What is a Rolfer and what do they do?
Rolfers™ are highly trained bodyworkers on par with Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, and Osteopaths. Many Rolfers begin their careers as massage therapists before recognizing that they want to advance their work and transcend the clinical limitations of massage. It has been said that once a massage therapist has experienced Rolfing structural integration they will never view their work the same way again. Similarly, there are very few people who will return to seeing massage therapists after experiencing Rolfing.
What makes Rolfing different than massage, chiropractic, or physical therapy?
Rolfing is a technique for reordering the body to bring its major segments – head, shoulders, thorax, pelvis and legs – toward a vertical alignment. Generally speaking, the Rolfing technique lengthens the body, approaching an ideal in which the left and right sides of the body are more nearly balanced and in which the pelvis approaches horizontal, permitting the weight of the trunk to fall directly over the pelvis; the head rides above the spine, the spinal curves are shallow, and the legs connect vertically to support the bottom of the pelvis. A professional Rolfer uses physical pressure to stretch and guide the connective tissue, lengthening and orizing it, allowing for more efficient, flexible movement. The person being Rolfed participates in the process by moving, breathing and releasing the holding patterns within the connective tissue, allowing the innate balance of the body to become the teacher.
Is Rolfing different than myofascial release or deep tissue massage?
The differences between Rolfing and myofascial release and deep tissue massage are significant. Rolfers make a life study of palpation (physically sensing muscle tissue, bone, joints, and their relationships through touch), systemic and holistic interpretation (understanding how, for example, a bow in the leg can cause neck pain), and evaluation (the ability to clearly define what needs to change in a person’s body and in what order). In addition, Rolfers use a variety of tools (knuckles, fists, elbows, ulnas, finger tips, and physical weight) that aren’t often employed by other therapists. In contrast, deep tissue massage is focused primarily on the specific areas of tension and rarely works with connective tissue, bones, joints, viscera, breath, or skin. Rolfers understand that all of these parts are connected, and take joy in the process of differentiating and defining what is truly causing a person’s restrictions.
How can Rolfing benefit me?
Ida Rolf once said that what she was really interested in when she developed Rolfing was changing the way that our culture understands the body. In saying so she was referring primarily to the Cartesian dualism that characterizes our relationship between body and mind. In an increasingly technological world people’s senses have been pushed further and further away from the actual acute physical body, and hence away from the only machinery that can truly connect them authentically and fully to the present.
Conditions greatly improved by Rolfing sessions include:
- Chronic pain and stress reduction
- Athletic and physical performance
- Greater flexibility
- Reduced effort in activities
- Balanced tone throughout tissues
- Reduced stress
- Overall enhanced quality of life
- Improved digestion and circulation
- Plantar fasciitis
- Headaches disappearing
- Back pain healing
- Neck pain healing
- Shoulder pain
- Hip pain reduction
- Knee pain resolution
- SI joint pain
- Fibromyalgia healing
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Breathing restrictions
- Greater enjoyment of the body
- Mental and emotional state
- Changes that last for many years
Possibly the least understood and most significant effect of Rolfing is that it develops and expands awareness within the body itself. Athletes, martial artists, and yoga practitioners have all reported that they’re able to gather more subtle information from their bodies in the present moment after receiving Rolfing sessions. In turn, this expands and enlightens them in regard to their performance. While not everyone lives so acutely in their body, most clients also often describe calm, clarity, an absence of chronic tension, and a general sense of being lighter and more attractive, both in their bodies and in their hearts and minds.
The conclusion that many come to after receiving Rolfing bodywork is that many of their problems in life, whether they be in relationships, in emotions, in physical performance, or in general life direction, were ultimately due to how unconscious they were of the tension in their bodies. Rolfing brings tension into people’s awareness and then dissipates it through manual manipulation, leaving them with not only a lighter body, but also a broader sense of themselves and their potential.
“I’m not interested in fixing bits and pieces. I’m after a larger game: contributing to the evolution of human beings.” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.
Jan Sultan, a world renowned Rolfer, was once asked what all of his Rolfing clients had in common. What common factor brought people to see him? After several days he had an aha moment. Every client who had ever come to see him was ready for change. Some came to him when they were ready to change careers, but didn’t know where to go. Others came ready to change the way they were relating to their bodies or to their partners or spouses. Still, others were looking for greater peace of mind or a deeper connection to their spirituality. The common factor that draws people to Rolfing is that they’re ready for a life transition, whether they’re aware of it or not. Even clients with chronic or acute injuries are often looking for the cause or the source, within their own lives, that resulted in their pain.
