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What exactly IS Rolfing® Structural Integration?

Yes, the name may sound strange, but often when I begin to explain Rolfing, it starts to make a lot of sense to people. Rolfing is named for its founder, Dr. Ida P. Rolf, a biochemist who developed this system of bodywork more than fifty years ago. Ida Rolf recognized that the body is more than just a collection of muscles, bones, joints, nerves and organs, but that these parts are all interconnected and impactful on one another. We can see this interconnection specifically through the connective tissue (or fascia) of the body, which serves as a continuous web, covering muscles and other structures, connecting them, and giving them strength and support. But, in its amazing ability to support us in the best way it can, connective tissue can become compromised: shortening, bunching up or becoming tense and rigid. Habitual demands on the body, as well as specific injuries or traumas, can create this fixed quality, causing tension and pain.

Rolfing works through the layers of connective tissue to release specific muscles, but also their relationship to all other parts to realign and balance the body. Rather than trying to create a cookie-cutter model for ideal posture or a specific way of being, Rolfing invites the body to ease into its natural and most integrated form. When this happens, the body will be more comfortable, find more support, freer movement, and often experience more available energy.

The experience of Rolfing is individual for each client. Many choose to approach Rolfing in a series of 10 sessions (called the 10-series), which in some ways is like one “full body” session divided into 10 detailed parts. It is a way of looking closely at each layer and region of the body in order to find the most balance and support for that body. Rolfing can also be done on a session-by-session basis, but each session always takes into account the whole structure: the Rolfer tuning in closely to what work will create the most ease and connection throughout. Either way, the Rolfer is interested not just in releasing muscles for the moment, but in what work might help this person find the most comfort and ease when moving AWAY from the massage table and back into gravity (which after all, is pretty unavoidable!). For this reason, movement and education on the table, seated or standing can all be ways the Rolfer helps to enhance this quality of “taking the work into the world.” Working through the connective tissue is always most effective when the Rolfer and client find a mutual understanding of the depth and quality of touch that is most releasing and beneficial to the client. Even if it is agreed that the Rolfer work deeply in an area, it should always feel good—meaning feel productive—to the client. 

I find that people tend to come to Rolfing at a time when they want to take stock of issues they are noticing: posture concerns, imbalances, tension from habitual activities or sports, and many sources of chronic pain (back pain, neck pain, tendonitis, joint issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, just to name a few). Working with the connective tissue can be an excellent tool to begin to address many of these concerns. I believe almost anyone can benefit from Rolfing at some point in their lives, or throughout their lives. It is not one-size-fits-all work. Most importantly, the experience of Rolfing is a way of looking inward, and the happy byproduct can be ease in how you are able to approach the world outward. It is a place of careful listening and spontaneous discovery, and one I’m very honored to help facilitate for clients!

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