What is Rolfing SI?

Rolfing® Structural Integration combines soft tissue manipulation with movement education in order to help people find structural and functional health. This often takes the form of better alignment, balance, and ease in their body. Cultivating awareness and coordination is also a big piece of the work. 

Over a series of sessions (generally ten), a Rolfer works with facial tissue, the web of connective tissue surrounding muscles. The Ten-Series addresses all of the facial layers of the body (from superficial to deep), ultimately reducing pain and stress, while facilitating efficient use of muscles and energy.  Rolfing takes a holistic approach to problem solving and operates under the knowledge that pain doesn’t necessarily indicate the cause of the problem but could be the symptom of dysfunction elsewhere. By systematically addressing the entire body, hidden issues are discovered and resolved.

How does it work?

Rolfing SI works by combining manipulation of fascial tissue, movement education, and the force of gravity. Respectively, these components generate physical change, give recipients the knowledge and awareness to maintain that change, and create an orientation in the gravitational field that actually gives the client lift and support.

Fascial Manipulation: Rolfing SI reorganizes fascia, a web of connective tissue that encases the entire body and interfaces with bones, muscles, organs, joints, and even the nervous system. By working with this medium, we are able to address the whole body directly and indirectly.  The latest research indicates that the slow, deep strokes of Rolfing SI stimulate sensory neurons in the muscle, which signals the nervous system to reduce tension in the area. Tightness is often the result of too much electrical stimulation, and Rolfing helps the nervous system to "re-boot" these overstimulated and uncomfortable hot-spots.

Education and Movement: The educational and movement piece is key for helping people learn how to embody the changes that are accomplished during the session, and to gain greater awareness of their typical body and movement patterns. Repetitive positions (working at a computer), activities (playing the same sport for many years), and attitudes (anxiety, self-consciousness) are often unconsciously held in our muscular patterns. This can take the form of hunched shoulders, creaky knees, or stiff necks. Over years of creating and continuing these patterns, our body structure and movement are affected. Through awareness and education, the client and practitioner are able to work as a team to explore new options for old habits. 

Gravity: Rolfing SI was born out of the understanding that gravity imposes a constant downward force on our bodies. If the body is improperly aligned, we have to expend extensive amounts of energy to stay upright. However, if the center of gravity in the body is stacked, then the structure will have support and balance (think about building blocks: the tower you make is strong and sturdy if each block is stacked nicely on top of the other, but the tower falls if the blocks are off-kilter). If the body’s centerline parallels the line of gravity’s pull, then the body’s weight is transmitted directly into the ground in a way the leaves one feeling supported, uplifted, and needing very little energy to stay upright. While gravity can be destructive to the unbalanced body, it is also essential to finding alignment. As Ida Rolf, the founder of Rolfing SI, once said, “gravity is the therapist." Rolfing practitioners are merely the guides. 

What are the benefits? 

Some of the many benefits that people experience from Rolfing SI include: 

  • Better posture and alignment
  • Reduction in pain and tension (including headaches, joint issues, neck, shoulder, and back pain, as well as hip, knee, ankle problems)
  • Enhanced performance
  • Improved flexibility and coordination
  • Stress reduction and emotional health 
  • Easier breathing
  • Expedited recovery from trauma and injuries
  • Increased body awareness

Who receives Rolfing SI?

People of all sorts seek Rolfing SI: professional athletes, business owners, cubical workers, manual laborers, mothers, children, yoga teachers, farmers, computer workers…you name it! Rolfing SI is used by people with chronic pain and people with no pain, people looking to improve their posture and people just looking to better understand their body and use it more effectively. Rolfing SI is often sought out by people recovering from injuries, looking to break up scar tissue, and improve performance and range of motion. Some seek the work for spinal conditions like scoliosis. Children receive it to help guide their developmental process. Rolfing SI can be used as a way to prevent future repetitive-use injuries by making sure you’re using your body in a healthy aligned way. Some people receive Rolfing SI in order to help facilitate the mind-body connection and work through emotional holdings that have manifested physically in their bodies. 

Where did Rolfing SI come from?

Dr. Ida P. Rolf is the founder and namesake of Rolfing SI, as well as a female of remarkable accomplishments in her day and age. After receiving her PhD in Biochemestry from Columbia University in 1920, she proceeded to study Organic Chemistry at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. Motivated by the health issues of her loved ones, she pursued research focused on finding lasting solutions. Through this process she studied many different modalities, from osteopathy to chiropractic work, all of which influenced her invention of Rolfing Structural Integration. In 1971 she formed the Rolf Institute® for Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado. Today there are thousands of Rolfers throughout the world. For more on Ida, visit the Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation.