What is Rolfing?
Rolfing® Structural Integration is a form of bodywork that involves changing the structure, function, and energy of the body to bring the body into its natural state of alignment and flexibility. It uses deep muscular manipulation and guided movements to release patterns of emotional and physical strain within the fascia, or connective tissue, of the body.
The fascia, rather like the membranes of an orange, wraps the muscles and gives them their shape. It is meant to be fluid and flexible, but it can shorten, thicken, or adhere in response to emotional or physical trauma, habitual postures, repetitive movements, attitudes, and beliefs. This sets up a progression of compensation patterns and distortions that build upon themselves. Rolfing works to bring fascia back to its natural flexibility, altering the shape of muscles so new patterns of movement can be created.
One of the main differences between Rolfing and massage is that the latter focuses on relaxing or relieving what is present, relating to the body as a set of parts to be fixed. Rolfing, on the other hand, allows what's present to change, emphasizing the body as a whole with all its parts interdependent, supporting and balancing each other. In a Rolfing session, both practitioner and client attempt to remain fully present during the session, so that the practitioner can facilitate the client accessing her own inherent body wisdom to create awareness for pattern shifts and re-shaping of identity within.
Rolfing was developed by Ida Rolf, a biochemist and physiologist whose work revolutionized the use of the words “core” and “sleeve” to describe the relationship of the body to reality and gravity. Muscles and body segments are differentiated and then re-integrated in relationship to each other in a way that evokes a sense of core and allows movement to flow through it in the most efficient, harmonious, and stress-free manner possible.
Although the function and structure of a body are integrally connected, Rolfing Structural Integration focuses more on the latter, Rolf Movement on the former. Both of them address fixations in the body that affect a person's quality of movement, but Rolfing Structural Integration works more on lesions--fixations in the myofascia, and Rolf Movement concentrates more on inhibitions, which are fixations in coordination and perception.
Rolf Movement work tends to be a little more subtle, as it ties movement patterns to the client's sensory experience of the world--vision and hearing and even smell as well as sense of space, gravity, and breath. Because the way the world is perceived is what shapes the inhibitions, and these patterns tend to be much harder to change than simple myofascial lesions, client participation in the way of staying conscious and alert through the session is vital in order for the work to be effective. The work can be combined with Rolfing Structural Integration, or done as stand-alone sessions, the latter being particularly effective with clients who have already gone through the ten-series.