(Investigator 193, 2020 July)
Rolfing, or Structural Integration, is a system developed by biochemist
Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D., (1896-1979). In the 1950s, Rolf was teaching what
she called Structural Integration in the United States, Canada and
Great Britain. The Rolf Institute was established in 1970, and in 1977
Ida Rolf wrote a major work, Rolfing: The Integration of the Human
Structure, describing her modality in detail.
Rolf believed that as human beings evolved in the gravitational field
of the Earth they developed a general structure, a muscular system and
a physiology related to this energy field. To profit from the flow of
gravity, a man must be so organised that he operates as though he
existed symmetrically around such a gravity line. The causes for the
deviation from the vertical plane was thought to be the result of
physical accidents or have an emotional origin, the latter in accord
with many other body-mind theorists such as Wilhelm Reich, F. M.
Alexander and Moshe Feldenkrais.
To achieve what she considered to be the ultimate relationship between
a human body and the gravitational force, Rolf developed a technique
whereby a trained practitioner attempted to change and align the
physical structure of a human body in order to improve the
physiological and psychological functioning of the person.
It is a system of vigorous massage of the fibrous tissue between the
muscles and blood vessels to correct any deviations from the vertical
alignment of all the structural segments of the body: the head, the
thorax, the pelvis and the legs. The massage technique differs from
other methods in so far as the pressure, kneading and rubbing of the
muscles is deep and can be quite painful.
While the theory is suspect, the overall result is the release of
muscle tension, and the usual feeling of relaxation and well-being
associated with other types of massage.
However, some patients have reported considerable discomfort. Olsen
(1989), describes an incomplete session so painful that the client had
to resign his job. Speaking from personal experience, I am not
convinced that my sore neck and shoulder muscles, the result of a Rolf
massage, were worth it.
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Rolf, I. 1978. Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures. Harper and Row.
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From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.