Dr. Ida Pauline Rolf (1896-1979)

"This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself."
Ida P Rolf

Dr. Rolf’s passion for developing and perfecting the process of Structural Integration was founded on academic achievement, research experiences, and efforts to assist family and friends who experienced physical ailments not addressed by traditional treatment methods.

She was a native New Yorker born in 1896 and raised in the Bronx. In 1916 she graduated from Barnard College. She was hired by the Rockefeller Institute (now University) to become part of their research staff. While working there she completed her Ph.D in biological chemistry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. Her academic training and research gave her an understanding of the body’s chemistry and the resultant effects of outside forces on the structures. Dr. Rolf did not hesitate to explore disciplines considered outside of the mainstream. She investigated homeopathy and studied osteopathy with Amy Cochran.

Her many years of yoga practice brought a new dimension to her study of the human structure. She noted that in order for the body to function with optimal health and ease, it needed to be lengthened and balanced. But, the restrictions to that goal were often found in constricted tissues at the joints. These constrictions in the tendons and ligaments are what give rise to pain and restricted motion with distortions in balance and function.

During travels to California, she found a welcoming, open atmosphere at Esalen Institute. The people there were exploring the “human potential movement” and quickly saw the value of Dr. Rolf’s work toward the evolution of a more balanced being, both physically and emotionally. She interacted with Fritz Perls, Will Schutz , Sam Keen (of Psychology Today)and other notables of the day. As more and more people asked her to teach them the manipulation process, she began to hold regular classes at Esalen.

There are countless stories of her early success with soft tissue manipulation, but it wasn’t until she began to teach others in her methods that she began to formulate the standard “recipe” of the 10 sessions that are used today. Many body workers have tried to improve upon the basic format and have stated that they have a better process, but the original traditional Structural Integration sessions as developed by Dr. Rolf still remain the most comprehensive, systematic approach to balancing the body.