The History of Structural Integration

Ida Pauline Rolf was born in the 1890s in New York City. She earned a PhD. in biochemistry from Columbia University in 1920, quite rare for a woman at that time in the United States. Dr. Rolf studied anatomy, physiology, osteopathy, yoga, homeopathy, kinesiology and other movement systems popular in her time. She began doing physical manipulations in the 1930s and taught her first bodywork classes in 1954. Originally she hoped to teach her methods to physicians, chiropractors and osteopaths.

What is structural integration and What Are the Benefits?

SI is a hands-on bodywork system that manipulates fascia, improves structure and coordination, and improves energetic movement through the body. SI organizes structure and coordination to the line of gravity. According to physics, all of our movements must relate to the earth. Therefore, improving our relationship to gravity will make our coordination more efficient. As SI sessions progress, clients report straighter posture, better coordination, decreased strain patterns, improved stamina, better physical and emotional awareness of themselves and others, and even a clearer sense of purpose. Many of my clients find that SI supports their efforts towards psychological and spiritual awareness as well as a sense of grounding both physically and mentally.

The 10 Session Series

To straighten a wrinkle in a bed sheet, you can't work on just the wrinkle. You have to remake the entire bed. So it goes with SI and why it progresses over ten sessions. Dr. Rolf’s 10 Series consists of 10 different postural principles relating to the body’s structure in gravity. Sessions 1-3 work on the body’s exterior organization and releases superficial fascial layers. Sessions 4-7 organize more interior structure and function and contact deeper layers of the body to include organs and the front of the spine. Sessions 8-10 we work to integrate the work we have done. On a physical level, coordination, stamina, posture and physical symmetry improves. On a neurological level, sensory input and motor output improves. After the 10 series has finished and a period of assimilation is completed, further Rolfing will deepen the sense of structural integration. Committing to all ten sessions is not mandatory. You only have to come to the first session. A client can come in for one or more sessions to address their issues, but typically my clients choose to continue all ten sessions. It will be apparent if more SI is appropriate and meaningful for you. You can do as many or as few of the 10 sessions as you wish.

What To Expect at a Session

Rolf sessions typically last about 70 minutes. It is important to wear comfortable clothing suitable for bodywork such as shorts and a sports bra. No lotions or oils are used in SI sessions, so please arrive to the session without these products on your skin. The first SI session will consist of taking a medical history and a visual assessment of your structure, both standing and in walking. Then we will get to work on the goals of the session. Most of the SI will take place on a wide bodywork table and a bench or chair. On follow-up appointments I ask for feedback about effects from the previous sessions. Further history may be discussed. I repeat my visual assessment of your structure, looking for changes and transitions. Sometimes SI movement education will be taught toward the end of the session. Verbal movement cues are offered and coordination exercises are taught to further anchor the Rolf changes into the movement brain.

Dr. Rolf said she was saddest about dying because she wouldn't get to play with the recipe anymore.  She said the recipe was the cumulation of her life work.  

Is the 10 sessions permanent change?   “Getting the 10 sessions is like taking a ford pinto and turning it into a Maserati”.  You can bang up the Maserati, but you will never be a Ford Pinto again no matter what you do".