What is Rolfing?
Rolfing® Structural Integration is a holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education, administered by a qualified practitioner, which organizes the whole body in gravity. This “realignment” of posture helps the body feel and work better.
The goal of Rolfing is to balance the body’s structure so that it can deal more efficiently with the downward force of gravity and enhance overall well being. It is named after American biochemist Dr Ida Rolf who developed the method in the 1950’s.
Rolfers use their hands to manipulate the fascial system (connective tissue), lengthening and returning it to its original symmetry and balance. The aim is to achieve optimal alignment for that person. This whole-body treatment is necessary in order to enable the changes to be integrated throughout the body and give lasting stability.
To do this, the Rolfer looks at how the body has compensated over time, both in how it moves (walking) and while stationary (standing, sitting, etc). Rolfing focuses on the structure of the body, with the intention of releasing it from long held patterns of tension.
As well as working with fascia, Rolfers use movement education and work with the breath to help the person in their body use and sensory perception. The movement aspects of Rolfing help to re-pattern how the nervous system manages movement, coordination and posture. This allows for changes in the mind’s perception of the body in space, allowing for new patterns of movement to take hold.
The way we habitually move affects our form, our posture. For example, If you broke your leg and had a cast on that immobilized your knee, you may have developed the habit of not bending that knee. Over time, the compensations in your body will contribute to a rotation of the femur (thigh bone) and one hip being higher than another.
Rolfing brings you back into alignment and frees up your joints to increase flexibility. Since you are no longer exerting extra energy to hold yourself up against the pull of gravity, people who experience Rolfing often report feeling lighter and more energetic in addition to having their pain disappear.
Rolfing is one of the 20th century’s most influential forms of soft tissue manipulation and movement education. Although they are trained in a variety of sophisticated neuromyofascial, energetic and movement techniques, Rolfing practitioners also develop their awareness and perceptive skills so that they may sense, see, hear and feel reflections of their clients’ somatic realities.
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.
Sports stars, dancers, students of yoga and meditation, musicians, business people, people from all walks of life and of all ages have sought the benefits of Rolfing. Not only do people seek Rolfing as a way to ease pain and chronic stress, but also as a way to improve performance in their professions and daily activities.
The need for Rolfing is stress-related. It may be due to stress resulting from an accident, athletics, poor posture or repetitive motion; or it may be the psychological stress that we all endure as part of the demands of modern day living.
One of the less discussed ancillary benefits of Rolfing is emotional. The physical body in its shape, form, and negotiation of gravitational energy, cannot be divorced from the emotional state of a human being. When the physical body is fluid and flexible, the emotions can find the same freedom. Rolfing clients find a new freedom enabling emotional responsivness in their bodies and in so doing find that these emotions can enrich their creative capacities.
Rolfing is a process and a journey of discovery. The body has taken time to build up the tensions and holding patterns, so it will also take time to allow it to unravel and become free again. The Rolfer and client work together in this process so the person is able to own the work and use it in their everyday life and take responsibility for their health.
“If you can imagine how it feels to live in a fluid, light, balanced body, free of pain, stiffness and chronic stress, at ease with itself in the gravitational field, then you will understand the purpose of Rolfing.”