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Rolfing: Ten Hours That Will Change Your Life

Updated on April 1, 2011

Ten Years of Sciatica: Gone In Ten Sessions

I don't remember when the sciatica started, but I know that I had suffered from it for at least ten years by 1999. By that time it was almost nightly and painful. Every night I put pillows under my knees, or between my legs. I tried not to take Ibuprofin every night, but was having to do it more and more. I had a great chiropractor, but even his work wasn't helping.

One day Marsha, a local Rolfer, came to do a talk about Rolfing at my psychiatric practice. I was intrigued and gave it a try, not knowing what to expect. Well, among other things the sciatica went! Its nine years later, I have had a major car accident that resulted in a broken neck, but the sciatica is gone. And that isn't even talking about the lengthening in my arms, the easiness of movement.

I am sure there are other benefits and results, but that is the big one and it was worth every minute of Rolfing and every dime I spent. I remember Marsha explaining a lot of the work to me as she did it. But I still really didn't know what it was about.

I do know that I have been singing the praises of Rolfing since I had mine. I have recommended it to dozens of people. My goals here are

1. to learn more about the process myself

2. to help others learn about it

3. to encourage people to try Rolfing for themselves and their health.

The Structural Integration Known As Rolfing

"Rolfing, also known as structural integration, is a form of bodywork named after Dr. Ida Rolf, a biochemist who was influenced by osteopathy, physical therapy, and yoga.

The goal of Rolfing is to improve health by bringing segments of the body (e.g. pelvis, legs) into proper alignment.

Rolfing is based on the idea that fascia--the fibrous layers covering muscles--stiffens, shortens, and loses its elasticity after prolonged poor posture and mental and emotional stress."

Rolfing uses gravity. By not fighting gravity, it actually helps gravity support your body with ease. We are so used to thinking of gravity as the enemy of our continued youthfulness, that it is difficult to conceive of it as something that could be helpful. However, that is exactly what it happens. See the quote from Ida Rolf below, and definitely call a local practitioner and talk with that person about this. You won't be sorry.

Ida P. Rolf

"This is the gospel of Rolfing, when the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then spontaneously the body heals itself".

Ida Rolf Talks About Her Work

The First Three Sessions

I remember walking around in my underwear before, during and after a session. Marsha would study me copiously, deciding how to handle what a needed during a particular session.

Session 1. Opens up the lungs for fuller breathe. The tissues that affect breathing are manipulated and retrained. Neck and body work continues in other sessions, but this is the foundation.

Session 2. Aligns the foundation. The work focuses on feet, lower legs and knees. Foot problems are tackled. A sense of better balance is usually the result of this session.

Session 3. This session concentrates on the sides and bringing the upper and lower parts of the body into better co-operation. .

Rolfing Session 1, 2 and 3

The Next Three Sessions

At one of the sessions, after she had done some work, on my left side, it must have been session 3, Marsha had me walk around. She asked me how I felt. I said, "This sounds

crazy, but it feels like by left arm is longer than my right". She had be stand in front of a mirror, and sure works!

Session 4. This goes back to the legs, working on the insides to give the feeling that that the legs are truly supporting the core and lifting the upper body.

Session 5. This continues the work is donein 4 by working the front of the hips as well as the abdomen, diaphragm, and ribs. This session opens the front of the body and provides a new dimension of lift up the core.

Session 6. This session works on the back to balance the work done on the front.

Sessions 4, 5, and 6

Session 7

One of the questions that people ask is, "Does Rolfing hurt?" Well, it can, but remember that that is temporary. Marsha used exercise balls that helped ease the discomfort.

Session 7. The next session is about shoulders, neck, jaw and related areas. It covers those areas that collect tension. This helps people feel that 'their head is attached'.

Rolfing Session 7

Ida P. Rolf:

"Strength that has effort in it is not what you need; you need the strength that is the result of ease".

The Last Three Integration Sessions

I was finished after 10 sessions. As you can see the sessions are structured and set. There are no ongoing forever sessions. One can get brush up sessions, it was recommended to me that that might be appropriate in 10 years. Some people get them more often.

Session 8. works with the legs to get it integrated with the whole body.

Session 9 concentrates on the upper body integration with the entire body.

Session 10. The final integration. This is about smoothing the facial tissues and bringing the body together.

Rolfing, Integration Sessions 8,9 and 10

Ida P. Rolf 1896-1979

Ida Rolf was a highly educated woman, especially for her time. By 1920 she had a PhD. in biological chemistry from Columbia. The stamina, drive and determination that it took for anyone, let alone a woman at that time, foretold the kind of life that could develop something as powerful and innovative as Rolfing.

She also studied math and atomic physics in Zurich. She managed to learn the basics of homeopathic medicine in Geneva.

