What is Rolfing?

Rolfing Structural Integration is a form of body and movement education.  Working with the connective tissue, also known as fascia, Rolfing aims to release, align and balance the whole body back into alignment with gravity.

Many people discover Rolfing through ‘word of mouth’ recommendations. They are suffering from common complaints such as lower back pain, knee problems, repetitive strain injury, stiff shoulders and headaches. Rolfing can also help deal with all these complaints but can also help with dealing with emotional imbalances and trauma which may be stored in the body. People who have suffered from car accidents or falls seem to benefit greatly from Rolfing. Many yoga teachers, dancers and athletes also seek out Rolfing treatments as the process is known to improve flexibility and general energy levels.

To understand a bit more about Rolfing and what happens in a Rolfing session, here is a short video created by Rolfing UK.

The little boy logo and the words Rolfing and Rolfer are registered trademarks. These can only be used by practitioners who have been certified by the Rolf Institute in Colorado.
A full list of all UK Rolfers can be found at www.rolfinguk.co.uk.

About IDA Rolf

Ida Rolf trained as biochemist and started her career at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City in the 1920s and eventually became a professor there. 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.

Over the course of her life she developed the ’10 series’ – the basic recipe for a Rolfer to work through the different areas of the body to ensure that the whole myofascial tissue has been worked.

Quotes about Rolfing

For me this description from the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (based in Colorado) makes the most sense:

“Rolfing Structural Integration is a form of hands-on manipulation and movement education developed by Dr Ida P Rolf over 50 years ago. It works on the web-like network of connective tissues called fascia, to release, realign and balance the whole body, potentially resolving discomfort, reducing compensations and alleviating pain. Rolfing SI aims to restore flexibility, revitalize your energy and leave you feeling more comfortable in your body.”

Quotes from Ida Rolf explaining what Rolfing is:

“What is Rolfing? A process and a technique of preparing the body to be able to accept the gravitational field of the Earth for support, by working on the soft tissue to loosen body blocks and allow them to align vertically.”
“When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then spontaneously the body heals itself.”

and

“Some individuals may perceive losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in their back, others the unflattering contour of their body, others as constant fatigue, yet others as an unrelentingly threatening environment. Those over forty call it old age. And yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem so prominent in their own structure, as well as others that has been ignored; they are off balance, they are at war with Gravity.”

Other useful Rolfing quotes:

“Rolfing Structural Integration is a form of deep-tissue bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissues through release and realignment. This improves our range of motion, flexibility, posture and bone structure. Rolfing helps break down calcification in the connective tissue and fascia, thereby assisting the resolution of physical discomfort, chronic tension and pain. People from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing, including dancers, athletes, yogis, mothers, business professionals and children. Rolfing assists in easing pain and chronic stress and has been shown to improve performance in professional and daily activities. Since its inception, Rolfing has touched the lives of more than one million people.”

David Wolfe (this is an extract form his Longevity Now book where he recommends Rolfing as a treatment).

What is Fascia?

There are three types of fascia: superficial, deep and visceral fascia. Certified Rolfers will work with all three. Fascia is a layer of fibrous tissue made of collagen, which is also known as connective tissue, as it is a continuous web connected throughout the whole body balancing stressors and counter stressors to create a flexible and mobile system. It surrounds and groups muscles, tendons, blood vessels and nerves. Fascia connects your muscles and bones to each other. It keeps certain parts separate from each other, while allowing others to slide over each other.

The purpose of working with the connective tissue, or fascia, is to relax and expand this tissue, particularly in areas where it has become dense or stuck. The pressure and heat from a Rolfer’s hands will enable the tissue to soften and lengthen so that it becomes more fluid. The release of thickened and strained areas improves the tissue consistency and the rate of metabolism of the system.
“It binds specific cells into tissues, tissues into organs, organs into systems, cements muscles to bones, ties bones into joins, wraps every nerve and every vessel, laces all internal structures firmly into place and envelops the body as a whole” Connective tissue as described in Job’s Body (Deahne Juhan).

What is Fascia
Image from Job’s Body (Deane Juhan). “As with any continous fabric, a pull on one corner of the connective tissue framework exerts a pull throughout the whole structure.”

When the connective tissue is pulled in one direction it affects the whole body. As an example, if you consider making a bed, with a crease in the middle of the sheet, the way to solve it is not to work on the crease but to straighten out from the edges. This is often the case with Rolfing; that the pain in one area, is caused by a tension elsewhere in the body.

 

“Fascia is the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this; all the talk is about muscles. Yet this is a very important concept and because this is so important, we as Rolfers must understand both the anatomy and physiology, but especially the anatomy of fascia. The body is a web of fascia. A spiderweb is in a plane. This web (fascia) is in a sphere. We can trace the lines of that web to get an understanding of how what we see in the body works. For example, why, when we work with the superficial fascia does this change the tone of the fascia as a whole?” Ida Rolf.