How does Rolfing® work?

" 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 P. Rolf


This is a favorite quote of mine, because it refers to one of the biggest difference between Rolfing S.I and other hands on modalities.  As a Rolfer; my role is not healer,  but teacher.  I work together with the client to help reeducate the whole body system.  Rolfing is a manual therapy that does manipulate tissue, the aim of which is to elicit changes in the muscle fibers and attachments, the connective tissue throughout the body and perhaps the relationship or orientation of bones. But without the client's engagement, we are simply moving things around. So, the difference is that the client desires change and is willing to actively participate in the process.

So how does Rolfing work?

 As we move through life, we establish patterns and habits that guide us through the day.  Many if not most of them are unconscious: how you get out of bed or into the car, how you sit down and get up from a chair or how you floss your teeth.  These actions are all based around our concept of proprioception, or, the  awareness of our physical body in space. Our brains essentially 'map' the space around us, so we can move in it without thinking. Think about a time you have driven in a new or unfamiliar car and driven through a low narrow tunnel.  Logically, you know that the ceiling of the tunnel is way above your head, but perhaps you automatically ducked your head as you passed through.   Once in that same car for a few weeks or months, your brain and body have "mapped" the car, and are familiar with how long and wide it is, meaning you can get in the drivers seat without hitting your head or parallel park without stress. (Well, it's an art anyway.)

This mapping happens no matter what.  Many times we may not even be aware things have changed, shifted or adapted.  But your body will.

If you sustain a foot injury for example, and have to wear a boot for six weeks, (this is Colorado, so half of you reading this) wearing the boot WILL change the way you walk, sit, drive- everything.  After the boot is off, you will return to most of your previous motions and perhaps not notice that they aren't quite what they used to be.  Your body may have made accommodations of its own in the absence of that useful appendage- relying on the stronger foot for instance, recruiting help from your hip, shoulder...etc. 

Sometimes the source of pain is not where it hurts, but a cry for help from some other area that picked up the slack at some point and is wearing out doing two jobs.  

What is so important about proprioception? 

The ability of our brain to map, or send useful messages to the rest of our body is extraordinarily helpful when it comes to things like walking down stairs, or eating. Most of the time, and with practice, we are able to do these things without looking.  But when things change, as they will throughout the ten series,  and your body is different in space (your taller, or your head no longer tilts to the right), you must re map all space.  This sounds daunting, but it isn't as massive of an undertaking as it may sound. The human brain is exceptional, and learns quickly.  It's quite fun actually.  The world is a new and different experience, and your body is happier in it. The brain is also a creatures of habit however, so if we want to keep this new body, we have to help the brain re orient, so that it sends the right messages to rest of the body.  If that all sounds confusing, don't think about it too much.  Being aware of the changes and embracing them is enough.  If the concepts sound interesting, please ask me about it, and check out the links page, there are some excellent links-specifically Lorimor Mosley's talk about pain. 

So... how does Rolfing work?  I cant explain the science, thoroughly, so I wont attempt that.  I will say a few things about fascia (the connective tissue that runs throughout the entire body).  Its connective tissue that runs throughtout the body.  So its all connected. It all began, well, you began as one thing that split up and made everything else. So fascia is the web that tourchs muscle fiber, tendons, ligaments, bone- its everywhere. And somehow;  it communicattes.  So a release or softening or change of the  fascia of your feet (plantar, and yes that is what Peyton Manning had an inflmation of)  will have effects all the way up to your ear, or shoulder or thumb. Rolfers work with fascia, and the body...does the rest. (you too)

In laymans terms: when you elicit change in the body and it likes it;  it will respond positively.  So if we work on making it easier to breathe- (session one) and open up the shoulders and front side of the rib cage, and suddenly breathing takes less work, when you stand up, walking will probably feel better too. Then session two, we will make standing and walking easier, which may make your shoulders feel different.  The changes other areas of your body may not always be positive, or something seemingly unrelated to the area worked on in the session will flare up.  Chances are, that is something we will work on the next hour.  Each session builds upon the previous one,  progressively taking the body through adjustments that it can adapt to on its own, which is why it lasts..  This is also why is is important not to rush the process.   This, is best I can exp;lain it, its the body talking.  Sensing change, begins to unravel, seeking the source of initial disruption. You arent goin \g to unravel. well, you will be raveled back up by the end. 



Rolfing Structural Integration has the ability to dramatically alter a person's posture and structure. Rolfing SI can potentially resolve discomfort, release tension and alleviate pain. Rolfing SI aims to restore flexibility, revitalize your energy and leave you feeling more comfortable in your body. The genius of the work rests on Dr. Rolf’s insight that the body is more at ease and functions most effectively when its structure is balanced in gravity.

Athletes, dancers, children, business professionals, and people from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing SI. People seek Rolfing SI as a way to ease pain and chronic stress, and improve performance in their professional and daily activities. It's estimated that more than 1 million people have received Rolfing work.

Research has demonstrated that Rolfing SI creates a more efficient use of the muscles, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement. Research also shows that Rolfing SI significantly reduces chronic stress and changes in the body structure. For example, a study showed that Rolfing SI significantly reduced the spinal curvature of subjects with lordosis (sway back); it also showed that Rolfing SI enhances neurological functioning.

The term "Rolfing" is the nickname that many clients and practitioners give this work. It is now a registered service mark in 38 countries.


Information courtesy of The Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration