The word Rolfing describes a unique form of bodywork. Rolfing structural integration is a certified, registered practice, conducted by professionals known as Rolfers™.
This type of bodywork is not to be confused with massage. Where massage works all soft tissues, Rolfers focus their work on a layer called fascia, the sheathing membrane that covers muscles, tendons, and organs. This fascia, like a girdle, gives shape and length to soft tissue. Over 50 years ago, Dr Ida Rolf discovered it was possible to reshape fascia with manipulation and that it would stay in the new shape. She realized it was possible to treat painful issues like scoliosis and sciatica without surgery, using this reshaping on a whole body basis.
Today Rolfers work with clients to address issues of the whole body — how it is ordered and balanced, how it moves, and how one issue can lead to problems elsewhere. Rolfers are specialists at assessing and treating body alignment issues by reshaping fascia, and educating clients.
What is Rolfing structural integration?
Rolfing structural integration is hands-on bodywork that focuses on aligning the body. Those who are certified to practice this type of bodywork are known as Rolfers™.
Structural imbalances of the body, can lead to chronic pain and disability or inhibit performance. An example is poor posture manifesting itself as back pain. Rolfers address the root causes of these imbalances through manipulation of connective tissue and movement education. Their aim is to realign and balance the body’s structure and to optimize movement.
Rolfing structural integration differs from other types of bodywork in that the entire body structure is assessed on how it interrelates. In this way, a Rolfer will focus on the primary causes of problems, and not on secondary symptomatic relief, so the results tend to be long lasting.
Rolfers often see far reaching results in their clients, beyond standing straighter, or reducing pain. According to Dr. Ida Rolf, the originator of this practice, the effects are more wide reaching:
“Personality is not a mental thing, to me personality expresses a two sided coin, one side is the physical and one side is the mental. A serious change in either one will most certainly result in a serious change in the other.”
How does it work?
The idea behind the Rolfing approach is that everything (muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, bones) in the body is lined with a thin layer called fascia. This lining allows body parts to move and slide relative to each other, which is extremely important to any movement. Fascia also has a hand in defining the length of muscles, tendons and ligaments. Cumulatively it helps define our body shape or posture. Fascia will compensate for injury, aging, or poor movement patterns by hardening, adhering, reducing length and elasticity, to help support the body. With even mild trauma, fascia can harden, reshape itself and stay in that new state. This binding creates misalignment which permeates the body, restricting movement, creating inefficiencies, pain, and poor posture.
However, bound fascia will respond to pressure and manipulation to become softer, longer, and able to slide again. The Rolfer applies this concept in balancing and aligning the entire body structure to reduce stress and make for more efficient movement.
The experience of pianist Leon Fleisher provides a dramatic example of the benefits of undergoing Rolfing structural integration in order to treat trauma to his hands.
- Leon Fleisher talking about Rolfing structural integration.
- Leon Fleisher celebrating his return to performing after a series of Rolfing sessions.
For more information ask one of our practitioners or visit The Rolf Institute® Web site on the theory and principles of Rolfing structural integration.