now you know that Rolfing is bodywork and movement education
that balances and aligns structure. Also, that Rolfing
is able to significantly change the body because it reorganizes
connective tissue the stuff that holds everything
else (bones, muscles, nerves,and organs) in place. But
most people still have a lot of questions about Rolfing;
here are some of the most common:
exactly, is connective tissue?
Why should I consider Rolfing?
What does conventional medicine
think of Rolfing?
How can I tell if Rolfing is for me?
Does it hurt?
Does it last?
Why a ten session series?
Do I have to commit to the whole
What if I'm already seeing
What about massage?
Can I exercise during Rolfing?
Ive heard that professional
athletes receive Rolfing -- is this true?
Are there benefits for performers?
Can children receive Rolfing?
How long are the sessions?
How far apart should they be?
How does a typical session go?
Are there psychological effects
How can I get the most from Rolfing?
What happens after I finish a Ten-Series?
How much does it cost?
Does insurance cover Rolfing?
are Rolfers trained?
Tell me more about the Rolf Institute.
How do I make sure my practitioner
is a Certified Rolfer?
exactly, is connective tissue?
Connective tissue, or fascia, (seen on the right) is strong, tough, fibrous
tissue that acts as the support systemand spacersfor the
entire body. Composed
of the protein collagen, connective
tissue accounts for half the protein in the body. No tissue in the body
is as abundant. It binds cells into tissues, tissues into organs, connects
muscles and bones, wraps every nerve and vessel, laces all internal structures
into place and envelopes the body. When tightly bundled together, it
forms tendons and ligaments; around muscles and organs, it is thin and
often transparent; in the low back and outer thigh, it forms large, thick
white sheets that are amazingly strong.
these linings, wrappings, cables, and moorings are continuous,
connecting everything to everything else. Connective tissue
so thoroughly permeates the body that if you removed everything
else, there would still be a three-dimensional, recognizable
connective tissue is characterized by flexibility, elasticity,
length, and resilience. The
tissue absorbs and responds to the earth's gravitational
force, illness, injury, emotional trauma, and everyday
stress. Any of these factors will, over a period of time,
cause an imbalance in the tissue system. Imbalance is identified
as a shortening, thickening, and dehydration of the tissue,
which impairs joint mobility and muscle function. This
is usually felt in the body as chronic pain, stiffness,
or decreased flexibility and impaired movement.
fact that fascia changes shape as a body deteriorates indicates
it possesses "plasticity," a quality that can
also be used to restore the body to balance. Connective
tissue, unlike muscle tone, changes very slowly. Under
the sustained and careful pressure of the Rolfer's hands,
the tissue can be loosened, lengthened, and shifted to
balance and align to the body.
should I consider Rolfing?
People come to Rolfing for
a wide range of reasons. Many chronic pain sufferers turn
to Rolfing as an alternative to surgery, shots and splints.
Many turn to Rolfing to rehabilitate from an injury or resolve problems from scar tissue. Some people use Rolfing to combat a lifetime of poor posture
that seems to be worsening with age. Others simply want
to feel betterto have more energy and flexibility.
Still others sense a need for change in their lives and
in their bodies. They see Rolfing as a way to reconnect
with their bodiesemotionally, physically, and spirituallyand
ultimately achieve greater confidence, peace and joy. Many
athletes and artists use Rolfing to improve performance
and extend their careers.
does conventional medicine think of Rolfing?
The organizations that represent MDs, physical therapists, nurses and
so on do not take any formal positions on Rolfing, just as they do not
take formal positions on other types of complementary health care. When
Rolfing is understood by these practitioners, it is generally quite well
received more and more MDs are referring patients to Rolfers and
are, themselves, being Rolfed. One reason for this is that Rolfing is
based on Western ideas of anatomy and physiology that are familiar to
and accepted by Western trained physicians. Many physical therapists
readily embrace Rolfing because they view fascial manipulation (the cornerstone
of Rolfing) as a significant factor in joint mobilization.
can I tell if Rolfing is for me?
Talk to your Rolfer. If you are still not sure, try one session. This
will give you a pretty good idea of what the work is about, what it feels
like, and whether or not you connect with your practitioner. In general,
most people know whether Rolfing will benefit them by session three.
This session provides a good stopping point for people who decide that
Rolfing is not appropriate for them. Most people, however, find the process
enjoyable as well as beneficial.
