Client Guidance Notes

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Rolfing® Structural Integration

Guidance Notes for Clients

Whether you are new to Rolfing or have had some experience of the treatment, these notes are aimed to help you get the most out of this unique form of treatment.

If you are a potential client you will find these notes hopefully both informative, and useful as an introduction to the concepts of how this treatment can open up new possibilities for your physical and emotional well-being.

James McCormack

Certified Rolfer™ and Member of the European Rolfing Association

01269 841859 or 07966 869162

Ysgubor Garn, Carmel, Llanelli, SA14 7TS

© James McCormack 2012

What is Rolfing?

Rolfing is deep tissue manipulation that improves posture.  It helps create natural balance, flexibility and strength.  It is named after Dr Ida Rolf, a biochemist who developed the technique in America during the 1950’s.  Rolfing was originally called Structural Integration, because the inspiration behind the technique was to re-structure the body so that it worked with gravity, rather than against it.

The key to good posture is connective tissue called fascia.  This is a layer of collagen around every muscle and the internal organs.  It supports the skeleton, and transmits movement through the body.  It also transmits the force and the effect of gravity.

When the centres of gravity of each major body structure line up, the body is balanced and free of stress.  Imbalance caused by asymmetry causes fascia to over-compensate and to harden.  The result is loss of flexibility, and the shape of the body becomes distorted, and good posture becomes impossible to achieve. But, balance in gravity can be achieved by restoring the plasticity of the connective tissue, which naturally allows the main structural parts of the body to re-align.

During each session the tension that can pull the body out of shape and prevent freedom of movement is released – starting with the feet, then the hips, chest, shoulders and the head.  When the centres of gravity of the main body segments are aligned their weight creates the necessary counter-pressure from the ground to provide balanced support.

Rolfing uses two methods to achieve re-alignment of the body:

i)                    manipulation of the muscles, joints, tendons, and bones

ii)                  training in natural posture and movement habits

Balanced movement helps the body to gradually restore the fascia in two ways, first by clearing previously restricted paths, and second, by preventing unnecessary stresses caused by imbalance and resulting compensations.

Rolfing does not take the place of conventional medical treatment and in Rolfing treatment there will be no diagnosis or prescription or treatment of illness, physical damage or pain.  If you are concerned about a serious or urgent condition please see your GP.

Why does the body fall out of optimum alignment with gravity?

Physical and emotional stress causes connective tissue to be compressed so it becomes dehydrated.  The muscles cannot move properly and they become either stretched or shortened.  Pain often results because another part of the body over-compensates.

Other causes include accidents, injuries, operations, and postural habits.

Restoring the health of connective tissue allows freedom of movement and better ways of coping with daily physical and emotional demands.  It can help to provide choices, and break the usual cycle of cause and effect.

A full course of 10 sessions is usually recommended for best results.  Each session works on a different part of the body’s structure, to create balance.  Some clients have fewer or more than 10, depending on their needs.  After a period of time clients can choose to have further sessions, either as a mini-series of say three sessions or as individual refresher sessions.  For children and young adults the full series is not usually recommended, one or two sessions can help alleviate and correct habits as they start to create fixed patterns.

How soon will I start to improve? Will I be pain free?

The benefits are felt from the first session and build on each session.  Progress takes time.  The body has taken a long time to develop the problems that you want to try to resolve.  The results you want will often be determined by a logical thought process. How you get there is much more about how your system intuitively responds to the treatment.

Clients generally achieve more when they change their approach to a less results- driven one, and accept the fact that improvement is a work-in-progress with both small and large goals achieved along the way.  In this way you can recognise frustration if it arises as just a minor annoyance.

There are many reasons for high expectations, and achieving the goal of perfection is not realistic in any endeavour.  Through learning how you respond to everyday things, such as exercise, stress, work, household chores etc, you can better manage and control your responses, and avoid or limit those things that cause harm.

Recognising your body’s limits is an important step.  Those limits will probably change – what seems impossible today will be easy tomorrow; what seems fine to do today may be recognised as potentially harmful and a new strategy is needed.  Of course, some limits are determined by the inherent nature of the cause – such as a very severe fracture, or an operation, or a disease – but even though these may not be entirely reversible, they could respond well to treatment.

