Our Battle With Gravity

Some individuals may perceive their losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in their back, others as the unflattering contour of their body, others as constant fatigue, yet others as an unrelentingly threatening environment.  Those over forty may call it old age.  And yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem so prominent in their own structure, as well as others, that it has been ignored: they are off balance, they are at war with gravity.  ~ Ida P. Rolf



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Our Founder and the History of Rolfing ® Structural Integration

Ida P. Rolf was born in 1896 in New York City and graduated from Bernard Collage in 1916.  In 1920 she received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.  She went on to work at the prestigious Rockefeller Institute performing research in chemotherapy and organic chemistry.  In 1927, she went on to study mathematics and atomic physics at the Swiss Technical Institute in Zurich and Homeopathic medicine in Geneva.  Dr. Rolf was a brilliant scientist, pioneer and visionary who developed the work know today as Rolfing® Structural Integration

Driven to find solutions to her own health problems as well as those of her two sons, Dr. Rolf spent many years studying and experimenting with different systems of healing and tissue manipulation.  At the core of her inquiry was the question: “What conditions must be fulfilled in order for the human body-structure to be organized and integrated in gravity so that it can function in the most optimal and economical way?”  To answer this question for herself, she became intrigued with and explored many forms of alterative healing including homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic and yoga.  Each of these systems has at its core the notion that proper alignment, physiologic function and anatomical structure are related and essential to optimal health.  Her investigation led to a system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education designed to organize the whole body in gravity.

By the 1940s, her methods were successfully treating chronically disabled people who had been unable to find relief from the conventional methods of the time.  Dr. Rolf began teaching her theories at Esalen, California in the 1960s and founded the Rolf Institute in 1971 in Boulder, Colorado to continue to pass this work on to others.  Although Dr. Rolf referred to this work as “structural integration”, her clients and students affectionately called it “Rolfing” and the name eventually stuck.  The Rolf Institute continues to develop and refine the techniques Dr. Rolf developed and offers educational programs and support for ongoing research projects.  (see references page)

Quote: We are not truly upright, we are only on our way to being upright.  This is a metaphysical consideration.  One of the jobs of a Rolfer is to speed that process along.  We want to get a man out of the place where gravity is his enemy.  We want to get him into the place where gravity reinforces him and is a friend, a nourishing force.

Photograph courtesy of Rolf Institute for Structural Integration


What is Rolfing Structural Integration?

Rolfing SI is a soft tissue reeducation process that provides an opportunity to improve posture, change problematic movement patterns, release chronic muscle tension and often reduce chronic pain. Every aspect of the body is enveloped and connected by a network of thin elastic connective tissue fibers known as fascia.  Healthy fascia has an elastic quality that allows muscles, tendons and ligaments to move freely, like sheets of silk sliding over one another.  When the body is subjected to physical or emotional stress, fascia looses pliability, bunches, twists and hardens, so that movement becomes restricted.  The process can be rapid (scar tissue after an injury) or gradual (chronic wear and tear or stress). People subconsciously adapt to cope with the limitations damaged fascia imposes on the body.  Over time, these adaptations become embedded in the body as patterns of compensation and compromise the body’s natural alignment.  Compensations precipitate more strain, lead to physical discomfort and affect health at the mental, emotional and spiritual levels of one’s being. 

The Rolfer manipulates the body’s fascia using fingers, hands and elbows to slowly work through deep layers of tissue to release tensions and restrictions in areas that have been held tight. Releasing the restrictions between body structures allows the body to naturally assume a more balanced and aligned posture and move with a fluid grace.  Effective movement creates more “space” and reduces the risk of further injuries.  In a nutshell, the Rolfer coaxes contraction out of the body so that it can move around a fluid, expanded core.  


Quote: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through.  Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.  ~ Ida P. Rolf 


The Importance of Fascia

Fascia is a specialized system of tissues in the body that supports, covers and interpenetrates everything in your body including muscle, organs, blood vessels, bones and nerves.  This tissue is not just a system of separate coverings but is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. Each part of the body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the interwoven threads of silk in a spider’s web. Traumatic events, inflammatory responses, surgical procedures and even emotional stress can create fascial restrictions that can produce pressures of up to 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (MRI, X-ray, CAT scans, EMG).  Over time, the resulting pain inhibits movement and allow fascia to thicken, harden and restrict even further. 


The Ten Series

Rolfing was designed to work with and integrate the whole body through its relationship with gravity.  To this end, Ida Rolf developed a “recipe” called the 10-series to systematically move through each section of the body, help it release, realign and integrate with the body as a whole.  Simply put, vertical alignment is achieved by balancing the body from front to back, side to side, top to bottom and inside out.  The 10-series provide an opportunity for structural relationships within the whole being to be addressed rather than merely focusing on individual parts. 

The first three sessions work on the body’s superficial layers of fascia and act to “open the sleeve” of the body, the next four sessions address the deep, intrinsic layers to affect change at the body’s core, and the last three sessions coordinate and integrate the results of the previous sessions.  Each session will typically include some work on the neck, pelvis and back.  Photos may be taken at the start of the process and after each session to document changes in the body.  The 10-series provides a strong foundation and lasting changes.  Many clients find that changes continue long after the series is completed.  Other clients chose to explore further work, receive “tune-ups”, or receive advanced series to focus on specific movement needs.