What is Rolfing?
Rolfing is a system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education/awareness that organizes the whole body in gravity. Rolfing affects the body’s posture and structure by manipulating the myofascial system, i.e., connective tissue. Research has demonstrated that Rolfing creates more efficient muscle use, allows the body to conserve energy and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement. Rolfing has also been shown to significantly reduce chronic stress, reduce spinal curvature in subjects with lordosis (sway back), and enhance neurological functioning.
What to Expect
Rolfing is done on a massage table, but there is more client movement than during a massage. Clients shift positions several times in a session to allow better access to the area being worked. For this reason, the typical draping with sheets during a massage is not done in a Rolfing session. Clients are covered with a sheet and a blanket for temperature comfort.
The most important consideration regarding what to wear during a session is that the client is comfortable. Some clients are comfortable in their underwear; briefs and bra for women, and briefs or boxers for men. Other options are workout gear like shorts, exercise bras for women, bathing suits, or what would be worn to a yoga class. Again, it is more important that the client be at ease in the session then concerned with his or her attire.
Who Uses It?
People seek Rolfing as a way to reduce pain and chronic stress, generally caused by physical or emotional traumas. Rolfing is also used by professional athletes, dancers and entertainers to improve performance. Employers implement Rolfing to decrease workers’ compensation costs due to repetitive stress injuries. Rolfing is also used to facilitate injury recovery by reducing pain, stiffness and muscle tension, improving movement and circulation around joints, and attending to both the injury and any secondary pain that may develop from favoring the injury. Based on the mind/body connection, counselors and therapists are incorporating Rolfing in their therapeutic approach; greater physical support and flexibility ultimately influences emotions and energy levels.
Origins of the Rolf Institute & Its Mission
Rolfing structural integration is named after its creator, Dr. Ida P. Rolf. Dr. Rolf received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University in 1920 and furthered her knowledge of the body through her scientific work in organic chemistry at the Rockefeller Institute. Her extensive search for solutions to family health problems led her to examine many systems that studied the effect of structure on function, including yoga, osteopathy and chiropractic medicine. Dr. Rolf combined her research with her scientific knowledge to stimulate a deeper appreciation of the body’s structural order, resulting in the theory and practice of Rolfing. There are more than 1,300 Certified Rolfers worldwide. The Rolf Institute’s international headquarters is located in Boulder, CO, with offices in Germany, Brazil, and Australia.
The Rolf Institute was founded in 1971 to carry on Dr. Rolf’s work to train Rolfers and Rolf Movement practitioners, to carry on research and provide information to the public.
The Rolf Institute is the only school accredited to teach Rolfing and is the sole certifying body for Rolfers. Only individuals trained and certified by the Rolf Institute may use the Rolfing service mark.
Successful applicants complete a training program that usually requires two years of study. Advanced training is undertaken within four to seven years after basic training. Continuing education is required as long as a Rolfer is practicing. Training includes the biological sciences, the theory of Rolfing and extensive clinical work under supervision.
How is Rolfing Different from Massage?
Through soft tissue manipulation and movement education/awareness, Rolfers affect body posture and structure over the long-term. Massage typically focuses on relaxation and relief of muscle discomfort, while Rolfing is aimed at improving body alignment and functioning. As structure becomes more organized, chronic strain patterns are alleviated – pain and stress decreases.
About the Rolf Institute
The Rolf Institute was founded in 1971 to carry on Dr. Rolf’s work. Its major purposes are to train Rolfers and Rolf Movement practitioners, to carry on research, and to provide information to the public. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, the Rolf Institute is the only school accredited to teach Rolfing and is the sole certifying body for Rolfers. Only individuals trained and certified by the Rolf Institute may use the Rolfing service mark.
Successful applicants complete a training program that usually requires two years of study. Advanced training is usually undertaken within four to seven years after basic training. Continuing education is required as long as a Rolfer is practicing. The training includes the biological sciences, the theory of Rolfing, and extensive clinical work under supervision.
The Ten Series
Ideally, Rolfing is performed over a series of ten sessions. This approach allows the Rolfer to affect the client’s structure in a methodical manner. This includes loosening superficial fascia before working deeper areas, improving support in feet and legs before affecting higher structures and helping clients find ways to benefit from freer movement in their daily activities.
Your first experience with Rolfing is likely to be within the ten-series format. Rolfing is different from most forms of bodywork because if focuses on improving organization of the entire structure rather than focusing on the place that hurts, feels stiff, or doesn’t move as you want. Massage may be relaxing, but you might find the same areas bothering you again shortly after you leave the office. This is because the symptom is often a compensatory or secondary issue. Your neck may hurt because you’re not getting the proper support from your feet, or because your pelvis is askew, or your shoulders are rounding forward, or all of these. Until the entire structure is balanced, that neck is going to stay strained trying to keep you head upright. Focusing where it hurts goes after the symptom but not necessarily the problem.
Developed by Dr. Ida Rolf, the ten-series is a systematic approach to aligning your structure; each session builds upon the last and prepares the body for the next. The first three sessions work on the more superficial layers of connective tissue. Sessions four through seven remove strain from deeper layers of the body. The three remaining sessions organize and align the body as a whole, providing better balance, enhanced freedom of movement and a higher energy level. If your schedule requires a break between sessions, after sessions three and seven are ideal stopping places in the process.
The ten-series provides Rolfers with a map, but as anyone who travels knows, “the map is not the territory”. Although structural goals may be similar, the same session may look very different for different clients based on their structure, learned behaviors and movement patterns. Each session is as unique as the person receiving it.