Structural Integration

Rolfing is a modern form of body therapy, which can be very effective, profound and persistent. The method is also called Structural Integration.

Rolfing is a continual developing method of body therapy, which can be very effective, profound and persistent. The method is also called Structural Integration.

Here we look at the reasons why it also has this denomination.

Structural Integration means that it concerns the structures (skin, bones, muscles, fasciae, nerves, arteries and organs).

“Structural” comes from “Struk-tur”, a word that defines different elements in a system that are interrelated and that are able to create patterns.


The proper functioning and collaboration of these structures (or systems) represents therefore the largest part of the manual treatment, which has various forms of contact. It can be from very light to very intense, and it can reach a level of intensity at the edge of the pain threshold, without never really starting to hurt.

The focus of the treatment is mainly on the manipulation of "neuro-myofascial-lines” or “better-net”.


Until here, we have examined elements in the so called Paradigm 1, that looks at the "organism Body", as a unit (anatomy, physiology).


The treatment is focused on tone, rhythm, fluidity, tension, balance and quality of tissues, and "neuro-myofascial lines". It also focuses on segments of each other.

That sounds very scientific, but it is simply indicating the intertwining of the fascial system with the nervous system, the circulation system and the muscular system. This, in turn, is connected to the musko-skeletal system.

Perhaps it sounds a bit complex, but the separate view at these structures is very limited and not useful to understand manual treatment or physical functioning.

The structural only exists in connection with the functional, so simple movements and breaths during the treatment are also of great importance.

The integration of the structures is about Paradigm 1 “Body as organism” and Paradigm 2 "Open System as organism".

Paradigm 1 and Paradigm 2  can also be seen respectively, as “Somanaut” and as “Astronaut” (ref. Gil Hedley).


We can say that structures are integrated, mutually and in relation to the whole "Body as organism", but also “Open System as organism” in relation to the world and the environment (such as gravity, social relations and nature).

In-te-gra-tion comes from “becoming part of a group", and also, "making a unit possible" or "perfecting it". It becomes clear that it concerns the body, its structure and it's posture, but also the body, as the person, in relation to perception, emotions, breath and other psychobiological aspects that can play a role.


These aspects can connect the body and its behavior with world-views, thoughts patterns, belief systems and cultural background.



The Rolfing logo can be seen as an example of the typical postural and structural changes for which Rolfing is known or it can be seen as an example of somatic idealism common to many other systems of manual therapy. As an example of somatic idealism, the logo illustrates a body organized around the line of gravity. However, the belief that the weight centers of the human body can be organized around the line of gravity is problematic. It presupposes that the body is equally dense throughout. Clearly, however, the human body is not organized in gravity the way stack of blocks is or other non-living material structures are, and it does not manifest the same density throughout the way a stack of blocks does. Thus, using the line of gravity as a way to evaluate how well or poorly a body relates to gravity is limited.

Instead of the gravity line you also could look or ask for balance and orientation of a person.

The other related drawback common to formalistic protocols is that they are sometimes incapable of attending to what is unique in each person. As a result, they are incapable of sequencing treatment strategies in the order required by each person's unique needs.

Dr. Rolf understood the second drawback and did not always follow her own recipe. But she was less clear about somatic idealism and tended to use her idea of the ideal body as a standard against which to evaluate clients' bodies and the success of her work.


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