Rolfing is typically applied in a series of ten sessions, known as the Basic 10 series. Every session is a continuation of the previous one and an introduction to the next. Each session has a different. Every session is designed to uncover structural ease and find balance in parts of the body – shoulders, lower back, sacrum, legs, ankles etc. relating to the session and to the individual clients.

Sleeve Sessions

The First Session

The first 3 sessions are considered superficial, which means that Rolfers are helping the body to open, lengthen and organize the superficial layers so that the deeper layers can organize themselves in the next cycle of the session. Superficial means the fascial sheath that lies just below the skin’s surface. The primary focus of session 1 is to increase ease of breath. A free and open breath provides support for the chest, shoulders and neck and so can prepare the body for the demands of the upcoming changes. As breathing becomes deeper and easier, more oxygen is available for metabolic and catabolic activities, and the clients feel an increase in energy.

The Second Session

The second Rolfing session centers around the legs and especially the feet. Opening the breath from the first session changes the physical demands on the feet. Our intention is to create flexibility and adaptability in the legs so that the whole body can feel supported. The primary principle in session 2 is to improve support from the legs to the spine and start to neutralize spine curves. Most people carry their weight on the outside edge of both feet. As they walk, they tend to put more pressure on the heels and so can reduce flexibility in the toes. As a result can be unequal tension in arches, knees and hips causing chronic pain and leading to injuries.

The Third Session

The third Rolfing session integrates the previous two sessions. First and second session support polarity between exhale and inhale, contact with the ground and space dimension, and front and back of the body. The third session connects these sessions by working on the lateral (side) line. In this session, Rolfers open up the sides of the body and differentiates the soft tissue of the pelvis from that of the ribs to allow the pelvis more movement. Our goal is to get a better balance of shoulder girdle and thorax and start to coordinate shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle contra laterally. This is the last superficial session

Core Sessions

The Fourth Session

Our focus is no longer on the superficial layers but on the body’s active core. The core begins from the base of the pelvis up through the roof of the mouth. Core structures lie close to the spine and the body’s midline. The fourth session can be continuing session 2 as we work on legs again or session 3 where we connect the lateral line with the midline. The session is usually started by finding support through the ankles up along the inner leg before accessing the core. 

The Fifth Session

The fifth Rolfing session is a continuation of the fourth. It is recommended that not more than two or three weeks separate these sessions. Its province is the relationship of the superficial abdominal muscle (the Rectus abdominis) to the deep-seated hip flexor (the iliopsoas). Most people wrongly use the wide band of external stomach muscles to do the work of stronger, deeper lying muscles. During this session, the Rolfer slowly lengthens and separates the outer structures to allow room for the inner structures to reassert themselves.

The deep stomach muscles have certain properties that make them unique in the body. They are the only muscles that extend from the legs to the trunk. All other muscles of the leg or trunk attach directly to some part of the pelvic girdle. As a result, the proper training and toning of these leg and stomach muscles are usually better for bad backs than traditional sit-ups.

A healthy, active psoas muscle also helps other conditions. The nerve fibres located near the psoas become stimulated as the muscles respond to the new movement. Menstrual cramping, constipation, and excessive gas are often lessened as a result. A satisfying feeling of the leg trunk connection of these muscles often emerges as the client learns to move his or her legs from the lumbar spine rather than from the hip joint.

The Sixth Session

In the Rolfing series, each session focuses on some aspect of the pelvis. Even in the second session, work on the legs and feet is designed to establish support for the pelvic basin. However, the sixth session is very specific in its approach to the pelvis. The muscle structures that are the key here are the deep rotating muscles under the buttocks. If the client’s legs are unable to function smoothly while walking, balancing the “rotators” deep in the buttocks will usually even out the operation.

The incorrect use of the term “posture” to describe the results of Rolfing can now be better understood. The Latin root of posture is “positus,” meaning “to place, to put.” Consequently, “good posture” usually implies the “placing” of the body into a position that is considered appropriate and balanced. The goal of the Rolf process in its sixth session, on the other hand, is to create a structure which rests on a well-supported vertical core and demands a minimum effort to maintain while the person is standing. Rolfing, therefore, is concerned with the integration of human structures and not with notions about posture.

The results of the sixth Rolfing session are generally dramatic and welcomed by clients. A sense of “bigness” and space are reported, as well as an ability to breathe through to the spine; that is, the spine appears to undulate during respiration in a wavelike motion. People who have decreased or eliminated chronic back pain through Rolfing usually point to the sixth session as pivotal in their progress.

The Seventh Session

Referring to the seventh Rolfing session, Dr. Rolf often remarked: “The seventh session is the last chance to ‘horizontalize’ the pelvis,” but in fact, the work of the seventh session is directed entirely toward balancing the neck and head on the spine. During a seventh session, the Rolfer works on the fascia of the neck, opens the connective tissues around the skull and face and helps to improve breathing further by opening constricted nasal passages.


The Eighth, Ninth & Tenth Sessions

In each of the first seven sessions of Rolfing, the practitioner focuses on one area of the body. The goals of a particular session center around placing its part in the vertical balance of the whole body. With the eighth session, a broader and more comprehensive approach to the problem of integrating the entire structure becomes necessary. These last three sessions are called the “integrative hours,” and in them, the client prepares to end his Rolfing series.

The dictionary defines “integration” as “a combination and coordination of separate and diverse elements or units into a more complete and harmonious whole.” This is the job of the client and Rolfer in these final sessions. “It is easy to take a body apart,” Dr. Rolf would declare, “but it takes skill and understanding to put it back together.”

In the last three sessions, the practitioner tries for a body that is poised on a narrow base and can move in any direction with equal ease. Large fascial sheaths are related one to the other, and a “silky” quality in the muscle tissue is sought. Several times during these sessions, the client will be asked to stand up and walk about in order to assess the result of the manipulations. Much work will be done with the client sitting or standing because the relationship of a particular body part to gravity is the most important goal in these hours.

In these sessions, it is time to get the client ready to leave Rolfing, and it is suggested that he avoid more deep structural work for six months to a year after the initial series, because the change that is initiated by the first sessions will continue for months, even years, after the series is completed. During this fallow time, however, many clients see Rolf movement teachers who are trained to teach them ways of using their “new” bodies to maximum benefit. The Rolfed individual is encouraged not to lean on the Rolfer for further changes by his or her body but to look to the intelligence within it for new plays of using the initial changes.

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