What is Rolfing

In a survey by the Financial Times (3rd Jan 1999) Rolfing® structural integration was described as “quite simply brilliant therapy since it works at a very deep level and brings noticeable results.”

Rolfing® structural integration is the form of bodywork created by Ida Rolf (1896-1979), PhD in Biochemistry (Please see blog entry in March 2014  for biography article by Ida Rolf’s son Alan Demmerle, entitled Who was Ida Rolf?).

Rolfing consists of body restructuring and movement education. In a survey by the Financial Times (3rd Jan 1999) Rolfing was selected as one of the best therapies that “industry insiders swear by.”

We have all suffered injury, illness or emotional distress and many of us have poor postural habits.

Over time our bodies become mis-aligned so that outside forces like gravity start to wear us down (time wounds all heels).

We experience this conflict as pain, chronic tension, stress and depleted energy. As the aim of Rolfing is to create better body balance and alignment, clients often report the disappearance of such symptoms.

For videos on Rolfing see here

Ida Rolf

Who can benefit from Rolfing?

My clients fall into four broad categories:

1) 40% are people who have a chronic pain condition, most commonly neck, shoulder, back, hips or knee pain. Some people have more specific conditions such as scoliosis, TMJ dysfunction or chronic headaches. Low back and neck pain are the most common conditions, particularly amongst mothers (owing to complications arising around pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood), sports people and computer operators. I am seeing more and more people with RSI.

2) 30% are people who have no specific pain condition but are aware that they have improvable posture and aim to prevent problems that may arise from this.

3) 20% are people who are involved in movement-related activities, such as yoga, dance or sport, and are primarily concerned with improving their performance.

4) 10% are people who are mainly interested in Rolfing as a process and its associated holistic benefits on psychological and emotional levels. Some are interested in the concept of releasing trapped emotions and trauma through Rolfing.

All categories usually acknowledge significant improvement after Rolfing, which is to say that Rolfing reduces or resolves chronic pain, improves posture, enables more efficient and graceful movement and is a fascinating and enlightening process to experience.

As regards age-group, the majority of my clients fall in the 20-50 age-group. I have seen 2 people in their eighties, 4 in their seventies and several children and teenagers. I will work with pregnant women in the last trimester.

In short, Rolfing can help everybody.

The Rolfing Process & Results

Rolfing® structural integration achieves remarkable results by manipulation of the myofascial system, the body’s soft connective tissue network that surrounds and penetrates the muscles and other body structures. This fascial web interconnects and communicates to sustain the whole body. The fascia of the body is the “wrapping” for muscle groups, individual muscles and even muscle fibres. Being a collagen, fascia can change consistency, just like gelatin, from a solid “gel” state to a liquid “sol” state under the influence of heat, pressure or friction, which is exactly what Rolfing applies. Imbalances in the body, especially old injuries, create fascial thickenings that can remain and intensify over many years. These fascial thickenings “set” the body in a pattern of uneconomical movement and habitual imbalance.

When a body is out of equilibrium, or following an injury, the fascia shortens and thickens. This causes compensating reverberations or torsion and tension throughout the body.

It is like a spider’s web in which a fly gets caught causing a tightening of the web in that area.

Everything gets pulled towards the snag, especially as the fly moves around. Fortunately fascia is susceptible to change and reorganisation. Through appropriate pressure applied by the Rolfer’s hands fascia softens and elongates.

Although intelligent exercise such as yoga or Pilates can to some extent create better alignment, exercise regimes can also create new body imbalances, for example overtight pectorals or abdominals or stretched ligaments. The Rolfing Ten Series approach, however, uses friction and pressure at strategic points in the body to unthicken fascia and achieve improved alignment in a remarkably short time. The pebbles in the fascial river are removed, enabling energy and movement to flow more freely and resulting in the improved postural alignment characteristic of the end of the Ten Series.

The Nervous System also plays an important part in getting the alignment improvements of Rolfing. As we move through life we develop sensory engrams, set movement patterns that use preferred “grooves” of neuromuscular connections. Initially we choose our movement patterns but, as they become familiar, they fall outside the zone of consciousness and we move with comparatively little awareness. An example of this is the contrast between the learner driver meticulously concentrating on every gear change and signal, and the seasoned driver cruising on the motorway while talking on the mobile phone. The Rolfing Ten Series moves sequentially through each area of the body, providing a “window of awareness” that enables the nervous system to reassess movement patterns and feel and choose alternative and more efficient ways of moving. This new-found economy of movement frees up a significant amount of energy previously held in overworked muscles

The body segments are released from habitual patterns of tension so that the body finds a new level of ease, integration and economical function. The Rolfer co-operates with the client and works with rhythms of respiration and other body responses to explore ways to use this new-found freedom. The system followed by the Rolfer in order to achieve these results is known as the Rolfing Series.

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