About Ida P. Rolf, PhD

Dr. Ida P. Rolf  was born in 1896 in New York City. Her father was a civil engineer. From early childhood she had a marked swayback, and a pre-diabetic diagnosis. She went looking for answers to both these problems. She earned her undergraduate degree from Barnard College and then a PhD in Biological Chemistry from Columbia University. She then did biochemical research at Rockefeller University for 12 years, during which time she was also a serious student of tantric yoga, read the literature of the Osteopaths and married an electrical engineer. During World War II she relocated to Los Angeles to study with Amy Cochrane DO, and other Osteopaths. It was at this time she began to formulate her own work which she originally called Postural Release. During summers in the 1950s she taught her work in England, initially at the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, where she met and studied with additional Osteopaths. In 1964 Gestalt Therapy founder Fritz Perls invited Dr. Rolf to work and teach at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. It was here that she first had a significant number of students. During her years at Esalen she founded The Rolf Institute® and trained several teachers of Rolfing®, as well as over a hundred individual Rolfers™. Her Institute moved its headquarters to Boulder, Colorado in 1972. Ida Rolf died in 1979 in New Jersey.

Dr. Rolf Says it Best…

This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.

Some individuals may perceive their losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in their back, others as the unflattering contour of their body, others as constant fatigue, yet others as an unrelentingly threatening environment. Those over forty may call it old age. And yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem so prominent in their own structure, as well as others, that it has been ignored: they are off balance, they are at war with gravity.

We are not truly upright, we are only on our way to being upright. This is a metaphysical consideration. One of the jobs of a Rolfer is to speed that process along. We want to get a man out of the place where gravity is his enemy. We want to get him into the place where gravity reinforces him and is a friend, a nourishing force.

Rolfers make a life study of relating bodies and their fields to the earth and its gravity field, and we so organize the body that the gravity field can reinforce the body's energy field. This is our primary concept.

Rolfing can be like making your bed in the morning. You think you're going to get by without pulling that bed apart, so you pull up this cover and the next cover. When you get all the covers puffed up, you've got nine ridges running across the bed. Now you've got to go to a deeper layer and organize the deeper layer, and make your bed on top of that. Then you've got a made bed. Well it's the same with the body: you've got to organize those deeper layers.

... no situation exists in a human which a psychologist would diagnose as a feeling of insecurity or inadequacy unless it is accompanied by a physical situation which bears witness to the fact that the gravitational support is inadequate.

... there is an ongoing psychological change as well toward balance, toward serenity, toward a more whole person. The whole person evidences a more apparent, more potent psychic development.

Rolfing is permanent. As one student put it, after you're Rolfed you're like a Jaguar. No matter how long you drive a Jaguar, it's not going to turn into a Ford. That's a very good emotional answer. It's beautiful because it appeals to all levels.

Go around the problem; get the system sufficiently resilient so that it is able to change, and it will change, It doesn't have to be forced. It's that forcing that you have to avoid at all costs.

In every arthritic patient, the hip joint gets itself stuck and woven together and heaped up and then sore. You can say the guy has arthritis. You could better say that the guy's hip joint is just so heaped up he can't move. If the arthritis hasn't progressed too far, a Rolfer can get it out. If it has, chemical changes have taken place which will make the going much slower.

As people come to Rolfers with their aches and their pains, we can see where their bodies are literally offering blocks to the gravitational forces. The gravitational force is immense, and their resistance isn't much good except to close the body down, compress it. Sometimes the block has been put into the physical picture by a physical traumatic episode -- a fall down the cellar steps, out of a tree, out of a high chair, off a tricycle or bicycle, out of a speeding automobile, etc., etc. This block is in the actual structure, in the flesh of the body. Then there is the kind of block that is basically emotional. Little Jimmy loves Papa. Papa goes along bent over, so Jimmy goes along like that because this allows him to be Papa in his mind. And by and by Jimmy gets a set into his muscular body which he cannot let go of. To get it out, he has to have help.

I am dealing with problems in the body where there is never just one cause. I'd like you to have more reality on the circular processes that do not act in the body, but that are the body. The body process is not linear, it is circular; always, it is circular. One thing goes awry, and its effects go on and on and on and on. A body is a web, connecting everything with everything else.

Over and over again, people come to me, and they tell me, You just don't know how strong I am. They say "strength" and I want to hear "balance." The strength idea has effort in it; this is not what I'm looking for. Strength that has effort in it is not what you need; you need the strength that is the result of ease.

When the pelvis is not balanced, we do not have the upward thrust that creates zero balance, the sense of weightlessness that can be experienced in the body. When the pelvis is aberrated, it does not allow this equipoise, this tranquillity in experience that a balanced pelvis shows. The combined forces acting on a balanced pelvis are in a moment of inertia near zero. It is always in dynamic action, but the forces balance out to near zero.

This is an important concept: that practitioners are integrating something; we are not restoring something. This puts us in a different class from all other therapists that I know of. It takes us out of the domain designated by the word "therapy," and puts us in the domain designated by the word "education." It puts our thinking into education: how can we use these ideas behind Structural Integration? How do we put a body together so that it's a unit, an acting, energy efficient unit? One of the differences between Structural Integration Practitioners and practitioners of medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, etc., is that the latter are all relieving symptoms. They make no effort to put together elements into a more efficient energy system.

From the first day we see a client, we are putting him together, we are integrating him. We integrate him at the end of his first hour, at the end of his second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. At every hour before that man or that woman walks out the door, we should have integrated him to the place where he has the best, most efficient use of his system that he can have at that level. At the end of the eighth hour he should certainly have an efficient use of a higher level of operation than he had at the end of the seventh hour or at the end of the second hour. If, in our presentation to the world, enough stress can be laid on this, we will have a certain amount of publicity indicating that we are less therapists than we are educationists. I am not hiding behind a bunch of words here. This is what I mean, this is my goal: an educational process.

An Important Early Article by Dr. Ida P. Rolf

Gravity, An Unexplored Factor in a More Human Use of Human Beings.