How does Rolfing®structural integration change connective tissue?

We can only speculate. There have been no double blind studies on changing connective tissue using structural integration techniques.

In the beginning of Ida Rolf’s work, Dr. Rolf by experience knew only of working with dead connective tissue. She had worked at the Rockefeller Institute and had over 20 published papers on the nature of (dead) connective tissue.

Because dead connective tissue is very hard, and scalpels of the day had to be sharpened over and over, the idea was there that connective tissue can not be changed with manipulation. Maybe with a cast, or surgery, but not with the hands. Ida Rolf thought that the connective tissue had to be torn to change it, to change its badly aligned bonds, and set about so tearing with her hands.

(In this blog, I am skipping right over WHY Ida Rolf wanted to change tissue therapeutically for organizational reasons.)

Ida Rolf tore connective tissue for some years, and had some amazing results. “Miracles happened around her all the time,” is a common remark from those who saw her work. She insisted that it was technique, not her own skill. She thought ripping tissue was the only way.

However, when Dr. Rolf’s students began to tell her that the tissue was changing and they were not tearing it, Ida Rolf listened. She did have the experience of sometimes not tearing tissue herself, and had learned that there was more to technique than ripping. I once heard Gael Ohlgren, whom Dr. Rolf trained as a teacher in the early days, say that Dr. Rolf’s hands were like clouds.

Dr. Rolf asked David Robbie, M.D, who had trained as a Rolfer with her, to speculate about what was going on.

Here’s the speculation, plus some added since we know more to speculate about now, 40 years later.

When faced with the heat and educated pressure of the human hand, the connective tissue changes its state from gel to sol. In addition, nervous system components of the tissue, including elastin fibers, sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, golgi tendon organs, and sarcomeres of muscles, etc. can be reset. About 24 hours or so later, the connective tissue hardens back to its protective state, retaining a portion of the changes. 

Connective tissue is formed by how it is used, and if the structure is functioning better, the connective tissue will take that better function shape.

Last month a learned and wise man died who specialized in study of state changes, Dr. Leo Kadanoff. I wish his feats had included state changes in connective tissue during structural integration.                     

Posted in Ida Rolf, Pain!, Rolfing history, Rolfing Structural Integration, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Riding In the Clown Cars of Structural Integration

Some folks who do this work called “structural integration” will know this feeling. The feeling happens when we are having a conversation with someone about our work, maybe even a Rolf Institute of Structural Integration graduate, and BLAM the practitioner is trying to fit his ego plus a few of his pet other disciplines into the discipline of structural integration. With these additions and a large dollop of ego sauce the practitioner has named his work after himself or his fantasy. (Yes, it is mostly men who love this activity of ego maniac clowns, stuffing themselves and everything else they can into our structural/functional discipline, as though stuffing clowns into a clown car in the Ringling Brothers circus.)

In a corollary, the structural integrator is all hung up on  a certain technique, or instrumental mode, or –conversely– is busy arguing that ANY technique will do. Experiments have shown that teaching a certain basic technique leads to better learning, and after that there may be personal perhaps idiosyncratic ways of working within the discipline.

Maybe the structural integration term is used to exclude movement integration or functional integration. (“If the structure is right, the movement will be right.”) Just silly, this argument, and Ida Rolf knew this and designated certain Rolfers to explore the possibilities of movement integration. Nowadays knowing about functional movement is the sine qua non of structural integration since the absence of good function predicts structural problems and the presence of good function means Rolfing work will last longer and the client will be able to do their favorite things better.

In another corollary, perhaps included in the above, the so-called structural integrator is busy telling about how he does not use any formula for  “his” work of structural integration. This structural integrator has not done the Standard Basic 10 series with a client in years. (And is unwilling or unable to tell you what he is doing in terms of integration.) Or–conversely–the structural integrator is doing nothing but the most fundamentalist view of the Standard Basic 10 that can be found in some old class notes from the 1960’s.

So, let’s talk formula or algorithm of the Standard Basic 10 Series. Historically, Ida Rolf was at some pains in her book (Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures) not to tell the secret sauce of the formula. Nowadays the algorithmic formula of Rolf is all over the internet. Books can be bought describing the formula. The original structural integration formula is an elegant one for creating integration, and fixing problematic issues, but it was never meant by Rolf to be taken fundamentally like a stamped cookie cutter. There are specific goals, proportions, and a certain order which make intersectional sense in a non-linear fashion. All these goals must be adapted to a person, maybe a regular type person who has their own idiosyncratic ways, or maybe even a person who has an artificial leg, is paralyzed somehow, or has a rod in their spine (for starters).

Just as a strong jazz improviser (even “free” jazz) needs to have pattern recognition, so does a structural integrator. This pattern recognition is not “just” the recognition of the person in the “now”, it is the recognition of where the pattern can go and how the intersectional patterns will hook up. It is a recognition of the messy human problems which humans bring to structure/function and a sure knowledge that it can be changed for better function for which the human is asking.

We could call it formulaic improvisation on a brilliant theme, when we get good at it. We give a nod to the brilliant old lady with the pokey fingers each time we step into our work room and leave our egos behind.



Posted in Find a Rolfer, recipe, Rolfing definition, Rolfing Structural Integration, structural integration | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Linda presents: ISB convention, Fort Collins, June 6

Promises, promises, lol:

in 55 minutes we will cover and do experiential work with left and right hand and body in expansion-istic playing. This not meaning, “Aggravate your stand partner and audience with wild gestures!” We are going for flow.

1.the “exercises” for the hands include information on one stretch you should never do and others derived from the D.C. Dounis canon, as well as Rolfing SI. Do you know that in action the hands go all the way to the elbow?

2.ways to think about bowing so that you don’t get hurt. to know if an instrument fits *you* besides artistically

3. ways to have flow and use your whole body in playing in spite of the constraints of playing the bass.

More to come on the above….watch this space 🙂

My profile on the page for Certified Rolfers:

Posted in International Society of Bassists, ISB convention | 1 Comment

What is the discipline of structural integration?

“It feels so good” just won’t do the job here.

The original Granny’s recipe was designed by Ida Rolf to provide an approach to her subjective and artistic world of integration. The design always was capable of adaptation to differing structures, including people with flat feet, people with too high fixed arches, people with differing feet, even people who were missing feet.

I hope you get the idea here….the “recipe” was always meant to be adaptable.

Today I speak of one issue of integration brought out when studying this structural integration discipline, that of the legs not dragging on the torso. This is an interesting integrational problem which could be phrased in the reverse: we don’t want the torso  dragging on the limbs!

Consider: the leg muscles cover the whole hips and midsection, inside and outside. (We could also speak of the arm muscles covering the whole front, back, and midsection, but won’t, here.)

We must seek clues as to how the legs may drag on the torso, perhaps creating functional problems, even a “bad back” issue. Consideration of the whole leg complex makes it easy to see that psoas/iliacus complex work without associated issues can bring disorganization.

How much function do we have, especially for a desired activity? Are the stabilizer leg and the kicker foot leg balanced as well as can be, both in standing and movement? Here we may find the famous “short leg”, and balance the functions better through soft tissue manipulation and functional assignments.

Most think it is easier to speak of “fixing” the joints and exercising away our pain and lack of function than to actually consider integration.

However, the discipline of structural integration addresses the kind of issues we speak of above in a non-linear way, winding about through the complexities of structure while pausing to make sure the joints are lined up–if you can say “lined up” about a complex saddle joint such as the thumb joint–and the soft tissue pulls and even nervous system stimulations are evened out in such a way as to maintain the structure of the joint.

This idea requires a flip-flop of thought about one’s body. The body could become a portal to ease in the gravity and sensory world around us, rather than a living lump to be driven, dragged, and measured into submission.

Discipline does not have to mean bringing out the whips and chains and measurements. Just so you’ll know. (Wink)



Posted in function/movement, Ida Rolf, Linda L Grace, Philosophy of Rolfing, Rolfing definition, Rolfing Structural Integration, structural integration, structure | Leave a comment

Plantar fasciitis and Necrotizing fasciosis

At last, a new post, wherein I reveal that a near-pathological attention to the details and how they fit into the overall structure and movement of the body and a certain preoccupation with death leads me to fall with glad cries on the link below.

