What is Rolfing?
If you suffer from back aches, joint/muscle stiffness, sciatica, tension headaches, tennis elbow and similar chronic ailments, or if you would like to improve your athletic performance and regain that youthful bounce you once had as a child, Rolfing may be just what you’re looking for.
Rolfing is a manual therapy that frees and aligns strained connective tissues that have been collecting in the body due to injuries, accidents, bad habits, misuse, overuse, aging and other factors. This process of realignment is accomplished over series of ten 90-minutes sessions which are usually spaced about one week apart.
Rolfing does not treat specific problems, but rather addresses the entire body to achieve a long-lasting result. Each session has its own unique goals and areas of focus. During these sessions, a Rolfer uses his fingers, hands, forearm and occasionally an elbow to bring each part of the body into alignment with the other parts to create a freely-moving, functional whole.
Unlike many forms of manual therapy, Rolfing is very precise in its scope and is customized to meet each person’s needs. Although a certain amount pressure is applied to affect the changes, most people would liken the feeling to that of a good massage, except that with Rolfing, the changes can be very dramatic.
Rolfing graduates typically report improved posture, more graceful movement, increased stamina and agility, and relief from a wide range of chronic problems. More importantly, these changes can be very long lasting and are sometimes permanent. Research studies at UCLA and other institutions were still able to identify changes brought about in the bodies of Rolfing test subjects five years after completion of the work.
What is Connective Tissue?
Connective tissues are those tissues that literally hold us together and they are present everywhere in our bodies. They connect bones to bones (ligaments), muscles to bones (tendons), cover, surround and permeate our muscles (myofascia) and envelope our entire body (superficial fascia).
When these tissues function properly, our movements are fluid and graceful. Energy is conserved and we perform tasks with minimal energy expenditure. But injuries, accidents, misuse, overuse, bad habits, aging, surgery and other factors cause these tissues to shorten, thicken and build adhesions, which can severely limit our ability to function and can result in chronic pain, poor posture and a host of other, seemingly unrelated health problems such as TMJ, IBS, tension headaches, tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, sciatica and so on.
These are the tissues that Rolfing addresses. To see what connective tissues look like and how adhesions begin to form, I invite you to watch this informative YouTube video by anatomist Gil Hedley.
What Makes Rolfing Unique?
What makes Rolfing unique in terms of the results it achieves is that it deals directly with the bound tissues that cause imbalances.
Each discipline offers certain benefits. Generally speaking, massage helps improve circulation, relieve tight muscles and increase range of motion. Physical therapy is useful for rehabilitating the body after injuries, accidents and surgery. Chiropractic relieves back, neck and hip pain by adjusting the spinal column. If these problems are not resolved early on, however, the connective tissues surrounding the problem area(s) start to bind together and lock our bodies in a permanent state of imbalance. Once this happens, it can be difficult, if not impossible to resolve these problems by more traditional means.
Rolfing is successful at relieving these long standing problems because it deals directly with the tissues that cause these imbalances. Another reason Rolfing enjoys success is because it treats the body as a single unit rather than chase after symptoms. We’ll explain why this is important shortly, but for now let’s just say that chronic problems are rarely the result of a single incident. Rather, they are the end products of the multitudinous falls, sprains, injuries, accidents and other traumas to the body that have been accumulating for years. Only by addressing the body as a whole can these complex problems hope to be resolved.
What is the Rolfing Ten-Series?
Rolfing sessions typically follow a sequence of sessions often call the Ten-Series.
A skilled Rolfer will adjust his or her work according to each individual’s needs. This is why two people undergoing Rolfing at the same time often have very different experiences. In general terms, though, the ten sessions can be described as follows.
The first three sessions could be viewed as “opening sessions” in the sense that they free up the outer myofascial layers in order to prepare body for sessions 4, 5 and 6 which deal with movement patterns.
The first session is the most general of the ten and begins by freeing the superficial fascia and underlying intercostal muscle strain between the ribs to improve the breathing pattern. After this, the Illiotibial (IT) bands and hamstring muscles are briefly addressed. This session closes with work on the back and neck.
The second session focuses on the feet and lower legs to improve foot function and proper contact with the ground. Once this is done, the remainder of the session is spent lengthening the back, usually with the client in a seated position.
The third session works along the lateral aspect (sides) of the torso, including the shoulder girdle, ribcage, mid and lower back, lateral abdominal muscles, gluteal region and hip joint to improve the relationship between the hips and shoulders.
The fourth session works with the adductor muscles (the muscles on the insides of the legs) and the medial aspect (inside) of the lower legs to help establish a more efficient gait. If there is time left, work on the larger back muscles may follow.
Session five focuses on the costal arch, abdominal region and hip flexors (iliopsoas group) to initiate proper forward leg movement. A stilted or penguin-like walking pattern is a clear sign that the hip flexors are not functioning properly. This is perhaps the most key session of the series and a turning point for many.
This session covers the dorsal (back) side of the body from the feet to the base of the neck with emphasis given to the lateral rotators—those buttock muscles responsible for turning our legs outward. For many clients, this session marks the beginning of a new understanding of their bodies and how to manage them.
The seventh session concentrates on the thoracic outlet (neck, shoulders and head). Now that we’ve established relative balance in the rest of the body, we are ready to bring the head into alignment with the other parts—something we would not have been able to do previously.
Session 8 and 9
These two sessions work in tandem to bring all of the work done previously into harmony. Typically, one session will focus on either the upper or lower half of the body, while the following session is directed towards the other half. The goal here is to ensure that the body segments are working together smoothly.
This is the closure session. Any areas still needing attention will be addressed here to complete the series and create a uniform whole.
We often look at the human body a
collection of individual parts: heart, eyes, feet, etc. But from a functional standpoint, it operates as a single, dynamic whole: when one part of the body becomes compromised, the entire structure is affected.
- James Bardot
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30am - 6:00pm
Phone: 949.388.2357 (Office/Fax)
Address: 29391 Crown Ridge
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677