is a form of deep-tissue, structurally oriented bodywork
that was created by Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D., a Columbia University
trained biochemist in the 1930s. When she developed this
therapy, Dr. Rolf was influenced by her knowledge of Hatha
yoga, the Alexander technique, osteopathy, and homeopathy.
She called her own approach structural integration because
it dealt with the way the body's structure affects its function.
It didn't take long, however, for the public to start calling
it Rolfing--and the nickname stuck. In 1971, Dr. Rolf established
the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, now located
in Boulder, Colorado, with adjunct institutes in Munich,
Germany, and Sao Paolo, Brazil, to oversee the standardization
of the Rolfing method and the training of practitioners,
known as Rolfers.
Today, Rolfing is employed primarily to help reduce stress
and ease mobility, address posture problems, and reduce
musculoskeletal and back pain. Proponents suggest that it
can relieve a variety of other ailments as well. How Does
It Work? Rolfing is based on the premise that physical and
emotional stress--as well as gravity--can throw the body
out of vertical alignment and cause muscles and the connective
tissue known as fascia to become rigid and inflexible. (Fascia
encases muscle and connects muscle to bone.)
These problems can then lead to more stress, illness, and
a loss of general well-being. Rolfing aims to realign the
body by using intense pressure and stroking to stretch shortened
and tightened fascia back into shape. The goal is to make
the fascia softer and more flexible, and to restore its
natural balance in relation to muscles, tendons, and bones.
Practitioners manipulate the fascia rather than the muscles
themselves. Pressure from the practitioner's knuckles, knees,
elbows, or fingers on this connective tissue is said to
release deeply held tension and stress. Rolfing results
in ease of movement, improved posture, and overall emotional
and physical health.