Movement and the Principles of Rolfing

Pages: 12-14
Year: 1993
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

ROLF LINES – Vol. XXI – Nº 02 – June 1993

Volume: XXI

Rolf Movement (RM) is a part of Rolfing and therefore based on the principles of Rolfing. Because it works with function, the focus of RM is personal embodiment of the work. The way each of us brings “The Rolf” into our own structure and life is unique.

I first trained in Rolf Movement in 1979 and have been teaching since 1988. Ida Rolf gave us a wonderful work and ways to look at structure, the world_ and gravity. My first series of work and many of Ida’s quotes, like “Given the choice, a body will choose ease over disease.” inspired me to make life changes long before I studied the work and joined the Rolf Institute.

This year I had the pleasure of co-teaching a Combined Studies for Rolfers with Jeff Maitland. During the course of our seven weeks together, I worked with the Principles of Rolfing and saw more clearly the common language through which structure and function come together. Because Rolfing is a third paradigm system of somatic education, the Principle of Wholism is primary. This principle holds or contains all other principles. It states how all principles work together. It has ontological implications which we present in RM as the circle of being. When you touch a body, you touch the whole person, the intellect, the spirit and the emotions. The way a person patterns their movement reflects who they are. RM is the place in our system where we address these patterns with the tools of education and awareness.

An important principle of Rolfing is the Palintonic Principle. Palintonus literally means to stretch back and forth. It expresses the unity of opposition that we see and feel when we are in harmony with ourselves and the world. Structurally it defines our sense of spatial and dimensional order. In function, this principle brings into play our experience of vertical and horizontal movement and our sense of place; our connection to heaven and earth. Functionally, in all aspects of who we are, the Palintonic Principle speaks to our experience of freedom and unencumbered movement. This experience of freedom is dependent on dimensionality, which requires back/ front and core/sleeve order.

As we come to know our earth connection through our legs and feet, we simultaneously feel support for lift through our core as we more fully ease into our uprightness. Our sense of place between heaven and earth and our sense of dimensionality are experienced in the vertical relationship with the coronal, sagittal, and transverse lines and planes. This interplay of balance and integration is displayed and felt differently in each individual and at different times in their lives and personal development. The way one is present, or not, with the internal experience of living within oneself is unique. The awareness of a client’s personal preferences for certain rhythms of moving and the way the movement carries through the joints is key if we are to organize the fascia and joints structurally.

The Preparatory Principle is necessary because a body must be readied to receive order before it can maintain the integration of our work. In RM we often use breath as the preparatory awareness for the client’s internal experience. An internal experience allows the work to hold and take root. An example of a preparatory breath use is when we take time with the breath in a third session so there is an experience of internal space and shape to take into the pelvic work of four and five.

The Support Principle is essential because order can only happen when the client has support and awareness for the changes. The length of stride, and the pattern of the foot strike is important for the necessary support to be available. This principle also includes the client’s perceived support in their life with family, friends, and the ability to trust in their world.

Many good structural Rolfers work with the client’s internal experience and assist the client’s ability to take the experience into the world. The principles and goals of the structural and functional aspects of our work are the same. Some of the techniques and ways of working are different. Movement work has developed tools which work with the principles. I have listed these tools below, please know this is only a partial list. The techniques can be used to access a variety of principles and many different outcomes. When a Rolfer gains understanding of the principles, other techniques fromm the Rolfer’s experience can be employed.



1. Anchoring of a new pattern

2. Breath-focus

3. Application of optional patterns into daily life

4. Tracking

5. Micro-movements


1. Retrieval of experience

2. Internal awareness for feedback

3. Integration of experience

4. Stability through joints/integration

5. Intrinsic knowing and release



1. Contrast and exaggeration

2. Ida’s re-patterning sequences
a-Pelvic rolls/sacral rolls
b-Arm rotations
c-Leg rotations


1. Experience of options
a-Pelvic mobility and core connection
b-Arm gestures/shoulder release/integration
c-Cylinder connection



1. Movement unwinding

2. Breath-cycle

3. Rapport with a client

4. Indirect touch

5. Joint mobilization

6. Pattern recognition

7. Crawling and developmental movements

8. Ida’s sequences
a-Leg drags/leg over/circles
b-Arm drops and pyramids


1. Release of habitual pattern/opening for new options

2. Internal tracking/witness

3. Client directed images relationship safety

4. Client education

5. Physical release/awareness

6. Increased understanding for client and Rolfer

7. Completes links in developmental sequence
a-Pelvic/leg separation and connection
b-Arm/shoulder differentiation


1. Breath-core

2. Standing and walking

3. Directed touch

4. Sitting education

5. Face/mask work

6. Tennis balls

7. Ida’s sequences
a-Toe/ankle/knee/hip flexion and response
b-Head hinge education


1. Internal knowing

2. Balance over feet; change in stride length

3. Taking over a holding pattern

4. Responsiveness; ease and verticality

5. Habitual expression release

6. Client can work alone
a-Lower body mobility and re-patterning
b-Ease for spine/head balance

Please note that this is not a complete list of RM Techniques.

As I am maturing in my life, and in our work, I am drawn to a softer view of the body and our system. Rolfing is not a rigid system of “right” vs. “wrong”, rather it seems to be a work which invites and engages each of us uniquely towards our own transformation. Each of us has our own gifts and these gifts look different in each body. By working with the principles, rather than a formulistic recipe, we can help ourselves, and our clients embody the work. At its best Rolfing is both manipulation and education.

The RM Training is available in two formats. The Combined Studies Pilot Project offers training in the structural and functional aspects of the work from the beginning. For Certified Rolfers, there is a series of six days available that give them the embodiment, techniques and practitioning for certification in RM. The six days are designed so a Rolfer can take the first one and then decide to continue to full RM certification, or not. If you have interest, contact the office for a Continuing Education schedule.

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