Rolfing is a therapy system created by The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (also referred to as "RISI") and is a system whereby the alleged manipulation of the fasciae by specific methods is believed to yield therapeutic benefit. Rolfing lacks a solid scientific evidence base. The RISI was founded by Ida Pauline Rolf in 1971. Rolfing Practitioners certified by RISI are titled Rolfers, and Rolf Movement Practitioners.
The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration states that Rolfing is a "holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organized the whole body in gravity". Claims include that clients stand straighter, gain height, and move better through the correction of soft tissue fixations or improper tonus.
Ida Pauline Rolf began developing her system in Colorado in the 1920s to help the chronically disabled unable to find help elsewhere, with the main goal of organizing the human structure in relation to gravity. This method was originally called "Postural Release" and later "Structural Integration", also known as "Rolfing". In 1971, Rolf founded the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.
Rolf theorized that "bound up" fascia (connective tissue) often restricts opposing muscles from functioning in concert with one another. Her practice aimed to separate bound up fascia by deeply separating the fibers manually to loosen them and allow effective movement patterns.
Rolfers often prescribe a sequence of ten sessions to "balance and optimize both the structure (shape) and function (movement) of the entire body", usually beginning with the feet. The theory is that "only by bringing peace 'from the ground up' can problems higher in the body be 'understood'".
During a Rolfing Structural Integration session, a client generally lies down and is guided through specific movements. The Rolfer manipulates the fascia until it can operate in conjunction with the muscles in a "normal" fashion.This takes place over a course of ten 60- to 90-minute sessions, with a specific goal for each session, and an overall goal of cumulative results. Some clients find Rolfing painful, but Rolfing has evolved over the decades into a practice far more gentle than in its early origins.
In 2007, Mehmet Oz, on The Oprah Winfrey Show, likened Rolfing to having someone do yoga for you
Rolfing is a system of body work that can make dramatic changes in a person's structure. Rolfers believe that the shape of the body reflects how well it is operating and how well lined up (balanced) it is with the field of gravity. The general goal of Rolfing is to bring the various segments of the body (head, neck, torso, pelvis, legs, and feet) into balanced and supportive relationships with one another.
Rolfing can bring about these changes because the connective tissues of the body the a highly pliable quality. These connective tissues wrap around all muscles, connect muscle to bone, and muscles to each other. Connective tissues give the body its form.
The Rolfer uses his or her hands to stretch shortened connective tissues back to their normal length and consistency. The repositioning of body segments assures that the legs line up and are supported by the feet, that the pelvis is centered atop the legs, the torso rides comfortably upon the pelvis, and the neck and head are evenly balanced on the upper torso.
When your connective tissues are healthier and have appropriate levels of tone, certain physiological improvements should be experienced. Fluids will flow more easily, nerve impulses will be conducted more smoothly, thus creating a more effective motor response. Breathing will be easier, and waste product removal will be more efficient. Overall, one should find less random movement, as structural integrity is maintained and efficient motion is promoted.
When the body segments begin to assume their normalposition, an immediate improvement in function is noticed. Proper alignment gives the appearance and feelthat the body is gliding along rather than overworking with each step. In an aligned structure, each body part is able to perform its own job more completely because it is no longer compensating for imbalances. In such a system, gravity works as a supportive and uplifting force through the body.
In an unbalanced body, we have a system fighting gravity that must be held up by muscular effort, whereas in the balanced structure we have a body in harmony with gravity because it is supported by proper alignment. The more this balanced condition is achieved, the more we are able to use the body to its maximum benefit.
In addition to improvements in the physical functioning of the body, Rolfing can promote an increase in one's emotional sense of well being. The state of balance or imbalance in our bodies is reflected in our feeling state, as the emotion of the moment determines the degree of muscle tension in many areas of the body. Balance might be thought of in a healthy organism as a resting state, a capacity and a preparedness for response to all kinds of stimulus.
Imbalance, then, is the response itself - the movement or impulse to expression, which completes itself by a return to balance when the response has spent itself. Stress can be defined as an interruption of this process, where circumstances prevent many responses from completion or resolution. In our hurried and pressured lives, we are often operating in a state of imbalance with emotion held in check as we cope with everyday pressures. For some this might result in lowering the head, raising the shoulders and depressing the chest until the pattern becomes set in the body. For another, the pattern may take the form of tension in the legs through an unfulfilled impulse to run away. The muscular tension and theemotion are two aspects of the same organic pattern.
