Rolfing is structural bodywork that manipulates soft tissue to influence relief of discomfort, pain or poor performance due to bodily misalignment.
Alignment is an important word here. The goal is to optimize the structure of the body, so that the entire body is properly integrated, aligned and working together. In fact, other names used to describe the technique are Structural Integration and Structural Bodywork. There are many massage schools that teach this effective method of bodywork, but trademark laws defining the terms protect the training done by the Rolf Institute, hence, the difference in terms used.
The late Dr Ida P. Rolf was a biochemist who became a physical therapist. She posed the question, “What conditions must be fulfilled in order for the human body-structure to be organized and integrated in gravity so that the whole person can function in the most optimal and economical way?” The answer to her question began in the 50s and became popular in the 70s because of its effectiveness. She termed the process, "structural integration". As with all of massage therapy and any science, the knowledge has increased tremendously through the years.
In short, Rolfing, Structural Integration, or Structural Bodywork is an intervention that realigns the body so that it can work as a well aligned machine against the constant downward pull of gravity. Read about If you fall in an unexpected hole, you might scream, “Gravity sucks!” But if you are hang gliding, you might say, “It’s fun to play with gravity!” It all depends on how well you are cooperating with the unyielding law that pulls us toward the center of the Earth. Day to day movement fits into the same two responses above: poor movement or healthy, optimal movement.
Rolfing’s end result is to help our bodies to be well aligned with gravity. Using Structural Integration therapy, the body is brought into better alignment, resulting in straighter posture and overall better movement. No matter what type of movement we are doing; sports competition, working at a computer or simply going for a walk, proper structural alignment will improve our bodily “performance” and how we feel during movement.
This structural bodywork is a specialized type of bodywork therapy that takes several sessions over a period of time to complete. Therapists who are trained to do this manipulate soft tissues to bring relief from a variety of complaints.
Rolfing, or Structural Integration, can alleviate years of discomfort and chronic pain by releasing tension, allowing the clients’ bodies to cooperate with the Earth’s gravitational pull efficiently. Postural improvement can be dramatic and obvious!
As Mom always said, “stand up straight”, but it’s not always that easy after we spend many years or decades slumping in our sedentary lifestyles toward the center of the Earth! Structural bodywork reorganizes all that so that Mom would be proud. When we become straighter and more aligned, movement becomes more efficient and easier. We begin to move around with an air of confidence and real efficiency.
The study we call Rolfing, began with the theory that all connective tissue, called fascia, restricts muscles from cooperating with each other after days, weeks, years and decades of emotional or physical stress. This creates improper muscle memory that is not easily retrained to normal. It results in sub-optimal movement. Movement of the body becomes disorganized and “dis-integrated”, so to speak. Structural Integration, by manually moving tissue back to where it belongs, corrects the debilitating scenario and "re-educates" proper neuro-muscular function in the tissues.
Ida Rolf taught, “Where there is stress in the body tissue collects.” An example would be an elderly person who is slumped over. This severe slump puts stress on the person’s back. Tissue mass collects there over the years and a hump of that abnormal tissue develops.
To be complete, Structural Integration therapy usually takes about ten sessions lasting from 60 to 90 minutes each. Some who seek Rolfing help choose to focus on just problem areas. Correction of unhealthy binding of soft tissues allows muscles and bones to become balanced again. A good structural bodywork therapist will teach you to move more efficiently and how to make changes as needed in how your body parts move together.
The fascia is like a double bag covering our entire body in one continuous network of connective tissue. It creates a body stocking, or covering of tension, on our whole body. When this covering moves or is held consistently in an abnormal way, it creates chronic holding patterns over time.
For instance, if a hip or shoulder is a little too high the fascia gets stuck in that holding pattern, adding strain over the whole body with the abnormal tension of the “body stocking”. Redirecting it through Structural Integration allows the body to hold proper alignment.
The alignment, and therefore shape of our bodies is determined by that fascinating "body stocking" we call fascia! If you pull on it and tighten it up, it tightens the muscles and tissue inside. Through structural integration the body worker puts pressure on a critical area. The pressure warms the glue-like substance of the fascia, loosens it and makes it pliable. This allows the therapist to put it back where it belongs.
When the fascia is realigned, the muscles can then be held in proper "structural alignment" with the rest of the body. Without realignment, massage and other manipulation might only provide temporary relief, because the fascia is holding too much tension to let it stay in the proper position.
Every individual is different, will have various needs and will, therefore respond individually to Rolfing therapy. Dr. Rolf said, “One individual may experience his losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in the back, another as the unflattering contour of his body, another as constant fatigue, and yet another as an unrelenting threatening environment.”
With that in mind, each Structural Integration session will be different, focusing on separate areas each time. We can blame “aging”, but the reality is that we are simply not winning “the war with gravity.” By becoming more balanced, gaining proper structural integration, we can feel much younger again!
Each Rolfing session is different, and each one will concentrate on something different. Those over 40 may call it old age, but all those symptoms of "old age" may just be caused by being out of balance in one or more major, and many minor ways.
If completed, Rolfing results in a feeling of lightness, overall well-being and more efficient freedom of movement. More coordinated movement, even in proper breathing, results with completed sessions of Structural Integration.
Rolfing is based on realigning the whole body and all of its parts. The potential benefits of Rolfing include help with the following and much more:
• Hamstring, knee and ankle problems
• Hip, Pelvic and Thigh Pain
• Hammertoes, heel spurs, and plantar fascitis
• Wrist, Rotator Cuff and Shoulder injuries
• Transmandibular Joint Pain
• Scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
• Flat feet (over pronation)
Improved Sports Performance
• Gait improvement
• Repetitive Stress injuries
• Sciatic Nerve Pain
• Sacroiliac Pain
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
• Internal Organ Restrictions
• Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
• Neck and Back Pain
• Improving Spine Mobility
• Headaches- including migraine and cluster
• Chronic Pain
Injuries that have occurred to our bodies create a “bad habit” or memory that connective tissue is stuck with until it is corrected through Rolfing therapy. Just because the injury has healed doesn’t mean that improper alignment is not still there, causing “structural dis-integration” that needs to be corrected. Structural Integration (Rolfing) corrects that and realigns the body to its ideal state, as God created it before all of life’s little and big injuries and insults to the body began. Gravity limits us, ages us and injures us. Let Dr. Rolf herself conclude this page, “This is the gospel of Rolfing. When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.”
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