What is Rolfing?

Rolfing Structural Integration is a unique and highly effective system of physical manipulation and movement education. It is the product of over 50 years of study by  Dr. Ida Rolf (1896-1979).

Dr. Rolf discovered that we function better when aligned with gravity and that our bodies can be brought into harmony with gravity at any age. Rolfing frees and re- positions the connective tissue. As a result, tension and habitual holding patterns are released, uncovering structural ease and balance within the body. Rolfing improves posture, alignment, body awareness, coordination and balance. It reduces chronic pain, increases efficiency and grace of movement and enhances athletic performance.

When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.
— Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

Rolfers are trained to analyze the human body like an engineer designs a bridge or a building. The human body is designed to be upright on two feet and walking. Gravity is a force that pulls down, and we rebound up against it. Injuries, imbalanced activities, sports, sitting, and inactivity can compromise our body's ideal balance. Rolfers are trained to see and identify patterns of imbalance and change them by manipulating the connective tissue (fascia).

Rob Miller during a Rolfing session with a client

Connective tissue surrounds every muscle fiber; it surrounds the muscles themselves, as well as groups of muscles. It is the tendons which hold the muscles to the bone. It is the ligaments which hold the bones to other bones. Your organs are wrapped in fascia and contained in compartments made of fascia. Your brain and spinal cord exist in a layer of connective tissue called the dura. And this extends to the peripheral nervous system where the nerves (ideally) glide in sheaths of fascia. Connective tissue is the stuff that is in between everything. It serves as the scaffolding of the body.

Dr. Rolf realized that collagen bonds, which make up fascia on the cellular level, can be easily broken by applying pressure. She devised a process of soft tissue manipulation which free fascial restrictions and brings the human being back into balance. Often when the body is in balance, pain and pathologies become manageable or disappear altogether.

What can you expect from a Rolfing session?

In a typical Rolfing session, the client stands in front of the Rolfer (wearing running shorts for men, shorts and sports bra for women) while the Rolfer assesses his or her posture from all views (front, back, and both sides) as well as walking. The Rolfer will have the client lie on the table and he will manipulate the client’s soft tissue by using pressure on targeted areas (areas of restriction) with his fingers, hands, knuckles, forearms, or elbows. A skilled Rolfer can accomplish the work without pain by respecting the speed of the tissues. The denser the tissue, the slower it moves. At Richmond Rolfing, the client is always in charge of the amount of pressure applied. Both practitioner and client are in constant communication during a session. It is typical for the Rolfer to ask the client to stand up many times during a session to check progress.

What happens after your Rolfing session?


After the session, the client’s body will go through a process called integration. Since the client’s body has more flexibility, there may be a sense that things are shifting around. The lower brain which sets all of the length in the muscles (tonus), finds the highest equilibrium possible. This takes anywhere from one hour to one week. Once integration is complete, the client is ready for the next session. Over a series of sessions, transformational change can happen.

Many clients express results such as greater ease in movement, relief from chronic pain, better coordination and balance, and a greater sense of awareness about their body.