Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ida Rolf: Body Mind Spirit Pioneer

Ida Rolf obtained her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1922. By the mid-1950s Rolf had developed a method for realigning the human structure in relation to gravity, originally called the Structural Integration of the Human Body, but commonly referred to as “Rolfing.”

The Lomi (body mind spirit) School curriculum included Rolf’s bodywork program because it provided an excellent way to break up the emotional armoring in the muscles and connective tissues by employing deep-tissue massage. These techniques realigned the body’s posture, muscles and bones and had the effect of unifying body mind spirit.

According to Rolf, bound-up connective tissue or “fascia” restricted opposing muscles from functioning independently from each other. She claimed she could separate the bound-up fascia by separating the fibers manually through her technique and then re-engaging effective movement patterns. Adequate knowledge of living anatomy and hands-on training were required, Rolf said, in order for a practitioner to safely negotiate appropriate techniques and the depths necessary to loosen the bound-up fascia.

Rolfing involved a series of ten bodywork sessions. The therapist photographed the patient’s body before the first session, assessing posture and imbalances. Each session focused on a different part of the body, with the first session devoted to the chest in order to open and relax the patient’s breathing. Next the therapist worked to build a solid “foundation” by focusing on the feet, ankles and legs.

Once these stabilized the therapist turned to the pelvis to create a solid base for the torso and arms. Later the head was “put on straight.” Final photographs revealed the changes in posture. You could see, as well as feel, the physical benefits of this work. After the muscles, tissues and bones had settled for a period of time, the patient could schedule five advanced sessions or the occasional “tune up.”

As Ida Rolf worked with people, she discovered a link between muscle tension and suppressed emotion. When muscle tension was released, she found that some people experienced "flashback" memories of the original situations that first caused the need to tense the muscles. A sudden release of the trapped emotion cleared the need for the tension to be held by the tissues. As a result, Rolf said, the body returned to a more natural posture. The body mind spirit wisdom could the integrate.

Both The Rolf Institute and the Guild for Structural Integration, continue to teach Rolf’s method, and many other groups which offer deep-tissue bodywork trace their lineage to Rolfing as their source of body mind spirit bodywork.
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