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What is Rolfing Structural Integration | Rolfing Chattanooga

Updated: Feb 6


What is Rolfing, and can Rolfing help with this? These are questions I hear all the time. Rolfing Structural Integration (SI) is a type of hands-on bodywork that has many lasting benefits. Rolfing SI can reduce pain and is proven to improve posture. Rolfing SI leads to greater body awareness, increases balance and stability, and is a powerful way to address structural misalignment. Perhaps best of all, Rolfing SI is suitable for every body! As an approach to health, Rolfing is different from other bodywork you may be familiar with. Let us take a closer look.

Structural Integration is a process that brings separate parts of the body into equal balance. Health is the natural and inevitable consequence of a balanced and unified body.

How is Rolfing Structural Integration Different:

Typically, manual therapists direct their attention to the muscles. After all, most clients will make an appointment because they are experience muscle pain, muscle strain, or muscular tension. At first glance, working on muscles makes a lot of sense. After all, a good massage can do wonders! But all to often the symptoms return after a few days and you are forced to make another appointment. This back and forth may have you thinking that you are beyond help. I want you to know there is another solution and it is the holistic organization achieved by Rolfing Structural Integration!

Fascia produces shape and physical organization.

Most importantly fascia is

absolutely everywhere.

The shoulder pain you are experiencing may not be due to tight muscles, and your back spasm may not be caused by stuck joints. So we must ask, is there another system in the body that includes both muscles and bones? Yes, there is! It is the called the fascia. If you are a meat eater you know fascia as the weblike sheets and fibers surrounding muscles tissue.

Fascia forms sheets and layers within the body and these function like a bags. A bag is responsible for holding and shaping its contents. For us, we can imagine the body as a series of bags within bags, and those bags are all fascia! Sheets and bags are a great way to create an orderly arrangement. Look around and you will see this idea everywhere.

Muscle tissue on its own is just a bunch of goo, it has no structure. As your body has a boney skeleton, muscles have a fascial ‘skeleton’ called myofascia (myo means muscle). As a whole, myofascia separates individual muscle fibers from one another. Other fascia delineates muscles from other tissues such as bones, nerves, arteries, and the organs. Fascia produces shape and physical organization. Most importantly fascia is absolutely everywhere.

What is important to realize is that fascia is the Organ of Structure. Size, shape, and deformation of fascia directly affects the structural organization of your body.

Try this experiment right now to understand. Take ahold of your shirt towards your waistline. Now start twisting and bunching up the fabric until you feel it tighten around your body. What do you notice? Is the sensation localized or does it spread? Can you feel tightness spanning your chest, your shoulders? What if you try to twist and bend? In this experiment you have not done anything to change the contents of your body. Instead you affected the boundary layer, the bag that you are within.

Health is the natural and inevitable consequence of a balanced and unified body.

In a healthy body, fascia allows movement without restriction and stability without rigidity. However, injuries, surgeries, and some movement patterns cause a restructuring of the fascia into shapes that limit mobility, cause painful conditions, and limit your sense of well-being. Think back a moment to the example with your shirt. What happened when you let go? After a bit of straightening out did everything return to normal? Yes it did! This is because your shirt was deformed but you were not. Rolfing Structural Integration works by releasing the layers of fascia naturally allowing the body to reorganize and to heal.

These organizational properties of the fascia were first recognized by Dr. Ida Rolf. She noticed that conditions of disease often presented as the body acting as separate parts instead of a unified whole. This concept is illustrated in the logo of the Rolf Institute.

Dr. Rolf called her work Structural Integration. Integration is a term we are seeing in many aspects of modern health care. The term originates from latin, integrat - meaning ‘made whole’. Structural Integration is a process that brings separate parts of the body into equal balance. Health is the natural and inevitable consequence of a balanced and unified body.

In five years of practice I have seen amazing transformations achieved through Rolfing Structural Integration. Conditions such as poor range of motion, plantar fasciitis, sciatica pain, neck pain, and nerve pains respond very rapidly. Although reducing pain is not an objective of Rolfing it is a very common side effect. What is most exciting about Rolfing SI is that the results really do last. The positive effects of Rolfing are scientifically supported by peer reviewed studies. New research from the Harvard Medical School indicates that in combination with outpatient rehabilitation that Rolfing SI is likely to result in significantly greater improvement in the case of back pain without adverse effect.

As a process, Rolfing SI is a combination of manual bodywork and somatic education. I like to think of it as an overhaul for the body and lessons on movement that you never had growing up. Structural Integration is typically achieved through a series of ten sessions spaced one to two weeks apart. We call this the Rolfing 10-Series. Each session addresses an aspect of physical organization. Much like if you were repairing a house, you would first fix the foundation, then the walls (including electrical and plumbing), then the roof, and finally paint and place furniture.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash


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