Rolfing Structural Integration
Rolfing® Structural Integration is an original and scientifically validated system of body restructuring. Through the ten sessions your practitioner balances your body in relationship to itself and within the field of gravity by working with the connective tissue.
The scientific theory that a physical object vertically aligned within the field of gravity moves through space more efficiently is one of the key principles of the Rolfing®. This balance in the field of gravity is achieved by bringing segments of the body (head, neck, torso, pelvis, legs, and feet) into a more structurally organized relationship with one another. As Dr. Ida Rolf Said,"Gravity is the therapist."
A Rolfing® practitioner uses physical pressure to stretch and guide the connective tissue, lengthening and organizing it, allowing for more efficient, flexible movement. The client participates by moving, breathing and releasing the holding patterns within the connective tissue, allowing the innate balance of the body to become the teacher.
The connective tissue or myofascial system which supports the soft tissues determines the spacing and positioning of bones, the direction o f muscle pulls and movement and gives the body its shape. The connective tissue system provides a structural, physiological, and energetic medium for a communication network throughout the body.
The results of the Rofing® differ from person to person. Mostly, anyone experiencing the work can expect to feel more vertically aligned within the field of gravity and therefore has more lift and less drag as they move. They have more vitality and energy, more ease in deeper breathing, increased flexibility, relief from pain, better coordination , and experience greater physical and emotional balance in their lives.
The intent of the first session is to improve the breathing pattern and to organize the pelvis with respect to body planes, lift the thorax, and free the legs. Most of us employ only the upper rib cage when we breathe instead of using the bottom of the cage and the diaphragm. By skillfully working with the superficial fascia as it spans the ribs and costal arch the Rolf practitioner can help fashion a breathing pattern which uses the diaphragm and the front, sides, and back of the rib cage to create one smooth, bellows like motion. As breathing becomes deeper and easier as sessions go on, the client feels an increase of energy. The legs are freed around the hip joint in order to allow the pelvis to turn around the trochanter but the pelvis cannot be free to turn around the hip joint if the hamstrings are tight. Some superficial work is done in the hamstring area in this regard. The end of the session involves freeing of the fascial planes around the neck and shoulders, a lengthening of the structures on either side of the spine and those covering the lower back.
- The second session centers on the legs and especially, the feet. Most people carry their weight on the outside edge of each foot, even though the inside appears better able to support the stresses of body weight. In addition most people walk by allowing the legs to pull the upper body along after them. The habit puts too much pressure on the heels and can reduce flexibility in the toes and metatarsals. If the upper body initiates a step by falling lightly forward, the legs can easily swing forward in response allowing the body's weight to be "caught" on the whole foot. After one leg has been worked, clients are asked to walk and compare the action of the two legs. Most often they will report that the leg that has been worked on feels stronger and more secure. Also, they may find that the weight travels more on the inside of their foot and there is less pressure on the heel. Then the other leg is worked and some additional back work to complete the session.
- The third session is an integrating one. It attempts to tie the first two sessions together into a complex whole. It is the last of the superficial sessions and an important point for both client and practioner. In the third session we'll deals with the "lateral line" of the body. The client lies on his or her side as the Rolf practitioner works to arrange the shoulder, ribs, and pelvis into an even stack. He tries to differentiate the rib cage from the shoulder girdle on top and pelvis underneath. The practitioner's goal is to set each in its own space without crowding from its neighbors. There should be more space between the twelfth rib and the ilium at the end of session three.
- The fourth session represents a change in the therapist's intention. The therapist now enters into what is called the body's "core". Rolfing® practitioners refer to core structures as those that lie close to the spine and the body's midline which are differentiated from the sleeve, consisting of the shoulder and pelvic girdles, and the lateral structures of the legs. The territory of the fourth session is the inside of the legs, from the ankles to the pelvic floor including hamstring muscles and some organizing in areas of the back and neck when needed. One of the goals is to establish improved support for the structures that make up the pelvic floor. Clients will often feel a lift throughout the torso even though most of the work is on the legs. The therapist seeks to establish an inner pillar from which the limbs can be hung. The Rolfing® practitioner wants to hang the body's sleeve from the supportive core.
- This session involves the relationship of the superficial abdominal muscle (the rectus abdominis) to the deep seated hip flexor (the iliopsoas). Many people inappropriately use the wide band of external stomach muscles to do the work of stronger, deeper lying muscles. The Rolfing® practitioner lengthens and differentiates the outer structures to allow room for the inner structures to reassert themselves. The deep stomach muscles have certain properties that make them unique in the body. They are the only muscles that extend from the legs to the trunk. All other muscles of the leg or the trunk attach directly to some part of the pelvic girdle. An active healthy psoas muscle helps a variety of lower back chronic pain conditions. A satisfying feeling of the leg trunk connection of these muscles often emerges as the client learn to move his or her legs from the lumbar spine rather than from the hip joint.
- In session six the muscle structures that are primary are the deep rotating muscles under the buttocks. If the client's legs are unable to function smoothly while walking, balancing the rotators deep in the buttocks will often help the situation. As the body becomes more symmetrical and organized around a vertical line, differences between the right and left sides become less apparent. In the sixth session, this symmetry is enhanced and extended above and below the pelvic girdle. The goal of the Rolfing® practitioner in the sixth session is to create a structure which rests on a well supported vertical core and demands a minimum of effort to maintain while a person is standing. Clients will often report the ability to breathe through to the spine, so that the spine appears to undulate during respiration in a wavelike motion. Chronic back pain is helped considerably in the sixth session.
- Some of the goals of the seventh session are to create a neck with a back, front, right side and left side layering the tissue outside to inside. The ligamentum nuchi is one of the more important considerations of the seventh hour. We want to establish a spanning polarity between the top of the head and the base of the sacrum. If done successfully in relation to the directional, spanned, gravity field, we get the proper set up for session eight, nine, and ten.
- (Sessions 8 - 10) The last three sessions are called the integrative hours and in them the client prepares to end the series. The dictionary defines "integration" as "a combination and coordination of separate and diverse elements or units into a more complete and harmonious whole." "It is easy to take a body apart" Dr. Rolf said, "but it takes skill and understanding to put it back together again." In the last three sessions, the practitioner tries for a body that is poised on a narrow base and can move in any direction with equal ease. Large fascial sheaths are related to one another, and a "silky" quality in the muscle tissue is sought. The relationship of a particular body part to gravity is the most important goal in these hours.
In these sessions, it is time to prepare closure for the client that is completing the series. It is suggested that he avoid deep structural work for a period of time after the initial series, because changes will continue for months, even years after the series is completed. The client is encouraged to look to the intelligence within him for new ways of using the initial changes to his advantage.