The Ten Rolfing Sessions
Your first experience with Rolfing is likely to be within a ten-session format. Rolfing is different from most forms of bodywork because it focuses on improving the organization of the entire structure (often visible as better posture), rather than solely tending to the place that hurts or feels stiff. Although massage may be relaxing, you may find the same area bothering you again shortly after you leave your treatment. This is because the area that hurts is often a compensatory or secondary issue.
For example, you may have neck pain because you’re not getting the proper support from your feet, or because your pelvis is askew, or because your shoulders are rounding forward (or all of these). Until the whole structure is in balance, that neck is going to stay strained trying to keep your head upright. Focusing on the place that hurts usually addresses the symptom rather than the problem.
Designed by Dr. Ida Rolf, the ten Rolfing sessions are intended as a tune up for your body. This is a systematic approach to aligning your structure; each session builds upon the last and prepares the body for the next. In a sense, after the ten sessions, the fascial matrix within the body has been reset.
The first three sessions work on the more superficial layers of connective tissue. Sessions four through seven remove strain from deeper layers of the body. The remaining sessions organize and align the body as a whole, providing better balance, enhanced range of motion, and a higher energy level.
The ten-series provides Rolfers with a map, but as anyone who travels knows, the map is not the territory. Although structural goals may be similar, the same session may look very different for different clients based on their structure, learned behaviors, and movement patterns. Each session is as unique as the person receiving it. For most people, the series progresses as follows:
Sessions 1-3: Focus on superficial layers
Sessions 4-7: Focus on deeper layers
“When I put my foot down it no longer goes where it used to” is a familiar response after session four. Furthermore, clients occasionally report emotional extremes following this session; many people don’t realize how much physical and/or emotional tension they hold in the pelvis until this session disturbs that holding pattern. Although these physically and emotionally unsettled states are usually mild when they occur, it’s best to schedule sessions four and five about a week apart. Session five continues the work started in four, and brings the body to greater balance.
Sessions 8-10: Focus on integration & overall function
Movement education is sprinkled throughout the ten-series, in order to help you encourage long- term structural change. Although structural shifts attained continue to integrate and affect your body long after the sessions are completed, there are other things you can do to nurture structural balance. With this in mind, we’ll discuss ergonomic considerations, relaxation and body awareness techniques, and stretching/toning exercises, that are directly affecting your alignment.
Post-ten Session Work
The ten-series is designed to leave your structure at a balanced place. Many clients complete a ten-series, get good results, and never feel the need for another session. Others view Rolfing as an important way of maintaining their bodies and come in for regular “tune ups” (anywhere from bimonthly to quarterly). This is particularly common among athletes, heavy computer users, people who have had severe injury, chronic illness or invasive surgery, and people with scoliosis.
Some clients find so much more ease and relaxation in their bodies after Rolfing sessions, that they prefer it to massage. Other clients take a break for several months after the ten-series and then request a post ten series, generally three to five sessions in length, which may focus on the client’s specific goals. Lastly, some clients only call when they fall off their bike, and “something feels amiss.” These are all good ways to use Rolfing after you’ve completed the initial work. Do what makes sense to you.