A Brief History of Rolfing®

ida rolf and baby

Dr. Ida P. Rolf and Structural Integration

The art of structural integration represents the life work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf. After earning her Ph.D in Biological Chemistry in 1920, Dr. Rolf worked as a research scientist for the Rockefeller Institute in New York for 13 years. She then spent 50 years studying, searching, developing and teaching her system of creating a more upright human structure, a body with greater verticality and balance which functions more efficiently in gravity, the field in which we live. Her primary goal was to enlist the supportive benefits of gravity.

Gravity is never neutral. Dr. Rolf said, “When gravity isn’t tearing something down, it’s upholding it.” She determined that the human structure is a “plastic medium,” and that by applying pressure, energy and intention, the muscular structure can be altered and freed from long-held aberration, the result of physical and/or emotional traumas.

By working to free the myofascial network which encases and relates each muscle and each group of muscles, the body returns to its natural organization, and accordingly functions in a more efficient, graceful and comfortable way.

She observed that when human structure becomes more vertical, more balanced, more upright, a whole series of other significant changes occur in the person. Further, she noticed that a body which becomes more structurally upright, provides greater emotional, psychological and spiritual uprightness. Structural Integration has a simple, yet profound message:

The body is a plastic medium (changeable).
By changing the structure, one changes the function of a human being. Structural integration consistently demonstrates that imbalance can be replaced with balance, limitation can be replaced by freedom; a random, aberrated and painful body can grow into greater verticality, order and ease.

Dr. Rolf always referred to the work as an educational process. She constantly told her students that they were teachers, not therapists. She added, “If you have to use the word therapist, then gravity is the therapist.” From early on she preferred to call her work structural integration. During the human potential movement of the 60’s, the public coined the word, “Rolfing®” which is now a registered service mark of the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration .