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ROLFING BY PHIL AHN
WHAT IS ROLFING?
Rolfing is a scientific and organized system of manipulating the muscles in the body to their correct positions. Rolfing is a controlled approach within the general field of structural integration. Rolfing was originally called "structural integration." Some people still use the words, structural integration, instead of Rolfing (www.smart.net/~astro/define.html). Developed by Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D., this practice includes the process of teaching the body how to move by manipulating the body. People that are involved in Rolfing believe that the versatility and harmony of the body has to do with how the body deals with the field of gravity. Gravity is the most powerful force that affects the human body. The goal is to balance the body, and the main objective is to be in harmony with the body (www.lyrisys.com/LinSilver/). Rolfing restructures and educates the body to move in a specific manner. It releases the tension in the tissues which hold the bones and organs together to let the body re-align or balance itself with the force of gravity. Since Rolfing gives the body a better balance, it takes less energy to fight against gravity. It re-educates the body's movement patterns. Movement in the body becomes simpler and there is an improvement in daily functions (www.igrin.co.nz/business/rolfing2.htm).
In the 1930's and 1940's, Dr. Ida P. Rolf was a biochemist who studied the movement and function of the corrective tissue. Fifty years ago, Dr. Rolf named her work structural integration, but today it is known as Rolfing. She was interested in finding out about long-term contractions by pointing out the faults of the muscle tissues. She had a son that was ill and no doctor could find the cure. Then, she realized that the problem was within her son's body. The internal organs were being compressed. She started to massage her son, and the pain her son was feeling began to disappear (www.concentric.net/~wkaye/HistoryPage.html). Dr. Rolf worked in creating a holistic system of manipulating the tissues and educating the body's movement in symmetry with gravity. She found that by guiding the body's system with posturing and structuring, people could begin to feel changes in their body. Rolfing was the nickname that was given after the founder, Dr. Ida Rolf (www.rolf.org/intro.html). After giving many lectures and writing many books, she founded the Rolf Institute to teach others the concept of Rolfing (www.concentric.net/~wkaye/HistoryPage.html).
HOW DOES ROLFING WORK?
The main goal in Rolfing is to align the body to its original state. Rolfing moves the body's major muscles - head, shoulders, arms, chest, pelvis, and legs - into a vertical alignment with gravity. The technique of Rolfing loosens straining muscles of the fascia, the body's "organ of structure." Trauma or stress causes the fascia to become less flexible which makes it more difficult for the body to move the muscles. The Rolfer works to restore the memory, movement, and flexibility of the muscle (www.pathwaysde.com/rolfing.html). When a muscle is in unbalance, the body compensates for the unbalance by adjusting to the new setting. They begin to learn the new setting as normal and develop long-range effects. The muscles memorize or learn the patterns and what their new purpose is suppose to be. If they are memorizing the wrong motion of muscles, than the body becomes unbalanced (www.rolfguild.org/wisi.html). The muscles in the body communicate with each other to function normally. When one muscle contracts, the other must extend to obtain the equilibrium. When one muscle gets injured, the rest of the body must compensate for the shortening of the fascia. The main goal of Rolfing is to concentrate on loosening the shortened fascia and permitting the body's muscle to balance itself out. When everything is systematic, the muscles in the body are lifted up by gravity and align the segments in the body (www.igrin.co.nz/business/rolfing3.htm). Rolfing lengthens the tissues in the muscle and coagulated tissues become loose and soft. This allows the tissue to become more limber and pliant. Then, the body feels the unbalance and compensates by re-aligning the body (www.rolfguild.org/wisi.html).
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
There are many given benefits for getting Rolfing done on someone's body. Rolfing can possibly give people many improvements in their life. People that have had Rolfing done can breathe easier and have improved flexibility. Another profit is that Rolfing can correct people's posture and align their body. Rolfing can reduce pain in many muscles as well as relieving headaches and tension (www.foundus.com/bodyline/). The body will move and respond smoothly and effectively. People will feel a physiological improvement. People feel like everything is working perfectly. They don't feel any discomfort and the body no longer has to worry about compensating for imbalance. When the body is balanced, the gravity works as a support. However, when the body is unbalanced, the gravity is working against the body. Another improvement comes in the sense of well being (www.lyrisys.com/LinSilver/). Feeling unbalanced means that people's feelings will change. They react to the imbalance that gives them a sense of pressure. If the body is functioning properly, the mental state is not bothered with worrying about the body. They can just relax and enjoy life. The body becomes more aware of its surroundings and environment (www.concentric.net/~wkaye/ResultsPage.html). In society today, Rolfing is used as an aid to treat in the field of psychotherapy and physical therapy. Rolfing is becoming more popular than people perceive (www.io-online.com/rolfing/). The energy level of the patient's body increases proportionately to the body's well being. If the body has no pain and is in symmetry with gravity, than the person will have more energy because of the energy the person is not exerting to fight gravity (www.biznet.com.blacksburg.va.us/~rolfer/rolf10.html).
HOW DOES ROLFING FEEL?
