Rolfing is a body therapy named after its founder Dr Ida Rolf, an American biochemist who suggested that many health problems are caused by poor posture. The principle of improving the body’s alignment in order to enhance well-being is not dissimilar to that of the Alexander technique, but Dr Rolf devised a complex manipulative technique in order to realign the body’s structure so that it can work with, rather than against, gravity. This she termed structural re-integration. Deep massage of the body’s connective tissues and muscles realigns the system, encouraging energy flow, circulation and better nervous conduction. Rolfing is a deep massage, sometimes using the elbows or knuckles, that can be uncomfortable or even painful, but undoubtedly has great benefits. Rolfing stretches the pliable connective tissue, or fascia, of the body. If it has contracted, it will have adhered to neighbouring structures, impeding freedom of movement and the proper functioning of the organs and other structures of the body.
Treatment usually consists of a course of 10 hour-long sessions spread out over a period of time that is dependent upon the response of the patient. Each session builds on the last one and works on a different part of the body, starting with areas where the muscles are close to the surface and moving on to deep-tissue work in later sessions. The Rolfer may take photographs at the beginning and end of the course to document the changes that happen. The effects of a course of Rolfing include increased vitality, a better range of movement and visibly improved balance and ease of posture. Relief of chronic structural aches and pains also results. It is not, however, a treatment for a particular ailment but a system of preventive therapy.