After she returned from Europe she spent much of the 30's working on solutions to personal and family medical problems. She was not happy with the medicine of the day and used her education and experience to search for alternatives. She threw herself into learning other methods of healing from osteopathy to chiropractic to yoga and the Alexander technique as well as Korzybski's states of consciousness work.

She had developed a following by the 40's. Although committed scientist, she realized that much of her progress came from intuition. Her spent a lot of time working with chronically disabled people. Through this she came to Structural Integration, her prime contribution to health. She spent the rest of her life perfecting and further developing her methods and techniques.

She was invited to England to work there and eventually to Esalen Institute in California at the suggestion of Fritz Perls the founder of Gestalt Therapy It was there that she Structural Integration.

The demand for the training increased. A Guild from formed in 1967 that was headquartered in Bolder, Colorado.

Her first book was Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures (Harper and Row, Publishers). and she continued to dedicate herself to training those who would continue her work after her death. Thes book is the major written statement of Ida P. Rolf's scholastic and experiential investigation into the direct intervention with the evolution of the human species.

Georgia O'Keefe Credits Her Artistic Longevity on the Mesas of New Mexico to Rolfing

Georgia O'Keefe Credits Her Artistic Longevity on the Mesas of New Mexico to Rolfing
Georgia O'Keefe Credits Her Artistic Longevity on the Mesas of New Mexico to Rolfing

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Learning More About Rolfing

Some people like to just jump into things. That is what I did when I signed up for Rolfing. However, others like to study about it first, so here is a list of great books on the subject. Get one or two and start reading.

But do think about Rolfing. Talk to your doctor about it, but unless there is a health reason for you to not do it, really think hard about Rolfing.

Rolfing: Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being
Rolfing: Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being

This seminal work made its debut in 1977, and it has since remained the most important reference for Rolfers around the world. In this new edition, the late Dr. Rolf illustrates her theory and practice of Structural Integration, which brings the body into alignment and balance by manipulation of the connective tissue. Rolfing has helped thousands of people to stand taller, look better, move with greater ease, and have a greater sense of vitality and well-being. This is the original and classic text, with more than 600 illustrations and photographs. An indispensible reference for the hundreds of Rolfers in this country, it will also appeal to other professional bodyworkers and the interested lay person.

Rolfing Structural Integration. What It Achieves, How It Works and Whom It Helps
Rolfing Structural Integration. What It Achieves, How It Works and Whom It Helps

The Rolfing method of Structural Integration reorganizes and improves body-structures through connective tissue manipulation and movement education. When human body-structure is aligned with gravity, posture will improve and movement will become easier and more fluid.

Everyday Stretches
Everyday Stretches

With "Everyday Stretches" you will legthen and loosen your body's myofascial system, gaining better flexibility, coordination, and joint stabilization. You will move and function more efficiently and learn to improve your posture and overall body awareness, restoring your body to its optimal alignment.

The stretches and movement routines presented on this DVD are informed by the principles and teachings of Dr. Ida P. Rolf 10 sessions of Structutal Integration, which has come to be known as Rolfing.

The Rolfing Experience: Integration in the Gravity Field
The Rolfing Experience: Integration in the Gravity Field

Ida Rolf, a chemical engineer, mathematician and atomic physicist, pioneered a radical view of human physiology and growth that has influenced many scientific fields. Rolf believed and taught that the human body, in alignment with the gravitational field of the earth, meant a body in balance and harmony. Research and speculation posit that Rolfing is an alchemical process of personal growth. Betsy Sise, a master Rolfer, presents Rolf's exciting work on many levels: introduces Rolfing to the beginner; an overview of Rolfing philosophy; a virtual 10-session "Rolfing" series; direct interviews and extensive comments from teachers who worked directly with Ida Rolf; and the author's own "Rolfing" odyssey. This wonderful book leaves the reader wanting to experience Rolfing, even if he or she has never heard of the process before.

Rolfing and Physical Reality
Rolfing and Physical Reality

A warm and wise self-portrait of the woman who originated the therapy that bears her name. Here, Ida Rolf tells about her life, about the wonder of the human body, about life in general, and about Rolfing in particular, explaining her technique of manipulating muscle tissue to allow the body to come into its correct alignment.  After Rolfing, your body has been encouraged to do what it wants to do--you move with ease, your lungs take in more air, and you are taller (and therefore, slimmer). 

Balancing Your Body: A Self-Help Approach to Rolfing Movement
Balancing Your Body: A Self-Help Approach to Rolfing Movement

Rolfing Movement goes beyond good posture and movement efficiency. It combines touch and verbal messages to help you become more responsive to your body's inner cues. By responding appropriately to these internal messages, you create new freedom in your physical expression, which leads to a noticeable increase in health and vitality. The author makes us aware of our own movement patterns and gently guides us through a practical series exercises designed to induce significant improvements in how we use our bodies.

