Ida Rolf Rolfing: Did It Hurt?

Pages: 12-13
Year: 2001
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration


Fritz Smith

The realization, or maybe I should say experience, was that Ida didn’t hurt me while she was Rolfing me. This was totally incongruous with what we students were doing with each other. Those other Rolfings really hurt. I was in pain when others worked or me and I hurt people when I was Rolfing them. It became expected that a session would be painful because that was what Rolfing was…
Remembering Ida Rolf, p. 55

Robert K. Hall

She was a powerful woman. Her relentless touch helped my five-year old son grow out of severe lordosis. When she worked with him, he never complained of the discomfort he was obviously feeling from her radical rearranging of the fascia of his little body. He told me he could tell that she was helping him.
Remembering Ida Rolf, pp.31-32

Al Drucker

She somehow Rolfed more energetically and, although it was equally intense, it felt more like lovemaking than pain… She go the work done without a lot of powerful physical pressure.
Remembering Ida Rolf, pp. 68-69

Ed Maupin

Though the work was painful, Ida clearly knew what she was doing. Remembering Ida Rolf, p. 25

Tom Myers

Although the reputation for pain in Rolfing has been confirmed many times, my own experience was that her touch was gentle but commanding. The tissue of my mouth and neck seemed to say, “You know, I was just going this way anyway.”
Remembering Ida Rolf, p. 223

Jim Lewis

She laid me on my side and put her elbow” into my ribs and axilla. I asked what she was doing and she said that this is what she always did to rebalance the shoulder girdle It felt great!

I also remember one model Dr. Rolf worked on. She had cerebral palsy and hadn’t beer on her feet without human support for over ten years. The foot work was extremely; painful but the client was determined.
Remembering Ida Rolf, p. 158

Sharon Wheeler-Hancoff

She seemed to select the most key area: with major historical trauma and extreme sensation levels. She was able to reach high in and take firm hold of the tissue involved She was dead-on accurate. In doing so, the sensation level was often beyond complaining about. The work brought the historic memory to the surface very rapidly for me And, of course, once the memory began to unroll, the sensation level would lessen to so little as to be beneath further notice.
Remembering Ida Rolf, p. 86

Caroline Widmer

I was first Rolfed by Dr. Rolf at Esalen Institute when I was there for Gestalt Therapy: Training with Dr. Fritz Perls. I personally, was very tight and in pain most, if not all of the time. Fritz was rubbing my extremely tight shoulders one day and he suggested that I get Rolfed. I did not know what Rolfing was but I decided to talk to Dr. Roll who took one look at me and said, “Comp tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock or don’ come at all.”

I decided to try Rolfing and so I went to my first session. The pain during these firs sessions was hot, sharp, long-lasting an( almost unbearable. I remember yelling most of the time during my first series of sessions I am sure that Dr. Rolf wished that she was working on someone else who was no nearly so hard and noisy to work on. (In fact one day years later when I was in my advanced training class, Dr. Rolf said, “Well, you know that you are one of the two people whom I have ever worked on who needed 45 or 50 sessions before I could start doing regular Rolfing.”)

Dr. Rolf told me that my body was very toxic and she suggested that I begin to research and to take some nutritional supplements to help my body function better, del to and to decrease its extreme pain level. – Years later, after my pain level had decreased significantly but was still quite high, I discovered that among other things my digestive system did not fully digest carbohydrates and so all the cells of my body were filled with partially-digested carbohydrates which were toxic to my cells and led to all of my cells being very sore and extremely painful when worked on, even by Dr. Rolf. -I have for the last number of years been able to find ways to clear those toxins out of my body, and my Rolfing experiences have been much easier since these toxins have been removed.

I was worked on by Dr. Rolf many times during the next years. On one of those occasions I was participating in a continuing education course that Dr. Rolf was doing for already-trained Rolfers in Big Sur. I remember that one of the newly-trained Rolfers was working on my feet. My feet were still very sensitive and I had thoughts of yanking my foot away from him because his work on my feet was so painful. Dr. Rolf came over and said she would work on me. I remember vividly the very distinctive difference between the newly trained Rolfer’s work and touch and Dr. Rolf’s touch and work. With her work she would move in slowly, giving me time to allow her in and for me to work with her pressure. She worked with a broader surface and moved in a way that I still felt the pressure and some “pain” but it was a totally different experience than I had felt with the first Rolfer who had started working on my feet.

Peter Melchior

I had all my work from Dr. Rolf for years (until the day when I realized that I would be having a basic series from my partner in class – a person as ignorant as I was at the time.) An amazing adventure, you can be sure.

I never had the feeling, when under Ida’s hands, that she used any more force than was absolutely necessary. There were moments of intensification that were, at times, exquisite. She made much of the distinctions between pressure and pain – one being the here-and-now, present, physical sensation and the other involving interpretation.

Tom West

I got my basic training and my advanced training with Ida. Many times in class we would discuss the experience of pain during Rolfing. Ida was not happy that so many people viewed Rolfing as extremely painful. She would discuss with us that pain was the tendency to withdraw from a situation – consequently during a session she would ask the Rolfer to work with breathing and to “go into the experience” and not try to get away.

In the class I was a model as well as a auditor. I will never forget that her son, Dick Demmerle, was scheduled to demonstrate the seventh session with me as the model. We had about 30 people in the room. I was scared to death because Dick was noted for being rough and very painful. Ida saw me lying there and music to my ears flowed in, “Dick, I’ll give Tom the seventh session,” said Ida. It was the most meaningful and pleasant session I have ever had. I felt no pain at all – only caring and tremendous skill.

The most pain comes from lack of skill of the Rolfer, not having established good rapport, doing the work mechanically, the Rolfee not knowing what is happening in the work, and the Rolfer not being tuned into the moment-to-moment state of being of the Rolfee. This was Ida’s position and I sure do agree with it.

At the beginning (back in the 70s) we knew very little about the fascia layers and would dig around over and over again. We called it “overkill.” Rolfing truly hurt in those days and Ida would constantly warn us not to go over an area again and again. I see that has changed greatly and at the present-time we know what we need to do, we prepare the Rolfee for the work, and we go in and get it done and get out. We connect better with the Rolfee and that? makes a world of difference.

I find the old baggage that Rolfing is very painful dies hard. It seems that people like to brag about how courageous they were to be Rolfed. But more and more Rolfees are reporting that the pain is not severe, is a “good” pain and they feel so much better after an intervention which had some discomfort.

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