The Genesis of Rolf Movement™

By Certified Rolf Movement™ Instructor France Hatt-Arnold 


In a world where the force of gravity accompanies every move, Ida P. Rolf has reminded us that the connection between movement and gravity is inescapable:  

You have to get a new pattern that is appropriate dynamically to movement of weight. By the time you use the word movement with the word weight, you realize that you are back to gravity again. You can’t get away from it. Now I hope that this will give you something that you can meditate on. Because unless it gets hooked into your thinking, you will never be Rolfers, you will do manipulation, but Rolfers work with gravity.”  

This principle forms the core of Rolf Movement™, an approach that seeks to harmonise our bodily movements with gravity. 


Ida Rolf’s Concept 

Rolf Movement took its first steps in the 1970s at the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute® in Boulder, Colorado, under the guidance of Ida P. Rolf, originator of Rolfing® Structural Integration, herself. The concept behind this innovative approach was to extend the transformations achieved through Rolfing's manual manipulations into everyday activities, harnessing gravity's supportive potential. 

As Ida Rolf put it, "force that is not converted into movement does not simply disappear, but is dissipated into damage done to joints, muscles, and other sections of the body." With this in mind, Rolf Movement aims to unleash the natural grace of movement, preventing the wasteful dispersion of force that can harm our bodies. 

Dr. Ida Rolf understood the importance of movement in maintaining a balanced body. She developed foundational exercises, such as legs and arms rotations, to facilitate fluid motion and promote self-awareness. Recognising the significance of movement, she enlisted the expertise of trusted dancers to develop a training to complete the Rolfers®’ formation. 

Collaborating with dancers and movement educators, Ida Rolf created a Rolf Movement training that complements the manual structural work. Her manual method facilitates important structural changes in a relatively short time, bringing anyone a feeling of centering, of somato-psychic coherence and a sensation of amplitude and lightness, felt in the simplest movements such as walking and breathing.  

Nevertheless, working on the fascial system is not a panacea. While most people who come to experience Rolfing sessions feel the need to be met, secured, contacted by a specific touch that gives them a sensation of inner space freed from articular constraints, others feel the need to be secured and oriented when performing their movements in space.  

Depending on the difficulty one is confronted with when engaged in movement, after an accident for instance, when having to perform or when needing to be more assertive and confident at work, another set of tools is necessary. 


Contemporary Rolf Movement Training 

As our understanding of movement advanced, so did Rolf Movement's evolution, integrating newfound insights into the training. Over time, Rolf Movement has undergone many changes.  

It found a champion in Hubert Godard, a dancer and Rolfer, who introduced the concept of Tonic Function. This revolutionary idea explored how we hold our bodies upright in the gravitational field, offering new insights into alignment and movement

Rolf Movement™ helps to change our movement coordination in a beneficial way. It is a process of learning how to take into account our orienting system that triggers our gravity sensors to be active while moving. We learn the natural biomechanics law of our organism when it moves and additionally learn to take into account our perceptions and the way we make sense of them.  

Rolf Movement can be practised in both individual or group settings. Individual sessions offer personalised attention, while group dynamics foster shared insights and mutual growth. Whether individually or collectively, the goal is to empower individuals by enhancing sensory discoveries, to navigate life's challenges with newfound movement options. 

Today, Rolf Movement is a specialised training offered by the Dr. Rolf Institute® Europe. 

It offers time for self-exploration and understanding about what prevents fluid and expressive movement in ourselves and in our clients.  

Author: Certified Rolf Movement™ Instructor and Certified Advanced Rolfer® France Hatt-Arnold – Switzerland 

Photo: Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

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