Rolfing® Explained

What is Rolfing

Rolfing® Structural Integration is a system of hands-on body manipulation to help align the body within gravity. It focuses on the fascia (connective tissue) but involves the whole body.

Certified Rolfers® use touch and movement to support their clients in improving their posture and movement patterns.

Rolfing is different from therapies like massage, deep tissue work, chiropractic or osteopathy. But people often present with similar physical symptoms.

When Rolfing is used

Most people see a Rolfer:

  • to improve physical and mental wellbeing
  • to avoid chronic tension and to help with recovery after injuries or operations
  • to help with easing chronic pain
  • after pregnancy
  • to expand self-awareness and expression when acting, dancing or playing an instrument
  • to train more effectively and increase performance in athletics and sports

Read stories from people who have tried Rolfing:

What Rolfing does

Bodies store physical, mental and emotional tension, trauma and stress. Pain in one area of the body will affect other parts. Rolfing can improve how your body functions physically, and how you feel emotionally.

Rolfing will help you:

  • feel flexible and dynamic

  • move with ease

  • feel your body energised and vital

  • find an upright and balanced posture

Rolf Movement™ is about moving more economically and with better balance. It helps you recognise movement patterns that lead to tension and asymmetry. You will discover how instead, your body can move more economically, powerfully and fluidly.

Read more about the benefits of Rolfing.

How Rolfing is performed

There are generally 2 ways of experiencing Rolfing:

  • the classic Rolfing Structural Integration ‘Ten Series’ of sessions
  • Rolf Movement sessions

Rolfing Structural Integration Ten Series of sessions

You’ll work one-to-one with a Certified Rolfer®. You’ll usually attend ten sessions about 1 to 2 weeks apart that last around an hour each.

The sessions of the Ten Series are structured into 3 parts:

  1. sessions 1 to 3 focus on the superficial fascial layers
  2. sessions 4 to 7 address deeper fascia and the body’s organisation around a vertical axis
  3. sessions 8 to 10 look at aligning the body to improve balance and flexibility

Before the first session, your Rolfer will ask about your symptoms, general health and medical care you're receiving. He or she then observes how you breathe, how you stand and walk. During the manual work on your fascia you will lie on a massage table. The Rolfer will also ask you to participate with simple movements. The sessions usually take place in underwear.

Find a qualified certified Rolfer®

Rolf Movement sessions

Just as the traditional Ten Series, Rolf Movement™ can be offered as a series of sessions.

A Certified Rolf Movement™ practitioner will help you explore alternative movement patterns from breathing and walking to more complex movement coordination. Each session focuses on specific parts of the body and ways of movement.

Find a qualified Rolf Movement™ practitioner

Why is it called ‘Rolfing’?

Rolfing is named after biochemist Dr. Ida Rolf (1896 – 1979), who developed Rolfing Structural Integration in the middle of the 20th century.

Ida drew inspiration from homoeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, yoga, Alexander Technique, and Korzybski’s  work on states of consciousness.

Read more about the History of Dr. Ida Rolf’s work and the development of Rolfing.

Key terms and concepts of Rolfing

What is fascia?

Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds, supports and penetrates all muscles, bones, nerves and organs in your body. It unites the structure of your inner body and divides it into individual units. Healthy fascia helps your muscles and joints move and function properly.

Your body's fascia changes constantly and adapts to what you do. It also reacts to physical damage – to a joint for example – by producing extra material for stability and support.

After injury, the fascia sometimes produces more material than needed. Rather than stabilising the joint, this can reduce mobility and lead to changes in posture and movement patterns.

Learn more about Fascia.

More about gravity

Gravity affects us everywhere and at all times on earth. It pushes and pulls us, creating tension in our bodies. In every posture and every movement, the body compensates to stay upright.

When your body is out of balance, unhealthy patterns of tension develop in muscles and fascia - resulting in:

  • slouching posture
  • one-sided use that can cause the fascia to become viscous, lose elasticity and become 'drier' than healthy connective tissue

Rolfing allows the body to reorganise and realign itself in relation to gravity.

More about alignment

Rolfers believe there is a more natural body-alignment for each of us. An easier organisation between our body and gravity.

Our natural alignment can be lost through external factors over time. This can cause stress and may result in physical and emotional discomfort.

Prevent or correct these imbalances, and you potentially reduce the discomfort. This idea is at the heart of Rolfing Structural Integration.

Video: Certified Advanced Rolfer® Briah Anson - What is Rolfing?