IS ROLFING STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION PAINFUL?
Many people have heard that Rolfing is painful. That reputation developed back in the 1960s when Dr. Rolf began teaching her work. Since then, the work has evolved, as has our knowledge of the body’s responses to pain.
Rolfing Structural Integration is not about forcing the body to change. It is about working with the body, encouraging fixations in tissue to release. Depending on how traumatized or overused, and how chronically an area has been in a state of fixation, there can be a range of sensation, including a feeling of “that feels great” or “that’s intense.” Injuries create widespread compensatory patterns, and what feels fine in one area can create strong sensation in a more traumatized or compensating area. Invariably, these moments of discomfort are followed by relief and a feeling of tissue release which can prove both profound and transformational.
In any case, you, as the client, are always in control of how much intensity you are willing to experience. Since every person has a different relationship to pain, the Rolfer must be sensitive and responsive, adapting the pressure and force used accordingly.
DOES ROLFING STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION RELIEVE STRESS?
Rolfing Structural Integration does not focus on stress reduction. What it does do is create a higher level of integration in the body, balancing and educating the body and the psyche. As the body approaches balance, it is more comfortable in the gravitational field. As the body becomes more comfortable, physical and emotional stress diminish. This chain of events is a more typical sequence of events as a body changes during the Structural Integration process. Ultimately, however, the results as experienced by the client are more important than the process. All clients experience benefits from Structural Integration, an important one for most is that they are less stressed and more at ease in their bodies.
WHAT ABOUT THE EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF ROLFING?
It is impossible to touch the physical body without also effecting the emotional body. All individuals develop compensatory patterns, ways of holding and defending against a variety of physical and emotional insults to form. During the Structural Integration process, emotional changes are common. We have “cellular memory,” a memory of experience stored in the tissue at a cellular level. Touching the body will frequently help the client access these physical memories encoded in the fascial matrix. Emotional release is not something consciously intended. Each individual client has their own experience, and some people have emotional, as well as physical releases. The Rolfer provides a safe container for the release and takes whatever time is needed to allow the client to integrate the experience.
HOW DOES ROLFING STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION WORK?
Rolfing Structural Integration strives to align and balance the body’s components until the entire system is a smoothly functioning coordinated whole. For example, the legs are aligned with the hips, shoulders with rib cage, the body is positioned over the feet, and then all of these joints and related tissue are integrated to one another. A few of the many benefits people experience are reduced pain, an enhanced sense of body awareness, and improved posture.
These wonderful transformations are possible because Structural Integration addresses the body’s internal system of flexible support, otherwise known as fascia. This amazing substance surrounds every muscle fiber, encases all joints and even has a role in the nervous system. Think of the fascial system as an intricate internal guide wire network for the body. And if one set of support wires becomes tight or out of place, the excess tension may appear as nagging joint pain, muscle soreness, or a postural shift.
To work with misalignments, a Structural Integration practitioner uses mild, direct pressure to melt or release facial holdings and allow the body to find health through the reestablishment of balance. It is currently believed that the slow, deep strokes of Structural Integration stimulate intra-fascial mechanoreceptors (sensory neurons of the muscle nerve), which in turn triggers the nervous system to reduce the tension of the related muscles and fascia.
Put another way, Structural Integration allows the brain and nervous system to “re-boot” areas of the body that are receiving too much electrical stimulation (chronically tight or sore muscles). And once a healthy level of muscle contraction is established, someone’s entire structure is free to express a pain free from.
WHAT IS THE TEN SERIES?
Rolfing Structural Integration typically occurs within the context of a 10-session series. Each of the 10 sessions has a specific focus, addressing different segmental relationships within the body. The sessions unfold according to how the body tends to open and reorganize itself; each session building on the one before and preparing the body for the next.
The Ten Series can be divided into three distinct units.
Sessions 1-3: Called the “sleeve” sessions, numbers one through three strive to loosen and balance surface layers of connective tissue. Specifically, the first session is devoted to enhancing the quality of breath with work on the arms, ribcage and diaphragm. Opening is also started along the upper leg, hamstrings, neck and spine. The second session helps give the body a stable foundation by balancing the foot and muscles of the lower leg. Number three typically involves a “side view” for an understanding of how the head, shoulder girdle, and hips are related to one another when standing under the influence of gravity. Then, the body is addressed within the context of this new vision.
Sessions 4-7: Four through seven are referred to as “core” sessions and examine terrain found between the bottom of the pelvis and top of the head. The idea of core also includes the deep tissue of the legs for its role in support. Session four begins this journey, its territory extends from the inside arch of the foot and up the leg, to the bottom of the pelvis. The fifth session is concerned with balancing surface and deep abdominal muscles to the natural curves of the spine. Hour six seeks to enlist more support and moment from the legs, pelvis and lower back, while the seventh session turns its sole attention to balancing the neck and head on the shoulders.
Session 8-10: “Integration” is emphasized throughout the remaining three sessions, as eight, nine and ten provide an opportunity for the practitioner to blend previously established advancements, and ones yet to be made, into the body in a way that encourages smooth movement and natural coordination. During sessions eight and nine, the practitioner is free to decide how best to achieve this integration, as the protocol is unique for each individual. The tenth and final session is also one of integration, but more importantly, serves to inspire a sense of order and balance. Once completed, the wisdom of the Ten Series will drive and support the body with health for years to come.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MASSAGE AND ROLFING STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION?
Rolfing Structural Integration is more than “very deep massage.” While many varieties of massage are effective for loosening tight tissue, reducing stress, detoxing the body, and an increased feeling of relaxation and well-being, Structural Integration is a holistic, systematic approach to body realignment. The effects of Structural Integration do often involve reducing stress, loosening tight tissue and detoxing the body; the aim, however, is to integrate the body, to organize its segments in an improved relationship, and to bring physical balance to the whole body in the gravitational field. The true genius of Dr. Rolf’s method is the art and science of sculpting and organizing human structure according to clearly defined principles in a systematic and consistent manner.
WHO SHOULD CONSIDER ROLFING STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION?
All bodies have some degree of asymmetry, disorder and compensatory patterns in their structure. Dr. Rolf believed that everyone should receive Structural Integration. In fact, in her global vision, she imagined a more evolved and structurally efficient human species as a result of everyone experiencing the Ten Series! Most clients enter into the process of Structural Integration either because they are in physical discomfort or because of a sense that they are not as “at home” in their bodies as they could be. As the body transforms physically it transforms on other planes as well, so that, while the primary focus of Structural Integration is the muscular and connective tissue system, it frequently has a dramatic effect on the level of embodiment–a sense of truly living in one’s body. But rather than dictate the effects of the process, I encourage everyone to have their own unique experiences.
DO THE EFFECTS OF ROLFING STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION LAST?
Yes, absolutely they can. The process of change and integration takes time, and can continue for months past the last session. The potential for lasting effect depends in large part on you, the client, and how you make use of the movement awareness and embodiment exercises we explore together during the sessions. Many people spend a large part of their days on the computer or in the car. You will learn how to sit, stand and move in ways that can support the changes we accomplish on the table. Once the body’s relationship to gravity has changed, it continues to adapt and reorganize itself, and is hungry for more efficient ways to move and be. Integration is about body use and expression of self.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The cost is $125.00 per session.