What is Rolfing?

This articles main purpose is to examine the question, "What is Rolfing?".  Dr. Ida Rolf created a system of manual therapy that she referred to as, Structural Integration.  In 1971 she founded, The Rolfing Institute of Structural Integration, an organization set up to teach and certify practitioners in her system of manual therapy.  The mission of the institute was also to carry on Dr. Rolf's work.

How did Dr. Rolf view fascia?  Dr. Rolf a graduate of Columbia University with a PhD in Biochemistry, viewed fascia as the packing material of the body.  She knew it was the tissue that connected the skin to the muscles, formed the structure of the muscles, helped connect muscle to bone and align organs and organ systems. 

Dr. Rolf became a research scientist at Rockefeller University in an age where very few women held Doctoral Degrees.  Ida during the course of her life, developed a system of manual and movement therapy focused on the manipulation of the fascia.  Ida viewed fascia as running through the body in layers that connected the entire network of body regions and parts. 

To understand who Dr. Ida Rolf was as a practitioner, it is important to point out that Ida was a Hatha Yoga practitioner and instructor.   Not only did she utilize direct hands on manipulation of the fascia, she also incorporated movement into her work both passive and active.  Dr. Rolf also desired to restore structure and function, as she has said herself "Rolfing is to restore order and symmetry of the physical structure, that was originally or birth right but lost."

She viewed gravity as the force that continued to exert pressure downward against the body, creating stress and moving body structures out of alignment.  As well as preventing them from moving themselves back into alignment.  Ida believed that as we struggled as toddlers to learn to walk, through trial and error, we created our own postural set point.

How well we each achieved our postural set point, greatly determined the course of our health throughout life.  She also believed that as the body was returned to a more functional posture and structural alignment, that the body would heal itself.  This ability of the body to heal itself is a dominant property and philosophy within Structural Integration. 

Ida taught her students that slouching and poor posture actual required more energy and created less easy within the body.  As a result of the stress, poor posture and gravity exerted upon the body, people developed compromised movement patterns and pain.  Dr. Rolf understood that slouching compressed the organs and compromised their function.

What is Rolfing Today?

A good question, "What is Rolfing Today"?  Structural Integration, as Dr. Rolf preferred to call her own creation, has continued to support research into the characteristics and function of fascia and the body.  Those who become certified practitioners of Structural Integration do not see their work as  treatment.  The teaching of Dr. Rolf assumes that most people are out of alignment with gravity.

Rolfer's as a group of practitioners, also assume that when the body is aligned with gravity the energies of the body are supported and the body will heal itself.  Today it has been found that by balancing the tension found in the fascia,  human postural alignment can be improved at any point in life.

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