Rolfing® ... What It's Not

Most people don't know from Rolfing®That's a nickname acknowledging the originator, Dr. Ida P. Rolf. And, fewer still know it by it's original name, Structural Integration. 


Among those who have heard of it, there are some misunderstandings. (Actually, the work is in fact about a widespread human misunderstanding, but more on that later.)


And, with those who have heard of it, almost to a person, there's the the idea that it is painful. And, who wants that?


Ironically, people now are showing up to my office expecting heavy handed treatment. Lately I've been getting inquiries from prospective clients who in fact are looking for strenuous, deep pushing targeted to affected areas. I've been concerned that now the tables have completely turned and people may not be sure if they got the goods if it wasn't painful. Holy, Toledo! 


So, here's the deal. If you are coming to Rolf Structural Integration because you expect to get a strenuous, rough rubdown and want a quick piecemeal fix  ... FORGET - ABOUT - IT. Look elsewhere.  


So called fix-it work is piecemeal, local. "It hurts here, rub here." Sore shoulders. Muscular knots on the back. Stiff necks. Like that. This orientation to such focused are work is symptomatic of the widespread cultural idea — massively promoted by the medical/pharmaceutical complex — that 1) therapy in general mainly addresses the specific area of complaint; 2) relief is only a pill away; and 3) you need do nothing more (which would be things such as changing the way you use your body in even some basic ways.)




It's not too much to say that the cultural message reinforces a society which is addicted to its petty distractions, expending a good deal of energy to keeping things the same, or preventing things from becoming different. If that Buddha fella is right — life is change —isn't it interesting, and sad even, that so much suffering is created out of fear of and resistance to change.

If a quick fix and instant pain relief are what you are looking for ... it's not Structural Integration. That unique and peerless method is holistic. The whole body. In fact, the whole person. The main goal of the work is to balance the whole body in relation to Gravity. There, chronic pains and stress resolve automatically. Remember that bit about balance with gravity. The idea is that when there are imbalances together with their associated compensations you are living at odds with the dictates of Gravity. Also, that chronic pains and stress are often symptoms of those underlying imbalance(s). Or, at least contributive even when there is a medical condition.


Sort of like having a pain in the butt and applying some soothing ointment. When, in fact, living with your mother in law is the real cause.  


Anyone wanting fast results need not apply. Not that symptom relief isn't possible in short order. Just that the Structural Integration process is more indirect. And lasting, it should be pointed out. The goal is not symptom relief per se. Some properly trained practitioners may do symptomatic work, and that may work wonders, but it is not Structural Integration as understood within the profession; and it shouldn't be labelled as such. 




PS ... Thank you to those of my peers who do piecemeal work and represent it as Rolfing and/or Structural Integration. Really? And to those professionals who aren't trained, but represent some heavy handedness as the work. Bitch! Please!  

To be fair, even folks who have received the work often report it was "painful". Hurt and pain or not attractive words. Problem is that when one person uses terms like "pain" or "it hurt" it doesn't convey the quality of the experience to the listener; more likely, on hearing this you form an idea from your own experience and associations with those words. Yes, it can be intense. But always with the client's permission, and within a range of acceptance. Too much, and you tense up, and what's being conveyed isn't coming across. What client's often fail to report on is ... it's an experience of pain leaving. That's a real thing, you know. "Ahhh!" "Wow!" Those are frequently heard reports.


"It hurts." Even with the aforementioned, this is a persistent opinion. Not in the sense of getting hurt, harmed. More like it's a rough rubdown. Intense to the limit. By the way, why no one seems to be deterred from getting tattooed — which does involve real pain — puzzles me. Plastic surgery. Eating at McDonald's. 


This reputation for painfulness and hurting started at the very beginning with the originator of Structural Integration, Dr. Ida P. Rolf. She did in fact have a justifiable reputation for being heavy handed in her style of work. Mother knows best kind of thing, I imagine. I myself have contributed to this image when, at the beginning of my career, I was still under the impression that "there's no gain without pain" and pressing harder gets more done. My apologies to my early clients. And, yes, sometimes during the manual contact aspect of the process areas can be touched which are sensitive to the touch. Just to say we have learned to be effective in terms of results and to work within a reasonable range of our clients' acceptance/tolerance. It's a participatory process. Your willingness is key. Not, like a lot of many therapies and medical procedures, where you're being done to, and passive.


I always start the relationship with a client making it clear that the best outcome is when we work at a felt level which is understandable and acceptable. Otherwise, my clients are urged to state their needs in the situation. Saying things, like "stop", ''ease up", "slow down" are important feedback and actually facilitate the effectiveness of the work.


A lot more could be said. Probably too much already. This should clarify things a bit for you.

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