Rolfing® FAQ

What is Rolfing?

Rolfing is an original and scientifically validated system of body restructuring and movement education. It releases the body's segments—legs, torso, arms, etc.—from life-long patterns of tension and bracing and permits gravity to re-align them. By doing so, it balances the body. Of all the forces affecting the human body, gravity is among the most powerful. Body misalignment in gravity results in chronic strain, lowered vitality and impaired biological and psychological functioning. Because the body is better-balanced after Rolfing, it expends less of its vital energies against gravity. This biological energy-efficiency is often experienced as a higher level of alertness and vitality. Movement becomes easier and overall personal functioning tends to improve.

Who benefits from Rolfing?

According to Dr. Rolf, all bodies have some degree of disorder and compensation in their structure; therefore she believed that everyone should receive Rolfing structural integration. In fact, in her global vision, she imagined a more evolved and structurally efficient human species as a result of Rolfing.

People of all ages choose Rolfing because they want to feel better in their bodies and improve their quality of life. They are aware that minor injuries, accidents or repetitive stress patterns are affecting their ability to move freely and comfortably. Often they have tried other therapies without finding lasting results. 

Other people, such as athletes and musicians, find Rolfing a powerful method to enhance their performance. Still others choose Rolfing who refuse to accept the notion that the quality of their lives must suffer simply because they are growing older.  All are curious how improved alignment and body awareness will support their overall Health and lifestyles.

Rolfing and realigning the body

To align the body segments, Rolfing systematically organizes the body's soft, connective tissue network. This connective tissue network, known as the myofascial system, is "the organ of structure" in the body. It supports the skeleton and soft tissues, positions the bones, determines the direction of muscle pulls and of movement, and gives the body its shape.The human body holds itself erect with pairs of muscle groups functioning within a network of fascial sheaths. These pairs normally function in an antagonist relationship with one another. When one of the pair contracts, the other must extend to maintain proper balance.If that relationship is impaired through injury or chronic tension in one of the groups, the fascia conforms to the shortening and the rest of the body must compensate to maintain balance.The job of Rolfing is to free the shortened fascia, allow the muscles to return to a balanced relationship and the body to release the compensations. When the myofascial system is organized, gravity causes it to uplift and align the body's segments.

What is the Rolfing Series?

The basic Rolfing series consists of ten sessions. A Rolfer starts by evaluating the client's postural structure. The client is then asked to lie on the table as the Rolfer sensitively applies just the right amount of pressure where the fascia is restricted.Rolfers don't just work with connective tissue; they work with rhythms of respiration and other responses of the body. They also educate the client in ways of using the new-found freedom.The client may be asked to breathe into the area being worked and/or to make synchronized movements. The combination of applied pressure and synchronized response frees and repositions the connective tissue and aligns the body's segments.Each Rolfing session builds upon the results of the previous one, so that the results are cumulative. The first seven sessions remove strain from specific areas of the body: the lower back, neck, knees, etc. The remaining sessions organize and align the body as a whole, resulting in better balance, enhanced freedom of movement, and higher energy level.Sessions last from an hour to an hour and a half. The amount of time between sessions varies and is determined on an individual basis. The average spacing is a week to two weeks.

Do I have to do the whole series

Rolfing is most effective as a series of sessions, usually 10, but there are exceptions to this and discussions with the individual is best to help determine how the series would work.When clients first start the series, they may not be ready to commit to the 10 sessions. In these cases, I recommend the person try the first session and, if this is a good experience, to continue on for a mini series of three sessions. The focus of the first three sessions tends to work more the extrinsic muscles (those muscles that you can touch with your hand).Taking a break or choosing to stop the series is most practical after the third session since the forth session and on tend to deal more with the core, or intrinsic muscles (those muscles more difficult to contact with your own touch). For this reason, once someone has gone beyond the third session, I recommend that they commit to the series.

Psychological results

While Rolfing is primarily concerned with structural changes, any change in the physical body affects the whole person.  A human being is comprised of many aspects—attitudes, emotions, behavior and structure. Each is related to all the others.  Rolfing clients often report positive changes in their outlook on life and in their ability to handle emotional changes.

How does Rolfing feel?

Sensations in the area being worked may range from pleasurable warmth to momentary discomfort. At times there may be little sensation at all. How you will feel during Rolfing depends on several factors such as injuries to the area or tension caused by chronic stress.After Rolfing, people report feeling lighter and better-balanced. Movement feels easier, as if the joints have been lubricated. Feelings of well-being reflect the body's higher energy level.Chronic discomforts often disappear immediately or soon after the series is completed.

Does Rolfing last?

Yes! Photographs show that the changes of the basic Rolfing series are still present many years after the series is complete. On the other hand, as bodies change, and people sometimes have injuries, accidents and stressful times, additional work may be useful.

What is Advanced Rolfing?

An Advanced Rolfer has completed another course of study with the Rolf Institute after completing 3 years in basic practice, and also having completed a number of continuing education hours in structural, movement and elective courses. Following completion of the basic series of Rolfing and an integration period (to be determined by the practitioner), clients often further the work they have received with a five session advanced series.  Some clients also choose to have Rolfing work on a regular basis.

Rolfing Movement Integration

Rolfing Movement Integration is a separate system of work which forwards the same goal as Rolfing itself. Where Rolfing deals with patterns of structure, Rolfing Movement Integration re-educates the body's movement patterns.Life is motion. When we are unable to meet life's demands to move in certain ways, tension results. Familiar symptoms of this kind of tension are low energy, aching muscles and stress.A Rolfing Movement Integration teacher works to guide the client in replacing binding tension patterns with free and well-integrated movement.Rolfing Movement Integration usually consists of eight or more sessions spaced one or more weeks apart. Sessions can be done in groups or in private. Movement work can be done for its own value or as a powerful aid to the manipulative work.

Where does "Rolfing" come from?

The name Rolfing came from its creator, Dr. Ida P. Rolf. She titled the work Structural Integration, and while this title has become the generic name of what Rolfers do, it did not stick early on whereas the name Rolfing did.It is somewhat of an odd name for the work, but you'll probably always remember what it is and what it did for you.

The Rolf Institute

The Rolf Institute was founded in 1971 to carry on Dr. Ida P. Rolf's work. Its major purpose is to train Rolfers and Rolfing Movement teachers, carry on research, and provide information to the public.Only individuals trained and certified by the Rolf Institute may use the Rolfing® service mark.

The Rolf Institute conducts trainings in Rolfing for individuals who have completed the required coursework in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, have demonstrated an ability in hands-on work such as massage or physical therapy, and who have the maturity and sensitivity to work with people using this technique.

What to Expect During a Session

Client wears underwear during session.  For men briefs or boxer briefs are preferred.  For women underwear and bra, although sports bras are not preferred.  A two piece bathing suit could also be worn.

Every session will begin with an analysis of the client’s structure standing and walking.  This is done while the client is in underwear.

The sessions are interactive.  Client may be asked to participate with movement.  Client is encouraged to stay awake and be present. 

Client may be asked to get off the table and stand and walk during the session to determine progress of the session.

Some of the work may take place seated or standing.

The client is generally not covered with a sheet during the session for the purpose of observing the structure during the session.

A small amount of lotion may be used.  Oil is never used.

With the client’s permission, before and after photos may be taken for reference to notice change.  The photos are confidential.