As a Certified Rolfer™ of five years, I’ve gotten all kinds of responses from people when I tell them what I do. Often misunderstood or confused with other bodywork therapies, Rolfing is blurred by myths and misconceptions about what it is and isn’t. The unfortunate result of this lack of understanding is that so many people avoid trying Rolfing when they could get so much benefit from it. It could help them in ways that other treatments haven’t. So let me properly introduce you to this amazing work we call Rolfing structural integration.
Rolfing structural integration is a sophisticated form of bodywork that manipulates the body’s connective tissue (called fascia) to correct misalignments, ease strain and reduce or eliminate nagging chronic pain. For many years now, Rolfing has been known to provide long-lasting relief for a wide variety of physical issues.
A main principle of Rolfing is that your body structure will determine how you feel and move. Imbalances in the connective tissue “matrix” of your body affect how easily you move, breathe, sit, walk, etc. One of the reasons Rolfing is so effective is that the main goals are focused on changing your body’s overall structure and evoking ease and efficiency of movement, rather than just addressing symptoms.
Rolfing is usually done on a massage table, but that’s where the similarities between massage therapy and Rolfing end. Rolfers use their fingers, hands and elbows with slow, sometimes deep pressure (and without the use of massage oils) to lengthen and re-sculpt the fascia. Numerous times during the session, the Rolfer will visually assess the client standing as well as walking around the room to identify where there is accumulated strain in the fascia. It’s also an opportunity for the client to feel the changes Rolfing has brought about, and to learn about how their body moves and feels.
So how is Rolfing different than other more well-known therapies like massage therapy or chiropractic? Why would you choose to go see a Certified Rolfer instead of other practitioners?
Rolfing is most often associated with massage, but massage therapy is generally geared towards relaxation and relieving muscle tension, not so much on structural changes. That’s why getting a massage at a spa or seeing a massage therapist on a regular basis is so common: people want to relax. And while the popularity of deep tissue massage or myofascial release have increased in many years, those techniques don’t assess or address your structure the way Rolfing does.
Chiropractic works to gain increased nerve function by making spinal adjustments, but does not address the soft tissues (muscle, fascia, etc.) holding the spine in place. The key to why Rolfing works so well is because we work with the myofascial layers of the entire body to evoke structural change, and not just focus on problem areas.
Certified Rolfers™ are trained by the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration, the only certifying organization for Rolfers. It is located in the U.S. in Boulder, Colorado, and there are several other Rolfing associations in Germany, Brazil and Japan where people can go to be trained. Students go through a specialized curriculum that looks at anatomy, physiology and therapeutic relationships from the unique Rolfing perspective. It’s a blending of art, craft and science, and students emerge from their training with the tools to begin practicing right away.
So, how do you know if Rolfing is right for you? Let me pose these questions:
- Have you tried other treatments or therapies to relieve your low back pain, only to have it return? Is chronic pain in your neck and shoulders keeping you from being more active?
- Do you sometimes feel that your body is holding you back from increased energy or self-confidence?
- Are you looking for increased breath capacity, coordination and balance in everyday life or your athletic pursuits?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you might want to give Rolfing a try. It could turn out to be just the thing you’re looking for!