first experience with Rolfing is likely to be within a ten-series
format. Rolfing is different from most forms of bodywork because
it focuses on improving the organization of the entire structure (often visible as better posture),
rather than focusing
on a place that hurts, feels stiff, etc. Although massage is relaxing,
you may find the same area bothering you again shortly after you
leave the office. This is because the area that hurts is often a
compensatory or secondary issue.
You may have neck pain because youre not getting the proper support
from your feet, or because your pelvis is askew, or because your shoulders are rounding
forward (or all of these). Until we balance the entire structure,
that neck is going to stay strained trying to keep your head upright.
Focusing where it hurts goes after the symptom, not the problem.
by Dr. Ida Rolf, the ten-series is like a tune up for your body.
The ten-series is a systematic approach to aligning your structure;
each session builds upon the last and prepares the body for the
first three sessions work on the more superficial layers of connective
tissue. Sessions four through seven remove strain from deeper layers
of the body. The remaining sessions organize and align the body
as a whole, providing better balance, enhanced range of motion,
and a higher energy level. If your schedule requires a break between
sessions, after sessions three and seven are ideal places
to pause in the process.
ten-series provides Rolfers with a map, but as anyone who travels
knows, the map is not the territory. Although structural
goals may be similar, the same session may look very different for
different clients based on their structure, learned behaviors, and
movement patterns. Each session is as unique as the person receiving
it. For most people, the series progresses as follows:
1-3: Focus on superficial layers
This session focuses on freeing the lungs to allow fuller breath,
and beginning to free the shoulder and pelvic girdles from the
This is accomplished by working superficial tissue around the ribcage,
shoulders, arms, and hips. Neck and back work is included at the
end of almost every session to balance and integrate the work into
the body. Most people report feeling immediately relaxed after
session and the relaxation lasts for a couple of days. This session is excellent for addressing shoulder, rib, and neck pain.
Next we address your foundation. The feet and lower legs are opened
and aligned to better support the body in gravity. Often clients
feel a greater sense of support and balance from their feet, as
well as better contact between their feet and the ground. Conditions
such as high or fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, neuromas, knee pain and scar tissue are addressed in this session. Many clients report better balance and feeling more grounded after this work.
Now we move to your sides and establish a lateral line. The
goal here is to ease strain patterns in the front-back dimension.
You might think of it as giving the body depth by opening the "seams"
along your sides! Well manipulate the sides of your torso,
neck, and hips to allow these major segments to better support each
otherimproving the relationship between your upper and lower
body. Some clients feel slight dizziness halfway through this session
as the deeper structures are approached. Later, there is often a
tingly, relaxed high and a shifted sense of front-to-back
balance. This session addresses relationships relevant to back, shoulder and neck pain.
4-7: Focus on deeper layers
We move back to the legs in this session, focusing on the inside
of the leg from the ankle to the pelvis, at a slightly deeper layer.
The relationship of the foot to the pelvis is aligned; torsions
at the knee and hip are addressed. Manipulating adductor attachments
allows increased range of movement of the pelvis, which starts the
pelvis on its way to becoming more horizontal. This session provides
the feeling that the legs are supporting the abdominal space and
providing lift for the upper body, a new experience for many back pain sufferers. This session can also be effective for hip and knee pain.
When I put my foot
down it no longer goes where it used to is a familiar response
after session four. Furthermore, clients occasionally report emotional
extremes following this sessionmany people dont realize
how much physical and/or emotional tension they hold in the pelvis
until this session disturbs that holding pattern. Although these
physically and emotionally unsettled states are usually mild when
they occur, its best to schedule sessions four and five about
a week apart. Session five continues the work started in four, and
brings the body to greater balance.
Work continues up the front of the abdomen, quadriceps, and psoas,
lengthening the front of the body and providing lift up the center
of the structure. By freeing deeper pelvic and abdominal restrictions,
which can inhibit pelvic movement, the pelvis can continue its shift
to a more supportive and balanced horizontal position. Clients frequently
report a big box feeling as the front seems to lengthenquite
the opposite of all the hip flexion we experience working in front
of computers, commuting, sitting in meetings, bending over to pick
up children, etc.
This session lengthens the deep muscles of the back and hips, matching
the change achieved in the front in Session five. Starting in the
legs, if necessary, we address the calves, hamstrings, back of the
pelvis, and up both sides of the spine to the head. This work can be extremely beneficial to back pain (including soreness due to scoliosis), sciatica, and tight hamstrings.
All the work we've done so far has been necessary before we could
organize the head and neck. This session focuses on the upper shoulders,
head, neck, and sometimes the arms. After this session, clients
feel that their head is more "on." By this time in the
series, flexibility, athletic performance and body symmetry are
usually noticeably improved.
8-10: Focus on integration & overall function
The final three sessions are about integrating all we've done.
The human pelvis is an amazing structure that links the upper and
segments of the body, supports the spine in a vertical position,
and allows rotation of the spine. To improve these functions, our
work has emphasized freeing and horizontalizing the pelvis. Sessions
eight and nine revisit the upper and lower segments of the body
and work to integrate them with the pelvis and each other to work
as a fluid whole. Session eight is often a lower body session,
the legs with higher structures, but many clients will benefit
more from upper work at this stage.
This is the other half of session eight. If we worked the lower
body in the previous session, this one will target upper structures.
The ribcage, shoulders, arms, and sometimes the neck and head are
the focus, with the goal always being integration.
The final integration: This session is usually customized to each
individuals body and needs. This
is our opportunity to complete, for now, all we've been able to
free. We will smooth the fascial wrappers over the structural changes
that you have gained, and make peace with anything that remains.
This session usually involves the whole body at a somewhat more
education is sprinkled throughout the ten-series, in
order to help you encourage long-term structural change.
Although structural shifts attained continue to integrate
and affect your body long after the
there are other things you can do to nurture structural balance.
With this in mind, well discuss ergonomic considerations,
relaxation and body awareness techniques, and stretching/toning
exercises, that are directly affecting your alignment.
The ten-series is designed to leave your structure at a balanced place.
a ten-series, get good results, and never feel the need for another
view Rolfing as an important way of maintaining their bodies
and come in for regular
ups" (anywhere from bimonthly to quarterly). This is particularly
common among athletes, heavy computer users, and adults with scoliosis.
clients find so much more ease and relaxation in their bodies
instead of massage.
a break for
after the ten-series
request a post ten series, generally five sessions in length,
which may focus on the client's specific goals.
some clients only call when
they fall off their bike, and "something feels amiss."
are all good ways to use
Rolfing after you've completed the initial work. Do what makes
sense to you.