Rolfing® Structural and Movement Integration Q&A

Who should consider Rolfing?

People come to Rolfing for very varied reasons. Some people who suffer from chronic pain turn to Rolfing as an alternative to surgery or other more invasive forms of treatment. Many others are drawn to Rolfing to improve their posture and body use, resulting in increased self-confidence and ease in the body. Athletes seek Rolfing to help improve performance while Yoga practitioners seek it for increased flexibility and body awareness. Still others see Rolfing as a way of reconnecting with their bodies physically, emotionally and spiritually, resulting in a sense of joy, peace and confidence through deeper self awareness.

How is Rolfing different from deep tissue massage or myofascial release work?

Although I cannot speak for all deep tissue or myofascial work, in general, Rolfing is distinguished from these other forms of bodywork by its emphasis on integration and education. Releasing tension in the myofascial system and deep tissue layers is not a goal of Rolfing, but one of its results. The heart of Rolfing revolves around seeing the person as a whole, from both a structural and functional perspective, and in supporting the system to shift and come to rest in its best possible alignment at a particular point in time. It is a process of change that involves the participation and engagement of the client, and with the added dimension of awareness through education, the changes can be embodied and owned on a more permanent basis.

Do the results from Rolfing last?

Yes, the results from Rolfing can last, but the degree to which they last vary from person to person. Rolfing shifts the relationship between structures and change strain patterns, bringing the body into a better alignment with gravity, thus allowing the body to function with ease along this improved alignment. Movement education is crucial in supporting this shift and in maintaining the change by helping the client become aware of movement patterns and offering new possibilities for sitting, standing, walking, and working. With deepened awareness and more choices available, the client becomes her own therapist with the help of gravity. This is the most embodied form of Rolfing.

Is Rolfing painful?

Rolfing has the reputation of being a painful experience. Sensations in the areas being worked on may range from pleasurable warmth to momentary discomfort. At times there may be little sensation at all. As far as the actual experience is concerned, the area being worked on will vary in sensation and feeling depending upon the severity of chronic stress, injuries, how one perceives pain and other factors specific to that person. Honest and open communication is encouraged between the practitioner and client so that work can progress at the client’s pace. This way of working can greatly reduce the sensation of pain and discomfort.

Why is Rolfing a ten- or thirteen-session series?

Rolfing attempts to bring shifts to the body as a whole, paying attention to the relationship between parts. Each session works with different parts of the body with specific objectives in mind. Some Rolfers™ offer ten structural sessions while others offer ten structural and three movement sessions as the initial series.

The series gives the Rolfer a chance to work with the whole body and to bring the different parts into better relationship with one another. Even though changes can be felt during and immediately after a session, the body continues to shift during the time between sessions. Giving the body time to find a new place to settle into is very important and this guides the Rolfer in making decisions on how to work in subsequent sessions. A ten- or thirteen-session series also offers the Rolfer and the client time to build safety and trust in the relationship.

What is Rolf Movement™? Does it benefit me to only take movement sessions?

Rolf Movement, also referred to as Rolfing Movement Integration, is an integral part of Rolfing, and has the same goals as the structural work itself. Where the structural work deals with patterns of structure, Rolf Movement re-educates the body’s movement patterns. Life is motion. When we are unable to meet life’s demands to move in certain ways, tension results. Familiar symptoms of this kind of tension are low energy, aching muscles and stress.

A Rolf Movement Practitioner works to guide the client in replacing binding tension patterns with free and well-integrated movement. Rolfing Movement Integration usually consists of five or more sessions spaced one or more weeks apart. Sessions can be done in groups or in private.

You can definitely benefit from receiving Rolf Movement sessions on their own through increased body awareness and new movement possibilities, even without the structural work.

How long is each session and how often should I get rolfed?

Each session is about 60 minutes long and it is recommended to receive weekly sessions. However, you can receive up to two Rolfing sessions in a week, or space sessions two weeks apart.

What do I wear during a Rolfing session?

Most people choose to wear their regular underwear; a bra and underwear for women and boxers or briefs for men. If this feels too revealing, shorts and a jogging bra can be worn instead. You will be covered by a sheet while on the table.

What can I expect at the end of the series?

The initial ten- or thirteen-session series attempts to bring the client’s body to its optimal structural alignment and functional ease at the time within the constraints of the resources available. As each person is a unique individual, the felt changes can vary dramatically from person to person. Nevertheless, most clients report feeling more ease in their body, relief from pain, feeling taller and more upright, greater flexibility, an increase in energy, a felt sensation of dimension and space in the body, and a general increase in body awareness.

Click here to see a case in point.

What happens after I finish the initial series?

You can continue to get follow-up sessions, but it is recommended that you give the body a few months to integrate the work of the initial series. If you decide to receive more Rolfing after that, you can return for a post-ten five-session series as a tune-up.

Aside from Rolfing, you may also want to explore other forms of therapy or practices that might be supportive of your process. Depending on your intention and your unique needs, therapies such as craniosacral therapy, polarity therapy, psychotherapy and practices such as yoga and meditation can serve to deepen the transformative process.

What if I decide to stop getting rolfed before the end of the 10 sessions?

If you choose to stop getting rolfed after you have begun the process of Rolfing, it is recommended that you stop after session 3 or 7. The reason is that the sessions are grouped into three blocks, i.e., sessions 1-3, sessions 4-7 and sessions 8-10, and although these are not complete in themselves, they are places in the series where the body is at an acceptable level of integration to ensure that the transition out of Rolfing is a smooth one.

Is Rolfing suitable for children?

Yes, children can get Rolfing, but whether it is the most suitable therapy for your child depends entirely on the intention and reasons for getting therapy. Young children usually possess a natural ease with their bodies and are physically well-aligned. Nevertheless, as children become teenagers, the physical and emotional challenges that accompany the accelerated changes in their body during adolescence, in addition to the stress from schoolwork and peer pressure can deeply affect their body image, affecting the way they carry themselves.

The form of therapy that is most suited to a particular child or adolescent depends on the unique needs of that individual, just like it is for an adult. Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy may be more appropriate for young children, especially if the reasons for seeking therapy are less physical and more emotional or energetic in nature.

How can I get the most from Rolfing?

Depending on how both the Rolfer and the client relate to the process of Rolfing, it can be an experience that varies from being a purely physical one to one of deep spiritual connection and opening. No matter which part of the spectrum the experience may be for you, paying attention and getting engaged in the process and making space in your life for this shift will ensure that you get the most from it. This may be as simple as bringing awareness to your movement patterns and practicing the movement exercises that your Rolfer recommends, or you may choose to get private Pilates or Yoga sessions to support, integrate and help remind the body of its newfound alignment. You may even choose to reduce your commitments during the period that you are receiving Rolfing sessions so you can pay closer attention to your body’s felt sense as it goes through the shifts that take place.

Can I exercise while I am still receiving the Rolfing series?

Yes. However, it is recommended that you avoid strenuous exercises, especially those that may take you out of your new alignment due to over-exertion. Because the body has not had time to fully integrate and own the new ways of movement, we tend to default back to our old and more familiar postural and movement patterns when we over-exert.