What is Rolfing?Rolfing, or structural integration, is a form of bodywork or deep tissue massage that works specifically with the fascia, the connective tissue of the body. Using hands-on techniques, a Rolfing practitioner (or Rolfer) manipulates the fascia to release tension and ensure the fascia tissue is properly aligned. Rolfing patients are typically taught breathing exercises to use during the session, as this enhances the effects of the Rolfing itself.
Rolfing is an effective way to deal with chronic stress and pain. Rolfing can help break up tension in the body, particularly in the back, that may be contributing to chronic pain problems or stress-related health conditions. Athletes, actors, and physically active people also use Rolfing to improve performance, as Rolfing can help the body work more efficiently.
The Rolf Institute for Structural Integration also teaches that Rolfing can help people develop a more positive, loving relationship with their bodies, and can potentially provide emotional and cognitive as well as physical health benefits. Indeed, while Rolfing is primarily a physical healing technique, the broader goal of the practice is to integrate and heal the patient on many levels—mind, body and spirit.
“Ida Rolf developed the technique as a whole body approach, with the idea that when the body is balanced in a field of gravity it begins synergistically improving,” says long-time Rolfer Chris Key, PhD. “If your head is too far forward, if you have scoliosis or excessive stress, tension or anxiety, this will manifest in your body, impacting and constraining your endocrine and nervous systems, for example. Rolfing cultivates a more balanced, symmetrical, open body, leading to improved functioning and better health.”
How does rolfing work?A Rolfing practitioner uses specific, hands-on manipulations of the fascia tissue to release tension and improve the overall alignment, structure and performance of the body. Patients often receive treatment for a period of ten sessions, during which time the Rolfing practitioner works with different areas of the body in sequence. The overall goal is to get the body into what some practitioners call grace, or a state in which all the parts of the body are properly lined up, are coordinated, and contribute appropriately to movement and balance.
The superficial fascia covers the entire body like a leotard. The deep fascia covers and permeates individual muscles. It also covers tendons, ligaments, organs of the body as well as bones. If you viewed only a body’s fascial network, you would see a lace-like image of the individual. A Rolfing practitioner manipulates the fascia to release tension and the places where the fascia is “stuck” to ensure that it “fits” in a way that allows the body to be properly aligned within the field of gravity.
Imagine that the fabric of the leotard is bunched, puckered, or gathered in several places so that it doesn’t fit correctly and the individual is unable to move freely. The Rolfer works to smooth and unbind the leotard/facia so that it fits better. Movement becomes more effortless and less constrained.