History of Rolfing®?

  Ida P Rolf was born in the Bronx, New York City in 1896. She graduated from Barnard College in 1916, received her Ph.D. from Columbia University and was hired by the Rockefeller Institute (now Rockefeller University) as a Research Associate. It was at the Rockefeller Institute that she began her research on fascia (connective tissue), which was later to form the basis of Structural Integration.

In the early 1920s Dr Rolf briefly moved to Switzerland to study physics and mathematics and while in Zurich she also studied homeopathy. During the 1920s she also studied osteopathy, yoga and eastern philosophy. Later she also explored the Alexander Technique and the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski. All this study, particularly yoga, formed the basis of her work which began on an experimental basis. That is, various people came to Dr Rolf and she would ‘experiment’, using her knowledge and intuition to help them. As she was slowly concentrating her ideas about the work, Dr Rolf created a teaching format for her work which consisted of a series of ten sessions to balance the body in gravity.

Dr Rolf taught her first class mainly to a group of osteopaths. It was held in Tunbridge Wells, England in the early 1950s. In the 1950s she taught various groups of chiropractors and osteopaths around the USA until she  
realized these students were not the appropriate ones to carry on her work.


In the mid-1960s she met Dr Fritz Perls at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Perls was amazed by the power of her work and credited Dr Rolf with adding many years to his life. Thanks to the persistence and insistence of Fritz Perls, Ida Rolf found herself teaching on a regular basis at the Esalen Institute.

Dr Rolf called her work Structural Integration but other people nicknamed it Rolfing® and were calling the practitioners of Structural Integration, Rolfers. Eventually Dr Rolf set up a formal organisation; the Guild for Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado (USA). There was disagreement by the faculty of the Guild on how to proceed with Dr Rolf’s work when she died in 1979. This in effect caused a split, ending in two organisations. The Guild of Structural Integration and The Rolf Institute. Both of these organisations continue to teach and actively strive to enhance Dr Rolf’s work.

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