Rolfing: Ten Hours That Will Change Your Life

Ten Years of Sciatica: Gone In Ten Sessions

I don’t remember when the sciatica started, but I know that I had suffered from it for at least ten years by 1999. By that time it was almost nightly and painful. Every night I put pillows under my knees, or between my legs. I tried not to take Ibuprofin every night, but was having to do it more and more. I had a great chiropractor, but even his work wasn’t helping.

One day Marsha, a local Rolfer, came to do a talk about Rolfing at my psychiatric practice. I was intrigued and gave it a try, not knowing what to expect. Well, among other things the sciatica went! Its nine years later, I have had a major car accident that resulted in a broken neck, but the sciatica is gone. And that isn’t even talking about the lengthening in my arms, the easiness of movement.

I am sure there are other benefits and results, but that is the big one and it was worth every minute of Rolfing and every dime I spent. I remember Marsha explaining a lot of the work to me as she did it. But I still really didn’t know what it was about.

I do know that I have been singing the praises of Rolfing since I had mine. I have recommended it to dozens of people. My goals here are

1. to learn more about the process myself

2. to help others learn about it

3. to encourage people to try Rolfing for themselves and their health.

The Structural Integration Known As Rolfing

“Rolfing, also known as structural integration, is a form of bodywork named after Dr. Ida Rolf, a biochemist who was influenced by osteopathy, physical therapy, and yoga.

The goal of Rolfing is to improve health by bringing segments of the body (e.g. pelvis, legs) into proper alignment.

Rolfing is based on the idea that fascia–the fibrous layers covering muscles–stiffens, shortens, and loses its elasticity after prolonged poor posture and mental and emotional stress.”

Rolfing uses gravity. By not fighting gravity, it actually helps gravity support your body with ease. We are so used to thinking of gravity as the enemy of our continued youthfulness, that it is difficult to conceive of it as something that could be helpful. However, that is exactly what it happens. See the quote from Ida Rolf below, and definitely call a local practitioner and talk with that person about this. You won’t be sorry.

Ida P. Rolf

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.

Ida Rolf Talks About Her Work


The First Three Sessions

I remember walking around in my underwear before, during and after a session. Marsha would study me copiously, deciding how to handle what a needed during a particular session.

Session 1. Opens up the lungs for fuller breathe. The tissues that affect breathing are manipulated and retrained. Neck and body work continues in other sessions, but this is the foundation.

Session 2. Aligns the foundation. The work focuses on feet, lower legs and knees. Foot problems are tackled. A sense of better balance is usually the result of this session.

Session 3. This session concentrates on the sides and bringing the upper and lower parts of the body into better co-operation.

Rolfing Session 1, 2 and 3

The Next Three Sessions

At one of the sessions, after she had done some work, on my left side, it must have been session 3, Marsha had me walk around. She asked me how I felt. I said, “This sounds crazy, but it feels like by left arm is longer than my right”. She had be stand in front of a mirror, and sure enough…it works!

Session 4. This goes back to the legs, working on the insides to give the feeling that that the legs are truly supporting the core and lifting the upper body.

Session 5. This continues the work is done in 4 by working the front of the hips as well as the abdomen, diaphragm, and ribs. This session opens the front of the body and provides a new dimension of lift up the core.

Session 6. This session works on the back to balance the work done on the front.

Session 7

One of the questions that people ask is, “Does Rolfing hurt?” Well, it can, but remember that that is temporary. Marsha used exercise balls that helped ease the discomfort.

Session 7. The next session is about shoulders, neck, jaw and related areas. It covers those areas that collect tension. This helps people feel that ‘their head is attached’. 

Ida P. Rolf:

Strength that has effort in it is not what you need; you need the strength that is the result of ease.

The Last Three Integration Sessions

I was finished after 10 sessions. As you can see the sessions are structured and set. There are no ongoing forever sessions. One can get brush up sessions, it was recommended to me that that might be appropriate in 10 years. Some people get them more often.

Session 8. works with the legs to get it integrated with the whole body.

Session 9 concentrates on the upper body integration with the entire body.

Session 10. The final integration. This is about smoothing the facial tissues and bringing the body together.


Ida P. Rolf 1896-1979  Dr. Ida P Rolf

Ida Rolf was a highly educated woman, especially for her time. By 1920 she had a PhD. in biological chemistry from Columbia. The stamina, drive and determination that it took for anyone, let alone a woman at that time, foretold the kind of life that could develop something as powerful and innovative as Rolfing.

She also studied math and atomic physics in Zurich. She managed to learn the basics of homeopathic medicine in Geneva.

After she returned from Europe she spent much of the 30’s working on solutions to personal and family medical problems. She was not happy with the medicine of the day and used her education and experience to search for alternatives. She threw herself into learning other methods of healing from osteopathy to chiropractic to yoga and the Alexander technique as well as Korzybski’s states of consciousness work.

She had developed a following by the 40’s. Although committed scientist, she realized that much of her progress came from intuition. She spent a lot of time working with chronically disabled people. Through this she came to Structural Integration, her prime contribution to health. She spent the rest of her life perfecting and further developing her methods and techniques.

She was invited to England to work there and eventually to Esalen Institute in California at the suggestion of Fritz Perls the founder of Gestalt Therapy. It was t here that she taught her first Structural Integration classes. 

The demand for the training increased. A Guild from formed in 1967 that was headquartered in Bolder, Colorado.

Her first book was Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures (Harper and Row, Publishers). and she continued to dedicate herself to training those who would continue her work after her death. This book is the major written statement of Ida P. Rolf’s scholastic and experiential investigation into the direct intervention with the evolution of the human species.

10 hours that will change your life!

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About Ali Grabel

Ali Grabel is an Experienced, Compassionate Presence Specializing in Transformation. ~ Advanced Rolf Practitioner ~ She studied for 6 + years on Kauai, Hawaii with Emmett Hutchinson, one of Ida Rolf’s first anointed teachers.


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