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. Ida Rolf
As we age, through injury, stress and other trauma, we compensate by shifting our bearing to avoid and alleviate discomfort. We even do this in response to emotional stress. The adjustment seems to work at the time, and we move on. We heal, but a remnant of the compensatory pattern remains and our bodies are now in a constant state of misalignment. We seem more tired, less focused, unable to move the way we used to. Rolfing®, a method of Structural Integration developed by Ida Rolf, is a mind-body system of connective tissue manipulation that rebalances and realigns the body with the earths gravitational force. The result can be more energy, increased breathing capacity, elimination of chronic pain and a restored sense of well-being.
Ida Rolf was a biochemist who developed her system of Structural Integration in response to her own childhood injury. Kicked by a horses hoof and suffering symptoms resembling acute pneumonia, Rolf had found relief through a series of alternative treatments. She began to study various approaches, including osteopathy, yoga, and chiropractic, eventually developing her own modality which she named Structural Integration. During the human potential movement of the 60s, it was nicknamed Rolfing®. In 1971 she founded todays Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado. Since her death, the Institute has continued to develop and refine her techniques.
In addition to Structural Integration, Dr. Rolf also developed the adjunct system called Rolfing® Movement in collaboration with Dorothy Nolte and Judith Aston. Since Dr. Rolfs death, others have continued to expand on this style. Working with the patient, the practitioner helps to identify incorrect movement and posture and rather than seeking to change them, offers more economical solutions to assist with balance and efficiency.
Rolfs entire philosophy is related to her understanding of physics. She believed all our symptoms of pain and stress are a result of the bodys response to gravity. Over time this response builds and results in postural changes which in turn affect our energy levels, breathing and overall well-being. She focused on the connective or myofascial tissue that surrounds all our organs, muscles, bones and joints, lending the body shape and support. As we move, connective tissue allows our joints, muscles, etc. to glide easily throughout the range of any activity. Healthy connective tissue is resilient and elastic but as it absorbs and responds to the forces of gravity, stress, trauma and illness, it shortens, dehydrates and thickens. Over time this impairs mobility and function, making it harder for the body to work, which in turn increases fatigue and tension. We may suffer rounded shoulders, stooped posture, a twisted pelvis or other misalignments. To correct these changes, Rolf developed a system of stretching and lengthening bodywork which, when applied to the bodys myofascial structure, would free up constrictions and allow the body to regain proper alignment.
The underlying principles of Rolfing® have to do with balancing the body in all directions, front to back, side-to-side, inside to outside, promoting an integration of all connective tissue within the body. Because the body works together as a whole, any misalignment interferes with this wholeness. Rolf believed that through integration, wholeness and balance restored, reducing emotional as well as physical stress.
Structural Integration is considered an educational process that leads to increased awareness of the body and how stress and gravity exert their influence on it. Through this knowledge previous patterns that constrict and confine motion can be released, and healthier patterns established. Rolfing seeks to integrate the body, improving the relationship of its segments and providing balance in relationship to gravity.
The results of Rolfing® are very personal. They can range from the appearance of being taller to actually gaining up to about 1 in height. Discomfort, aches and pains are often alleviated. Flexibility and range of motion can be increased and individuals may experience an overall feeling of lightness and ease. As a result, balance, breathing capacity, energy levels and self-esteem may improve. Because it is considered a holistic modality, Rolfing® is also seen as a means to align the emotional as well as physical, opening up barriers to self-actualization and the experience of life. The benefits of Rolfing® are also long lasting, but as the injuries and stress of life continue, additional work may be necessitated.