What is Rolfing? What is the history of Rolfing?
Rolfing is a system of hands-on soft tissue work and movement education. Rolfing can change your alignment and movement patterns and make your body more comfortable and capable. Rolfing uses a series of approximately 10-15 individualized sessions to bring lasting changes to your body. Each session is different, and cumulatively they balance your body by releasing lifelong patterns of effort, compensation, tension, and strain.
Rolfing was developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf (1896-1979) over the course of her lifetime. Originally a biochemist, Dr. Rolf also studied many other disciplines, including osteopathy, yoga, and homeopathy, while developing a unique way of working with fascia (connective tissue) to organize the body in relationship to gravity. She called her work Structural Integration, but others commonly referred to it as “Rolfing.” The word Rolfing® is now a registered service mark of the Rolf Institute.
How Does Rolfing Work?
Rolfing consists of two elements: structural work and movement work. Structural work is hands-on bodywork that involves fascia, the connective tissue that envelops and permeates muscles, bones and all other tissues in your body. Rolfing opens, lengthens, and softens fascial restrictions throughout your body.
Movement work helps you to become aware of and to change inhibiting movement patterns. It can help you use and maintain the structural changes that happen in a Rolfing series. Movement work can address any of life's movements, especially the basic patterns of breathing, sitting, standing, and walking.
What can I expect from my first Rolfing session?
Allow two hours for your first Rolfing session. We will start by discussing your health history, current condition, goals and any questions you have about Rolfing. I will watch you walk, stand, and do simple movements to begin to assess your structure. For most of the session you will be lying on a massage table while I work on the first layers of restrictions in your body, usually on your neck, shoulders, back, ribs and hips.
In a first session, we will start to learn how to work together. I will start to learn what your body needs to change, and you will begin to learn to actively participate in your Rolfing series. Active participation helps you to get more out of Rolfing. In the beginning, it can be as simple as actively paying attention to bodily sensations during a session; I may also ask you to participate by performing simple movements while I work with your body, or by doing an occasional experiential/physical “homework assignment” between sessions.
What can I expect from a Rolfing series?
After the initial two-hour session, sessions last about an hour and 15 minutes.
Sessions are spaced anywhere from 1-3 weeks apart, and an average series consists of 10-15 sessions.
People commonly feel a difference in alignment, movement, body awareness and/or pain levels immediately during and after each session; these differences accumulate and can become increasingly lasting as the series continues. Each session focuses on a different part or parts of your body, and cumulatively the sessions build upon one another to create thorough and lasting changes in your body.
Rolfing has the potential to create significant changes in your body. This process can be accompanied by changes on other levels of your being as well. It is not uncommon for people to experience emotional, mental, social, and/or spiritual growth during the time they are undergoing a Rolfing series. My focus as your Rolfing practitioner is always on your physical structure, but I support and encourage growth in other areas of your life.
Does Rolfing cause emotional release?
Emotional growth can certainly be a part of the Rolfing process, though steady emotional growth throughout a series is more common than an explosive cathartic event. If you are seeking, or are wary of, an emotional release, contact me and we can talk further about the relationship between Rolfing and emotions.
What happens after my series? Do changes last forever?
For most people, it is a good idea to take a break from Rolfing after receiving 10-15 sessions. Your body may continue to change for up to a year after a Rolfing series; taking a break allows your body to continue to integrate on its own. After that time you may find that your body has maintained its changes—many people do successfully sustain changes over time, especially if new movement patterns have been learned. If not, you may find an occasional tune-up or further movement education to be beneficial in helping you maintain balance. It is also possible to undergo another short series some point after your initial series to take your body to an even higher level of integration.
Do I need to do anything between sessions?
What can I do help the process?
Can I exercise like usual?
As we go through a series, I may make specific suggestions about useful stretches/movements/activities for you. In general, you can continue with whatever type of exercise you are accustomed to doing. Engaging in regular activity while being mindful of your body is invaluable when undergoing a Rolfing series. While mindfully moving or exercising, you may be able to discern subtle changes in your body. Being active during your Rolfing series may also enable you to become more conscious of your body’s ingrained habitual movements and of how you respond to stress—two of the most significant factors that, over time, can create the unpleasant compensations from which we seek relief.
