What is Rolfing?

Rolfing is a multi-dimensional system of body restructuring and movement education which releases the body from patterns of chronic strain, allowing gravity to realign it. The structural work of Rolfing – the hands-on work in the soft tissue system – frees the body’s segments – torso, arms, legs and head – while the functional work explores habits of movement – from sitting and breathing to workplace ergonomics and body use in daily routine, sports & exercise – and offers options to habituated patterns which are no longer useful or necessary.

Misalignment in the body occurs in response to long-held tensions, and results in stiffness, immobility, reduced biological and psychological functioning, and eventually, when the adaptive capacity of the system is exceeded, physical pain.

Structure is slow function: what you do, you become. Quite literally, anything one does over time is reflected in the body’s posture. Decades of slumping over a computer begin to appear as a collapsing chest with a forward head and rounded shoulders, with resulting diminished metabolic functioning and loss of overall vitality. Accidents, injuries, surgeries and emotional traumas also manifest themselves in our tissue, soon affecting our responsiveness to life and creating compensatory musculature which drives lines of tension throughout our systems.
Fortunately, our bodies’ muscles, bones and organs are surrounded by a plastic connective tissue – fascia – which contains and supports them. It is to this malleable connective tissue network that Rolfing addresses itself.

To align the body, Rolfing systematically organizes its fascial network, which supports skeleton and soft tissue alike, determining the direction of muscle pulls and movement, and giving the body its shape. (Without fascia, the skeleton would collapse into a pile of bones, organs would stack up atop one another until they were distorted and compressed, and muscle tissue, without its sturdy yet flexible covering, would fray and disintegrate away from its bony attachments.) When the normal relationship of muscles to one another is interrupted through injury, illness or habituated tension fallen beneath conscious awareness, one group of muscles becomes short and tight, while its antagonist muscles are long and stretched in a fixed position. The fascial network conforms to these abnormal arrangements, and the rest of the body must compensate in order to maintain a tricky, often uncomfortable balance.

The job of Rolfing is to free this shortened fascia, allowing muscles and organs to return to true balance and symmetry. When, for example, that employee with years at the computer is Rolfed, her chest and shoulders open and move back into a neutral position, his head finds itself once again on top and free to move, her breathing is fuller and easier (the lungs now occupying greater volume in a more spacious thorax.) His experience is one of ease of movement, increase of well-being, and more energy at day’s end. With strategies learned during Rolfing sessions, the workday itself can become less taxing.

Each structural Rolfing session builds upon the results of the previous one, so that the effects are cumulative. The early sessions remove strain from specific areas, while the later sessions organize and align the body as a whole, resulting in better balance, enhanced freedom of movement and a higher energy level. Movement education accompanies the structural work, and can additionally be offered in separate sessions addressing specific problems. Sessions last from fifty to seventy-five minutes. The amount of time between sessions varies and is determined on an individual basis. The average spacing is from one to two weeks.

The words Rolfing and Rolfer are service marks of the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration