ROLFING® Structural Integration

Rolfing® is a sophisticated, powerful and scientifically validated somatic system for dealing with problems of posture, restricted movement and tension-related conditions. It consists of 10 sessions of soft-tissue manipulation and movement education aimed at establishing an easy and erect alignment of the body, as well as a sense of grace and ease in movement.

Rolfers carefully evaluate your postural organisation and movement restrictions, and then proceed systematically through the whole body, carefully unlocking tense muscles and the shortened, stuck tissues that so often cause postural pain. They encourage clients to let go of the old, fixed, and unhelpful muscular patterns and enable them to achieve a more balanced body. Trapped energy is released and this is often experienced as greater vitality and an enhanced ability of the body to heal itself. Rolfing can help you regain a comfortable relationship with your body.

Rolfing » Somatic System
Rolfing » Somatic System


Rolfing® Structural Integration is a powerful bodywork system for dealing with:

  • postural problems
  • movement restrictions
  • lack of flexibility
  • ‘body armouring’ and somato-emotional problems, and
  • the physical results of stress.


Rolfing belongs to a group of therapies known as the structural bodywork approaches. These therapies attempt to alter our body’s shape, alignment and structure. Yoga was probably the original form of structural bodywork, with osteopathy and Rolfing developing much later in the West. All these approaches aim at improving how we function by freeing up our structure. They work by lengthening the tissues and aligning the body’s segments. However, unlike yoga and osteopathy, Rolfing works through a systematic process of soft-tissue manipulations combined with postural and movement re-education. The reorganization of posture from Rolfing is often quite dramatic (see the following photo), but even without these more visible results, Rolfing clients report usually report a pleasurable freer, effortless kind of movement.

Traditionally Rolfing consists of a series of 10 sessions of about 90 minutes, spaced one or two weeks apart. The work is cumulative, with each session building on the last; each session is aimed at moving closer to a natural, graceful, easy and erect alignment of the body. This is the big aim of Rolfing; however, Rolfing practitioners (AKA Rolfers) are also skilled in resolving smaller, more local and irritating problems such as wry-neck, shoulder tension, headaches, lower-back pain, painful foot problems and so on – either within the 10-session series, or on a session-by-session basis. They are highly skilled in body-reading and can study your postural organization, see where your restrictions are, then strategize a sequence of sessions designed to meet your unique requirements. Tom Myers (of Anatomy Trains fame) has extended the basic series in line with the Anatomy Trains ideas. There are 12 sessions in his basic series. John has cross-trained with Tom and is an accredited KMI practitioner.
Rolfing is based on the idea that the body is ‘plastic’; it is not fixed and can be altered by stretching and freeing up the ‘stuck’, shortened, laminated or compromised tissues. We all know how the stresses of life can leave a deep imprint in our bodies; physical tension; stiff, collapsed and inefficient posture; short, tight muscles; a general sense of bodily distress and discomfort, and feeling of being ‘burdened’—of carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Long periods of physical or emotional stress will cause muscular imbalances that will restrict our movements and, in time, will probably cause pain and loss of vitality. These imbalances are recorded then held in an extraordinary tissue in the body called the fascia (pronounced ‘fasha’). Fascia is the universal wrapping material of the human body.
Fascia forms the most extensive network inside the human body. It is a fibrous, membranous tissue that packages all muscles (indeed all organs) and blends seamlessly with our tendons and the skeleton; sometimes extremely tough, sometimes delicate like a spider’s web; it is composed of collagen and other fibres in its matrix. You have probably seen fascia in certain cuts of meat at the butcher’s shop—a tough, silvery membrane that forms little compartments in the muscle tissue. Dr. Ida Rolf called fascia ‘the organ of structure’ since it is that which maintains our basic physical form or shape. Fascia responds to the stresses of daily life by becoming shorter, thicker or denser in the stressed muscles, which then pulls the whole body out of alignment—and tends to keep it there! We literally become ‘set in our ways’. Rolfers work on the principle that these imbalances in the body can be reversed by systematically freeing up the compromised tissue. In this way, Rolfing can often achieve remarkable improvements in posture and flexibility.