You can re-shape your body, habits and environment with a little practice of the awareness and movement ideas mentioned in these notes.  Your rate of progress is proportional to the amount of effort you are able to put in.  Please be patient, and if you are able to try some of the exercises you will benefit more from the treatment, continue to improve after the series is finished and stay symptom free for longer.

Our experiences and our environment can be useful sources of information to help measure progress.  The list is endless, but these are some ideas:

–          Become aware of small changes, notice how you look, move, walk.

–          Do your clothes fit differently?  Have you made adjustments to your usual car seat position?

–          Are your moods different – better or worse? Are you able to take a step-back more easily?

–          Notice what your family, friends or colleagues say.  Do they react to you differently?

–          How is your quality of life? Have you changed anything about how you assess it?

–          Has your pain reduced, or gone away?  What seems to cause it to return?

–          Has range of movement improved, or sports performance improved?

–          If you meditate or practice Yoga or Reiki, Shiatsu etc, what changes do you notice?

You can if you wish track progress with photos taken before and after the series of sessions.  These can be taken on your own camera, or on mine – in which case I will provide prints and I can also e-mail them to you, and I undertake to ensure confidentiality is maintained.

Usually the shape of the spine shows greatest observable change, such as in the before and after photos below.  Often height increases as the pelvis, spine and neck become more upright.  Muscle tone improves and weight can change.

Photos taken before and after 10 sessions:-


Rolfing in practice

Awareness exercises:-

Slouching, or conversely, sitting or standing bolt upright, lead to tension which restricts breathing and movement.  Exercising and working often put uneven pressure on the skeleton, and cause restrictions to develop to try to stabilise the imbalances.

Trying harder to find solutions often worsens the symptoms.  Using movement disciplines can add to the problems – as the body cannot spontaneously free itself of restrictions, and gets strained even more.  I believe that a helping hand is needed.

What do you notice about your posture and breathing in sitting:-

–          focus on the movement of your rib-cage, how does it expand, is it even or uneven?

–          feel any tension that might be present – start with the feet, then knees, hips, abdomen, back, chest, neck, hands, arms, jaw, face, scalp – can you release it?

What do you notice when you stand with:-

– centre of gravity of chest back (with shoulders rounded) and weight on heels

– centre of gravity of chest in front (with chest pushed forward) and weight on toes

What advantages and disadvantages do your postural or movement patterns give you? e.g.

protected, strong

tired, strained, uncertain

How might you modify or change them so they work better for you? e.g.

resilient, flexible

relaxed, alert, prepared

Movement concepts:-

Try these ideas and see how different they feel.

If they are hard to do, ease up.  Your structure may have long-held compensating patterns that need time to adjust:-


Hips higher than knees, so legs support body weight

Sit bones turned back, so top of pelvis tilts forward

Sternum raised slightly, so head is supported


Inhale – sit with top of pelvis tilted forward – palms up

Exhale – sit with top of pelvis tilted backward – palms down

Standing up

One foot forward – lean upper body forward, sternum lifted slightly, head up – sit bones point back, lead with the sternum.

Co-ordinate core movement through spine and limbs (“Push Hands”)

Put right foot back and left forward.  Combine push with right toe and reach with right arm to push an imaginary door open – or use companion to apply moderate resistance with their hand.  Swap to left side.

Walking or running naturally

Swing hips and shoulders freely – allow scapula to “sink” a little

Toe push – the fascial net stores and releases energy so you “float”

Extension through hip (lengthens body through abdomen)

Allow legs to roll inwards a little – avoid parallel tracking

Relax jaw and lift sternum – helps inhale as sternum floats side-to-side over body cavity and spine

Standing still

Position of feet (slightly everted), knees (soft), sternum lifted slightly

Weight on middle of foot, weight balanced equally right to left

Lifting objects (avoid lifting very heavy objects) or leaning forward

One foot forward – sit bones point back

Keep back relaxed – no need to squat by bending both knees

Get hands underneath object and curl arms using biceps

Keep both feet in contact with the floor until the object is lifted, and during setting it down

Manipulation and stretching:-

I use deep tissue manipulation, combined with stretching movements, to encourage chronic tension to release.

