Glossary of Rolfing Terminology

  • 10-Series – The formula developed by Dr. Ida P Rolf to systemically address postural issues
  • Core – In Rolfing, the core is comprised primarily of tonic muscles. Rolfers teach clients to initiate action from the core, rather than relying on phasic muscles, which shorten and contract to initiate movement. The core is addressed in sessions 4 – 7 of the 10-series
  • Sleeve – The sleeve is comprised of skin, superficial fascia, superficial nerves, adipose tissue, and phasic muscles. The first three sessions of the 10-series aim to loosen and organize the sleeve.
  • Integration – The final three sessions of the 10-series aim specifically at integration. In Rolfing integration is a state of being in which the tonic and phasic muscles cooperate and coordinate seamlessly, resulting in fluid motion, an effortless upright posture, and a deep sense of settling within the nervous system.
  • Structural Integration – Structural Integration was Ida Rolf’s contribution to the world of bodywork. There are now close to a dozen different schools of structural integration, but all of them are rooted in Rolfing Structural Integration.
  • Adhesion – Because fascia is a sort of glue-y substance that holds muscles, nerves, and bones together, adhesions can occur where fascia becomes dehydrated, malnourished, injured, or otherwise restricted. Adhesions can occur between muscles, between muscle and bone, and between nerves and surrounding tissue.
  • Inhibitions – Many people think that Rolfing is simply about releasing restricted tissue around the body, but in reality nearly 60% of the work involves working with the nervous system to help misfiring muscles, uncoordinated muscle systems, and socially learned movements resolve into an integrated state. These are called inhibitions.
  • Posture – Ida Rolf considered posture to be the personality exploded into three dimensions. Generally speaking Rolfers have the most holistic, organized and systemic method for analyzing and changing posture in the bodywork world.
  • Adaptability – Adaptability is a key principle of Rolfing Structural Integration. A physical system free of adhesions, inhibitions, and nervous system obstructions can generally adapt to change. Before a Rolfer makes a change to a particular body system, they must ask themselves if the client’s body can adapt to the intended change. If not, the non-adaptive structures must first be addressed.
  • Support – Every segment of the body relies on systems both above and below it for support. However, in general support comes from below. The head relies on the thorax. The thorax finds support over the pelvis. The pelvis finds support through the legs and feet.
  • Palintonicity – This concept is totally unique to Rolfing Structural Integration. Effectively it references the ability of muscles to fully activate from both their origin and insertion points. Palintonic movement feels better, keeps muscles long, rather than contracted, and supports good posture.
  • Sacrum – The sacrum is a fusion of five bones at the base of the spine, located between the coccyx (tail bone) and the last lumbar spine. There are many nerve endings in the sacrum, which is why the sacral hold is involved in many Rolfing sessions. The sacrum is also a crucial component of the pelvis and many ligaments run between the pelvis and the sacrum. Restrictions around the sacrum are one of the largest contributing factors to lower back pain, sciatic pain, and postural deformities around the lower back and buttocks. 
  • Sacro-Iliac Joint
  • Crura of Diaphragm – Two tendinous structures that connect the diaphragm to the vertebrae of the spine. When restricted, the crura restrict breathing and prevent length along the abdomen.
  • Diaphragm – Primary muscle of respiration. Commonly found to have restrictions or inhibitions.
  • Cranio-Sacral Rhythm – The rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid as measured by its pulsation throughout the cranium and spine.
  • Osteopathic Technique – Techniques that work with bones and their embryological development patterns
  • Sacral Hold – The sacral hold is integrated into nearly every Rolfing session. The Rolfer places their hand under the client’s sacrum, which gives a very gentle relaxing feeling to the body. As the sacrum has a very high density of nerves that come out of it, the sacral hold helps the nervous system go into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).
  • Pelvic Roll – A Rolfing technique for brining greater mobility to the spine and lengthening the connection between the fifth lumbar vertebra and the sacrum
  • Anterior Pelvic Tilt – When the anterior superior iliac spine of the pelvis tilts forward, generally resulting in excessive lumbar curvature
  • Posterior Pelvic Tilt – When the anteriror superior iliac spine of the pelvis tilts backwards, generally resulting in too little lumbar curvature
  • Contralateral Motion – This is a hallmark of an integrated body. Contralateral motion indicates that the 
  • Piriformis Syndrome – When the piriformis has tightened and is compressing nerves it can replicate sciatic nerve pain.
