Rolfing® is a system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organizes the whole body in gravity. Rolfing bodywork affects the body’s posture and structure by manipulating the myofascial system (connective tissue). Often considered a deep-tissue approach, Rolfing bodywork actually works with all the layers of the body to ease strain patterns in the entire system. 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.
Who uses it?
People seek Rolfing as a way to reduce pain and chronic muscle tension, generally resulting from physical and emotional traumas. Rolfing is used by many professional athletes to break up scar tissue, rehabilitate injuries, and increase range of motion to improve performance and avoid future injuries. Dancers and musicians often use the work to increase comfort in their bodies while performing, as well as avoid repetitive stress injuries.
Additionally, some manufacturing companies have employed Rolfing to decrease workers’ compensation costs due to repetitive stress injuries. And, based on the mind/body connection, many counselors and therapists incorporate Rolfing in the therapeutic approach. Greater physical support and flexibility ultimately influences emotions and energy levels.
Where did it come from?
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 1,200 Certified Rolfers in 27 different countries. The Rolf Institute’s international headquarters is located in Boulder, Colorado, with offices in Germany, Brazil, and Japan. To learn more about Dr. Rolf, visit the Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation website.
How is Rolfing different from massage?
Through soft tissue manipulation and movement education, Rolfers affect body posture and structure over the long-term. Unlike massage, which often focuses on relaxation and relief of muscle discomfort, Rolfing is aimed at improving body alignment and functioning. Rolfing is different from deep-tissue massage, in that practitioners are trained to create overall ease and balance throughout the entire structure, rather than focusing on areas presenting with tension. As a structure becomes more organized, chronic strain patterns are alleviated, and pain and stress decreases.
Furthermore, Rolfing can speed up 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.
Structural integration is generally 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.