Deep Tissue Massage and Myofascial Release:  A Video Guide to Techniques
Deep Tissue Massage and Myofascial Release: A Video Guide to Techniques

This seven volume Video series is designed as a full Deep Tissue Course which will be extremely useful to individual therapists wishing to expand their myofascial and therapeutic skills and the way they work with tissue. In addition to the complex issues of soft tissue restrictions, osseous articulations and neurological patterns, this series clearly demonstrates countless strokes and strategies. More importantly, it conveys the qualitative art of working with tissue to effect profound change. SECTION I (Videos 1 & 2) "FUNDAMENTALS" - Palpation and Cultivation of Touch-Working with Layers of the Body - Body Biomechanics - How to Properly Use Fingers, Knuckles, the Fist, Forearm, and Elbow and Save Your Thumbs - Purposeful Strokes- Strategies to Lengthen Tissue, Free Adhesions, and Release Holding Patterns - Positioning of Your Client to Increase Effectiveness of Your Work - The Side-Lying Position to Dramatically Improve Your Effectiveness SECTION II (Videos 3, 4 &5) "STRATEGIES OF DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE" Hundreds of techniques and strategies covering the entire body Video 3: Legs and Pelvis Video 4: Continuation of the Pelvis, Rotators, Abdomen (Including the Psoas and Iliacus), and the Back Video 5: Working with the Shoulder Girdle, Chest, Arms, and Neck SECTION III (Videos 6 & 7) "ADVANCED TECHNIQUES AND STRATEGIES FOR COMMON COMPLAINTS AND INJURIES " (Videos 6 & 7) - Foot/Ankle Injuries Including Sprains, Plantar Fasciaitis, Achilles Tendonitis - Knee Pain and Dysfunction - Sciatica - Minor Back Pain - Rotator Cuff - Tennis Elbow and Wrist - Thoracic Outlet

Rolfing: Stories of Personal Empowerment
Rolfing: Stories of Personal Empowerment

Rolfing is about integrating the human physical structure through body manipulation. In this text, pictures and personal accounts show how remarkable changes and improvements in body alignment and posture occur after practising this healing art.

Rolfing in Motion: A Guide to Balancing Your Body
Rolfing in Motion: A Guide to Balancing Your Body

This CD presents 38 structural awareness exercises featured in the author's book, Balancing Your Body. The exercises teach you to recognize and respond in appropriate ways to your body's inner messages. Beginning with an exploration of your existing habitual standing and walking patterns, the exercises offer a variety of experiences that will contribute to your standing, sitting, and walking with fluidity and ease, creating new freedom in your physical expression and improving your well-being and overall vitality.


A Partial List of Athletes and Celebrities Who Have Been Rolfed

The following famous people have undergone Rolfing:

Professional athletes

* Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers coach says, “I’m the kind of person that likes to physically challenge myself. I think (Rolfing) is a valuable resource…for keeping myself together.”

* Charles Barkley, former basketball star

* Chris Carter, ex-Minnesota Viking football star

* Qadry Ismail, Baltimore Ravens football star

* The Phoenix Suns basketball team has players work with a Rolfer

* Mario Lemieux, hockey legend

* Bob Tewksbury, ex-pitcher for the Minnesota Twins

* Ivan Lendl, former tennis champion

* Craig Swan, former N.Y. Mets pitcher, and Certified Rolfer, whose career ended from a sports injury. “Bodywork can extend athletic careers,” says Swan. “I truly believe if I had received Rolfing in the early part of my career, I would still be pitching today.”

* Bret Saberhagen, former Kansas City Royals Pitcher

* Tom Seaver, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher

* Jeff Linder, competitive cyclist

Olympic athletes

* Michelle Kwan, 2002 U.S. Olympic figure skater, 98 Olympic Silver Medallist

* Elvis Stojko, 2002 Canadian Olympic figure skater, 98 Olympic Silver

* Medallist says, “Rolfing helped me to find my center of balance for competition.”

* Wendy Wagner, 2002 U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski team

* Iginia Boccalandro, 2002 and ‘98 Venezuelan Olympic luge team and Certified Rolfer

* Ben Hindle, 2002 Canadian Olympic bobsleigh team

* John Bauer, 2002, ‘98 & ‘92 U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski team, 8x National Champion

* Sarah Will, five times U.S. Paralympic Gold Medal Skier, credits her gold medal to Rolfing. She says, “Rolfing increased my performance time 100%.”

* Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler, 2x Canadian Olympic bronze medal pairs figure skaters

* Brian Orser, Olympic Silver Medallist and World Champion figure skater

* Sharon Sander, ranked #2 on the U.S. Pentathlon team

* Lance Deal, 2000 U.S. Olympic hammer thrower, 96 Olympic Silver Medal

* Erin Aldrich, 2000 U.S .Olympic high jumper and 2x All-American

* Joe Greene, 1996 U.S. Olympic Bronze Medal winner of the long jump, now training to win the Olympic gold medal, says “Rolfing has made a huge difference.”

