Regain your balance with Rolfing
Dr Suresh Duggal introduces us to Rolfing, a technique whereby imbalances in the connective tissues of the body are corrected, resulting in an improved posture
Poor posture, when carried over a prolonged period, can mess with the body’s tissues and muscles. However, there is a technique called Rolfing, which can help us realign them.
Rolfing is a hands-on manipulation therapy of the soft connective tissue to release, realign, and balance the whole body. It can resolve pain and discomfort for a variety of health issues, including back pain, trauma, ageing, and repetitive motion injury. It is also an excellent foundation for yoga and complements it as well as other personal wellness practices. However, contrary to what one might think, Rolfing does not fall into the category of massage.
Rolfing is also called Rolfing Structural Integration and is widely practised in many countries around the world. It is claimed that with this therapy, one moves better, gains height, and also stands straighter.
This therapy was developed by a biochemist, Dr. Ida Rolf, in the mid-1940s. Later, in 1971, she founded The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration. This institute and a number of schools along with other institutes teach methods similar to the method presented by Rolf. The idea behind this therapy was postural release with structural integration of the human body.
What is Rolfing?
Rolfing therapy is based on the fact that modern life, with habits like sitting and staring at screens for long hours, is resulting in poor postures. They can cause the body muscles to develop unnatural contractions, because of which connective tissues in the body change their form into thick plates known as fascia (these connect muscles to the bone), much in the way water, having crystallised, forms hard, unyielding ice. For example, as one muscle contracts, an opposite muscle lengthens in the body. However, if an unnatural action takes place in the muscular unity of the body and if this unnatural posture is maintained over a period, the muscles will remain contracted and not relax. The fascia surrounding each muscle will shorten and lose flexibility, and so lead to muscular imbalance and bad posture.
The above-mentioned fascia also affect the skeletal system. It is believed that this unnatural situation within the body creates not only muscular dysfunction but also contributes to a loss of energy and natural healing abilities.
In case of past trauma or injury, the muscles retain a form of memory. These memories remain even after physical healing, thus causing rigidity in the physical structure of the body. With time, this affects general health.
The purpose of Rolfing therapy is to restructure the muscle by breaking down the fascia while separating the fibres manually and loosening them to allow effective movement patterns. This results in improvements in posture, thereby improving breathing, which, in turn, increases energy levels throughout the entire system. The aim of Rolfing is to realign the body with its centre of gravity and with the earth.
It is important to realise that Rolfing therapy does not only improve posture and physical harmony but can also have a beneficial effect on stress-related issues a
How to practise
As far as the practice of Rolfing therapy is concerned, an adequate knowledge of human anatomy and hands-on training are required to negotiate the appropriate manipulations necessary to free the bound-up fascia.
Rolfers, or people who are trained in Structural Integration, view the connective tissue as the fabric net supporting the body. By loosening and lengthening chronically shortened connective tissues, Rolfers are able to bring the body into better balance and alignment. This improves the client´s posture and reduces or eliminates discomfort or pain.
Rolfing therapy is performed over a series of visits lasting an hour to an hour and 15 minutes each session, during which with each Rolfing massage, the client is asked to do certain exercises such as walking, bending the knees, and extending the joints before and after the treatment. The level of movement and function is noted before and after treatment each time.
Rolfing therapy works to break down the tight bands of connective fascia that constrict and contract the muscles and their skeletal attachments. The goal is to make the fascia softer and more flexible and to restore their natural balance in relation to muscles, tendons, and bones. Over time, improvement is noticed.
Cooperation between the practitioner and client is needed to change the structure of the connective fascia to regain a more functional body alignment in relation to the centre of gravity.
Both mind and body are necessary to make Rolfing therapy effective. With time, one learns how to maintain balance in the body. One is then able to carry weight evenly without favouring one side over the other. Rolfing therapy is meant for every area of the body.
Rolfing therapists suggest this therapy for a number of medical conditions. But sufficient data is unavailable to endorse its effectiveness as a therapy. Some regard it as only a deep massage. However, the concept of ‘fascia’ needs more investigation. During the Fascia Research Congress in 2007, much attention was paid to different researchers and clinicians.
Though Rolfing is considered safe, since it involves deep tissue manipulation, people with clots and vascular or skeletal disorders should consult a doctor before undergoing Rolfing therapy.
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