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What is Rolfing Structural Integration?

Structural Integration is a system of movement education and hands-on physical manipulation developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf.  It releases stress, strain and tension held in the physical structures of the body. These structures include connective tissue, muscle, organs, the brain and nervous system.  Rolfing improves coordination and range of motion, thereby changing movement patterns to be more efficient and in alignment with gravity.  As the body and mind become more integrated energy that has been bound within it is released, leading to greater feelings of freedom both physically and emotionally.  Many people notice psychological growth as the emotional history that is stored in their bodies is released. 

How does structural integration (SI) work?

SI works systematically on the body’s network of connective tissue.  The work is slow and gentle, using 75-90 minute sessions. In the session the therapist and client work together to notice patterns in the client's body.  The therapist will help the client notice these patterns and suggest ways to find greater ease in their body. The therapist will use manual therapy (hands-on bodywork) on the the fascia, the nerves, the viscera, the muscular system, and nervous system to release these tension patterns.  


Both through contact and education rolfing aims to advance the body’s sensory and motor mapping.  The body’s maps of itself are the basis for its motor patterns (ie movement patterns). Because of tension and stress or trauma certain places in our bodies become hard to map and are  thus unavailable to us to inhabit. in these places we often are less coordinated and lose full range of motion.  Structural integration is a way of consciously changing  patterns of automatic movement. The change of the automatic patterning thus comes comes through a combination of rolfing movement education and conscious sensing of the body during the manual therapy sessions. 


For more information on restoring movement patterns see the section on  Structural fitness 


What does a session of Rolfing Structural Integration (RSI) feel like?   


The work evokes a wide spectrum of sensations which could include warmth, pressure, a lengthening or stretching feeling in the tissue. Some parts of the RSI process may feel intense but is always aimed to meet you where you can relax deeply into the sensation. The client is in charge of how intense the session is and communication is emphasized. A session is a gift to yourself, something to look forward to!


There is a good chance I will work with you on the Gyrotonic equipment to take a deeper dive into your movement patterning and ways to find greater ease. 


How many sessions?

There are 3 different modes I have found successful.  


1: An efficient approach to resolving chronic pain.  This perhaps wouldn’t be considered traditional structural integration, and is more for people on a budget, and is basically doing whatever is necessary to get a person out of pain in as short of time as possible, generally 1-5 sessions.  This usually leads to one of the other two modes:


2: The ten series.  The traditional Rolfing structural integration ten series is a systematic approach to addressing the whole body over ten sessions.  


3:  Ongoing education and therapy: in my practice this is most common.  People get so much out of our sessions that they will come in weekly or every other week for an extended period of time, sometimes years.  With these clients we are able to dive deeper into their patterning and work with evolving their movement and coordination vocabulary.  As a recipient of this work, I experience it as making me in a way physiologically younger, life has a tendency to layer tension as the days go on, and having regular opportunities to let go of tension helps keep me functioning optimally.  


I personally like to start by checking in about any chronic pain.  If a client has chronic pain I will work with the affected areas for 4-5 sessions, which in most cases is enough to resolve the pain, even many long standing cases.  After that assessing whether to do a whole body series or if we are still in a remedial phase, working with patterning that is a result of injury or repetitive motions.  


Once the majority of the pain has been dealt with I like to then zoom out and do a more traditional Rolfing Ten Series.  In this process we will devote time to each joint in the body, assessing relationships with other joints, Range of Motion, compensatory patterns and coordination.  

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