Rolfing, also called Rolf therapy or structural integration, is a holistic system of bodywork that uses deep manipulation of the body's soft tissue to realign and balance the body's myofascial structure. Rolfing improves posture, relieves chronic pain, and reduces stress.
Ida Pauline Rolf (1896–1979) was a biochemist from New York who developed structural integration over the course of many years after an accident as a young woman. She was kicked by a horse's hoof on a trip out West and developed symptoms resembling those of acutepneumonia. She made her way to a hospital in Montana, where she was treated by a physician who called in an osteopath to assist in her treatment. After the osteopath treated her, she was able to breathe normally. After her return to New York, her mother took her to a blind osteopath for further treatment. He taught her about the body's structure and function, after which Rolf became dissatisfied with conventional medical treatment. Following completion of a doctorate in biochemistry from Columbia University in 1920, Rolf studied atomic physics, mathematics, and homeopathic medicine in Europe. After 1928, when her father died and left her an inheritance that allowed her to pursue her own studies, she explored various forms of alternative treatment, including osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, tantric yoga, the Alexander technique of tension reduction through body movement, and Alfred Korzybski's philosophy of altered states of consciousness.
By 1940, Rolf had synthesized what she had learned from these various disciplines into her own technique of body movement that she called structural integration, which later became known as Rolfing. During the Second World War, Rolf continued to study with an osteopath in California named Amy Cochran. In the mid-1960s, Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls invited Rolf to Esalen, where she began to develop a following among people involved in the human potential movement. In 1977, she published Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures, the definitive book on structural integration bodywork. She continued to refine the therapy until her death in 1979. Rolf's work is carried on through her Guild for Structural Integration, now known as the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, which she founded in 1971 in Boulder, Colorado.
Ken R. Wells, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,