What is Rolfing?

Click to enlarge Seated Back Work

Rolfing is a system of body education and physical manipulation originally called structural integration.  It is named after the founder, Ida Rolf, PhD, and you can read more about her in the next section.

Here's a description of Rolfing from Dr. Andrew Weil, a medical doctor who is famous for bringing alternative medicine to the American public:

"Named after Dr. Ida P. Rolf, Rolfing is often referred to as 'structural integration.' It is not simply massage, it is a system of deep manipulation of the connective tissues that aims to restructure the fascia (the sheath of tissue that surrounds a muscle) and relieve physical misalignment. Basic Rolfing consists of a series of 10 sessions, each focusing on a different part of the body. The practitioner applies firm, and sometimes even painful, pressure via fingers and elbows. The result? You may become more in touch with your body, experience less pain and stress, improve your posture, even release repressed emotions and diminish habitual muscle tension. People who have experienced Rolfing often find an improvement in their professional and daily activities."

Why Ten Sessions?

Rolfing is normally done in a series of ten sessions of variable length. Each segment of the process is both a continuation of the previous one and an introduction to the next. The body is systematically manipulated during this initial series of ten sessions, each of which lasts about an hour.  Some people choose to schedule their sessions once a week, others once a month, or as frequently as twice a week. The cost per session varies nationally from $110 to $250, according to local economics and the experience of the Rolfer. For Karin's rates, please see: Your First Visit.

Rolfing's series of ten session is designed to uncover a structural ease and kinetic balance that is unique to each client. Rolfing cannot accurately be described as therapy or as a returning of the body to a "natural" state from which it has deteriorated. Rather, it is a process of education in which a Rolfer seeks to help a client discover the most efficient way of using his or her body, given the limitations, liabilities, and virtues of that body. In fact, the 10 session series is not a formulaic recipe, but rather a guide which is fully customized for the needs of each particular person. However, there are certain landmarks which every Rolfer follows in each Rolfing series, and you can read about these in the session descriptions that follow.

Progress through a Rolfing 10 Series

This drawing is based on actual photos of a real client as she progresses through the 10 Rolfing Sessions. Observe that the various lines approach horizontal throughout the first 7 sessions, at which point we've progressed to the bigger goal of helping the body actually use those new horizontal lines. In particular, notice that her head rises forward out of her body in the beginning. Like the yoke on an ox, this position makes the weight of the head feel like a burden. Notice that she gains a little height as she learns to allow her neck to rise up tall.

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I See Rolfing as...

  • a way to optimize the entire body
  • a reminder that everything can change, even things that have been a certain way for years
  • an opportunity to have positive changes that ripple out into other aspects of life

Ida Rolf believed that the highest purpose of Rolfing is "the evolution of the individual."