About Rolfing

History

Ida Rolf was born at the turn of the century in New York City. She graduated from Barnard College in 1916 and went on to receive her PhD in biological chemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. During this time she worked as research biochemist at the Rockefeller Institute.
Although she had accomplished a lot for a woman of her time working within the western scientific tradition, she had a deep interest in alternative healing practices. She was an assiduous student of yoga and homeopathy and eventually consulted and studied with various osteopaths. By her telling, Rolfing sprung almost accidentally out of her interest in yoga and an encounter with a neighbor:
“…so the day came when Ethel (a friend’s sister) came up the front lawn. She’d fallen on a hole in the pavement in New York and she had very badly injured one hand and arm, and the other wasn’t that good. I looked at her and I said, ‘I bet I can fix that. Do you trust me to try? You can’t be worse off.” She was feeling pretty low in her mind.
I said, ‘I’ll make a bargain with you. If I can get you to the place where you can teach music, will you teach my children?’ She said yes. And so I started in. I started, really, with yoga exercises, which I myself was using at that point. After we worked together about four times, she was in good enough shape to start teaching music. And that’s where Rolfing really started…”
She eventually began teaching her method to chiropractors and osteopaths in the U.S. and in England but was frustrated by the way they tended to see it as just another set of techniques that they could incorporate into their work, rather than as a holistic approach, complete in its own right. Over time she refined her teaching and developed a 10-session protocol as a teaching tool and called it Structural Integration.
She met the gestalt therapist Fritz Perls at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and with his support she began working there, where she found a core group of students that she trained in her techniques and who later helped her form the Rolf Institute in Boulder, Colorado. It was also at Esalen that the nickname of Rolfing was coined and went on to become the official name of her work. It is now registered in 27 countries. It has been estimated that more than 1 million people have received Rolfing work.