The standard Rolfing series is called the Ten Series, and is sometimes referred to as the "Basic Series" or "the Recipe". It is composed of 10 serparate sessions spaced out over time. Each session has its own specific goals and body territory to cover. The use of the term "recipe" makes it sound like everyone has the same Ten Series, but nothing could be further from the truth. While each session has the same goals and general areas to address, how the work proceeds and exactly what needs to be done differs greatly from person to person. Your Ten Series will only ever be your Ten Series, and not exactly the same as another client's. If you were to get a Ten Series from a different Rolfer, it would also be different.
In the picture to the right, you can see the difference in the model from before the 1st session and after the 10th. The changes are most noticeable in the side views. Most clients report a sense of feeling longer/more vertical as well having better posture after the work. They also report a general reduction or elimination of unnecessary tension in their body.
Within the Ten Series, there are various cycles of sessions. For example, each of the odd numbered sessions generally addresses the upper half of the body, while the even ones address the lower half. The main cycle of sessions is divided into sleeve, core, and integration. The sleeve sessions consist of sessions 1-3, the core sessions consist of sessions 4-7, the integrative sessions consist of sessions 8-10. Each session generally has some form of neck and back work involved. For the following descriptions, it is also important to remember that Rolfers work on the fascia, and not on the muscles directly. If muscles are referenced, it is to describe the anatomical region being addressed and not the muscle directly.
It is also important to remember that the Ten Series is a process. It is really just the start of a journey. You will continue to change and integrate the work for 6 months to 1 year after your series. Some people do choose to come back for more Rolfing work, and other choose just to have their initial Ten Series. Additional work does help you continue to evolve your level of organization and function.
These are also referred to as the superficial sessions. The "sleeve" of your body is the outer layer of fascia. You can think of it like a large, continuous wetsuit or body stocking just underneath your skin. It can also be thought of the part of your body that does the "doing", or fast movements. A main goal of the Rolfer is to help the client open, lengthen, and organize these extrinsic layers. Doing this creates space for the deeper layers to unwind and release. These sessions are also important because they allow you to ease into the full Rolfing process as well as start to learn more about your body. You will also begin to feel your body in full 3-D sense.
The main goal of this session is to begin the process of freeing the superficial layers of fascia and prepare the body to accept change. You will begin to get a sense of the vertical dimension in your body. Your breathing pattern will also be addressed, as well as beginning to free the restrictions on your breathing. Many people do not use their entire lung area for breathing; commonly, they don't use the tops and/or backs of the lungs very well. The territory of of the session is generally from the knees to the top of the head with a focus of the area around the ribcage.
The main goal of this session is to begin the process of developing support for the entire body. Since all of your body relies on the feet, a lot of the work will focus there. Since the work is being done on structures that have a right and left, you will begin to get a sense of body in the horizontal direction. Additional territory for this session includes the legs and pelvis.
The main goal of this session is to finish the superficial work of the first cycle of sessions and prepare the body for the core sessions. The territory for this session is the lateral (outside) line of the body, including the pelvis and the shoulder girdles. This helps you to learn the depth (front-back) dimension of your body, and complete the 3-D picture.
These are also referred to as the deep sessions. While many people differ over the exact definition of "core", it can generally be thought of as the part of your body that does the "being". Some people also define this as the layers of the body related to posture and static/slow movements. "Core" does generally connotate deeper rather than superficial, regardless of your exact definition. A main goal of the Rolfer is to help you open, lengthen, and organize these intrinsic layers. You will continue to refine the sense of your body in 3-D as well as bringing that awareness to the inner layers. The Rolfer will help you find their central axis, or "The Line" as it is known in Rolf-speak. Developing an awareness of this line is what helps you to have the feeling of verticalness or having your separate blocks perfectly stacked one atop another.
The main goal of the session is to further evolve the sense of support your feet provide and to bring this support to the bottom of the core space and spine. The territory includes the feet, legs, and pelvis/hip. Work will be done for the pelvic floor (the area around your sit bones). Work will also be done on the adductors, or inner thigh muscles, and the hamstrings. You will start to experience more of the lift in your body and start to get a sense of "The Line". Sessions 4 and 5 are often considered to be parts of a larger session.
Session 5 continues the work started in Session 4. As such, you may want to consider having no more than 2 weeks between these two sessions. The main goal is to extend the line of support up to the head along the front of the spine. This also furthers the sense of front-to-back balance in your body. The general territory of the session includes the quadriceps (front of thigh), the abdominal muscles, and sometimes the shoulder girdle. The Rolfer will also address the fascia around the iliacus and the psoas muscles in the abdomen, which are the prime muscles for bending at the hips. They connect your lower back to your legs, both via and across the pelvis. With this deep fascia released and balanced, you will start to get a sense of leg movement from the lower back, rather than just from the hips.
After Sessions 4 and 5, you will feel a sense of length up the front of the core. Session 6 helps you get the same sensation up the back of the core. The focus of this session is the posterior, or back, of the body from the toes to the top of the head. Being a lower session, more time will generally be spent on the feet and legs. A large component of the work addresses the relationship of the sacrum to the rest of the body. In most people, the sacrum functions more as part of the pelvis than the spine. Ideally, you want it to properly relate to both the pelvis and the spine. This allows proper movement and energy transfer between your legs and spine.
Session 7 is commonly referred to as "putting the head on". The other core sessions provide a base of support that is now able to support your head properly. The goal of this session is to relate your neck and head to the rest of the body. The territory includes all of the neck and head, including the face and muscles of expression. The Rolfer will also help you to differentiate between the two parts of your skull--the neurocranium surrounding the brain and the viscerocranium containing the facial bones.
The previous seven sessions are more about taking the body apart to get the individual pieces working better. This last cycle of sessions is about putting them all back together into a better functioning whole. The integration sessions can be thought of as working with the "middle layer" of the body. However, there are no direct corresponding anatomical structures. It can be thought of as the place where the sleeve and core meet and interact. Therefore, it has more of a funtional definition rather than a structural one. It is here that you want the motions started by your core layer to smoothly and efficiently transmit out to the sleeve layer and out of your body. Another way to think of this layer is as the "becoming" or "going" layer. The main goal of the Rolfer is to help you smooth out any last restrictions in the sleeve and core as well as any that adhere them together. Your Rolfer will also help you to integrate all of the changes into your body and life so that you are prepared to continue improving on your own after the Ten Series.
Sessions 8 and 9 work together like a unit. One of the sessions will focus on the lower half of the body, and the other will focus on the upper half. Based on the back-and-forth flow of the series, most people get a lower body session 8. However, you may be different. Regardless of which half of your body is being addressed, the sessions have distinct goals. In Session 8, the chosen half of the body will be related to "The Line" and any last remaining fascial restrictions in any of the layers will be addressed. In Session 9, the approach switches from structural to functional. Any last restrictions in the transfer of motion and energy from the core to the sleeve in chosen half of the body are addressed. This half of your body will also get releated to "The Line". A goal of both sessions is to help you get a sense of all movements starting from your lumbodorsal hinge--the area in front of the vertebral column at the mid to lower back level.
Graduation! The goal here is to unite all the pieces that have been previously worked, and connect the upper and lower halves of your body together. You can think of it as a mini-review session, and generally, the whole body will be covered. At this point, you have a sense of "The Line" and of everything being connected to it. You have a full sense of your body in 3-D and moving in any direction with equal ease. When you walk out the door, you will feel more put together and energized. You will have learned more about your body and your movement patterns. Most importantly, you will be able to apply that knowledge to your daily life with a new sense of awareness.