Rolfing Structural Integration
Restoring Natural Alignment to Create Fluid Movement
by Nick Pavoldi
Rolfing Structural Integration is a soft tissue approach to re-establishing natural alignment. Dr. Ida Rolf, the innovator of this process, held that when a body is in alignment, it works properly. Rolfing is based on the premise that the human body is organized around a central vertical axis, which Rolf called “The Line”, a reference point for movement and a guide to alignment upon which to meditate when standing or sitting.
Rolfing Structural Integration is a hands-on myofascial approach, meaning practitioners use muscle and connective tissue as the media of change. Fascia is the glue that holds everything together, providing shape, support and reinforcement to muscle, bone and movement.
From a practitioner’s standpoint, the goal is to make the body less complicated, using the simplicity of The Line as a guide. Injury and repetitious patterns can cause aberrations from ideal functioning as the fascia gradually shortens, tightens and adjusts to accommodate misalignments.
The process is classically done in 10 sessions. The first seven focus on the structural phase and the final three are the integrative sessions. Clients can expect to participate in a way that differs from a traditional massage. A practitioner may call for movement or conduct parts of the session seated or standing. Because bodies are designed for living, a Rolfing session often moves off the table.
The Rolfing practitioner will systematically work on body parts and their relationships to create a balanced body that feels organized. When the front and back, sides, top and bottom are all working together, the body feels fluid, capable and in a way, fearless.
The experience can be pleasurable; however, sometimes clients that seek this work when they have pain or discomfort in their body may feel that the process is painful. Here, pain may be a misnomer, because it implies causing harm or injury. While pain is never the goal or purpose, a Rolfing Structural Integration session can be dramatic. Bodies have an extraordinary systemic compensatory system. Uncomfortable places may lurk undetected in the body until a mirror is held to them. Acute pain or discomfort in an area may not be the culprit, just the loudest victim.
Each person’s experience may differ, but the outcome is often similar. A Rolfed body feels fully inhabited, capable, fluid and comfortable. Patterns, emotions and injury tell the story of our lives and can be held in tissue, imprinted by trauma or repetition. What the body does, the mind will follow, and vice versa; fluid movement and thinking are hallmarks of Rolfing Structural Integration. While the process may be transformative, it is more akin to a re-emergence, the discovery of something wonderful that’s been there all along.
Nick Pavoldi has been practicing bodywork since 1996. After studying at the Guild for Structural Integration, he opened Bodywork Professionals, which now has two locations: one in Latham, at 578 New Loudon Rd. (518-389-2200), and another in Saratoga Springs, at 79 Washington St. (518-389-2083).