Don’t get me wrong, I also have a certain-pathological attention to details of chocolate and cheese and coffee.

But back to the feet. The anecdotal accounts of how Ida Rolf began to work with structure always include that her first principled thoughts were about the feet, the place where the rubber meets the road of gravity. Her yoga background led her there, as well as her sense of “as below, so above”, the story goes. (Some quarters of so-called “structural integration” trainings would have you believe that Ida channeled her ways of working with the body. Not so as explained by Ida’s sons or with me, or at RISI, please note.)

The feet, with their 3 arches, the medial one we all know, plus the lateral and the transverse, are a breathing moving interface with the shoes. Nasty meany shoes = nasty meany feet.

In the first Youtube video below, you can hear Dr.Ray McClanahan, DPM, talk about the research done in Philadelphia by Dr.Harvey Lamont, DPM. In the second video, we can hear McClanahan  talk about a stretch for hammertoes.

When stretching, using the sarcomere slide techniqueI explained in the “Fix Your Own Darn Bunion” post and video.

As an aside, if you use foam roller on your foot, top or bottom, use it at your peril, you could really aggravate bursas there and really regret that.

Posted in fix bunions, function/movement, Ida Rolf, Linda L Grace, recipe, Rolfing Structural Integration, Running shoes, structure, Yoga | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Stephen Porges and a 5,000 year old anti-anxiety technique

Fortunately, religious Hebrew people kept on saying and singing the “Shema” (trans. “Hear”)even though it was not scientifically proven.

The polyvagal theorist Stephen Porges Ph.D. has informed us that there is a physiologic basis for calming us down which we can recognize is demonstrated in the ancient practice of Shema. (As far as I know, Porges has not mentioned this connection with the Shema and his theories, though he is doing research on music and his polyvagal theories.)

Early studies by Porges included one with the Rolfer John Cottingham, which you can read about here.

Now, back to the Shema. When we take an in-breath, the heart rate speeds up, and when we release an out-breath the heart rate slows down.  We know this physiological fact now. In the olden times and today religious practitioners go for a peaceful feeling, union with a religious sense, a declaration of faith.

To try the ancient practice in a meditative manner, take a quick medium-to-big gasp of in breath and say on the out breath “Shemaaaaaaaaaaa” for about 3 or 4 seconds. Actually count, 1 thousand, 2 thousand, 3 thousand to yourself while saying “Shemaaaaaaa”. There are more words to this prayer, but just say the word, “Shemaaaa” 6 times in that manner.

Remember, there weren’t clocks in those days, and on the Sabbath there was all day to pray. If you don’t immediately feel more peaceful, see how many repetitions of short in breath and long out breath it will take to slow your stressful heart including the beat and the blood pressure down.  This prayer is often said by religious as a meditation 2 or 3 times a day.

Or— instead of the above wordiness— sing along with this one a few times.

And now—-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMM (gasp) OOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM(just to show that other cultures could get with the polyvagal theory)


Posted in bodywork, breathing, Linda L Grace, Mind body medicine, psychobiology, Rolfing Structural Integration, stress reduction, studies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Talent, Training, and Technique: A Primer for Wanna Be Rolfers™

Sitting around the city campfire (coffee shop, 16th and Pine, Philadelphia) this morning with the visiting Judith Peterson M.D., I told Judith that I was trying to write this blog about the role of talent in the structural and movement integration practitioners’ world of work.

I was still smarting a teeny bit from a dressing down I received recently from someone who criticized my way of working on a problem as “not scientific”.  The reason I was smarting a teeny bit was because I knew I had tried to explain how I had done something and hadn’t really revealed how I had done it. Never mind that “my way” of telling had actually worked for the Rolfer who had asked the question, and she was able to complete the question with her client. How did the Rolfer who asked the question get the picture?

I say she had talent, she took some hints and ran with them, using her previous training, her skill, and her talent. So what is this talent? We have some clues.

