Structural Integration (Rolfing)

“Rolfing” also known as Structural Integration is a soft tissue approach to re-establishing natural body alignment. Dr. Ida Rolf, the inventor of this process, based it on the idea that “When a body is in alignment, it works properly.”

Think about the tires on your car. When your car is not in proper alignment you get abnormal wear and tear on your tires as well as many other parts of your vehicle. Correct alignment and maintenance allows your car to run properly and get full longevity on all of its parts and pieces. Your body is exactly the same.

Rolfing is based on the idea that the human body is organized around a central vertical axis, a reference point for movement and a guide for alignment.

This is a hands-on approach during which practitioners manipulate muscle and connective tissue to create change. Fascia is the glue that holds everything together, providing shape, support, and reinforcement to muscle, bone, and movement. It often times forms attachments (gets stuck) and needs to be loosened for free movement.

Injury and repetitious patterns can cause changes from ideal functioning as the fascia gradually shortens, tightens and adjusts to accommodate misalignment.

The process is usually and best done in a 10 session series (though you can go for as many or few as you like). The first seven focus on the structural phase and the final three are the integrative sessions. Clients can expect to participate in a way that differs from a traditional massage. A practitioner may call for movement or conduct parts of the session seated or standing.

The Rolfing practitioner will systematically work on body parts and their relationships to create a balanced body that feels organized. When the front and back, sides, top, and bottom are all working together, the body feels fluid, capable and natural.

The experience can be enjoyable; however, sometimes clients that seek this work when they have pain or discomfort in their body may feel that the process is painful.

Here, pain may be the wrong word, because it implies causing harm or injury. While pain is never the goal or purpose, a Rolfing Structural Integration session can be intense. The human body has an amazing way of compensating for damage and injury. You may not even notice places are not in proper function until the Rolfer goes to work on them. Often places outside of the site of injury have been overcompensating for a long time and have been getting worn out as well.

Amazingly – Acute pain or discomfort in an area may not be the actual cause, just the loudest side effect.

Each person’s experience will differ, but the outcome is often similar. A Rolfed body feels balanced, capable, fluid in movement and comfortable. Patterns, emotions and injury tell the story of our lives and can be held in tissue, imprinted by trauma or repetition.
What the body does, the mind will follow, and vice versa; fluid movement and thinking are hallmarks of Rolfing Structural Integration. While the process may be transforming, it’s not actually bringing you anything new but rather a re-emerging of the ease of use you were intended to have all along.

My experience: Sessions 1-6

Rolfing isn’t like any other bodywork modality I have experienced before. The sensations are totally new, interesting, strange, and enjoyably intense. It is amazing how my Rolfer, local Practitioner Ms. Laura Barnes has now moved to Bellingham, WA and is practicing there. (239) 825-8555, can feel old injuries within my body, sometimes in spots from so long ago I had forgotten about them.

I originally decided to do the series of sessions in order to correct an old shoulder/collar bone injury that healed incorrectly from a car accident 24 years ago as it has become troublesome and painful.

Visually I can see my shoulders evening out over the weeks. I can also feel my body shifting at times. When I am finished with each session I walk out of the office feeling like a million bucks and as if I am floating on a cloud. By the next day, the adjustments begin to set in and I become achy, almost in the same way your body has to readjust after a hard work out. I am also finding that stretching and moving produce lots and lots of creeks and pops. I sound a little like I am filled with rice crispies.

Week after week I am feeling more even and more balanced. Additional to my shoulders beginning to correct – I have been pigeon toed my whole life (toes pointed in). This is no longer the case. It has been completely corrected.

Sitting at work 2 days after my second rolfing session, I heard a very loud crack come from my jaw. I just sat there for a minute afraid to move, as I wasn’t sure what just happened. When I did I was amazed to find that my mouth felt like it opened significantly wider! Over the years singing teachers had said to me time and time again “Open your mouth wider” – I always responded the same “That is as wide as it goes”. They were clearly seeing something I had never seen – a restriction in movement.

During session #8 she adjusted the inside of my sinus cavity and jaw. This is a unique experience. Done safely with latex gloves the nasal cavity is stretched a bit. It is a very strange feeling. Not comfortable at all, but not painful. I have seemed to have fewer allergy issues since that session.

Session’s 9 and 10: Because of my particular issues we worked extensively on my shoulders. The session was intense and I could feel movement that had not been there in eons. Exactly one week to the day after this session as I am sleeping, my shoulders feel stiff and I feel like I need to stretch and move them. Putting my left hand on my right shoulder, I pushed downwards. Crunch! I stopped instantly. Again I was a little afraid to move as that was loud enough to have been a broken bone. As I did move, it crunched some more, only more quietly. The snaps moved up my neck and over to my left shoulder, which gave a respectable clunk itself.

Then, as I lay there something amazing happened. For the first time in 24 years…….. my shoulders felt completely relaxed. No tension, no knot that wouldn’t go away – just blissful nothingness.

Additionally – I gained 1/2″ in height over the course of the series!

I highly recommend this form of bodywork to anyone who has had an injury. I also think that when everyone reaches the age of 30 or so it is a super good idea…. Think about it like this…

When a house begins to age, the foundation begins to settle. When the foundation isn’t exactly straight anymore, what happens? The house itself begins to get crooked and need repair. You would then call in a contractor and fix the base rather than slap on some new more level looking siding to cover up the problem. Yet with our bodies that is exactly what we do. Rather than fix the problems we allow them to heal, often incorrectly propping ourselves up with medications which only cover symptoms. Or other parts of our bodies begin to over compensate and over correct which in turn wears us down faster.

Structural integration realigns and resets allowing the whole you freedom of movement often not seen in years.

Originally Published: Natural,, & Dr. Leonard

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