“Rolfers make a life study of relating bodies and their fields to the earth and its gravity field, and we so organize the body that the gravity field can reinforce the body’s energy field. This is our primary concept. This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself. As people come to Rolfers with their aches and their pains, we can see where their bodies are literally offering blocks to the gravitational forces. The gravitational force is immense and their resistance isn’t much good except to close the body down, compress it. Sometimes the block has been put into the physical picture by a physical trauma. This block is in the actual structure, in the flesh of the body. Then there is the kind of block that is basically emotional.” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.
Is Rolfing supported by scientific research?
The answer to this question is hazy. Rolfing is no more a science than painting, martial arts, soccer, jazz, or literature. All of the above are measured, in varying degrees, by the effects that they have on their subjects, and on the collective anecdotes/attitudes of those who experience them. Like music, literature, or sports, Rolfing plays by certain rules – these are essentially the rules of biomechanics and nerve-muscle physiology. However, just as soccer relies on the rules of physics, it’s the skill and mentality and grace of the players that makes it what it is. The effects of Rolfing can vary based on how well the rules are understood and how they’re implemented by your Rolfer. The innate ability of the practitioner/performer/player, in all of the above cases, is one of the most significant factors in their efficacy and beauty. To learn more you can read about my style and how I work.
Can Rolfing help me with my pain/posture/performance/rehabilitation?
Absolutely. See above for a list of benefits, or visit testimonials to hear from other clients in Austin.
How do I schedule a session?
What should I wear to my Rolfing session?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions. The simple answer is that you will work in a bra and underwear/shorts if you are a woman, and boxer briefs if you are a man. Rolfing is not performed in the nude. Please dress in a way that allows you to feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed. However, note that tight-fitting shorts or boxer briefs, undergarments with thick straps (i.e. sports bras), or any other form of clothing that restricts or complicates access to key areas of the body (scapula, shoulders, sternum, hips) hinders your practitioner’s access and limits their efficacy in the work. The concise answer is, less is more, so long as you’re comfortable and dressed modestly.
Is Rolfing as painful as they say?
One of the most common misconceptions about Rolfing is that it is very painful. It is very interesting to me that Rolfing has this reputation when there are so few clients who actually leave the office feeling that way! Rolfing is deep work – often deeper than deep tissue massage. However, Rolfers regulate the pace of input and use the client’s movement to increase and decrease pressure. No one has ever left my office feeling like they had to endure “bad pain.” It is more of a “hurts so good” that people experience. While some old school practitioners work with very heavy hands (as did Ida Rolf), an increasing majority of practitioners use less pressure and stay within the comfort zone of the client’s body. Every body is different and sometimes I can apply all of my available weight and pressure into a client, while other times I essentially have to hover on the skin. Layers of chronic tension, trauma, pain, and the nervous system’s pain thresholds are all factors in this process. Additionally, many of the presuppositions about fascial anatomy have been refined over the past 50 years. Rolfing now takes account of the nervous system’s crucial role in improvement of the body’s posture and overall health.
Does Insurance cover Rolfing?
Rolfing therapy may be covered by your health insurance. Many times a letter of medical necessity from a doctor or chiropractor is necessary. It is best to check with your insurance provider to determine your eligibility and their requirements. I do not currently bill insurance, but can supply you with a receipt, upon payment, with the medical billing code for “Manual Therapy” (97140). If your insurance provider covers “myofascial release” or “neuromuscular re-education,” or if your employer provides flexible spending options, these plans can often be used for some kind of manual therapy and don’t always require a referral. It may be beneficial to contact your provider with the following questions: 1.) Does my plan cover “manual therapy” from a service provider outside the network? 2.) Do I need written consent or diagnosis from a medical professional prior to my appointment to file it as a claim?
Should I consult a medical professional before receiving Rolfing?
The majority of people can receive Rolfing sessions without prior approval from an MD or chiropractor. However people who have undergone recent or major surgery, or who have serious, undiagnosed, or untreated psychiatric conditions should consult a doctor before scheduling a session.
What should I do after a session to retain my new improvements?
One of the most interesting things about Rolfing is that certain changes don’t show up in the body for hours, and sometimes weeks or months after a series of sessions. Since the body is organically and subtly reconstructing its movement and postural schemas after Rolfing sessions, I recommend all my clients to take up at least a little additional exercise and movement for the duration of their ten-series. This helps inform the body as to its new capabilities. Generally I recommend clients take a 30 – 60 minute walk the same day after a session, and to add light stretching to their daily routines. The exception is for people whose injuries don’t allow them to do these activities comfortably. For those who don’t practice already, I recommend taking at least one or two yoga/Pilates classes per month while receiving Rolfing structural integration sessions. This often helps clients evaluate and improve their relationship to the changes from the sessions.
How much time should I allow to pass between my sessions?
After their first sessions, some clients like to book their next appointment a few days later. I would generally recommend waiting 5 to 7 days before your next appointment. I would also recommend completing the 10-series within 20 weeks – this entails coming in once every two weeks to reap the maximum benefits of the work.