What is Rolfing® Structural Integration?

This is a BIG question. Please see the What is Rolfing? page for that answer.

Will Rolfing get rid of my pain or fix…?

Maybe. Rolfers are not medical practitioners and we do not diagnose or “fix” you. We do help you learn how your body in a more efficient manner and give you a boost in that direction. If you have an urgent medical condition, please see your health care provider immediately.

Pain is a complex symptom and Rolfing may not get rid of it. However, most clients do report a reduction in pain severity and/or duration. If you find that the work is not helping you, discuss this with your Rolfer. It may be as simple as another approach or technique from the Rolfer. Alternatively, another practitioner or modality may be better suited for your current situation and goals.

What does Rolfing feel like? Does it hurt?

The original style of Rolfing had a reputation for being painful, and the practitioners who trained early on may still practice this way. However, the way Rolfing has been taught has evolved over the past years. The work is now paced to what input the client can handle, and not what the Rolfer can give out. The sensation of Rolfing can be described from almost nothing to pleasurable to “good painful”. “Good painful” would refer to the sensations you might have holding a deep stretch on a tight muscle; some people would not refer to this as pain at all. The work should NOT stay in the “bad/ow painful” area, although it may cross into there at times.

If the Rolfer does not notice your reactions, please inform them–you may ask for less pressure at any time. If you are tensing your body to receive the work, it won’t be beneficial overall. However, requests to “go deeper” may not be honored, as there are specific levels/depths of tissues that the Rolfer is targeting in each session. We only want to work at your layer of availability and no further/deeper.

Is Rolfing just a type of massage?

No, but it is related to massage. Rolfing does involve hands-on work to the client body, and falls under the massage therapy laws in most states. Currently, Oregon is such a state. Rolfing does share a number of techniques with massage therapy (especially myofascial release), but that is about where the similarities end. Rolfing is a system of looking at the body and applying those techniques to achieve the goals at hand. The goal of Rolfing is to re-align your body in gravity for greater ease and mobility. We also seek to help re-educate the client in their own body usage. No oil or lotion is used in Rolfing, unless absolutely needed to assist tissue contact. You can find more info on the official RISI page “Rolfing and Massage”.

Is Rolfing relaxing? Can I just lay there?

The goal of Rolfing is not relaxation–but you may find the sessions relaxing. Some people find them invigorating. The more you participate in the session, the more that can be accomplished and the longer the results will last. Part of the goal of Rolfing is to help re-educate the client on their own body use. That is more difficult, if not impossible, if you’re asleep.

Is Rolfing permanent?

Yes and maybe. Rolfing does permanently change the fascia being worked on. It will never go back to exactly the same state it was before the work. It is possible for you to put your body back into a state similar to before the work. One of the goals of Rolfing is to help you learn how to use your body better. The more aware you become of your body and movement patterns/habits, the more able you will be to self-correct after the work. The true permanence of the work comes from this increased awareness.

Can I still do my normal activities while receiving Rolfing?

There is no reason to stop doing any of your normal activities while you are receiving Rolfing. It is important to remember that your body is changing during this process and it may not function like you are used to. Therefore, it is recommended that you approach your activities from a beginner’s mindset and slowly build back to your previous level of activity/exertion. This also helps integrate any new body awareness or movement patterns into your normal activities.

How do I choose a Rolfer?

Choosing the right Rolfer is a very critical decision. It is important to have a good relationship with your Rolfer. A lot more will get accomplished working well together. You can pick your Rolfer based on similar interests, gut feeling, training, location, etc. If you find that you do not like working with your Rolfer, it is possible to switch to a different Rolfer and continue your series from where you left off. In fact, it can be beneficial for you to receive additional work after the Ten Series from other Rolfers. Each Rolfer will have his or her own unique skill set and abilities.

Can I stop/delay receiving sessions if I choose?

YES, you can stop whenever you like—even in the middle of a session. There are few natural breaking points in the series if you would prefer to make a cleaner break. After sessions 1,3, or 7 represent a division point between cycles in the Ten Series. If you continue past Session 7, it is recommended to complete the series. You will not be harmed by stopping, but it is possible that you may not feel “at home” in your body for a period of time if you do stop. Sessions 8–10 are important for helping you integrate the changes in your body.

If you would like to delay your series for some reason, that is also possible. Depending on how you feel when you start-up, it is possible to do a session or two to review the progress made so far before starting back into the series. If possible, it is best to place this delay after sessions 1, 3, or 7. Ideally, any delay between 7 and 8–10 is recommended to be shorter. Please do not add additional delay between sessions 4 and 5 as they are very closely related.

Do I have to finish a series with the same Rolfer?

NO. You do not have to finish a series with the same Rolfer. If for some reason you do not like working with your current Rolfer, it is possible to change to another Rolfer at any point, in any series. There are some benefits to staying with the same Rolfer, but these are far outweighed if you are unhappy or uncomfortable in your current arrangement.

How soon after my Ten Series can I get additional work?

Getting a Ten Series does create significant changes in the fascia of your body. Some people liken it to your body being in a state like soft clay–it will hold its shape, but it’s easy to alter. It is best to let that “clay” reharden some before working with it again. The official recommended waiting time to get more work after a Ten Series is 6 months to a year. However, once again, listening to your own body is the most important aspect. Some clients may be ready sooner, some clients may take longer, and some may not want any more Rolfing. It is also important to remember that your body will continue to change after a Ten Series without any additional work from the Rolfer. It is also not recommended to get any form of deep tissue bodywork/massage for some time either.

Movement work does not fall under the same restrictions since there would be no direct work with the tissue. Relaxing massage or similar modalities do not need to be restricted either.

How is Rolfing different from Structural Integration?

Structural Integration is the generic term for the style of bodywork that includes Rolfing. Rolfing is the original form of the work. Only practitioners that have attended the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration are permitted to call themselves “Rolfers”. All forms of structural integration trace their lineage back to Ida P. Rolf.

Over time, various people have decided to change the way the method was taught or even alter its basic tenants. These people split from the RISI in order to pursue the work how they saw fit or because of personal/political reasons. Sometimes, additional schools broke off of these original fragments. Some break-off schools include the Guild of Structural Integration and Hellerwork. There are a number of others as well. Starting in 2002, the IASI started working to bring the various factions back together and restore professional communications between practitioners. This is a very good idea for the Structural Integration community.