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Is Rolfing Dangerous?

Rolfing Revealed

Rolfing enables the structural independence of your body to do what it naturally wants-to shift. 

The specialty is named after Ida P. Rolf, a pioneering biochemist who received her doctorate from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1920, when women had just won the right to vote.

After years of studying osteopathic and homeopathic medicine, as well as yoga, in the 1940s Rolf began experimenting with the massaging and manipulation of fascia-the layer of thick, connective tissue that covers the muscles and keeps everything around them in place.

Her theory was that after years of daily stress, “bound up” fascia restricts the muscles, in turn restricting movement. The solution? Manipulate the fascia enough, and gravity.

Put simply, the “gospel of Rolfing,” as its founder has been quoted as preaching, is this: “When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.”

Rolfing Practitioners

There is a growing community of Rolfers qualified to work. The only educational facility in the country that offers Rolfing certification is the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, Co. Many other schools, most of them founded by early Rolf disciples, offer similar institutional integration coursework, but only the Rolf Institute certified Rolfers. Gain your credential elsewhere and you can not work lawfully as a Rolfer.

Practitioners differentiate specifically between Rolfing, chiropractic practice, and deep-tissue massage. They are not the same, says 52 year old Massa, who has been Rolfing since 1994.

“It’s not like bodywork; it’s not like massage,” Massa says. “Being a Rolfer is more like being a tailor than being a masseuse. You have to look at (the body) and say, ‘What’s too long? What’s too short? What’s too bunchy? What’s too tight?’ Rolfing is not a form of alternative medicine; Rolfing is more about education.”

Dr. Rosemary Feitis is a licensed professional Rolfing specialist based out of New York City. Feitis has been one of the first trainees of Ida Rolf, a Rolfer for the last 40 years, but even she acknowledges that this is not the be-all, end-all for physical therapy.

“I think there are times when you need to be cautious,” Feitis said. “Its place is not necessarily in medicine, except in the sense that it helps certain problems that are brought to doctors and really belong in the realm of physical therapy.”

Massage therapist in Dublin, California, Massage, deep tissue, sports massage, labrum tear, lordosis, neuro-muscular, hip pain, shoulder pain, ROLF

    Rolfing for Chronic Issues

    Occasionally, Rolfing reveals simple solutions to chronic issues.

    Find a Certified Rolfer

    Nationally there are just over 1000., the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration’s official website, lists internationally accredited Rolfers.

    Budget yourself: Individual sessions on Rolfing tend to last for an hour to 90 minutes. Individual sessions can fix certain problems but for the curious, qualified Rolfer Jill Coyne suggests attempting the Rolfing Ten Series ‘ first three sessions to get a sense of how it can influence the whole body. A single session typically costs around $120, and some Rolfers are offering a lower price for the entire Ten Series, about $1,000.

    Don’t be shy: Most likely your Rolfer will start your first session by asking you to disrobe and take a walk around his house. While it may at first sound like you’re being ambushed for tryouts on “America’s Next Top Model,” this practice is simply so that your Rolfer can analyze the posture and gait of your body correctly. (If you’re especially modest, discuss clothing alternatives with your Rolfer.)

    It’s not painful: Rolfing used to be poorly reputed for being painful. This is not so. Yeah, it involves putting pressure on the body but it is not expected that you will suffer pain. Speak up when you feel too much pressure or pain from the activity.

    After your session: After and in between sessions, try walking. Try running. Try any type of cardiovascular exercise. You might be shocked how the body moves differently once it’s Rolfed out.

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