Dr Rolf Was The Founder Of Structural Integration Now More Commonly Known As Rolfing
Dr. Ida Rolf (1896 – 1979) was the founder of Structural Integration which later became known as Rolfing. She was one of the first scientists to understand the relationship of the connective tissue network to the bodies structure and to recognize its impact on health.
Dr Rolf originally worked as a researcher at the Rockefeller Institute under the head of the biochemical laboratory and during her time wrote 16 academic papers in biochemistry plus many other scholarly journals.
Rolfs’ interest in therapeutic intervention however had a more personal aspect. She herself suffered from spinal arthritis and one of her children also had physical problems which prompted her to become interested in yoga. Her first attempt at manual therapy came after her husband died leaving her with two young children to feed and educate. Seeking music lessons for her children she offered a music teacher with physical problems therapy in exchange for lessons. Apparently she would place the teacher in yoga positions and work on whatever compromised tissue presented itself.
Orthodox medicine is only now beginning to grasp the relevance of structure and structural mis-alignment to well-being. Dr Rolf began her work with the human body in the 1930s and initially taught her techniques to osteopaths and chiropractors. However Rolfing is not simply a set of techniques but a new modality.
Chiropractic and osteopathy are based on the body-wide nervous and circulatory systems. Rolfing is based on the third body-wide system, the connective tissue or fascial system, which goes everywhere and wraps everything in the body.
Later in her career Dr Rolf named her modality Structural Integration. Her basic idea was to re-structure the body in relation to gravity – the ever present and most persistent force acting on the body.
Here is what Dr Rolf has to say about the bodies relationship to gravity…
One individual may experience her fight against gravity as a sharp pain in the back, another as constant fatigue and yet another as an unrelenting threatening environment.
Those over forty may call it old age; yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem so prominent in their structures and the structures of others that it has been ignored, they are off balance – they are at war with gravity”.
Dr Ida P. Rolf, PhD
Dr Rolfs Legacy
Dr Rolf believed her work would give rise to a number of schools based on the principles of Structural Integration and this has proved to be the case.
In 1971 the Rolf Institute for Structural Integration was founded in Boulder, Colarado and today it is still the largest SI organisation. Hellerwork is also derived from Rolfing and in fact was founded by the first President of the Rolf Institute Joseph Heller who believed that Structural Integration needed a greater psychological component. The Guild for Structural Integration, Zentherapy and Postural Integration are also based on Rolfs’ work.
The most recent and very popular extension of Rolfs’ legacy is contained in the work of Tom Myers who was one of Rolfs last pupils before her death. His school for Structural Integration Kinesis Myofascial Integration or KMI is based on his book Anatomy Trains which deals with the concept of myo-fascial meridians that flow through the body distributing force and strain. This concept, which is inherent in Rolfs work, has proved to be a powerful way of presenting her ideas. Rolf provided the insight that everything in the body is connected and that this is achieved by means of the myo-fascial web. Myers work provides a more coherent and comprehensible (if still incomplete) explanation of just how this network operates.