* Kristen Ulmer, former World Champion Extreme skier

* John Egan, world renowned Extreme skier

* Mickey Egan, Rumanian Olympic Skier

* Grant Ernhardt, a U.S. Biathlon team member, 2002 Olympic hopeful

Other Celebrities

* Leon Fleisher, virtuoso concert pianist

* Levar Burton, actor (Reading Rainbow, Star Trek: The Next Generation)

* Sean Young, who has starred in the movies “Bladerunner”, “No Way Out”, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, “Wall Street”, “Fatal Instinct”, “Once Upon a Crime”, and a few dozen others receives Rolfing”®” from Certified Rolfer Bob Brill.

* Willie Nelson, songwriter: “My wife recommended (Rolfing) highly”, says Willie Nelson, “…The first of ten sessions fixed (my back pain),” reported the New York Times, on Feb. 23, 1995.

* Sam Keen, best-selling writer, is a former Psychology Today editor and co-producer of award winning PBS documentary “Faces Of The Enemy”.

* Courtney Love, actress/singer

* Denis Leary, actor/comedian

* Diane Ladd, actress

* Georgia O’Keefe, artist

* Miro, modern artist

* Fritz Perl, psychotherapist

* Mary Elizabeth Mastontonio, Broadway/movie actress

* Maria Benitez, Flamenco Dancer

* Steve Turre, jazz trombonist

Where Does It Hurt? Tell Us About It, Or Your Experience With Rolfing

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    • Sky-lab LM profile image

      Sky-lab LM 

      6 years ago

      I only had 7 sessions because we don't have rolfing therapists in my country. I had to go to Austria, but at one point I couldn't afford to continue. Now 2 years have passed so I would have to start over again. I am quite a skeptical person and have read many books on rolfing and still I don't know if I totally believe in it. The books make it clear and understandable but my therapies were not "working miracles". Maybe it was the therapists fault, or maybe it is my fault - I don't know. But I agree that the principles of Rolfing definitely make sense.

    • awakeningwellness profile image


      6 years ago

      I have heard of Rolfing but never really knew what it was until now...thanks for the very interesting info!

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      Rolfing was one of the few things I didn't try in the persuit of getting rid of my back pain and sciatica. However this is very interesting to learn about. Clearly finding a great practitioner is key and educating yourself about all the different options and what might be best for you. Very interesting and useful page. I was very happy to find a solution to my sciatica and I am very happy you are free of yours :) Thank you.

    • howtocurecancer profile image


      7 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • hlkljgk profile image


      7 years ago from Western Mass

      i had a not-so-great intro to rolfing, but it was due to a poor choice in practitioners for myself. i am still interested and wish to get through all 10 sessions.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      7 years ago

      I just started with lower back pain but was thinking it might be due to tension as caring for my mom is becoming more of a job these days (she's 94). I will look into rolfing though - have never heard of it. I love your lenses! You give me such inspiration.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nicely done lens on rolfing, Margo. Excellent explanations and videos. I am glad that it helped you, too. Blessed!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Yoga and Ayurveda helps too. I haven't heard of Rolfing before but it sounds quite good.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 

      7 years ago

      Anything that helps the body overcome its own ills (as opposed to resorting to invasive, suppressive and potentially toxic drugs) gets my vote!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Lol..I definitely thought this was going to be about something quite different. You enlightened me on something that I had never heard of before. :)

    • norma-holt profile image


      7 years ago

      Never heard of this before and thanks for the advice and many good tips here. Featured on The Hideous Side of Diabetes

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I think I could use this

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I had never heard of Rolfing. Very interesting. I'm glad it has worked so well for you.

    • dahlia369 profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you for joining my Squidoo group!

      "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."

      -- Buddha

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      this sounds like something my mother needs with he fibromyalgia

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      [in reply to PleasantValley] The Alexander technique is one of the things that Ada Rolf studied as she developed Structural integration. And remember Rolfing is only 10 sessions to get you back on track.

    • PleasantValley LM profile image

      PleasantValley LM 

      9 years ago

      Interesting topic. By the way, is Rolphing complementary to the Alexander technique?

    • julcal profile image


      9 years ago

      This was really interesting to me and the visuals are great! I heard of rolfing many years ago, but never knew of anybody who had it done and didn't really know how it was done, just that it was vigorous. Now I know! Great lens, I give it *****

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Not familiar with Rolf or Rolfing until reading your lens. However, I had years of sciatica pain until my percutaneous discectomy in 5/97 - thus far, pretty pain free. I am a fan of Georgia O'Keefe -- imagine that! Learning of her connection to Ida Rolf.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      great lenswork! Lots of great information here! I blessed your lens for you!



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