There can be several feelings that people can expect from Rolfing. People may perceive Rolfing as a massage and consider it a pleasurable time. Others may feel momentary pain depending on if they had really bad injuries due to chronic stress. Some people might not even feel a thing. It all depends on the person and how disproportional he really has become (www.igrin.co.nz/business/rolfing6.htm). People who experience a strong feeling during Rolfing because of old injuries usually feel much better after their sessions. They may hurt for several minutes, but they get the relief that they have been looking for (www.concentric.net/~wkaye/PainPage.html).
DOES ROLFING LAST?
The simple answer to that question is "YES." There is proof. There has been research with photographs to prove the improvement in the structure of human beings after going through Rolfing. The body's structure and muscle movement keeps improving with time. People will see the difference in walking, breathing, or just having more energy. A person may change their entire lifestyle after undergoing Rolfing (www.foundus.com/bodyline/info.htm). It has a huge impact on people. However, as bodies change, people may obtain injuries or other mishaps that need additional treatment. Rolfing is not the answer to everything, but it can improve anyone's life (www.biznet.com.blacksburg.va.us/~rolfer/rolf10.html).
PRESENTORS OF ROLFING!
During my research and writing this summary about Rolfing, I have found out that most of the articles in the Internet are advertisements. Even though the Internet gives good information about Rolfing, there seem to be a publication that tells viewers where to go to find a Rolfer. Doctors that perform Rolfing wrote most of the information that I found. I researched information that was useful; however, at the end, there was an office phone number for people to call if they wanted any Rolfing done. I perceived the articles to be very informative. I also felt that I was being sold a product because of all the names of doctors and their phone numbers. The main reason that I think these Internet addresses are advertisements are because they do not give any studies that anyone has done.
RESEARCH AND CASE STUDIES!
There was one case study on the effects of structural integration on state-trait anxiety. Structural integration is another name for Rolfing. Weinberg and Hunt took 48 volunteer students from universities around the Los Angeles area. Ss were randomly assigned to the 48 volunteer students. They were assigned to an experimental group (Rolfing) or a control group. There were 24 members in each group consisting of 12 men and 12 women. When the students entered the laboratory they were asked to relax for five minutes. Then, they were given state anxiety and trait anxiety questionnaires. The students were hooked up on four sets of muscles with bipolar electrodes. Electromyographic readings were taken during five activities - lying, throwing, lifting a stool, jogging, and stepping up on a stool - to represent the daily activities that involve motor activity of arm, trunk, and leg muscles. These activities were used to determine the effect of Rolfing on the neuromuscular patterning of energy. After the end of the experiment, Ss were given a second state anxiety questionnaire.
During the 5 weeks, Ss in the experimental group were rolfed twice a week. Each session lasted about 1 hour. Control Ss, instead of being rolfed, they were brought into the lab twice a week during the 5 weeks to exercise a series of movements. Control Ss were told that this would increase their physical well being. This was done to give equal attention to both groups. After the 5 week experiment, the experimental and control Ss were brought back into the lab. Each student met individually and was administered state anxiety questionnaires and the electromyographic recordings. The only difference being that no trait anxiety measures were established. In summary, there were four state anxiety questionnaires, two administered before Rolfing, both pre- and post-instrumentation, and two after Rolfing, both pre- and post-instrumentation.
It is necessary to determine whether the experimental and control groups differed in trait anxiety in order to assess state anxiety differences. The results of the experiment showed that there were no significant differences between the two groups. Therefore, we would not expect differential elevations in state anxiety based on the measure of trait anxiety. Group differences were analyzed with three dependant variables using different combinations of the four state anxiety test scores. The first variable was a measure of average state anxiety for each group over the entire experiment. The second variable measured to see if there were group differences between the pre- and post-instrumentation settings. The third and final variable was used to determine whether there were group differences in state anxiety from before to after Rolfing. This was the key variable in testing out the hypothesis. To test for the significance of the third variable, average state anxiety before Rolfing was used as the covariate. Meanwhile, the state anxiety after Rolfing was the dependent variable.
MEANS FOR STATE ANXIETY SCORES
BEFORE ROLFING PRE-INSTRUMENTATION POST-INSTRUMENTATION
Control 34.5 30.8
Experimental 38.5 34.9
AFTER ROLFING PRE-INSTUMENTATION POST-INSTRUMENTATION
Control 35.2 33.4
Experimental 28.7 26.1
Means of all the state anxiety tests are presented above. Ss who received Rolfing displayed less anxiety than controls. Throughout the test or during pre- and post-instrumentation, the groups did not differ on state anxiety when they were averaged. They did differ from before to after Rolfing.
These results provide support that Rolfing leads to a decrease in state anxiety. The results of this experiment indicate that the decrease in state anxiety can be attributed to Rolfing. However, we cannot determine at this time an exact causal link between anxiety reduction and Rolfing. Further studies are needed to understand the exact nature of the relationship between Rolfing and its effects on emotional release.
Hunt, V.V., and Robert S. Weinberg. Effects of Structural Integration on State-Trait Anxiety. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 35(2): 319-22, 1979 Apr.
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