The Rolfing Process

Treatment room at Vitality Rolfing

Ten Series

The Rolfing® Ten Series is an intelligent approach to structural integration, originally designed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf. Though the Rolfing Ten Series provides a guide for the Rolfing practitioner and client, additional Rolfing sessions can occur outside of this sequence. Below is a brief outline of this series:

Note: If a client meets their structural goals after 3 or 4 sessions then the process is complete. However, some clients’ may have more involved structural challenges and may benefit greatly from completing all ten sessions. It is important to read the Rolfing® Ten Series description below so you understand this process. Often, when clients have a goal of reducing lower back or neck pain just addressing the sleeve muscles in sessions 1-3 may not be enough to meet this goal. Later sessions involve more of the spinal structures (sessions 5-9) deeper within the body, which are unavailable until sessions 1-3 are completed.


Sessions 1-3  (Sleeve)

These first three sessions involve the “Sleeve” muscles and associated fascia of the body. They involve working on the larger more peripheral muscles of the body as a way of preparing for deeper “core” work in later sessions. Establishing differentiated muscles in the sleeve enables the Rolfing practitioner to address the deeper holdings of the body, which often are the culprits of nagging pain, discomfort, and structural abnormalities.

Session 1 involves working on the breath, or heart space, of the body. This session also includes working on the rib “basket” as we call it because of the dynamic nature of a healthy ribcage. The arms, pelvis, and respiratory diaphragm are also addressed, the extent dependent upon client needs. The important connection between the breath and the nervous system is of great importance. Breath, if uncontrolled and random, can stimulate more of the sympathetic nervous system bringing rise to feelings of discomfort and lack of control. When the breath is controlled, expansive, and dynamic opposite affects can occur as the parasympathetic nervous system brings greater ease to the clients’ body-mind.

Session 2 creates bilateral support for the pelvis and upper body by working on the feet, lower legs, upper legs, and pelvis. When clients achieve proper support in their legs, the transmission of forces into the body from impacting the ground in standing, walking, and running is shared by the entire system. It is common to experience lower back and neck pain when one has inefficient support in their legs.

Session 3 completes the sleeve sessions by addressing the lateral lines of the body (side of body from feet to neck), providing the possibility of greater space front to back. In addition, the shoulder and pelvic girdles are differentiated from the thorax. This is clearly achieved when one moves their arms and legs independently of the axial (spine) structure.

Sessions 4-7  (Core)

Session 4 – begins the core work by addressing the medial (inner) lines of the legs up to the pelvis floor muscles. This session further differentiates the legs from the pelvis while bringing continued balance and support in the ankle, knee, and hip joints.

Session 5 – focuses on the front of the body with direct work on the psoas, rectus abdominus, oblique’s, and iliacus muscles in addition to other supporting structures. The goal is to achieve greater space and span in the front of the body in preparation for session 6. A related objective during this session is to have the legs begin to move from the front of the lower back (via psoas) instead of from the hips alone. We affectionately call this the “psoas walk” as it is an important aspect of a well functioning body.

Session 6 – addresses the back of the body bringing greater balance with relation to the front. Key areas of interest include the back of the legs up into the pelvis via the hamstring muscles, the relationship of the sacrum (tailbone) with the pelvis, and the spine to include the associated rib connections. This is also the session where we work more directly on spinal mechanics and function.

Session 7 – brings to close the core phase of the series. This session focuses on the top pole (the head) and neck to accommodate the changes achieve below. Specific muscle compartments of the neck and head are addressed in detail to include the muscles of the jaw, occiput region of the lower back skull, and the visceral region (front) of the neck.

Sessions 8-10  (Integration)

Session 8 – begins the integration sessions with the primary goal of bringing the entire body into a higher level of order and function. The pelvic girdle, or the shoulder girdle, will become the focus of this session depending on the client’s needs. The girdle not addressed in this session will be worked on in the following session. The client in this session is challenged to move from the anterior (front) spine space as the spine becomes more responsive to the movements of the entire body.

Session 9 – is focused on the girdle not addressed in the previous session with similar goals of integration and function from the anterior spine space.

Session 10 – involves the entire structure as the Rolfing practitioner works with the client to bring greater balance to the major joints of the body. This session brings balanced closure to the series by working on specific areas needing attention.

This is the process is which Rolfers work with clients in achieving a higher order of structure and function. Do not be surprised if those people close to you no longer recognize your walking pattern, as these unique movements frequently become the signature changes following this experience.