The Process

How does Structural Integration (“Rolfing”) work?

A typical session begins with a “body reading” where the practitioner asseses the client’s structure. What the client is feeling in his/her body and what the practitioner sees helps to determine what changes they will work towards to help improve vertical alignment and balance within the client’s body and within its’ relationship to the field of gravity.

The practitioner uses various amounts of physical pressure to release areas in the body that are under strain and to lengthen and direct connective tissue to align the major segments of the body (head, neck, torso, pelvis, legs and feet). As a result the body feels lighter and freer. The practitioner may use verbal instructions to teach the client to move in a new more efficient way. Ultimately, the learning experience that takes place is the client learning about himself, from himself.

“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.” – Dr. Rolf

The session ends with another body reading whereby the practitioner can observe what changes have taken place. These changes often occur during, after and in between sessions as time helps the work to integrate into the client’s structure and personal experience.

Over a series of 10 sessions, the practitioner and client work together to let go of poor postural habits and unwind holding patterns that cause the body strain and teach it to move, breathe and live in ways that are balanced, free and upright.

Patterns in the Body

The process of Structural Integration includes releasing holding patterns that are contributing to imbalance in the body and introducing new ones that make the body look and feel longer, stronger and more at ease. Posture or movement patterns can be favourable or not, depending on how well they serve the body’s well-being.

Patterns of imbalance range from subtle to severe and while they may have been served the body in the past, they become a hindrance to the body when they are “locked” inside and are unable to release. Contracting in response to pain, holding the breath to block emotions, “inheriting” the awkward postural  habits of a parent, or slouching to accommodate a computer terminal are examples of patterns that can make the body stiff, rigid, and painful. 

For example, when someone has a sprained ankle, the body shifts as much weight as possible onto the uninjured side of the body to protect the injured ankle from further pain. This shift affects how the body stands in gravity and creates an imbalance on one side of the body as it is forced to carry an uneven distribution of weight. As the ankle heals, the body does not automatically shift back from its unbalanced position, for it has learned a new way to cope with injury and a pattern is established.

Through Structural Integration, the body lets go of old habits and patterns that do not serve the body well in exchange for a feeling of freedom and strength that comes from standing upright.