The Core’s Role as Causal in Structural Distortion (reprint)

Pages: 17
Year: 2003
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration


After attending the 1990 international conference in Boulder, what I have been suspecting for a few years was confirmed: namely, we are not succeeding in accomplishing one of Dr. Rolf’s primary tenets of Rolfing®, that Rolfing should decrease the compression of the lumbar spine, or at least arrest its compression as the individual ages. Observing my fellow Rolfers, I saw those results are not consistently showing up in our aging bodies and in considerably less than 10% of our population.

My premise is that our official approach to a body really only addresses the sleeve’ of the structure and ignores the core’s2 role in shaping the sleeve. The unspoken premise we have been holding is that the sleeve determines the form of the structure. Being an unspoken premise, it has remained outside our conscious inquiry. Possibly because we daily observe liquids, aggregate solids, gases and other amorphous masses conforming to the shape or structural tension of the containers which surround them, we unconsciously assume the same relationship exists between the sleeve that surrounds the core of human structure.

In my work, I have changed this premise from the idea that the sleeve determines the shape of the core to the premise that the core contents are shaping the sleeve.

What I saw in the well-“Rolfed” persons attending the international conference was a well-balanced, symmetrical, but shortening and bulging sleeve. To correct this problem in a post-ten structure of accumulating years, Rolfing must address the abdominal core’ contents directly, in order to elongate its mass and halt its entropic movement toward a spherical form. To do this, it is helpful to acknowledge the mesenteries’ of the abdominal core as its unifying structure in which are enmeshed the denser organ structures. This image makes it possible to approach the core contents as a unified field of connective tissue with varying loci of density.

Indirect and direct technique are not of much value here because of one’s inability to see or feel how the mesenteries should be arranged. Just as we have unspoken premises about our work, we also have a littlespoken-about technique, practiced by many of us, which can best be described as empathy. With this approach, one does not put something where it belongs; one applies energy to the tissue, waits for its response, and then follows it to where it wants to go. The following empowers the going.

This is the safest and most effective way I have found to unwind the entropic tension in the abdominal core. One soon realizes that through such an empathetic approach, the specific organs in the abdominal core are being accessed and opened as the mesenteries open. Just as the connective tissue in the sleeve tends to migrate to and contract around the bony attachments, likewise, the abdominal core-the connective tissue of the mesenteries-migrates to and contracts around the organs it positions. This is what causes organs to feel harder in older bodies. As the mesenteries, as ground substance of the core, open and lengthen, they release their constrictive hold on the organs they position, and the blood supply and innervation of the entire abdominal core improves. This, in turn, reduces the body’s need to generate anaerobic cancer cells in order to maintain its form, and already-established adaptive tissue will revert to a normal aerobic cell structure.

Abdominal core distortion initially is established in the fetus through the umbilical connection to the mother’s core pattern which is consolidated in and reflected from her uterus. The core is further seriously injured when the umbilical cord is cut before its blood and nerve transmission functions naturally abate, sometimes after the placenta is expelled from the mother’s body. The umbilical cord in our culture is universally cut too soon, introducing an umbilical scar through the umbilicus into the entire core mesenteries. The nature and shape of this scarring will be a response to the mother’s core pattern already being reflected through the umbilical cord and, therefore, is different in each infant, even if the severance of the umbilical cord is done as similarly as possible with every newborn. The umbilical scar, as patterned by the maternal imprint, snaps into place as a violent shock to the core of the infant. This newly established scar in the core mesenteries continues to contract with age, distorting the sleeve as it does.

I have come to these realizations by remembering as the mesenteries of my own core have opened and released the deep lumbar scoliosis I have lived with all my life.

When we as a group begin to consciously address the abdominal core’s role in shaping structure, we will move into an entirely new era of dealing with what Dr. Rolf saw as structural compression. As she said with a twinkle in her eye at the close of her film, “If you want a different conclusion, you must first change your premise.”


1. Sleeve – Everything outside of the pleural and peritoneal membranes, consisting of what are generally termed the mesentery and peritoneal ligaments.

2. Core – The pleural membrane of the thorax and its contents, and the peritoneal membrane of the abdomen, along with its contents.

3. Abdominal core – the peritoneal membrane of the abdomen and its contents.

4. Mesenteries – the unifying connective tissue matrix of the abdominal core.

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