Chronic muscular tension creates a shortening of connective tissues; to the extent towhich the tissues are no longer capable of lengthening, they have an effect not only on a person's way of moving, but on their way of feeling. One's response then is always, in part, to one's past - to those strong influences in reaction to which structural imbalances were developed. This programming marks a loss in the ability to respond with full appropriateness to present situations.
One individual may then begin to notice a chronic sharp pain in his back, another an unflattering contour of her body, another as constant fatigue, yet another, an unrelenting and threatening environment.
Those over 40 may begin to call it old age. Yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem, so ubiquitous in their own structure as well as in others', that it has been ignored: they are off balance. To the extent that these imbalances distort the true alignment of the body, one can be said to be at war with gravity.
A typical first visit to a Rolfer would begin with filling out a health questionnaire and then a structural evaluation of the client's body patterns from the perspective of Rolfing. The client then lies down on a cushioned table (client dressed in underwear), sits on a bench or sometimes stands while the Rolfer uses his or her hands to stretch and loosen the connective tissue that has thickened or shortened up, no longer allowing the neighboring muscles and joints to move freely.
The client may feel a localized or general burning sensation, as if the skin were being stretched too far. This only lasts while the tightened tissue areas are releasing. Soon after, the client usually reports a sense of "warmth", "length", "lightness", tingling sensations and new freedom in the area worked on, as well as in surrounding areas as the changes spread through the connective tissue network. Clients report greater ease in movement and breathing, as well as improved balance and stability.
Initially, clients receive a basic 10-session sequence of Rolfing. This gives the Rolfer an opportunity to work systematically and comprehensively in releasing the bound-up and inefficient muscular patterns in a person's body. Many clients elect to return six months to two years later for follow-up sessions that focus more closely on specific structural and movement problems.
The results of Rolfing differ from person to person. Generally speaking, the body acquires a lift, or lightness as the head and chest go up and the trunk lengthens; the pelvis, in becoming more horizontal, brings the abdomen and buttocks in; the knees and feet track more nearly forward and the soles of the feet meet the ground moresquarely. As the joints gain freedom, the major segments of the body rotate and hinge more freely on one another. There is less pitching of the body from side to side in walking and less raising of the body weight with each step. Conserved energy is available for more stamina.
The lengthening and centering of the body along its vertical axis together with an increased engagement of the deep musculature brings a quieting, flexible sense of self-possession and comfort that tends to replace former pre-structured restrictions. This translates into an experience of greater self confidence and ease that is often noticeable by friends, family and even casual acquaintances. A fundamental change such as this can have a profound, lasting effect on all aspects of living.
Rolfing is named after Dr. Ida P. Rolf, who fifty years ago called her work structural integration. Dr. Rolf devoted her energy to creating a holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organized the whole body in gravity. She discovered that she could achieve remarkable changes in posture and structure by manipulating the body's myofascial system.
Rolfing is the nickname that many clients gave this work.
Rolfing has an unequaled and unprecedented ability to dramatically alter a person's posture and structure. Professional athletes, dancers, children, business people, and people from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing. People seek Rolfing 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 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 significantly reduces chronic stress and changes in the body structure. For example, a study showed that Rolfing significantly reduced the spinal curvature of subjects with lordosis (sway back); it also showed that Rolfing enhances neurological functioning.
Rolfing practitioners have suggested its use for a wide variety of medical conditions.[ According to a 2004 scientific review, peer reviewed research on Rolfing is limited, lacking controlled clinical trials: "there is no evidence-based literature to support Rolfing in any specific disease group."
The concept of fascia limiting and permitting functionality is seeing more investigation. In late 2007, the first "Fascia Research Congress" was held, and it attracted attention from researchers and clinicians.
Rolfing Structural Integration is generally regarded as safe. Because it involves deep tissue manipulation, pregnant women and people with skeletal, vascular, or clot disorders should consult a health care provider before undertaking Rolfing sessions.
Robert Schleip in the Rolfing Structural Integration community questions the original emphasis placed on the plasticity of fascia by Rolf and now believes that the symptoms they detect and treat may have more to do with a lowering of high muscle tonus and other physiological effects, which may be elicited by stimulating mechanosensory receptors in fascial tissues.
Rolfing and other alternative therapies are described by skeptic Michael Shermer as "A bunch of hooey".
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