It is interesting that most people who have the opinion that Rolfing
is extremely painful have never experienced the work firsthand. Much
of the reputation for pain came from the early days when Rolfing was
first gaining public recognition. Since that time, the process has greatly
evolved. As far as the actual experience is concerned, the area being
worked will vary in sensation and feeling depending upon the severity
of chronic stress, injuries, and other factors specific to your body.
Feelings can range from
pleasurable release to honest-to-goodness discomfort. Fortunately, the
work proceeds at your level and pace. Nothing is forced,
Rolfing never feels sharply painful or invasive. When discomfort occurs,
many clients describe it as a "good hurt" that the body
wants and needs. Others say Rolfing significantly reduces the pain experienced
in their daily lives or increases athletic functioning
to such an extent, that discomfort on the table is worth the
massage, Rolfing is a participatory process. You may be
asked to breath into tissue to help it release,
to make small movements under the practitioners hands,
or to stretch out of a place being worked.
Participating in the movement feels very different than
having work done to you. Additionally, Rolfing
proceeds slowly and deliberately; there is ample time to
relax into the pressure. As an additional safeguard, I
instruct clients to gauge the pressure from one to ten,
and to notify me if I ever pass a seven. After the first
session, clients often comment that the work was nothing
like theyd heard it would be, and
are surprised at how good it feels.
Yes! Photographs taken of clients years after the basic ten-series show
changes still present. Physiology explains why: Our bodies are constantly
breaking down and rebuilding themselves. Bodies determine how to build
themselves based on the way weight and stress is distributed
through the structure. When we loosen, lengthen, and shift connective
tissue, we affect relationships between structures and change strain
patterns. Next time, the body rebuilds itself a bit differently. This
is how Rolfing affects structure over the long-term. Rolf Movement education
supports these changes by teaching clients more effective sitting, standing,
walking, and work habits. Obviously, if body-use changes due to injury,
illness, or stress, additional work may be useful.
it or not, structure keeps changing after the ten-series
(a phenomenon so common that Rolfers have named post-series
months, the "eleventh session). Below is a series
of photographs of a 60 year-old physician who underwent
ten sessions. Notice that eight months after completing
his series, his structure continued to change:
months after session
a ten session series?
Whether youre quitting smoking or training for a marathon, long-term
positive change takes time. Your body didnt get this way overnight;
helping it find a new way to be will take some time too. Each Rolfing
session works different areas with different objectives in mind. Often,
you will see changes as soon as you step off the table. But the time
between sessions is just as powerful because this is when your body takes
changes — such as greater range of motion in the shoulder, a shifted
pelvic angle, or improved foot flexibility — and integrates them into
(makes them yours).
this time, the body experiments with unfamiliar movements
and awareness, builds new neurological pathways, and influences
your structure, movement patterns, and experience. This
is why Ida Rolf used to say, Gravity is the therapist. At
the beginning of the next session, we will observe what
is changing and what hasnt and use this information
to refine our strategy. Ten sessions allow us to devote
appropriate time to specific areas and issues that are
common structural challenges and to customize work
that is meaningful to your unique body and lifestyle.
I have to commit to the whole series?
Of course not. Plan to
in for the first session and see how you respond to the
work. Most people notice results by session three. This
session is the last of the superficial sessions
and a natural place to stop if you dont feel youre
getting what you need. If, like so many of us, you get
hooked on Rolfing, session three is the time to take stock
of changes and refine goals and expectations for the remaining
sessions. If you do plan to continue, it makes sense to
commit to completing the series in the next six months.
if I'm already seeing a chiropractor?
Fabulous. Rolfing and chiropractic can be mutually beneficial.
bones back to
joint function. Rolfing improves alignment by manipulating the
tissues that hold bones — and everything else
— in place. If adjustments don't seem to be holding as long as
there's a good chance tht connective tissue is the culprit.
strongly encourages communication with chiropractors and
other health care providers. With your approval, Rolfers
health care team to provide work that supports and promotes
current treatment plans. Additionally, a Rolfer can contribute
how fascial organization may be affecting your condition,
a factor that is often overlooked.
The goals for massage and Rolfing are often very different. Massage is usually
about relaxation; Rolfing is about aligning structure and improving long-term
function. Both modalities are valuable and one does not exclude the other. Regular
bodywork (massage or Rolfing), at least once a month, is
highly recommended after your
series for keeping
the kinks out and maintaining a sense of well being.
