What is Structural Integration (Rolfing)?

“If you can imagine how it feels to have a fluid, light, balanced body, free of pain, stiffness and chronic stress, at ease with itself and the earth’s gravitational field, then you will understand the goals of Structural Integration.”

– Emmett Hutchins

Structural Integration was developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf out of her desire to help friends and family members suffering from muscular-skeletal problems. With a background in the biochemistry of connective tissue (her PHD thesis) yoga and osteopathic soft tissue work, she spent many years refining Structural Integration (aka Rolfing). Dr. Rolf stated, "The focus of Rolfing is to restore order and symmetry to the physical structure that was originally our birth right, but lost."

  • Most of us have found our bodies assaulted by one or more of the following forces: 
  • Patterns of repetitive use and stress from work (e.g. bent over a computer or an assembly line all day).
  • Survival postural patterns adopted while growing up designed to protect us from real or imagined threats.
  • Injuries (like whiplash) and surgical adhesions, as well as the compensations for them.
  • Chronic back pain.
  • Stress and emotional challenges. 

These "assaults" on the body, find their way into the  sheets of connective tissue known as fascia that wrap around all the muscles and attach to the surface of our bones. You can think of fascia as an organic fabric that gives the body much of its shape and support. and is the same as the white "marbleized" substance in raw meat. Fascia responds to these "assaults" by shortening, twisting and becoming less pliable, which in turn shortens, compresses and twists the body, pulling the body out of alignment and reducing flexibility.

In a Structural Integration (aka Rolfing) session the practitioner assesses where these "assaults" to the body have occurred, and then applies hands-on pressure to get the fascia to lengthen and untwist. In the process, the "core" of the body is balanced, with the large surface muscles like the quads and hamstrings. As this happens, the body is brought back to its original design, an d pain can be eliminated or greatly reduced. Studies conducted at UCLA have shown that people, who have been through the 10-session Structural Integration process, expend much less energy and effort as they move.