These are just a few examples of techniques used:-

Shoulders –– pectorals, trapezius and triceps – use forefinger and index finger to find tight connections around collar bone, shoulder blade and base of neck and push them until they ease

Arms/elbows -Tennis elbow (outer) extensors, or Golfer’s elbow (inner) flexors – get fingers between muscles of forearm and triceps – gently move them about

Wrist – carpal tunnel – find bones in heel of hand that can move a little and wiggle them between thumb and forefinger

Jaw – muscles in and around cheekbone can be eased with pressure of fingers

Feet – plantar fascia – use knuckle of forefinger to gradually ease out tension

Calves – lengthen shortened muscles by working tissue behind the fibula – the long bone on the outside of the calf

Shins – work tissue deep behind shin bone

Hamstrings – lengthen with forearm as client turns sit bones so they point backwards –“think” them long rather than exert pressure (pressure actually causes them to tighten-up!)

Spread the word:-

Most people have not heard of Rolfing.  Those that have tried it usually recommend it to friends and family.  If you want to pass these notes on to them, feel free.  Or I can let you have some brochures that are a handy size.

Taking the first step can be a difficult with a busy life.  You could help to encourage a close friend or family member by treating them to a gift certificate for one or more sessions – up to a maximum of 10 for any one certificate.

If you are unsure what would be an appropriate number of sessions I would be happy to discuss – a safe rule of thumb is that client’s notice changes after the first session, but the changes and benefits after three sessions are more obvious and long lasting.

Current Charges:-

Standard rate:-

£60 per session (£75 Cardiff – re-commencing Spring 2013)

Concessionary rate (retired, unemployment benefits, gift certificates*):-

£50 per session (£65 Cardiff – re-commencing Spring 2013)

Under 18 (accompanied by parent or guardian):-

            £30 per session of 30 – 45 minutes approx. (£45 Cardiff – re-commencing Spring 2013)

*If you purchase a gift certificate, the concessionary rate applies. Certificates are available for individual sessions, or for a series of either three or ten sessions and are valid for 12 months.

Limited introductory offers will be available on my planned new website.

The first session is about two hours and includes an assessment.  Subsequent sessions are a minimum of one hour, with time for discussion and review at the beginning and end.

Payment can be made by cash, cheque or card, and is due at the end of each session.  Advance payments for individual sessions or a series of sessions are accepted.

Your feedback:-

I value feedback as a way of improving how I practice.  Please feel free to let me have any observations on your experience of the treatment, or the things suggested in these notes.

Further information:-

If you want to find out more about Rolfing, I can recommend books and other resources that might be of interest.

Helpful questions to ask yourself if considering Rolfing:

What do I want to achieve for myself?

  Relaxation, energy, balance, strength, posture, freedom of movement, co-ordination, performance improvement (sport, yoga, dance, martial arts, singing) preventive strategy (better seated posture for computer work, musicianship etc), emotional balance and control, confidence and self-esteem, enhanced physical appearance, greater personal impact……………………………………………………………

What problems am I trying to solve?

  Pain relief, recovery from accident/injury/operation, restricted movement, co-ordination, balance, recurring injuries, trapped nerves, headaches, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ (i.e. jaw clicking), stress…..……………………….


I believe that every individual can benefit from this work in a significant way.  My particular interest is in the realm of the individual’s potential for optimal strength, efficiency of movement and body awareness in physical activity.  My motivation is in working with clients to achieve more powerful, graceful movement, and mental vitality, to help the body and mind to adapt better to physical, mental and emotional challenges.

Getting better aligned with the gravity field through Rolfing is a sound investment in future health and well-being.

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About the Author:

Following a career in legal practice in England, and later in Wales, James trained at the European Rolfing Association in Munich and qualified as a Certified Rolfer in 2010. His interest in manual therapy was sparked by his experiences in long distance cycling events for charity, and later in golf, fitness training, running and country walking. His particular interest is in the realm of the individual’s potential for optimal strength, efficiency of movement and body awareness in physical activity.

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