With my Rolfing work as with Judith’s rehabilitation doctor work, there needs to be an inherent sense of how things go together, the ability to almost play with the parts, including what is missing for the person who has presented themselves to be worked with. Thinking and figuring out is a part of the work. Being indignant about what has happened to the person is a part of the work. Being able to creatively picture a whole person with their goals ringing out of their true selves not held back by some mental or physical creation is a part of the work.

In fact, I won’t take a person on to work with if I can’t picture them as working in an integrative way at their level of ability. I believe this sort of Pollyanna skill is a talent, and I cultivate it. Another way to see it might be, “How can this work” rather “How is this not working”.

Another part is being able to physically deliver (with the Rolfer’s own physicality) deliver the picture, the whole package. Ida Rolf wanted people who had big hands, and had folks send in a picture of their dominant hand holding a twenty-five cent piece. She also wanted a certain look around the junction between the neck and the thoracic spine.

These physicality requirements of IPR’s were a long way from what I am talking about as talent, but at least the person didn’t come into training with her as lacking in those important aspects, and had possibility of kinesiological gifts and talents without a propensity to injury.

A Rolfer is able to fix things as well as balance and integrate. Of course, the balance is the hallmark of structural integration, the integration of the main segments of the body with each other in the field of gravity, and it is not an easy thing. We might liken a Rolfer’s lack of the integration hallmark to someone who learned to play the piano really well, except that the piece didn’t quite make sense, it didn’t go together. Or the quarterback could throw the ball a mile, but lost vision in the last 20 yards, couldn’t get the ball into the end zone through the red zone.

A Rolfer can get any kind of joint to work, no matter what the long bones have gotten themselves into for the way they were pulled around by the soft tissue. By the way, “deep” for a Rolfer is getting those bones, soft tissues, and joints to agree on a number of levels—-for the person wanting the agreement.

Now, can I name names on kinesiology and anatomy and origins and attachments, and talk about things that to the hidebound might seem unrelated? Yes.

Am I willing to put up with science nerds taking over Rolfing? No.

Do I want to have meaningful scientific studies around this form of alternative/complementary body/mind work?  Oh hell yes.

Now, since we got that out of the way, let’s review some ways to tell talent.  In music if your parent cries when you play the violin, you must look around and see if any one else is crying before you decide you are god’s gift to the music world.

Likewise, in Rolfing school, make sure you go to several different teachers and take what they say to heart, and actually do the curriculum to the best of your ability, and be teachable, before you let loose your newbie critique on them.

Teachers can be very different, even though at the Rolf Institute the curriculum is well thought out and thorough. Ask around and find out who is the best fit for you. There are options. Like in the artistic world, you may have to go to RISI at a time you don’t like and to a place you don’t care for to get the teacher you want.

At the end of the training go out and try to perform, do your best work, structurally integrate anyone you can get your hands on who is not a medical problem.

People have begun so with the beginner training, as it exists, in a blossoming of talent toward full use of the training. Start thinking, as you go on in your early practice, about your Advanced training and Rolf Movement teachers, and in the meantime, revel in talent as it appears.

BTW Judith Peterson, M.D., is a real writer who will have a new and most interesting sounding book coming out this February on the anterior cruciate ligament, treatment and prevention of injury, including how gender issues have gotten into this important subject.  Here’s the one from two years ago, still a great book:




Posted in body mind medicine, bodywork, Rolf Institute, Rolfing, Rolfing Structural Integration | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Posted in Personal Report, Rolf Institute | Leave a comment

Tensional Integrity in our Bodies

Of all the weirdo ideas of the past century that turned out to be true,
I believe Ida Rolf’s idea that the body is a “tensegrity” structure is
probably the weirdest. She did love Buckminster Fuller.

Think of it: a body referentially held together by the sum of its parts, which are referent to a
center of function which can’t even be found anatomically in dissection, the whole kit and caboodle referent to a
force we call “gravity” that keeps us pinned down to the earth.

No wonder even Rolfers™ argue about the idea. And some just don’t get it.

