Rolfing® – History, Offshoots, The Process

Rolfing® aka Structural Integration was created by one woman, Ida Rolf in the mid-1940s with the goal of helping family members who were suffering in pain. She also had been injured from being kicked by a horse which led her to search for answers. Early Rolfing® was extremely painful (yes like screaming at the top of your lungs painful, bruises galore and close to being in shock and possible rhabdomyosis) and the theory back then was to focus on the fascia and aligning the body with gravity. It’s origins are classified as metaphysics and pseudoscience, because of the claims that Rolfer’s make as to what can happen to the body. The focus on the fascia has changed and is changing as we come to know more about fascia and the facts that it cannot be stretched or manipulated. Today’s Rolfers are also gentle and painless.

Rolfing® is different from massage and is sometimes exempt from massage licensing laws. People who have been Rolfed report feeling taller and lighter and often are actually taller. The ultimate goal along with resetting alignment patterns in the body, is to improve movement and posture, reduce stress and create an overall sense of wellbeing– as does most types of massage therapy. It isn’t so much a type of massage but rather a “point of view” as said by author Rosemary Fetis in her book Rolfing and Physical Reality. She wasn’t actually interested in curing systems as she created this way of working and she claimed that she wanted to create better human beings.

“The problem remains. We still ask : how do we develop a method of synthesis making possible a better human? Where do we find a technique for such integration?” ~Gravity an unexplored factor (PDF on in a more human use of humans being. Ida Rolf. Systematics journal

The Rolf Institute trademarked the terms Rolfing® and Certified Rolfer™.  The Rolf Institute then became the only organization who could use the terms or grant license to the use of those terms. All others refer to their work as other names but are all under the umbrealla of Structural Integration.

Rolfing claims to change peoples’ posture which it is evident that it does, but is it necessary? People who have pain may have posture issues or they may not have posture issues. People with good posture may have pain. People with bad posture may or may not have pain issues.

Rolfing claims to align the body with gravity, but does the body need to be aligned with gravity?

Rolfing/Structural Integration as a process.

Ida Rolf created Rolfing during the 1940s and it came about from her quest for more and more knowledge and inquiry into the human potential movement. It has been said that her original intention was to maximize human potential, helping clients be more resilient and adaptable. It is more about an inquiry into being a human being in a body than just getting the body in alignement and following a recipe.

One can think of Rolfing as an inquiry into what it means to be a human, bodied being (somatic ontology). The practice of Rolfing/SI isn’t something that a practitioner does to someone but rather it is way of thinking. Dr. Rolf intended her approach to be a process* in which a person could become more confident in their body. Rofing/SI requires participation from client. It’s work for the person receiving the work and is far from the passive massage therapy sessions of others. The practitioner and client journey together.

What about the statement that Rolfing hurts?

IPR steadfastly refuses to let it become an issue, maintaining that it is negligible in the face of the benefits of Rolfing and that, in any event, it is more the product of resistance and regression than of actual tissue reaction. In this, she is supported by some of the neurological research: the gate theory postulates that what we call pain is a message from our sensory system that there is sensory overload – the feeling is “too much”. As Fritz Perls put it, “pain is an opinion.” The ouch comes from our attention to shut off the sensation that can’t or won’t be shut off. ~Rosemary Fetis. Rolfing and Physical Reality

Ida Pauline Rolf, PhD (1896–1979) – The woman, The Researcher and bodyworker extradonaire: Where did the The Line and The Recipe come from? Why did she choose 10 sessions? Why did she pick gravity and the line?

The Rolfing Lineage. A few of the early students of Ida Rolf, went on to create their own variation of the 10 Session protocol, always with her blessing. After her death, a battle of the Rolfing Trademark ensued.