Does Rolfing hurt? What does Rolfing feel like?
Rolfing is deeply transformative work, but it is not the painful process that some have heard it to be. That reputation stems largely from Rolfing’s early years, but since then many practitioners have helped to refine Rolfing and have developed more subtle ways of working with soft-tissue while still effectively changing structure.
Receiving a Rolfing session ranges from feeling pleasantly relaxing to momentarily uncomfortable. People who have heard of Rolfing’s painful reputation are often surprised at how pleasant and subtle Rolfing can be. If I am working in an area of significant restriction or holding, Rolfing will likely feel more intense, but that intensity should always feel appropriate, welcome and manageable, and should quickly pass as your tissue releases.
Do I need to do a series of sessions?
I am best able to help people with a series of sessions. A series of sessions allows me to very thoroughly work through your entire body to release hidden restrictions and to bring your whole body into balance. Because fascia is continuous throughout your body, there can be connections between what seem at first to be unrelated areas. Pain in a specific part of the body is certainly an indicator that something is wrong, but it doesn’t always point to the location of the problem. A series of sessions allows me to work on body-wide fascial relationships and to unravel a lifetime of strain and compensation.
That said, you don’t need to be certain from the beginning that you want a whole series of sessions. If you are curious, you can try 1-3 sessions. Within a few sessions you will be able to feel for yourself if Rolfing is a good match for your current goals and desires.
What does Rolfing do for people? Who can Rolfing help?
Rolfing is appropriate for people of all ages, from infants and children to the elderly. The ways Rolfing can serve people are numerous and individual; here are the most common reasons people seek out Rolfing:
In this day and age, it has become normal to be disconnected from our bodies. Rolfing is a great way to find your way back home to your body as a source of enjoyment, knowledge, and health.
Tension, aches and pains:
When your basic structure is out of balance, your body has to work very hard to keep you upright and moving around. Over time, this extra effort may result in chronic tension, strain, and pain. Further, an off-balance body is already overextended and has a reduced capacity to tolerate or to heal from accidents and other traumatic events. By improving your whole body alignment, Rolfing can release tension, aches and pains without creating strain elsewhere in your body.
To improve posture, balance or flexibility:
Many people find that balance, posture and flexibility get worse as they age. As common as this is, many of these changes are not an inevitable part of aging. Rolfing can help you find better posture, flexibility and ease of movement at any age.
To liberate restricted movement patterns:
Nearly all of have activities in our lives that can lead to restricted movement patterns. A mail carrier with a heavy bag, a dental hygienist stooping and twisting to work with patients, a violin player, parents carrying children, anyone who uses a computer at length—all of these people ask their bodies to repeatedly move in specialized ways that can become limiting over time. Rolfing can unwind problems created by a lifetime of activity and create a body that is better able to perform movements like these without strain.
To improve athletic and everyday performance:
Balancing your structure can enhance athletic and everyday performance by improving body awareness, movement patterns, and range of motion. Athletic endeavors and life's everyday activities—from running a marathon to doing housework—are easier when your body is more comfortable and when less energy is required to move with more ease and power.
To support other personal growth practices:
The time when you are going through a Rolfing series has the potential to be a time of significant personal transformation and change. Rolfing is very compatible with many personal growth practices, like yoga and therapy, that likewise promote insight and transformation.
What is the difference between Rolfing and massage?
Massage seeks to relax the body as it is; Rolfing asks the body to reorganize itself. In general, the many therapeutic benefits of massage come from relaxing muscle tone and increasing circulation—from relaxing, but not changing, the overall way the body is organized. Rolfing changes your whole body's structure so that old habits of tension and strain are no longer necessary.
What is the difference between Rolfing and chiropractic?
Chiropractors and Rolfers both look at alignment. To oversimplify—Rolfers work with alignment by working with soft tissue, while Chiropractors work with alignment by adjusting bones. As a Rolfer, I do not do the type of quick adjustments of joints that chiropractors do. Over the course of a Rolfing series, bones are able to assume new positions and movements as the soft tissue affecting them is changed. In practice, Rolfing and chiropractic can be complimentary; my clients generally feel that chiropractic adjustments are easier and last longer as their bodies become more balanced.