I always come away feeling both physically and emotionally more open and relaxed
What is Rolfing®?
Rolfing® Structural Integration is a method of deep tissue manipulation and movement education. It aims to balance the body so that it can deal more efficiently with the downward force of gravity. Rolfing® is named after American biochemist Dr Ida Rolf who developed the method in the 1950’s.
During her life she studied osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, yoga and the Alexander Technique. However, her main breakthrough was discovering that she could achieve changes to a patient’s posture and structure by manipulating the body’s myofascial system. The main goal of this was to organize a person’s body structure in relation to gravity. The method was originally called Postural Release, and then Structural Integration. In 1971 she founded the Guild for Structural Integration, which became the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration. Eventually, the name “Rolfing®” stuck as a trade name.
Who can practise Rolfing®?
Rolfing® is a registered service mark and only those who have successfully completed Rolf training with approved Rolfing Institute trainers and have been certified through the Rolf Institute in Colorado or one of its recognised international franchises are legally entitled to call themselves Rolfers®. For a list of certified Rolfers® in the UK go to Find a Rolfer®
In Europe the certified schools are the British Academy of Structural Integration (BARSI) and the European Rolfing® Association in Munich.
How does Rolfing® work?
Dr Rolf’s central idea was that human heings need to have a good relationship with gravity in order to live and function healthily and happily. Her method of effecting this was to work directly with the body’s connective tissue network (also known as the Fascial Web or the Myofascial System). Connective tissue is the thin membrane that surrounds individual muscle fibres, connects muscle to bone, forms tendons and ligaments and is sometimes referred to as ‘the organ of form’.
So what goes wrong?
The Fascial Web helps support, separate and lubricate movement in the body. Its texture and consistency can be affected by physical or emotional trauma, poor posture, lack of use or over use. When this happens the whole myofascial system can be affected causing muscles to become, cramped, undernourished or stuck together, so that when an individual muscle is activated it has to drag the surrounding tissue mass with it. As you can imagine this has many debilitating effects on posture, range of movement and energy reserves and can also effect our emotional outlook.
How can Rolfing help?
Rolfers create space. We work to rehydrate dry tissue and retonify and release stuck or tired muscles. Rolfers also work with a client’s perceptual experience, seeking out habitual and limiting movement patterns and helping their clients to explore new, more self-empowering ways to move through life.
What happens during a Rolfing session?
Rolfing usually takes place over 10 individually structured sessions. At the outset the Rolfer will watch the client performing simple everyday movements and then talk about their feelings and concerns. A list of mutually-agreed goals for the work and a strategy for achieving them will then be drawn up. The work of restructuring and rehydrating the muscle and connective tissue network is done by applying various degrees of pressure and direction. Work is done in underwear – that’s you, not us!
How does Rolfing differ from Chiropractic or Osteopathy?
Chiropractic and Osteopathic treatment tends to focus on bone alignment and joint mobility and various methods ranging from gentle tapping to high velocity thrusts are used to manipulate and correct boney lesions. Rolfers believe that unless the tension and strain in the soft tissue is addressed and relieved, the bones will continue to be pulled out of alignment and so will need constant re-adjustment. The Rolfing method involves slow, sustained and focussed pressure in a specific direction to affect the entire tissue bed in which the bones of the body are embedded. The Rolfer’s goal is to achieve balanced tension which enables the bones to move back naturally into their proper relationship and alignment.
How often should I come for Rolfing?
It is important to allow the body to integrate the work between sessions while keeping a sense of continuity, so each session can build on the gains of previous ones.
Therefore, sessions are usually scheduled one or two weeks apart, but the timing is flexible according to the clients preference (e.g. fortnightly or monthly) and depending on the individual need.
Ten Sessions – Isn’t That Expensive?
Rolfing should be seen as an investment in one’s long-term health and well-being and just ten sessions to change poor posture and restricted movement habits that may have taken a life-time to aquire is a pretty good investment. Some Rolfers offer discounts for children or operate a sliding scale for those with real financial constraints.
Does The Series Need To Be Repeated?
The Rolfing series does not need to be repeated. Many clients report continued improvements in posture and movement long after the series is completed.
However, many people like to book a few Post-ten Rolfing sessions each year just to get tuned-up or to work more deeply with specific issues.
What is the difference between Rolfing and Deep Tissue Massage?
Rolfing is not massage. Although Rolfers work with deep tissue and sometimes use massage techniques. It is the quality of the Rolf training and the special understanding that Rolfers have of the human body which makes Rolfing unique.
What about the emotional and psychological effects of Rolfing?
It is important to remember that the primary goal of Rolfing is to realign the body in gravity. It is believed that emotions can be repressed within the body’s connective tissues, so emotional aspects have direct relevance to Rolfing. An example of trapped emotions is a child being told not to cry and suppressing this natural emotion by willfully contracting certain muscles (e.g. the pelvic floor, shoulders or jaw), an action which, if repeated over time becomes an unconscious holding pattern.
When the chronically tight connective tissue finally releases during Rolfing treatment, emotionally charged material can be resolved. In this sense Rolfing acts as a catalyst for emotional growth and change. Rolfers are trained to contain this process safely. This aspect is partly what makes Rolfing potentially such a profound experience.