Structural Integration Rolf Method of Structural Integration
Marion S. Stone

What is Structural Integration?

Dr. Ida P. Rolf, the founder of this work, named her work Structural Integration. Her work is also commonly known as Rolfing, a nickname that was coined in the 1960's when she was teaching her work at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

Structural Integration is a form of work that assists the human body in moving to a place of better balance, better organization, and greater overall freedom and wholeness.

Marion S. Stone

Structural Integration is a scientifically validated process of restructuring the body through movement, touch, and education.  The field of gravity is an unseen force that is consistently interacting with the human body -- Structural Integration aims to re-educate the human body so that it lives and moves in harmony within the field of gravity rather than being at war with gravity.

If you can imagine how it feels to have a fluid, light, balanced body, free of pain, stiffness, chronic stress, at ease with itself and the earth's gravitational field, then you will understand the goals of Structural Integration.

If you have ever succeeded in balancing a broomstick in the palm of your hand then you know what it feels like when the broomstick and gravity are in harmony.  The broomstick is balanced on its vertical axis and it feels almost weightless.  However, as soon as the broomstick gets out of balance, you feel it's weight and you must make movements to compensate for the imbalance and effort to reestablish balance.

The same scenario can be applied to the human body.  When the segments of our body are balanced around a central vertical axis, gravity can flow through the body and we are at ease in our body.  When imbalance, or misalignment exists, the body must make compensations in order to keep itself upright.  Where our body compensates is in the soft tissue, specifically in the myofascial system or connective tissue.  The misalignment creates chronic strain within this soft tissue network. The effect of a strain within the layers of connective tissue is similar to pulling on a knit sweater. A tug in one section affects the whole fabric.

Harmony with gravity enables that medium to become a supporting and energizing factor. As the fish is supported and lifted by the water, so we as human can be supported and lifted by gravity.

What is connective tissue?

Fascia, or connective tissue, is considered the "organ of form" in the body.  It is a very tough, strong, and fibrous tissue in the body.  All of our muscles, organs, nerves, and blood vessels are ensheathed in connective tissue. 

Tendons and ligaments, the pulleys and levers of the body, are made up of connective tissue.  When connective tissue is healthy it is pliable and elastic, it allows the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to shorten and lengthen with flexibility. 

When imbalances exist within the body, the health of the connective tissue is effected. 

Unhealthy connective tissue is thicker, harder and much less resilient.  It becomes dehydrated and it shortens - this significantly effects how our muscles and joints function, and ultimately how we feel. 

Chronic pain neck aches, back aches, stiffness and discomfort in the body are often the result these structural imbalances.

Ron Thompson

The interesting thing about connective tissue is that it has the unique ability to change form.  It has a plastic like quality.  Heat and pressure from the practitioner's hands, combined with the intention of creating positive change in the tissue, softens, opens and lengthens the connective tissue.

Tension and stress that has been held in the tissue begins to melt beneath the practitioner's hands.

How does Structural Integration work?

By creating length and space within the soft tissue through gentle pressure and touch, we give the body the room and freedom it needs to align itself. The practitioner facilitates the release of old held patterns in the body that may have been the result of past injury, illness, physical or emotional trauma. Even the stress of daily living, or slouching in front of a computer for six hours a day is enough to create unhealthy/unbalanced patterns in our structure. 

To give an example, when we sprain an ankle, the first thing we do is change our movement pattern in order to favor the injured side.  We compensate by shifting our weight to the uninjured side.  This changes how gravity flows through our structure as well as changing the flow of energy, blood, lymph, and neural information throughout the entire system.  These patterns remains in the soft tissue memory long after the ankle heals, affecting both our structure and function. 

By releasing old patterns like the one described, we can re-educate the body.  We create more options.  If it feels uncomfortable or exhausting to sit up straight, we release those soft tissue patterns that "hold our shoulders down".  We still have the choice to slump, but when we release those restrictive patterns we now also have the option of sitting comfortably with better posture.  We re-educate the body so that we utilize our energy much more efficiently.

What are the benefits of Structural Integration?

  • Often people feel lighter and more energetic.
  • Some people will grow taller as rotations in the body begin to unwind. 
  • People often appear slimmer and feel more balanced. 
  • Chronic aches and pains are reduced and often alleviated, and movement feels more fluid and flexible. 
  • As we begin to view the world from a more stable and balanced structure, we gain self confidence and the environment appears less threatening. 
  • As our body becomes more flexible and open, so does our mind -- we approach life from a less rigid standpoint.

Credits: *1 drawing from page 33, *2 drawing from page 39, *3 photo from page 213,
Rolfing-Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being, 1977, Dr. Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.


Marion S. Stone
Rolf Method of Structural Integration

Asheville, North Carolina, USA

(828) 232-0167

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