Who Invented Rolfing?

Ida P Rolf 1896 – 1979How is it possible to love someone you have never met? For many, the experience of Rolfing unlocks something so profound and innate – a feeling of being more your self. Rolfing, and its founder, Ida P. Rolf has touched and inspired so many of us who have never even met her. Who was she?

Ida Rolf was a native New Yorker. At a time where women were fighting for the right to vote, Dr. Rolf was earning degrees in Bio Chemistry from Barnard College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She became one of the first female Associate Professors at Rockefeller Institute, where she conducted biomedical research. She later continued her studies in mathematics and atomic physics in Zurich.

While in Switzerland, her attention shifted. Western medicine was not providing adequate solutions to family health issues, so she looked elsewhere. In Geneva she began her studies in Homeopathy and went on to pursue Osteopathy, Alexander Technique, Yoga and General Semantics.

Dr. Rolf spent the next 50 years exploring the relationship of structure, function and gravity. In her own words:

“What conditions must be fulfilled in order for the human body-structure to be organized and integrated in gravity so that the whole person can function in the most optimal and economical way?”

Dr. Rolf discovered that by manipulating the soft tissue and balancing the tensions in the myofascial network, a body could become better organized and aligned. The person would become more vertical, graceful and efficient. Concurrently, her clients often experienced significant psychological change.

Dr. Rolf traveled the world spreading her work. In the 60’s she was invited to teach at Esalen, in Big Sur, California. This was a turning point and helped put Rolfing at the forefront of the Human Potential Movement. In the early 70’s the Rolf Institute was formed in Boulder, Colorado. Rolfing Movement Integration was spawned during this period. In 1989 some of her original teachers formed the Guild for Structural Integration also in Boulder, Colorado.

Dr. Rolf published “Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures,” in 1977. “Ida Rolf Talks About Rolfing and Physical Reality,” was compiled by Rosemary Feitis in 1978. “Remembering Ida Rolf,” is the collected stories of Ida’s students, compiled by Rosemary Feitis and Louis Schultz in 1996.

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