I exercise during Rolfing?
Regular exercise is great, just pay attention to your body. Balance
and coordination can be temporarily affected as your structure changes,
and time is needed to integrate changes. Although
you should avoid intense workouts the day of a session, movement is key
to reaping the rewards of Rolfing. ActionPotential introduces range of
motion exercises, stretching with a focus on alignment, and Rolfing movement
techniques throughout the ten-series. Walking, rock climbing, and hiking are
particularly good at assisting integration and are strongly recommended.
heard that professional athletes receive Rolfing
The high demands athletes place on their bodies repeatedly stress specific
areas. The golfer who works to develop a reliable swing, can suffer from
repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), much the same as the worker assembling
parts in a plant. The key to avoiding injury for both is balanced body
alignment. When joints are free from torques due to rotations,
when the pelvis is positioned to appropriately support the spine, and
when good balance results from full range of motion in our feet and ankles then
we are less likely to get injured. For this reason, many professional
athletes such as Brian Orser, Mario Lemieux, Charles Barkley, Quadry
Ismail, Elvis Stojko, Michelle Kwan, and Tom Seaver, use Rolfing to enhance
and extend their careers. Even a professional basketball team, the Phoenix
Suns, keeps a Rolfer on hand. Athletes routinely use Rolfing to rehabilitate from injuries; resolve problems with scar tissue; reduce the occurrence
and severity of injuries; as well as increase their speed, flexibility,
balance, and coordination. (See
what they have to say...)
there benefits for performers?
Musicians, dancers, actors, and artists of all disciplines
come to Rolfing. Some use Rolfing to increase their competitive
edge greater comfort
in and awareness of their bodies allows them to more fully embody their
art. Others try Rolfing for more fundamental reasons, such as allowing
them to keep working. Musicians, in particular, can struggle with repetitive
stress injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome kept virtuoso concert pianist
Leon Fleisher from performing for thirty years until he found
the right Rolfer. The results were remarkable." Johns
Hopkins Magazine, 1995
children receive Rolfing?
Absolutely! Rolfing can be extremely effective with children due to the
rapid rate at which their bodies break down and rebuild (as we get older
this process slows down). Consequently, profound structural changes can
occur with minimal intervention. Rolfing can assist children and adolescents
with growing pains, scoliosis, poor posture, leg imbalances such as knock-knees
or pigeon-toes, and headaches, among others. Work on children is gentle,
and always within the comfort level of the child and parents.
for children are usually shorter than for adults, and the
Ten-Series is usually not received until adolescence. Rolfing
can also help children who have had accidents, or seem
to be unusually detached from others and their surroundings.
long are the sessions?
Allow an hour and a half for your first session and 75 minutes for following
the days work, health history, client energy level and ability
to integrate work, are just a few of the factors that Rolfers consider
when determining session length.
far apart should they be?
Most clients schedule sessions about a week to two weeks apart. Depending
on schedule and financial considerations, sessions can be spaced up to
a month apart. Although some practitioners are comfortable with monthly
visit, I think its better to do the series in chunks, if necessary.
Sessions 1-3, 4-7, and 8-10 are like little series within the ten-series.
If you have to break between sessions, I believe it is beneficial to
fairly close together, and then take longer breaks (continuing assigned
movement and stretching techniques on your own!) after sessions three
does a typical session go?
After a thorough intake, the session begins with the therapist
evaluating your structure and movement patterns while standing. Most
the work in
but other options are available. (Find
out more.) While youre lying on a physical therapy table, the
Rolfer uses hands, fingers, and arms to apply slow, specific pressure
to different parts of your body. The goal: To begin easing restrictions
in the connective tissue and realign the body. You may be asked to make
small, synchronized movements or to breath into the area being
worked. Sessions often close with some form of movement education, such
as developing supported sitting posture, refining the walking gait, or
working on specific stretches.
there psychological effects from Rolfing?
While Rolfing is primarily concerned with structural modifications, any
change in the physical body affects the whole person. A shift in structure
alters the way you relate to the world. Sometimes this is physical experience,
as when your head moves up over your torso, changing your line of sight
and modifying your view of the world. Just as often, changes
are less physical but just as profound after a session, you might
feel youve let go of something and can work with an
old fear in a new way. Rolfing helps people access patterns of holding
that are emotional as well as physical. As such, Rolfing is an excellent
complement to psychotherapy and other personal development work.
can I get the most from Rolfing?