Many neck, back and other physical problems are actually the symptoms of chronic postural restrictions. Long periods of sitting at a computer keyboard, driving, or moving infants in and out of cars are all situations that, through daily repetition, can stress the body. Traumas such as car accidents, falls, surgery and sport injuries can also lead to stiffness and pain in the muscles and joints. Rolfing is widely regarded as being one of the best ways of dealing with such problems. Because the body is better balanced after Rolfing, it expends less energy against gravity. This is sometimes experienced as higher level of alertness and vitality. Chronic discomforts often disappear immediately or soon after the series is completed.

Although Rolfing is mainly concerned with structural changes, any change in the physical body will inevitably affect the whole person. Rolfing clients often report positive changes in their outlook on life and in their ability to handle emotionally challenging situations. Many people undergoing psychological therapy or counselling regard the Rolfing process as a key part of their process. Many of our emotional patterns are ‘remembered’ in our tissues, and it is little wonder that as the bodily patterns unwind, so there will be a corresponding ‘unwinding’ in the emotional patterns.
Rolfing is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment. It makes no attempt at diagnosis and does not prescribe. Its purpose is to bring order to our structure, and in doing so it enhances the functioning of the whole person.

Rolfing is one of the few bodywork modalities that has actually been researched. There is a small but significant body of research that has shown, among other benefits, that Rolfing can decrease excessive pelvic tilt, decrease excessive spinal curvature, improve muscular balance and co-ordination, and reduce stress and anxiety (technically by reducing vagal tone).
At the first consultation the Rolfer will take your history and make a detailed evaluation of your postural organization. He or she may also take a set of postural photos. You will then be asked to lie down on a low table, and the Rolfer will skilfully apply slow, deep pressure into areas of compromised tissue and ask for assisting movements from you. Over a number of sessions the Rolfer will proceed systematically through your whole body, carefully unlocking tense muscles and the shortened, stuck tissues that so often cause postural pain. You are encouraged to let go of the old, fixed, and unhelpful muscular patterns. Trapped energy is released and this is often experienced as greater vitality and an enhanced ability of the body to heal itself. The beneficial results of Rolfing are potentially permanent – depending greatly upon your ability to embody these changes.
Rolfing was once considered to be a tough (even painful) though highly effective approach to postural problems. Although developed in the 1950’s it was brought to the world in the 1960’s—the era of ‘the screaming therapies’. It was a time when psychologists believed that you needed to have a deep catharsis to discharge your emotional pain. And indeed some of the early Rolfing did deserve the reputation as a painful but highly effective approach. However times have changed; Rolfers realised that painful work was usually counter-productive and so evolved more subtle ways of working. Sensations in the area being Rolfed may range from pleasurable warmth to momentary discomfort – what people now call ‘good pain’ – a sense that at last someone has touched in on that difficult spot! One of my clients even coined the phrase ‘chocolate pain’! What you feel during Rolfing depends on many things such as injuries to the area or tension caused by chronic stress. However, most clients love ‘the Rolfing touch’.
From the very young and into advanced age, Rolfing is for anyone looking for more ease of movement, wishing to explore their potential, and for those experiencing physical limitations in their daily lives.
Rolfers are among the most highly trained practitioners in the bodywork field. Selection criteria for entering Rolfing trainings are very strict—the minimum requirement being a diploma level of massage training. To become a Certified Rolfer and use the Rolfing service mark, students must have completed required coursework in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, have demonstrated ability in hands on work such as massage or physical therapy, and have the maturity and sensitivity to work with people using this method.


Rolfing » Somatic System

The pioneer of this unique approach was Dr Ida P. Rolf (1896-1979), a brilliant and original American scientist who developed the Rolfing system when she was struggling to deal with the physical problems of her family and friends. She originally called her work Structural Integration, but her early clients (at the famed Esalen Institute, California) often joked that they were going to be ‘Rolfed’ or ‘Rolfed over’, so the word ‘Rolfing’ was invented and this slang has stuck.

Dr Rolf had a passionate belief in the ideals of yoga and believed that a lengthened and aligned body not only promoted physical health, but psychological, emotional and spiritual health as well. Like the followers of yoga, she believed that a body organized around a vertical line was freer to respond to all of life’s challenges, and better organized to resist the relentless force of gravity that so often accelerates our postural collapse. In her own words:

“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 a constant fatigue; yet others as an unrelentingly threatening environment. Those over 40 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 all at war with gravity.”
Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

You don't have to feel bad to feel better! Find out what Rolfing can do for you.