Rolfing is the name coined for the original system of body work developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf. It can and does make dramatic changes in a person’s physical structure. Rolfing has an unequaled and unprecedented ability to dramatically alter a person’s posture and structure. Many people from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing, including:
- Professional athletes
- Business people
- Anybody that moves
People seek Rolfing as a way to ease pain and chronic stress, and improve performance in their professional and daily activities. It’s estimated that more than 1 million people have received Rolfing work.
Rolfer’s believe that the shape of the body reflects how well it is operating and how balanced it is. The general goal of Rolfing is to bring the body (head, neck, torso, pelvis, legs, and feet), into a balanced and supportive relationship with one another. As this is ahchieved the body will no longer be “battling” the ever-present pull of gravity, in fact it will be “lifted” by the tensional soft tissue system.
Research has demonstrated that Rolfing creates a more efficient use of the muscles, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement. Research also shows that Rolfing significantly reduces chronic stress and makes postural changes in the body’s structure.
How does Rolfing work?
Rolfing works with the connective tissue of the body called Fascia. This tissue is ubiquitous; it positions all of the organs, bones, nerves, blood vessels and muscles and in fact gives the body its form or structure. Fascia is pliable and can have its shape changed by injury, repetitive motions and the manipulations of a Rolfer.
Shortened or “stuck” fascia causes our body to move in a limited range of motion. Old movement patterns, whether from an injury or just sitting in front of computer, can become imprinted in the fascia and can prevent our ability to fully utilize our body.
A Rolfer uses his or her hands to remove these patterns from the fascia and bring it back to its normal length and consistency. Through the release of the fascia the body comes back into alignment, more vertical. The Rolfer is trained to release the fascia in such a way that the body starts to line up along a vertical line; head over shoulders, shoulders over pelvis, pelvis over legs, legs over feet and feet articulating with the earth.
Does Rolfing Hurt?
Although Rolfing has the reputation of being a painful process, this is not the case. Since Ida Rolf introduced the work over 30 years ago the craft has been refined and now incorporates more precise contact and gentle movement to release the fascia. As a certified Rolf Movement Practitioner, I personally use a great deal of coordinated movement together with touch. However, the client may occasionally feel a localized or general burning sensation, as if the skin were being stretched too far. This only lasts while the tightened tissue areas are releasing. Soon after, the client usually reports a sense of “warmth”, “length”,”lightness”, tingling sensations and new freedrom in the area worked on, as well as in surrounding areas as the changes spread through the connective tissue network.
The Rolfing Ten Session Process.
Traditionally, clients receive a basic 10-session sequence of Rolfing. This gives me the opportunity to work systematically and comprehensively in releasing the fascial patterns in the client’s entire body. A second option that I offer is what Rolfers call “fix-it” work. These are anywhere from 1-3 sessions in length and address some issue that you feel you have (shoulder problems, headaches, backaches) that have an origin in fascial restrictions.
In the ten session sequence, your sessions will go like this:
Focuses on freeing the lungs to allow fuller breath, and beginning to free the shoulder and pelvic girdles from the rib cage
Addresses your foundation. The feet and lower legs are opened and aligned to better support the body in gravity
Session Three moves to your sides and establishes a lateral line. The goal here is to ease strain patterns in the front-back dimension.
We move back to the legs in this session, focusing on the inside of the leg from the ankle to the pelvis, at a slightly deeper layer. The relationship of the foot to the pelvis is aligned; torsions at the knee and hip are addressed.
Continues up the front of the abdomen, quadriceps, and psoas, lengthening the front of the body and providing lift up the center of the structure. By freeing deeper pelvic and abdominal restrictions, which can inhabit pelvic movement, the pelvis can continue its shift to a more supportive and balanced horizontal position.
Lengthens the deep muscles of the back and hips, matching the change achieved in the front in session five. Starting in the legs, if necessary, we address the calves, hamstrings, back of the pelvis, and up both sides of the spine to the head.
Uses all of the work done so far to organize the head and neck. This session focuses on the upper shoulders, head, neck, and sometimes the arms.
The final three sessions are about integrating all we’ve done. The human pelvis is an amazing structure that links the upper and lower segments of the body, supports the spine in a vertical position, and allows rotation of the spine.
This is the other half of session eight. If we worked the lower body in the previous session, this one will target upper structures.
The final integration. This session is usually customized to each individual’s body and needs. This is our opportunity to complete, for now, all we’ve been able to free.
What are the Benefits of Rolfing?
Clients of Rolfing regularly acknowledge that they feel taller, more at ease in their body, “lighter”, recover from strain easier and have more physical energy. These come from a body that is more alighned with gravity. Rolfing is considered a Holistic or Whole Body therapy, not concentrating on one area of the body.
There are many symptoms that Rolfing has been noted to help. Such as:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Whiplash injuries
- Back pain
- Temporal Mandibular TMJ problems
- Plantar Fascitis
- Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
- Tennis elbow
- Foot problems, pronation, supination and flat
- Spinal Lordosis or Kyphosis
- Neck, Shoulder and Back hyper-tension
- Knee pain
- Hip pain
Other often reported benefits are:
- Improved balance
- Better posture
- Breathing is easier
- Improved joint and soft tissue range of motion
- Improved soft tissue flexibility
- More mental energy
- Decreased physical pain
- Easier recovery from exertion
- Movements are easier and more fluid
- Athletic performance is improved
- A calmer mind, well being
- Improved body awareness
All of the above are helped through the release of the fascial restrictions and the alignment of the body. Although Rolfing can often aid proper medical care, it is not a medical procedure. Your health and well being has much more to do with keeping your body systems in balance and maintaining that harmony throughout life. Rolfing is a therapy that can greatly help you restore and maintain your vitality and life force.