Rolfing is not massage

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Gian Gibson, RMT, Advanced Rolfer

This month we introduce the little known but highly effective soft tissue manipulation practice of Rolfing. Gian Gibson is a Certified Advanced Rolfer who has been in practice since 2006. He obtained his massage therapy diploma in 2006 from a 2500 hour program. He became a Certified Rolfer in 2008 after attending the Rolf Institute School of Structural Integration in Boulder, CO, USA and Barra Do Sahy, Brazil, completing his advanced training in 2013 in Boulder, CO, USA. He maintains registration with the Canadian Rolf Association (CRA) and Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC). Rolfing is a big commitment. There is no training in Canada for Rolfing. The late Dr.Ida Rolf originally established three international training Institutions. The majority of Gian’s studies were at the Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He was also privileged to learn from one of her personal graduates in Brazil. As such, Rolfers are a specialized profession in Alberta.  And here is Gian’s blog….

“Rolfing is often confused with massage. Indeed, they do have a lot of similarities when you see it at first glance. The main difference is that massage focuses mainly on working the muscles, whereas Rolfing focuses more on the connective tissue, or “fascia”.   Like massage, Rolfing is a hands on manipulation of the body, but It requires a very specialized knowledge. The goal is to realign the entire body from a postural point of view, and as such has long-term benefits.

Rolfing was developed by Ida P. Rolf over 50 years ago and it stems as a specialty from the whole medical field of osteopathy. It works on the connective tissue to release, realign and balance the whole body. Rolfing enhances your posture and freedom of movement. Structural imbalances of the body can lead to chronic pain and disability or inhibit performance. A good example is poor back posture from slouching in a chair which ultimately can manifest itself as chronic back pain. Rolfing addresses the root causes of these imbalances through manipulation of connective tissue and movement education. The aim is to realign and balance the body’s structure and to optimize movement, so that the treatments continue to work into your active life as you move.

Rolfing Logo

Rolfing Logo

The Rolf Logo represents broken and twisted segments of a little boy in contrast with the aligned segments of the same boy. This image is based on a young client of Dr. Ida Rolf about 50 years ago, who was profoundly helped by the 10 session series. It helps convey the idea that a fundamental realigning of our shape and structure is what Rolfing is all about. It also shows how Rolfing is a manipulation of the whole body’s webbing of fascia (not only the joints). This is needed to bring lasting improvements to the whole person.

Gian-065ed1-300x217During a Rolfing session a client can be in many different positions including seated, standing and side lying. The Rolfer can release the fascia in a dynamic way (such as the client seated while the Rolfer works with the spine as they bend forward) releasing the fascia in movement. Eliminating pain in this way can be beneficial because positive structural and postural changes need to occur in movement with manipulation. Also, no oil or lotion is used ; the Rolfer needs the surface friction to enable a very slow application of pressure to the connective tissue below. Unlike massage, because the client will be getting on and off the table and walking around, it is recommended to wear sport shorts or boxer briefs instead of undressing and being under a sheet. For women, a tank top/sports bra is also required.

Rolfing is classically given over ten sessions (each session approx. 60 minutes long), each session building on the other in a specific order to address different layers of fascia in each treatment. The sessions are designed to the individual’s condition, discomfort and imbalances. Normally, they are spaced apart once a week or every other week. A client can commit to three sessions at a time if they prefer. Rolf Movement is another aspect of treatment for Rolfters. This is a type of movement education to train the brain and central nervous system to better coordinate the body in movement. It is a great adjunct to Rolfing and is used when the client could benefit from functional movement in addition to Rolfing.

Rolfing has a reputation of being painful. Indeed, it can be, but it has a gentle and subtle dimension that feels like a good pain. The client is always in control of the session. The pressure is applied slowly to release the connective tissue in a dynamic and responsive way and gives the client a sense of confidence in the process. Part of the discomfort arises from the posture and misalignment of the fascia. Moving, releasing and restructuring the tissue to a better aligned position can be uncomfortable at first. This discomfort goes away over several treatments, and is replaced by a feeling of release and structural balance. After some sessions clients feel more freedom, ease, decrease in pain, and a greater sense of well being.
Rolfing and Rolf Movement relates to chronic pain, improving posture, and bringing the body back into balance and ease. This is done by addressing tightness and tension in the connective tissue (fascia) that surrounds the whole body. Bone, muscle tissue, viscera (organs), and nerve tissue are all addressed in Rolfing. Rolfing is typically done in a series of ten sessions.

Anyone who has suffered trauma or injury, or who suffers from chronic pain, can benefit from Rolfing. Rolfers treat athletes, mothers, fathers, musicians, tradespeople, professionals, children and seniors. All bodies are misaligned to some degree and can be assisted to move more efficiently. Self-image issues can also be addressed. Rolfing also provides a foundation for yoga and sports, working proactively to prevent injury.”

Visit Gian’s website for more detailed information or to make an appointment