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Rolfing – What’s in A Name?

Dr. Rolf, the founder of Rolfing, was a biochemist who graduated from Columbia University and became a research scientist at Rockefeller University. Her work evolved from her desire to tap human potential through the physical body.

Rolfing is actually a slang term coined by Ida Rolf’s students during the 70’s. Dr. Rolf was not happy with the word “Rolfing” because she feared that it did not sound scientific. She was right, the word ”Rolfing” brings forth looks of confusion and doubt. “What is that exactly?” is a common question. Dr. Rolf wanted her work to be known as “Structural Integration,” which is, without doubt, a more scientific description and more appropriate. During the course of a Rolfing session the body is in fact being elevated on a structural level so that the parts are well aligned and work together.

Rolfing involves manipulating fascia. Historically, the American Medical Association viewed fascia as nonessential. Medical students would routinely cut it away to view other more important structures during cadaver dissection. Now, due to Dr. Rolf’s influence, the AMA is beginning to understand fascia’s significance. Fascia is the connective tissue that plays the most central role in holding the entire body together. A major component of the soft tissue, fascia runs throughout the body in planes that tie together the entire network of body parts.

Structural integration consists of gentle, sustained pressure to reposition those fascial coverings that hold muscles in place. You can think of it as intensive treatment that is done to enhance overall bodily organization. Breathing, posture, alignment and movement can all be improved as the result of a Rolfing series. But that is not all. Most people store years of accumulated physical stress in their bodies. For example, you might have rounded shoulders due to years of leaning forward when working at a computer. Many people feel that one side of their body is the “vulnerable“ side meaning the side that keeps becoming injured or is more compressed than the other. These are just a couple of examples of how stress shapes our bodies.

Rolfing also enhances your mental health. Picture yourself breathing more fully and moving with greater ease and stability. This mental exercise will give you an idea of what Rolfing can do for you. Rolfing improves posture and body alignment, bringing your head, pelvis, knees and ankles into a new relationship with the vertical axis directly in front of your spine, leaving your body with a longer, leaner look.

The integrative aspect of Rolfing helps you to feel stronger and connected to the ground you stand on, while providing your body with a sense of lightness and upward lift. Rolfing helps to improve your relationship with gravity so that it no longer exerts a relentless downward pressure on your body. Additionally, Rolfing has a calming effect on the nervous system, rendering you more at peace with yourself.

You can think of Rolfing as a physically restorative process that brings with it the mental and spiritual benefits of a body at peace. Whether you call it Rolfing or Structural Integration it represents an opportunity for positive transformation.

Rebekah and David Frome have been working in the healing arts for over three decades. They have helped thousands of people recover from trauma and leave pain behind. They practice in Montclair and Asbury Park, NJ. For help with tapping into your potential call us at 973.509.8464 or book an appointment online at

This article appears in the March issue of Natural Awakenings Monmouth/Ocean edition. Click here to subscribe.


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