Way back when I heard about Rolfing, it sounded like an interesting form of massage that really made a lasting difference. So, what is Rolfing and why is it actually different than massage? In a nutshell, Rolfing is a technique that works on your connective tissue that can be an opportunity to reset your muscles/flexibility and get a fresh start. Doesn’t that sound like the best thing? Getting a reset on all those bad habits that gave you bad posture, bad flexibility, aches and pains! The only catch was that I heard Rolfing was painful. I’m writing about Rolfing now because two things have significantly changed in the last 20+ years.
- As a society, we have had a huge decline in posture, especially young people. Awesome technical advances like computers and cell phones have taken their toll. Rolfing can help that.
- Rolfing changed into a kinder, gentler technique that achieves results without pain.
What is Rolfing?
Over time we get less flexible, less fluid or stuck. Think of a baby or a toddler that naturally has perfect posture and flexibly in spades. As we get older, as early as our teens, we start to get stuck in our typical movement patterns. If we slouch, it becomes harder to straighten up. If we stop stretching regularly, we get to the point where we can’t touch our toes. Rolfing restores that mobility and loosens things up to give our bodies a better range of motion.
The Rolfing Method is essentially a form of massage that realigns the connective tissues in your body, called fascia. Coined by its creator, Dr Ida P. Rolf, Rolfing acts as a release method on your body. It allows the body to reconnect to its natural shape to allow more flexibility.
Rolfing is similar to what we are doing with foam rollers before and after exercise, which is myofascial self-release. We find spots that hurt and roll them out. The difference is that the foam roller can only take you so far since we generally don’t know what we’re doing with them and it’s not possible to reach all the places that need to be released. An experienced rolfer finds those points in your body over an initial course of 10 sessions to release them. After that period of time, they can continue to work with you to restore balance and health to your body.
More About Fascia
Fascia is the soft tissue component that is a part of our connective tissue. It runs through the entire body structure. Essentially, it’s like the casing around our connective tissue and muscles. Rolfing manipulates the fascia to create balance in the body.
Originally, fascia was not considered a major factor of chronic back and body pain. However, there was a significant change in research and doctors and scientists concluded that a majority of back pain starts with the fascia. It’s now considered one of the most important sensory organs. When it comes to having good health and decreasing pain, the goal is to strengthen and stimulate the fascia. Rolfing, unlike deep tissue massage which targets muscles, stimulates the fascia. With a stimulated fascia your muscles will work more efficiently, you will have a shorter recovery time after injury, your coordination and performance will improve, as well as your posture.
My Rolfing Experience
I ended up with some injuries from rowing and needed help for shoulder pain and tight hip flexors. I found advanced rolfer, Bob Alonzi in Santa Monica that explained the process and how it could help me. Bob made me feel very comfortable and the treatment was surprisingly collaborative. He would explain what he was doing and when there were trouble areas, he would focus on restoring proper mobility.
I was treated by Bob for a series of 10 sessions which are explained below. This is the initial Rolfing series. Some of the treatments were subtle and uneventful. Others created an immediate difference, like the work around my ribs that helped me breathe more deeply. Over time, I noticed that I was much more opened up and much more aware of the way I was carrying my body. I really became present to the things I did on a daily basis that were contributing to aches and pains.
After our 10 sessions were up, I was traveling for a month and I really noticed that I felt so much better when I was doing Rolfing. I felt more open, my posture felt better and my body felt healthier. For me, it seems to come down to flexibility. When my muscles were so tight, it was hard to get back to that more flexible state. Going forward, I think the perfect solution is to continue Rolfing in conjunction with Pilates or Yoga to maintain the results.
Who/What does Rolfing help?
- People with chronic pain or injuries from car accidents: Some of the most interesting work in Rolfing because this is the group of people that are suffering on a daily basis and have tried almost everything to get relief. Rolfing is not an overnight miracle but can make a significant difference over time.
- Athletes for injury prevention, recovery and to improve performance: Athletes have great results with Rolfing because it helps them avoid overuse injuries. It breaks down scar tissue, releases tight muscles and improves range of motion.
- Those with bad posture, stiffness and muscle imbalances: Most of the time, we experience pain because of years of bad habits. Rolfing unravels the areas in the fascia that leave people feeling stuck or tight in areas. Left untreated, these problems can lead to injuries like my shoulder, back problems, hip issues, knee issues, etc…
- People with Scoliosis: Rolfing adjusts the alignment to relieve discomfort and ultimately avoid more serious intervention if the scoliosis is left untreated.
The Rolfing 10 Sessions
Rolfing starts with an initial series of 10 visits. Depending on the severity of your situation, you can extend beyond those visits to gain further results. With Rolfing, you can see a change in energy, attitude, stress level, posture, and structure. Some people experience a shift in their emotions, energy when areas are unblocked because emotions can get stuck in your muscle memory.
- Sessions 1-3: The initial sessions work to loosen and balance the surface layer. A majority of the time focuses on opening up the upper leg, hamstring, neck, and spine. The third session addresses the “side view” of the upper body and hips.
- Sessions 4-7: The “core” sessions focus on the pelvis and the head. It also focuses on the deep tissue in the legs as they provide support. They focus on finding your balance and support in your body.
- Sessions 8-10: The “integration” sessions blend everything from the first seven sessions and combine it with the news ones to find a natural and balanced coordination. During the 8th and 9th session, the practitioner, develops a unique step based on your body and its progress to reach integration.
- The final session is where you achieve complete balance and order. You will see and feel the new benefits. After the final session, you can continue with Rolfing to treat areas that cause more issues.
Rolfing was a totally new experience for me and I’m so glad I incorporated it into my life. Feeling good makes life good. If you are looking for other health and fitness articles to feel your absolute best, and want to see the other things I do, click here.