Dr. Ida P. Rolf's life work was devoted to answering a question, which she posed: "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?" A system which works with deep myofascial structures through soft tissue manipulation and movement education evolved out of Dr. Rolf's research, which is the basis of Rolfing, a discipline that is now supported, taught and certified by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.
Dr. Rolf's work was then built upon by her student and the first President of the Rolf Institute, Joseph Heller, who synthesized his knowledge of Rolfing, movement education and body energy awareness to found a new field of Structural Integration called Hellerwork. Another student, Tom Myers, who also studied under Moshe Feldenkrais and Buckminster Fuller, has built upon those practitioner's techniques and has created an approach to Structural Integration which he calls Kinesis Myofascial Integration. Myers also created the International Association of Structural Integrators to create a unifying entity for all of the various types of Structural Integration that have been inspired by Dr. Rolf's work.
At the heart of all Structural Integration is Dr. Rolf's Ten Series the goal of which is to systematically balance and optimize both the structure (shape) and function (movement) of the entire body over the course of ten Rolfing sessions. Most practitioners who have been certified in Structural Integration have learned the Ten Series.
Considered a form of Massage Therapy in part, Structural Integration focuses its treatments on the connective tissue (fascia) rather than the muscles themselves. Despite the different approaches (Rolfing, Hellerwork, Kinesis Myofascial Integration, etc.) to Structural Integration, the Structural Integration practitioner work is based on the belief that the constant strain of gravity, combined with day to day stress and subconscious human tendencies in posture and movement result in the misalignment of connective tissues which can result in chronic stress, bodily pain and injury.
Practitioners work to create length and space within the soft tissue through gentle pressure and touch and, in doing so, gives the body the room and freedom it needs to align itself. The practitioner facilitates the release of old patterns in the body (perhaps results of past injury, illness, physical or emotional trauma) and lengthens or realigns the connective tissue to alleviate pain, increase posture, and increase range of motion.
This practice initially involves 10 hour long sessions (Ida Rolf's Ten Series), in which the practitioner studies the clients' posture, movement, and general goals. The practitioner also educates the client on their inefficient tendencies to increase awareness and promote long term maintenance of health.
There are multiple schools and institutions offering training, continuing education and certification programs in Structural Integration. In states which require a license, most Structural Integration professionals are state licensed as Massage Therapists and then might specialize in Structural Integration by taking classes through Hellerwork Structural Integration, The Rolf Institute, The Rolf Guild, KMI, The International Association for Structural Integration (IASI) or one of many other Structural Integration Schools.
Practitioners of Hellerwork, Rolfing, and Structural Integration must undergo a rigorous training process consisting of extensive reading, instruction, and hands-on bodywork. For example, those wishing to train in Hellerwork structural integration must first have experienced it themselves and upon doing so can enter a Hellerwork International approved training program, which consists of 1250 credit hours.
In order to become a certified practitioner of Rolfing, providers must attend the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI), which is headquartered in Colorado but does provide alternate locations worldwide for training. Providers must complete a three course, 731 hour program before they are eligible for certification by the RISI.
A typical structural integration course will amount to 650 to 2000 credit hours. They are not required to attend a school recognized by the International Association of Structural Integration, but that organization has been established as an umbrella organization for all forms of Structural Integration.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
Practitioners of Hellerwork Structural Integration are certified by Hellerwork International which also serves as the regulation body. Practitioners of Rolfing must be certified by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI) or the Rolf Guild (these are competing organizations which have taken Dr. Rolf's teachings in two different directions.) The Certification Board for Structural Integration (CBSI) is another accreditation body for this field and is a sub-division of the International Association of Structural Integration. Additionally, as mentioned above, practitioners can obtain licenses or be registered under the branch of massage therapy in 42 states as well as the District of Columbia.
Hellerwork International is the main professional association for Hellerwork Structural Integration. Under this umbrella are local and regional associations, including the American Hellerwork Structural Integration Association (AHSIA). The Rolf Guild is an international association dedicated to the original teachings of Dr. Ida P. Rolf, and focuses on practitioners of Rolfing. The Rolf Institute is a competing institution, also affiliated with the work for Dr. Rolf. The International Association of Structural Integration (IASI) is another professional association for practitioners of all forms of structural integration.
Individual Rolfing® sessions usually last 75 to 90 minutes and range from $90 to $120 per session.
To learn more about Hellerwork Structural Integration, visit Hellerwork International. For more information on Rolfing, visit the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration or the Rolf Guild and to learn more about Structural Integration, visit the International Association of Structural Integration.