Movement. We are made for motion. The health of all of our systems respiratory,
circulatory, digestive, you name it depends on movement. Furthermore,
activity allows the body to take unfamiliar movement options introduced
by Rolfing and make them its own. Our body is very smart and doesnt
waste energy providing functional options we dont use. So, if you
always use your shoulder, a ball-in-socket joint, as a hinge ...
guess what? It wont be long before it only works as a hinge. Mom
was right, if you dont use it, you lose it.
introduces range of motion exercises, stretching with a
focus on alignment, and Rolfing movement techniques throughout
the ten-series. To get the most out of Rolfing, do your
movement homework every day. And walk, walk, walk.
happens after I finish a Ten-Series?
The ten-series is designed to leave your structure balanced
and in a finished place. Many
clients complete a ten-series
and never feel the need for another session. Others
view Rolfing as an important way of maintaining their
bodies and come in for regular "tune ups" (anywhere
from bimonthly to quarterly). This is particularly
common among athletes, heavy computer users, and adults
with scoliosis. Some
clients find so much more ease and relaxation in their
bodies after Rolfing, that they use
it instead of massage. Others take a break for several months
after the ten-series, and then request
generally five sessions, which may focus
on the client's specific goals. Lastly,
some clients only use Rolfing on an as-needed basis,
such as after a fall. These
are all good ways to use Rolfing after you've completed
the initial work. Do what makes sense to you.
much does it cost?
The cost of Rolfing varies according to the Rolfer and the locale.
Most Rolfers charge session by session, and fees range from $75 to
session. Rolfing Movement Integration sessions are comparably priced.
(ActionPotential charges $135 per session. See the Payments
page for more information.)
insurance cover Rolfing?
Rolfing work may be covered by your health insurance, but often it is
not. Many times a letter of medical necessity is required from your doctor
or chiropractor; it
to check with
your insurance provider to identify their requirements. Sometimes its
a matter of wording "myofascial release" or "neuromuscular
re-education may be terms your provider prefers. ActionPotential
can supply you with a receipt, but does not bill or accept insurance.
to see if your employer provides flexible spending options
(sometimes called a medical spending account or "cafeteria
plan"). These plans set aside a portion of your annual
income tax free to be used for medical, dental and childcare
expenses. Plans such as these usually cover Rolfing and
dont require a referral.
are Rolfers trained?
Rolfers are trained and certified by the Rolf Institute of Structural
Integration in Boulder, Colorado the only school accredited
to teach Rolfing. Successful applicants complete a training program that
requires two years of study. Following certification, ongoing continuing
education is required to maintain active status in the institute. Training
covers anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology; Rolfing theory and structural
analysis; soft tissue manipulation, spinal mechanics, and joint mobilization
methods; Rolfing Movement Integration techniques; individual research
and written essays; and extensive supervised
clinical sessions. After a period of usually 3-7 years of practice and meeting continuing education requirements, Certified Rolfers can do additional training to become Advanced Certified Rolfers. Practitioner may also pursue an additional certification in Rolf Movement.
me more about the Rolf Institute
The Rolf Institute was founded in 1971 to carry on Dr. Rolf's work. Its
major purposes are to train Rolfers and Rolfing Movement practitioners,
to carry on research, and to provide information to the public. Headquartered
in Boulder, Colorado, the Rolf Institute is the only school accredited
to teach Rolfing and is the sole certifying body for Rolfers. Only individuals
trained and certified by the Rolf Institute may use the Rolfing® service
do I make sure my practitioner is a Certified Rolfer?
Good question. There are a lot of people out there who claim to be trained
in Rolfing. The Rolf Institute follows up on cases it finds out about,
but this is still a significant problem. When someone tells you they
learned Rolfing at a workshop, move on. This is not something you
pick up over a long weekend. Ask a potential practitioner if he or she
is certified by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration. Even better, check it out for yourself go
to the Rolf Institute website, www.rolf.org,
and select Find a Rolfer from the menu. Or contact the
Rolf Institute directly at:
The Rolf Institute
5055 Chaparral Court, Ste. 103
Boulder, CO 80301