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The “Magic” of Rolfing®Structural Integration

Whole political schisms have been created in the world of Ida Rolf’s structural integration by some of her students wanting to go more toward a Mystery School, and others of her students wanting to go toward Just Show Me The Science.  I love the Mystery School stuff, but I am clearly too grounded not to go to the Science side.  Some mornings I have to practically pull my feet up from their roots to get going.

It seems to me that there was even more of a mystery in the early days, and that much about the doing of the “hands-on” part of the work and our way of organizing the body is unexplained in our and our culture’s present science.

One of the mysteries that Ida Rolf tried to solve while she was still alive, though aging, was the matter of what actually happens with the hands-on nature of the work.

A bit of history: Ida Rolf , Ph.D., in her early days was a connective tissue scientist who had some 20 published papers on the properties of connective tissue.  Her work was done with non-living connective tissue:  dead tissue.  A lot of dead connective tissue is gristle.  In those days, dissectors did not have the advantage of disposable knife blades as we do now.  In 1987 an M.D. told me, “You can’t change connective tissue except with a scalpel!”.

Thus, Ida Rolf thought that one had to tear connective tissue to change the stuff.  This tearing not only lead to her first client getting up out of a wheelchair and walking (this client was not paralyzed, just in pain for several years), but to other “miracle” stories —-and to a ferocity of true stories about pain.  (Check out the movie, Semi-Tough, for a funny caricature of her.)

Toward the end of her life, Ida Rolf realized that she wasn’t tearing tissue as she was too weak to do so, but the tissue was changing anyway.  She assigned students to investigate this phenomenon, and one, a scientist,  came up with the idea of heat (the heat in one’s hands) and pressure changing the tissue from gel to sol, with a nod to the elastin fibers.

The stories told by her students who received work from her started to change.  They went from “I thought I would die for science” to another story, “Her hands were like a cloud.”  (Personal communications to me from the recipients of the work at these times.)

This still didn’t let her or anybody else know what was really going on when the tissue changed.

The acupuncturists among Rolfers have remarked on the congruence of Rolfing techniques with the acupuncture points unbeknownst to the Rolfer.  The piezo-electric effect has been muttered about.  Schleip at has some fascinating ideas about the nervous system and how to effect it.

Some twenty years before, Ida Rolf, who was of the generation to have studied Orientalism along with Korzybski, had been talking of possible channeling from Egypt!  She loved that stuff, and she loved Kabbalah.  She did a study with Valerie Hunt that measured the auras of the body before and after Rolfing.

If she had lived, I think she would have loved the Fascial Congress which has met twice now.  The Congress is taking baby steps toward knowing more about this fascinating fascia that she called the organ of form of the body.  I attended the first Fascial Congress, in Boston, and my response ranged from ah hah! to extended moments of dead brain from measurements of hacking up rabbits.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.  —-Linda

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Hello Linda. Thoroughly enjoyed your article (thoughts) and memories of Ida. This is the history of where we are and where we were. Amazing.

    1. Hi Bill, and thanks so much for the kind thoughts.
      As I was certified in 1984, age 40ish, I missed seeing Ida Rolf in person since she died in 1979; so I have no direct memories. One time I was hanging out with Jim Asher and told him that I was living in Boulder when I first started to have pain, 1967, and could have been Rolfed then! Instead of waiting until 1980! He thought for a moment, and said, nobody was there yet, we were all still in California.
      Anyway, what you are reading is thoughts of thoughts, a distillation through my experience.

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