Who is Ida Rolf? Dr. Rolf has been a strong willed woman of the 20th century. She was driven to help others and herself learn as much about the structural alignment and function of the human body, as was conceivably possible. She did just that and her legacy continues today at the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.
Ida was born and raised in the Bronx in 1896. She graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry in 1920 and continued her work as a researcher studying not only chemistry, but Hatha Yoga, homeopathy, and osteopathy, as well. She shared her growing insights into the structure and function of the human body to anyone who was interested and would listen.
Who is Ida Rolf and why did she change the way we look at manual therapy? Perhaps her first steps along this path came from an early injury from a horse kick. This experience may have changed the course of her life. She found relief and recovery from and osteopathic treatment.
This injury may have played a role in the formation of her life's work, but her desire to provide a music education to her children was the key. Her first activity as a manual therapist began in 1930s when, she was looking for a music teacher for her children. She was introduced to a music teacher named Ethel, who had suffered a traumatic arm injury.
Ethel's condition had worsened to the point where she could no longer teach music. Dr. Rolf worked with her showing her yoga postures and performing her own brand of manual tissue manipulation. Ida was successful at helping Ethel return to teaching music. The foundation for structural integration had been laid.
Ida's reputation as someone who could heal disabling injury grew. Ethel had friends with issues who had other friends with structural injuries and the chain of referrals began. Dr. Rolf always communicated to her patients and students that her first and most important revelation was that the human body would heal itself and only needed a little guidance from trained movement and manual therapy instructors. These individuals needed to understand that the body had to be aligned with gravity.
Gravity was the force that Ida believed pulled the body out of alignment. Dr. Rolf worked tirelessly to learn as much as she could from the natural sciences. She applied her own insights along the way into a form of manual therapy that she called structural integration. In the 1940's She consolidated her technique into 10 body segment work sessions.
It was not until the 50's that her efforts began to expand beyond her local practice. Dr. Rolf had always been a researcher and educator. She offered training and workshops for Osteopaths and Chiropractors, but as the 60s rolled in she found herself immersed in the Human Potential Movement.
In the 60s several studies on the effects of Rolfing were carried out that established its efficacy as a constructive manual therapy. In the course of her practice, she worked with some of the notable leaders of movement therapy, including Moshe Feldenkrais and Fritz Perls. Ida also published several papers, published her book and continued to teach her program of 10 sessions.
Already in her seventies Dr. Rolf was determined to make sure her work continued. So, the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration with a strict certification program was formed. Ida had no patients for immaturity and required that her students had a manual therapy practice or some kind of education before they choose to study Rolfing.
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