What Is Rolfing?
Fifty years ago, Rolfing was called Structural Integration
by its founder and creator, Dr. Ida P. Rolf. But Rolfing is
the nickname that many clients spontaneously gave this pioneering
system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education,
and it is the name that stuck.
Rolfing is clearly one of the twentieth century's most influential
and most often imitated forms of soft tissue manipulation.
As a direct result of its unprecedented and unequaled ability
to dramatically alter posture and structure, Rolfing can create
greater ease of movement and enhance the overall functioning
of the whole body.
If you can imagine how it feels to live a fluid, light,
balanced body, free of pain, stiffness and chronic stress,
at ease with itself and the gravitational field, then you
will understand the purpose of Rolfing.
dancers, students of yoga and meditation, musicians, business
people, people from all walks of life and of all ages have
sought the benefits of Rolfing. Not only do people seek Rolfing
as a way to ease pain and chronic stress, but also as a way
to improve performance in their professions and daily activities.
Rolfing achieves its remarkable results by manipulating the
myofascial system. The myofascial system is composed of muscle
tissue and a form of connective tissue called fascia. Fascia
surrounds and penetrates the muscles and all other structures
of the body. If you have ever seen a cut a piece of meat,
you have seen fascia. It is the white, filmy substance that
binds everything together in the body. If you could remove
everything else completely from the body and just leave the
fascia in tact, you would behold a perfect three-dimensional
blueprint of the entire body.
Our bodies must deal with gravity like other material structures.
When we are out of alignment, gravity drags us down, just
as it drags down a building that has lost its architectural
integrity. Whether from poor posture, injury, illness or emotional
distress, a misaligned body is at war with gravity. We experience
this war as pain, stress, and depleted energy. When the body
loses its architectural integrity, fascia shortens and thickens
in characteristic patterns of strain and tightness in order
to shore us up against gravity's ever present influence.
Once a standard series of Rolfing is completed (usually 8
to 12 sessions) and the inappropriate movement patterns are
corrected, the body remains changed for the better: effortlessly
upright, aligned, and at ease with itself and gravity.
Like many other approaches, Rolfing can ease the body from
its restrictions and pains as well as release the joints and
spine when they "go out." Unlike other systems of manipulation,
Rolfing is unprecedented in its ability to handle the many
symptoms of somatic dysfunction by effectively organizing
the whole body in gravity. Although Rolfing has profoundly
influenced a great number of therapies, it is not a form of
massage, bodywork, deep tissue, myofascial or osseous release
therapy. Rather, Rolfing is a form of holistic/integrative
somatic education and manipulation that deals not just with
the symptoms of distress, but with the whole person in relation
Clearly, the many systems of bodywork and therapy that have
borrowed heavily from Rolfing provide benefit to their patients.
But the great majority of these schools do not understand
how to work with the whole body. They tend to use Rolfing
techniques to release various parts of the body, symptom by
symptom, without understanding the specificity and whole body
effect for which the techniques were intended. Symptomatically
releasing local areas of dysfunction does not create integration.
From the Rolfing perspective, if the whole body is not properly
prepared to receive the effects of local manipulations, either
the change will not be maintained or strain will show up in
Over the years Rolfing has evolved into a sophisticated and
precise integrated system of myofascial manipulation and movement
education. Through the work of the International Rolf Institute
(link to www.rolf.org) and its gifted teachers, Rolfing continues
to be the leader, pioneer, and source of the most advanced
forms of myofascial manipulation and body integration available
anywhere. Bodyworkers, therapists, and myofascial release
practitioners from around the world still look to Rolfing
for inspiration and guidance in improving their techniques.
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