movement are often dramatically improved. A sense of groundedness, strength and, grace may emerge as body parts are brought into better balance with each other.
After Rolfing, will the changes last?
Once a series of sessions are completed and the inappropriate patterns of movement are corrected, the body remains changed for the better.
What should I wear during a Rolfing session?
To allow for freedom of movement clients may wear underwear, a two-piece bathing suit or loose comfortable clothing.
How are Rolfers trained?
Rolfers are trained and certified by the Rolf Institute in Boulder, Colorado. A rigorous educational program includes anatomy, kinesiology, Rolfing theory, visual training and supervised hands-on work. Continuing education prepares the Rolfer for advanced training which is completed within five years of the initial training.