Rolfing - Frequently Asked Questions
How does Rolfing® Structural Integration work?
Rolfing is a collaborative process. Your Rolfer uses physical pressure to stretch, lengthen and loosen both muscle and connective tissue. You use your breath and awareness to "meet" that pressure from the inside, waking up or releasing parts of your body much as one does in yoga. Many sessions also include some movement work as well--everything from coaching in how to stand, sit or walk, to exercise "homework" that you can practice between sessions to build on and maintain the results obtained in your sessions.
Most Rolfing is done with the client lying on a massage table, although some is done with the client sitting on a bench or chair. Clients generally wear underwear or a bathing suit during their sessions, although I can also work through light clothing if you prefer, and no oil is used. Sessions last 1 ? to 1 ? hours and are typically spaced one to two weeks apart.
What does Rolfing feel like?
Rolfing usually feels like slow deep pressure. When we?re working in an area that is particularly tense or stuck, the sensation can be intense, but it is never unbearable. At other times, the sensation will be far subtler. It should not hurt, other than the kind of "hurts so good" feeling that can accompany the release of deep and long-held tension.
There is no set amount of pressure necessary to accomplish the goals of Rolfing. Some bodies (usually those that are particularly muscular or chronically held) require more pressure; others actually respond as well or better to a lighter touch. The amount of pressure is always adjusted to the needs of the individual client. I always ask my clients to tell me if the sensation ever becomes so intense that their impulse is to withdraw from the touch rather than meet it, so that I can go lighter or slower, or change angles, whatever is necessary to get back inside their comfort zone.
How many sessions does it require?
People come to Rolfing with very different goals. Some are looking for relief from a specific injury or from chronic tension, others are looking for better posture or a greater sense of openness and flexibility. Still others want Rolfing to complement emotional or psychological work, helping them experience their bodies more fully.
Classically, a basic series consists of ten sessions, give or take a few; ten is a good number to plan on. Sometimes clients return for additional sessions as needed, while others choose to receive on-going work on some regular basis.
Is Rolfing always done in a series of sessions?
The classic Rolfing "recipe" is a carefully designed series of 10 sessions, spaced one to three weeks apart. Each session within the series addresses particular areas of the body and has particular goals, and each session both builds on prior sessions and prepares the body for later ones. Not everyone wants, or needs, to complete a full series.
Some clients know they want a whole series of sessions before they begin. Others develop this commitment as they see the effectiveness of Rolfing. Still others want only enough sessions to relieve pain and are happy to stop there, in which case, we try to estimate the number of sessions that will be required, focus on the issue at hand and evaluate our progress. I encourage new clients to try a single session to see how it feels. If they are considering doing a series, I then encourage them to go to three sessions. At that point, we should have a good sense of whether the process is working for them and starting to achieve the results they are seeking After the third session in a series, we generally move into the "core sessions," in which we work to change some of the deeper patterns in the body. For this reason. I strongly encourage those clients who continue past the third session to complete the whole series.
Does it last?
This depends on several factors. The first factor is what created the problems in the first place: if your pain or restriction was the result of a specific injury and it was relieved by Rolfing, then it is likely to stick. If, on the other hand, your postural problems or pain or feelings of constriction were caused by the way you?re living your life--the way you move or don?t move, the way you sit or drive, your emotional patterns, your ways of relating to yourself, your work, your partner-- then change will need to take place in those arenas in order for the work to "hold."
But even the healthiest people will benefit from additional Rolfing sessions at some point. Some people come back for a shorter advanced series. Others come back for occasional "tune-up" sessions. And some wait a decade or more and then do another basic series, to build on the earlier work and take the body to a higher level of freedom and integration.
If you choose to do an entire Rolfing "series" of 10 - 12 sessions, it is generally recommended that you wait at least six months after the completion of the series to have any more Rolfing sessions. This gives your body a chance to further integrate the work.
What is the difference between Rolfing? Structrual Integration, Chiropractic and Massage?
Rolfing works with soft tissue patterns in the body that can limit balance, alignment, efficiency of movement, and comfort. It is a process of gradually and progressively easing the body?s strain to evoke more order, spaciousness and support.
Chiropractic is primarily concerned with freeing spinal joint restrictions and promoting nerve flow to and from the spine. It does not generally address the soft tissue patterns of the whole body and their influence on structural balance. Rolfers sometimes uses soft tissue techniques to treat bony restrictions or rotations that are a part of the overall body pattern, although they never use "high-velocity" techniques to adjust vertebra, unless they also happen to be chiropractors. From my perspective Rolfing and Chiropractic care are compatible and can be complimentary.
Massage is a broad term that refers to many styles of bodywork. In general, massage aims at promoting relaxation and increasing the flow of blood and lymph in the body. Some deep tissue, orthopedic or sports massage techniques work to release local patterns of strain in the body, but rarely as part of a strategy to balance and align the body as a whole.
More FAQs on the Rolf Institute website