Rolfing Digs Deep To Restore Balance: An Alternative Healing Method for the Body
Although less well known than massage, Rolfing’s ability to restore lasting balance in the body bases its rising popularity among those in search of relief from imbalances resulting from physical injury, illness and the inescapable pull of gravity. Unlike massage, Rolfing’s hands-on approach wholly focuses on the body’s fascia—better known as the protective layer of muscle and various connective tissues.
It is fascia that surrounds our muscles, bones and organs, that shapes muscles and gives structure to the body. Rolfing’s job is to structurally change the body by shortening or lengthening fascia. It does this through a series of 10 one-hour weekly sessions performed by a certified Rolfer or Rolfing practitioner.
A Rolfer’s education and certification may come from one of several schools. However, the Guild for Structural Integration and the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration are the most well known, having been around for several decades. Both are headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, where teaching facilities have been greatly influenced by the work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf [1896-1979], founder of this “holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organizes the whole body in gravity.”
According to Faraday Melchoir of the Guild for Structural Integration, Rolfing’s progressive series of sessions is what sets it apart from other healing modalities. “Each session builds upon the last and balances the body in segments,” she explains. “Sessions one through three begin with a focus on the upper body and diaphragm, move on to the foot and lower leg and then to the lateral sides. During sessions four through six the Rolfing practitioner works on the inside of the leg, focuses on the stomach and the relationship between the muscles, rectus abdominis and psoas, and then moves on to the back of the body, head and neck, followed by the upper and lower areas of the pelvic girdle.” The final session covers the whole body. Typical benefits include greater flexibility, better balance, increased breathing capacity and more energy.
Simplifying Melchoir’s explanation, Laura Barnes, a certified Rolfer in Naples, Florida, notes how “Vertical alignment generally is achieved by balancing the body from front to back, side to side, top to bottom and inside out. Also, while most clients receive once-a-week sessions, some prefer a little more time for personal integration and adaptation of the results of this therapy.”
Being the miracle that it is, in the daily course of events the human body will automatically accommodate and adjust to various misalignments by shortening and tightening its fascia. Resulting imbalances may manifest as stiffness, discomfort or a loss of energy experienced as a result of inefficient movement.
Upon the release and lengthening of affected fascia, the body is freed to return to its structurally optimal position and consequently requires less energy to move about. “Good posture thus becomes effortless, breathing is easier and the body can once again enjoy more flexibility and coordination,” says Barnes.
“Plus the results of structural integration last,” says advanced certified Rolfer Cindi Curci-Lee, owner of Rolfed in Paradise with offices in Naples and Fort Myers. Thus she notes that additional work only might be required in the event of a later accident, lengthy illness or heightened emotional stress.
Once stereotyped as a painful process too intense for those frail of body or faint of heart with a low threshold for pain, today’s practice of Rolfing has moved well beyond its former painful image while still producing profound results. An educated touch acquired in part from intensive study of anatomy and physiology is the key.
As Curci-Lee observes, “Things are different now. A Rolfer uses his or her hands to absorb information about what is going on in the body. It’s as if the body is talking to us through our hands and fingers, and we are constantly evaluating what’s going on while we are working. The body literally tells us what to do next.”
For more information visit The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration at Rolf.org, 800-530-8875; or The Guild for Structural Integration at www.RolfGuild.org, 303-447-0122; or email [email protected]. Locally, contact Laura Barnes at 239-825-8555 or Cindi Curci-Lee at 239-777-4070.