This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself. –  Ida P. Rolf


Dr. Ida P. Rolf: Founder of Rolfing® Structural Integration

Ida P. Rolf (1896-1979) was a pioneer. After receiving her doctorate in biochemistry in 1920, she worked at the Rockefeller Institute and then embarked on an intellectual and physical journey which resulted in her life’s work, which she called Structural Integration but is commonly referred to as Rolfing®.

Though Issac Newton discovered gravity in the 17th century, few had thought about its implications for the functioning of the human body until Dr. Rolf’s began her inquiry in the 1930’s. Ostensibly trying to cure a family member’s health issues, she began an exploration of many of the health modalities of that time including osteopathy and yoga.  Dr. Rolf arrived at a number of major insights. First, a body aligned in the gravitational field would function at its most efficient and conversely, misalignment would result in inefficiency and ill health. Secondly, alignment and misalignment was not the result of the position of bones but rather of the pushes and pulls of the soft tissue throughout the body, which, in response to stresses, would result in imbalances and compensations. And lastly, the body could be reshaped and realigned through manual manipulation of the soft tissue, particularly fascia.

During the 40’s and 50’s, Dr. Rolf developed techniques and methodologies to express these ideas. Her crowning achievement was the invention of a 10 session series intended to fully realign a human body. Under her guidance in the years before her death, a cadre of practitioners were taught her techniques, a group of teachers was appointed, and the Rolf Institute based in Boulder, Colorado, created, to carry on her work.  Presently, there are approximately a dozen schools under the banner of Structural Integration certifying practitioners in countries all over the world, including Japan, Australia, and Brazil.

Though thoroughly versed in the methodologies of science, Dr. Rolf’s insight of the primary role fascia plays in support of the human body was an intuitive one, not generally accepted at that time within the scientific community. (For an interesting lecture about fascia, adhesions, and the benefits of stretching please view this video by Gil Hedley.) Twenty years after her death, however, her insights have been borne out in a series of scientific congress taking place every three years since 2004 bringing researchers from all over the world to discuss new discoveries related to fascia tissue.

For more information concerning this research and its implications, please read my articles in the Journal for Structural Integration.