  • Brachial Plexus – Nerves that emerge around C3 and innervate the arms and surrounding area
  • Whiplash (Hot) – Refers to a recent whiplash. Hot indicates that the tissue is still traumatized and can only be worked with in a very gentle and indirect manner
  • Whiplash (Cold) – As a whiplash cools more direct work can be done with the tissue to help resolve pain and trauma.
  • Scalenes – Flex the neck and tilt it to one side or another. Also elevate rib 1 and rib 2.
  • Nose Work – Unique to Rolfing. In session 7 Rolfers may use gloves to work around and inside the nose to release cranial restrictions.
  • Mouth Work – Osteopathically and craniosacrally inspired, mouth work gives access to bones that may be compressed and causing headaches, TMJ, nerve pain, or other symptoms.
  • Tonic Muscles – Tonic muscles are slow-twitch dominant, composed of at least 51% slow-twitch muscle fibers. They resist fatigue, and work constantly but in a relaxed manner without consuming much energy. In Rolfing, tonic muscles are sometimes observed performing phasic functions – excessive contraction of tonic muscles leads to poor posture.
  • Phasic Muscles – Phasic muscles are fast-twitch dominant muscles. They can do a lot quickly, but fatigue shortly after being used. They also consume a lot of energy. In Rolfing, phasic muscles are examined to understand how they are overworking and not permitting the core/tonic muscles to do the same work with less effort.
  • Session 1 – Session One of the Rolfing 10-Series works with the shoulders, neck, ribs, lungs, and the trochanters of the hips to prepare the body for more specialized bodywork
  • Session 2 – Session Two of the Rolfing 10-Series works with the feet, ankles, heels, bones of the lower leg, and fascia of the lower leg to establish a base of support. Also prepares the body for more specialized bodywork.
  • Session 3 – Session Three of the Rolfing 10-Series works on the lateral line of the body to bring the shoulders and the hips into alignment
  • Session 4 – Session Four of the Rolfing 10-Series works with the medial line of the leg and distinguishes the pelvis from hamstrings and adductors. Pelvic floor work is also done along the bone of the ischium.
  • Session 5 – Session Five of the Rolfing 10-Series works with the quads, the psoas, the abdomen, chest, and arms.
  • Session 6 – Session Six of the Rolfing 10-Series works with the calves, heels, hamstrings, glutes, sacrum, spine, and is generally done face down.
  • Session 7 – Session Seven of the Rolfing 10-Series works with the neck and cranium. Most of the work is done from the clavicles up.
  • Session 8 – Session Eight of the Rolfing 10-Series builds connections between the legs and the torso
  • Session 9 – Session Nine of the Rolfing 10-series builds connections between the arms and the pelvis.
  • Session 10 – Session Ten of the Rolfing 10-Series deals with orthogonal relationships .
  • Adductors – The primary work of Session 4, the adductors run along the insdie of the upper leg and attach to the pubic ramus of the pelvis. The adductors can get shortened and restricted, binding the legs to the pelvis.
  • Pubic Ramus – One of three bones that make up the fusion of bones that make up one half of a pelvis.
  • G – A Rolfing principle indicating a person’s tendency to resource toward the ground.
  • G Prime – A Rolfing principle indicating a person’s tendency to resource toward the sky.
  • Mobility – Range of motion
  • Motility – Intrinsic movement found in anatomical structures such as marrow, organs, nerve fascicles.
  • Visceral Manipulation – Manipulation of viscera (organs)
  • Acromio-Clavicular Joint
  • Sacro-Tuberous Ligament
  • Ground Orientation
  • Sky Orientation
  • Radial Decompression
  • Axial
  • Appendicular
  • Navicular
  • Cuboid
  • Calcaneous
  • Medial Arch
  • Lateral Arch
  • Talar Glide
  • Interosseous Membrane
  • Sphenoid Bone
  • Nutation (Sacrum)
  • Counter-Nutation (Sacrum)
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