Rolfing may be embraced through one of two series: the classic ten-series or a tailored-series, the former consisting of ten session, the latter, at the very least, a couple of sessions. With respect to the classic ten, it may be imagined as a “tune-up” of the human body. It is the systematic reorganisation of one’s physical body via ten consecutive Rolfing sessions. Each session builds upon the preceding while preparing the body for the next. The body is reorganised via work on the body’s fascia, a type of connective tissue found around and within muscles.
Session 1 sees the re-establishing of the body’s natural tone and an improvement of the body’s capacity for breath. Natural tone is encouraged via work on the area of the chest, ribs, hips and upper side legs. This positively influences the body’s capacity for breath, which is then further improved via indirect work on the diaphragm – the body’s primary breathing muscle.
Session 2 revolves around foundation. It is only with a solid foundation that the body can transcend Earth’s gravitational pull to efficiently erect itself. As the foundation of the human body are the feet, and because many of the muscles responsible for the feet originate in the lower leg, the feet and lower legs are worked on in Session 2. They are worked such that the body may start to feel grounded on Earth.
With improved breath facilitated via Session 1, and a sense of grounding nurtured through Session 2, the theme of Session 3 is better vertical alignment. Better vertical alignment means an improved relationship between the front and back of the body, as well as between the right and left side. This improved relationship is encouraged via work on the sides of the body, ranging from the knees to the base of the skull. Through the work of this session, the spine is incited to embrace its inherent ability to lengthen. The body starts to stand tall.
Session 4 marks the start of the core sessions. Simply put, core sessions see work that influences the relative positioning of the bones and muscles surrounding the body’s organs. Collectively, the core sessions bring stability and room to the body. In session 4, the resilience of the tissue below the organs – the pelvic floor – is nurtured, and a sense of grounding reemphasised. These are worked towards via work on the inner legs and externally accessible parts of the lower pelvis.
The series continues with Session 5. In this session, the front, ranging from the upper legs to the abdomen and chest is worked on. These areas are worked such that the associated musculature does not restrict the movement of the pelvis, and room is created within the thorax. An adaptable and spacious pelvis facilitates the unrestricted movement of the body’s deepest muscle – the Psoas. The Psoas, when unrestricted, is able to self-nurture its resilience and tone, and as a result, supports the spine’s capacity to lengthen. It is also an adaptable pelvis that allows the body to healthily explore the intricate movements associated with a backbend. It is worth articulating here that the backbend is not part of Session 5. It has merely been expanded on for the benefit of those wishing to intertwine Rolfing with a consistent asana practice.
Session 6 complements the previous session by seeing work done on the back of the body, ranging from the heel to the base of the head. Work is guided by the aim of fostering a relationship of stability and freedom between sacrum and pelvis. Such a relationship helps stabilise the lower back, which in turn supports the spine to lengthen. When the spine lengthens, the shoulders are able to rest. Resting, the shoulders find coordination with the pelvis below, enabling fluidity in movement. The healthy positioning of the sacrum, among other factors, supports the exploration of forward bends It is worth articulating here that the forward bend is not part of Session 6. It has merely been expanded on for the benefit of those wishing to intertwine Rolfing with a consistent asana practice.
The last of the core sessions, Session 7, revolves around work on the neck and head. The body territory might appear small, but the intricacies and complexities of this part of the body make it deserving of an entire session dedicated to it. The area is worked in way that encourages the head to balance comfortably on the shoulders. When this happens, unnecessary tension on the neck and shoulders dissolves as the body gradually stands confidently tall.
The seventh session saw the end of the core sessions. These last three sessions, known as the integration sessions, may best be described as the fine-tuning of the newly tuned body. In Session 8 and Session 9, fine-tuning is guided by the body’s capacity to derive support from the ground, and its capacity to healthily relate in the space around. In Session 10, the series is closed through work that would support the body’s independence.