This question is usually the most common one asked by those who have yet to experience this work. Structural Integration is real, hands on work with the physical structure. The experience of pain, or intense sensation, may be present at certain points in the process. In general, these experiences are momentary, and followed by a sense of release and newly found freedom.
Each client's experience will be unique, based on their own presenting situation and personality bent.
I offer a free initial consultation which can be done either over the phone or in person and I can provide you more specific information based on the situation you are dealing with. This will allow you to make the best and most informed decision.
The ten-session series is the initial process in Structural Integration. The ten-series may be done more than once, I would recommend at least a full year break from the completion of the last series.
Once your structure has been sufficiently organized the ten-series is no longer the best approach. At that point, the advanced series of five sessions is a better approach, or more specific three session series or single sessions.
My recommendation is to get a nice, handmade pair of Native American style moccasins made of soft leather all over with thicker but still soft leather soles. In my experience, wearing this type of footwear evokes an awareness of the feet that rubber or hard soled shoes block. Also, the soft soles allow the foot not only to feel the ground more, but to adapt to changes in ground, too. This demands more adaptation in the bones of the foot which keeps the feet young, alive, and happy. The demand for greater awareness of the soles of your feet means that you will be moving through your day with a larger awareness of yourself. That naturally equates to being more present.
First, I would recommend you check if the practitioner you are interested in trained at a school that focuses only on Structural Integration and has a lineage to Dr. Rolf, the founder. Next, you could check reviews or speak to others who have experienced work from that practitioner. Last, call or meet them before setting up a session. Make sure that you feel you have good rapport with them and that you feel a sense of trust.
Since the 10-series is often a profound life changing experience, you deserve to find the best practitioner for yourself: someone you can trust, has a good track record, and is well-trained.
Dr. Rolf called her work Structural Integration. During her lifetime, others coined the name "rolfing" and that name became more commonly associated with her work. After her death in 1979, there was a split in the school where the Guild for Structural Integration chose to stick to Dr. Rolf's principles and teachings, and the Rolf Institute (which copyrighted the name "rolfing") was more "progressive", incorporating other modalities and ideas into Dr. Rolf's work to improve upon it and add to it.
Basically, if you follow them back far enough, Structural Integration and rolfing refer to the method developed by Dr. Rolf. More recent manifestations may differ more greatly from school to school and from teacher to teacher since as the more time elapses since Dr. Rolf's passing the more likely for the process to become diluted or distorted. However, luckily for all of us, there are many practitioners that have trained directly with those who trained under Dr. Rolf herself, and there are also some still practicing that trained directly under Dr. Rolf herself.
The best place to go to is right to the source. Dr. Rolf wrote a book called "Rolfing: Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being" which was published in 1977. This is the life work of a truly brilliant scientist and revolutionary.
I would recommend taking online sources of information with a grain of salt. Since Dr. Rolf, no one has laid out the principles and theory of Structural Integration better.
Also, there are some pieces of past lectures that have been uploaded to youtube where you can see and hear Dr. Rolf explaining some aspects of her work.
Locally, I get work from Mary Staggs. She is an original student of Dr. Rolf and has been in practice for over 40 years. I highly recommend her work.
She is located in East Lyme, CT and her website is www.staggsrolfing.com.
In my opinion they are not. Posture is more a social construct, and will change according to time and culture. For example, there is good military posture and good ballet posture, and they are not the same. Also, posture tends to be something evaluated from the outside, either with the aid of a mirror or another person's evaluation. This shows that it can be more aesthetic than functional.
Structure, on the other hand, is how we are put together. Primarily, we relate to gravity, and we adapt to the demands of gravity at our joints. The general structure of our body is not something that changes according to times, cultures or practices. The integration of structures according to Dr. Rolf is the most efficient and optimal relationship between the parts of the body, and as a whole, to gravity. Good structure feels good, it feels right. You do not need an external source to tell you that you are stable, resilient, capable and light. Good structure can be seen as good posture, but good posture is not always good structure.
If done properly, Structural Integration changes the underlying pattern with which you move through life. As with any pattern, the more it is used, the more it is reenforced. So it is not that you remain the same as you are at the end of a ten-series, but rather you will be constantly reenforcing the new pattern the more you go about your life. The changes will tend to continue to improve over time.
Structural Integration is not a symptom based method. When a client first comes in for a session they often come in with a primary complaint which is most often some type of chronic pain or discomfort. This does not mean that the problem is limited to the location where the discomfort is felt, especially in relation to chronic issues.
One basic condition within which we live is that our attention is called to what stands out the most, or what moves the most or fastest. Stimuli which are constant over time will eventually fall into the background of our awareness. This is why we often do not realize that the refrigerator was on until it shuts off. Or how we realize just how noisy the city is until we get away from it. With new clients, there are often many different lower levels of pain or discomfort which have been so constant in that person's life that they no longer are aware of them. This does not mean that they do not exist, but only that they have been accepted as an unchangeable aspect of reality. Clients will not complain about these, as they no longer consciously register. A well-trained practitioner can see and feel where in the structure there may be unaddressed or "forgotten" issues which can be improved. Clients will often only realize how uncomfortable they were only after they are relieved of that unnecessary burden. That is why we address the whole structure and do not merely chase symptoms.
Following an initial intake, clients will undress to their underwear. Men will general wear briefs or boxers, and women will wear a bra and underwear or sports bra and shorts. I then assess the client's structure in a standing position, and then proceed to begin the work on the table. Depending on the session, different aspects of the body will be address. Using my hands and forearms, I will hold the soft tissues of the body in a position closer to the structural normal and either use the clients breath or guided movement to allow the new pattern to be evoked. At the end of the session there may be some seated work with the back and then we finish up with another standing assessment of the client's structure to see how the work on the table has affected them.
I mainly work on people, but I also do work with animals, mainly horses.
Dr. Rolf was a biochemist, who got her Phd. in the 1920's. She then went on to study higher mathematics and atomic physics in Europe. She was definitely a scientifically inclined woman.
Now, as a true scientist and explorer, she did challenge the ideas and limitations of her time. Scientists are always exploring new territory and seeking a broader and deeper view of reality.
There is nothing pseudoscientific about addressing how the structure of the body relates to gravity. I also know of no one that questions whether structure and function are related. When people, practitioners or otherwise, get sidetracked and begin to focus on symptom resolution and treating medical disorders, naturally things get a bit iffy. But that is not the territory of Structural Integration. We work out the kinks in the relationship between the structure of the person and gravity. Things look and feel better.
No one messes with gravity. You either follow its laws or you won't be upright for long. Structural Integration is about using gravity as a support rather than something to struggle and fight against.