What is Rolf Structural Integration and how does it work?

Marcela cropped Hand with bookRolf Structural Integration (RSI) originated with Dr. Ida P. Rolf and is a system of body education and tissue manipulation that recognizes the relationship between gravity and the human body.  RSI systematically releases barriers and restrictions that inhibit efficient movement. Through the RSI series a persons “myo-fascial body” is reorganized and integrated within the gravitational field around the idea of a central vertical axis.

SI releases the body segments – legs, torso, arms, etc. – from life long patterns of tension and bracing, permitting gravity to realign them.  By doing so, your body becomes more efficient and delightfully enjoyable.

Practically speaking RSI can be described as follows:

Classically, SI is brief and goal oriented, utilizing a model of ten systematically and individually applied sessions.  What I love about the ten session model is it allows me to be systematic and thorough, thereby minimizing blind spots.

The sessions start with a focus on your foundation and the superficial layers in sessions 1 – 3, proceed to the deeper layers in sessions 4 – 6, refocus on the middle layers in sessions 7 to 9 and complete with integration of your body in session 10.

Each session has a specific set of goals and objectives that are individually applied – based on a client’s lifestyle, history, and needs.

Each session is one to one and a half hours in length and is generally scheduled one week apart.

Upon the completion of the basic ten sessions clients will decide to wait or continue to receive sessions as needed.

It is also possible to schedule two to three sessions and work on specific issues.

Theories of Structural Integration

Most humans are significantly out of alignment with gravity.

Humans function better when we are lined up with the earth’s’ gravitational field (think upright or vertical).

The human body is plastic or changeable, such that alignment is possible at any age.

Structure and function are bi-directional.  A change in one must entail a change in the other.Bruce hands with Chips foot cropped

The result of an “organized/vertical” (vs. “random”) body is less stress due to disorganization, more efficient use of energy, increase in the energy available for activities of daily living (ADL) along with emotional and creative expression.

Gravity (and lifestyle) are the primary determinant of body shape and posture.

Changes in muscle or bone are never solely local events, they have a systematic impact on a person’s structure through the connective tissue network and the gravitational field.

When a joint is properly balanced – an individual experiences an internal sense of “rightness” – that its’ parts are aligned along true planes of movement.

Through a systems theory approach all the significant barriers and restrictions to efficient movement will be identified and released.  This will then be followed by tissue reorganization and integration of the body parts into a cohesive whole.  The results of this approach will be a higher state of health, more efficiency in movement and a heightened sense of well being.

How does it work?

We believe that connective tissue determines your structure – as opposed to your bones.  Bones behave as “spacers” imbedded in a connective tissue web or matrix.  When connective tissue changes (softens and lengthens) the position of your bones will change.

Manual pressure changes connective tissue via a process called thixotropy.  Thixotropy describes how physical materials known as “gels” – such as connective tissue – change state.   Gels change state on a continuum (between being “solid” and “liquid”) with the addition of pressure and/or heat. (This is the best description to date of what takes place phenomenologically in bodies as a result of SI.)lower ceramic spine


This type of work was originally called Structural Integration by Dr. Ida P. Rolf its founder, then became Rolfing (a term now “owned” by the Rolf Institute and purported to have originated from Fritz Perls at Esalon) and now is collectively called Rolf Structural Integration.



The two main branches of training in Rolf Structural Integration are:

The Guild for Structural Integration   http://www.rolfguild.org

The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration   http://www.rolf.org

Some others are…

Hellerwork Structural Integration  http://www.hellerwork.com

KMI: Kinesis Myofascial Integration  http://www.anatomytrains.com/kmi

And there are more still…