It seems Ida Rolf used the words “line” and “core” somewhat interchangeably when she talked
about the center of function which can’t be found anatomically in dissection. Today, 2013,
physical trainers of various sorts have hi-jacked the word “core” to mean those muscles used
in sitting up and twisting in the torso. Those muscles to supposedly flatten the belly, in other words.

So, I am going with “line”. “Line of Function”. One place referent for tensional integrity.

This “line” needs to be flexible. It is a place for the body to be from, a home place of structure
and function. It could be visualized as a fat green willow shoot, a living breath of appropriate strength and core.

This “line” place could be visualized and felt as the path the breath takes, when doing an inhale. This may
be easier to feel lying down, when the body has the force of gravity more distributed. If your body has
enough space in it, enough lack of created tension, you can feel the breath up and down, especially in the torso.
You can also feel it down through the pelvic floor and down the inside of the legs into the feet. The feeling
of the arch of the roof of the mouth is also part of the functional “line”.

The centers of gravity of the major blocks of the body can have the line passing through them. This is a place
of equipoise, the place of strength and flexibility for thousands of years of martial artists to be from so that they can go any which
way they need or feel the desire to go without having to stop doing one way, like leaning to one side
or leaning back or leaning forward. They have tensional integrity to keep them in equipoise as long as they choose.

You think we need tensional integrity from the “line” to type this blog? You betcha. I got no screaming
carpals at the moment. (Knock on wood, movement referential to the “line”, lol.)

Posted in function/movement, Rolf line, Rolfing and Martial Arts, Rolfing definition, structure | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ida’s Diaspora of Thought and Practice: structural integration out there where the air is rare

Ida Rolf managed to put some people off and inspire a lot more. Some of those folks she put off have gone off and interpreted their thoughts and dreams on and in her work, and developed followings, a diaspora which has fanned out and created its own life.

Now we have an organization in which some of the diaspora who didn’t graduate from her original school can find a home. Interestingly, the organization IASI (International Association of Structural Integration) is composed of 60 percent Rolfers™ who although authorised to use the Rolfing®Structural Integration name from RISI (Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration), have chosen also to make common cause with structural integration practitioners.

I suppose those Rolfers may think it would be good to have our general field recognized; I at least am certainly weary of all the “massage” labels. I do know that some of the non-Rolfer™ IASI practitioners have been able to create work and practices for themselves, while others in their efforts have little scruples in saying they are something they are not, which is a RISI grad who can use the trademarks.

One of the parts of the diaspora was founded by Janie French and Annie Duggan. Their students have never to my knowledge failed in their saying of who they are and don’t need to use the trademarks in vain.

Women have played a prominent part in the diaspora as not many women made it through the first calling to the grail with Ida, and for one reason and another in a very brief time most were gone. None of these women had much of an idea of forcing anything on Ida, the force of nature, or anyone else for that matter. They just wanted to live and breath and dance in gravity and enjoin others to dance with them. They did get kind of grouchy in the way of most of us who are kind of ignored and belittled.

Two who hung out for longer than some were Janie and Annie, who began to use some of what are now called indirect techniques before anybody else at RISI was even ready to think about it in any of the male-dominated, often egotistical versions of Ida’s work. Annie’s resignation letter to RISI actually said she was leaving for lack of interest in the process at RISI.

I loved Janie and Annie’s work, though I wasn’t that crazy about their Ron Kurtz-influenced body reading. I’ve always hated the calling/naming of names, though they certainly didn’t use that old stupidity from Fritz Perls, “You have the weight of the world on your shoulders”. (Now what are we supposed to do with that!?)

Well, what we are supposed to do is manage to get the breathing going so that it is not stuck in inhale or exhale and learn to accept the belly’s still and small reflexive hint that the breath is coming back in. Although Janie died in 2001, Annie is still working.

In this video, which was done for IASI’s Ida Rolf’s birthday competition, this Spanish former student (Brigitte Hansmann) of Janie and Annie’s has created a place for the teaching of Ida Rolf’s way of the breath. I love it, and wish I were this good at conveying this meditative state to some of my hypervigilant clients.                                                                          

Here it is in the original Spanish:



Posted in body mind medicine, breathing, Ida Rolf | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments