Rolfing is based on the proposition that “a human is basically an energy field operating in the greater energy of the earth”. In practical terms, Rolfing is delivered as a type of hands-on physical manipulationattempting to align the body in the earth’s gravity. Rolf said that “Rolfers make a life study of relating bodies and their fields to the earth and its gravity field, and we so organize the body that the gravity field can reinforce the body’s energy field.”
Rolfing also incorporates a number of ideas from other areas including osteopathy, (including cranial osteopathy), yoga, and Alfred Korzybski‘s general semantics. The Rolfing Institute describes Rolfing as “a form of bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissues, called fascia, that permeate the entire body.”
The manipulation is sometimes referred to as a type of bodywork, or as a type of massage. The massage tradition has drawn significantly from Rolfing, with some of Ida Rolf’s students leaving to become prominent teachers of massage.
Rolfing is typically performed in a progression of 10 sessions, sometimes called “the recipe”, which is claimed to provide a systematic approach to achieving body alignment. Rolfers claimed that the human body contains a layer of tissue that interconnects every organ. Rolfers manipulate this supposed layer until they believe it is operating optimally. The manipulation process can be painful. In addition to physical manipulation of tissue, Rolfing uses a combination of active and passive movement retraining.
Rolf claimed to have found an association between emotions and the soft tissue, writing that rolfing is an “approach to the personality through the myofascial collagen components of the physical body”. Rolf claimed that rolfing could balance the mental and emotional aspects of subjects, and that rolfees had shown “amazing psychological changes”. Rolfers say that their manipulations can cause the release of painful repressed memories. Rolfers also hold that by manipulating the body they can bring about changes in personality so that, for example, teaching somebody to walk purposefully will make them a more purposeful person. The connection between physical structure and psychology has not been proven by scientific studies.