Who was Dr. Rolf?

Often I get asked:
“Where did the Rolf Method come from?”
“When did was it developed? Is it connected to The Alexander Technique or Osteopathy?” So here’s a little information on Dr. Ida Rolf and the origins of Structural Integration.

Dr. Ida P. Rolf, PHD

The Founder of Structural Integration
May 19, 1896 – March 19, 1979

“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. This is our primary concept. “ – Ida P. Rolf.


Ida P. Rolf was born in New York in 1896. She graduated from Barnard College in 1916, and took up a research post at the Rockafella Institute of Medical Research. In 1920 she earned a PhD in biochemistry from Columbia University (NYC) from her research in the behaviour of phosphatides (molecules that predominantly make up cell membranes). She continued her research based in Organic Chemistry for a further 7 years, publishing many papers over that time.

In 1927, she took a leave of absence from her work to study mathematics and atomic physics at the Swiss Technical University in Zurich. During this time, she also studied homeopathic medicine in Geneva.

Returning from Europe, she spent the decade of the 1930’s seeking answers to personal and family health problems. Medical treatment available at that time seemed inadequate to her; this led to her exploration of osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, yoga, the Alexander technique, Physio-synthesis and Korzybski’s work on states of consciousness.

By the 1940’s, she was working in a Manhattan apartment where her schedule was filled with people seeking help. She was committed to the scientific point of view, and yet many breakthroughs came intuitively through the work she did with chronically disabled persons unable to find help elsewhere. This was the work eventually to be known as Structural Integration. For the next thirty years, Ida Rolf devoted herself to developing her technique and training programs.

IDADuring the 1950’s, her reputation spread to England where she spent summers as a guest of John Bennett, a prominent mystic and student of Gurdjieff. Then, in the mid-60’s, Dr. Rolf was invited to the Esalen Institute (a retreat centre which focuses on the development of human potential) in California at the suggestion of Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy. There she began training practitioners and instructors of Structural Integration and it was at this time that the infamous nickname of “Rolfing” arose from her session work.

The more Structural Integration classes Ida Rolf taught, the more students sought admission to training. Newspaper and magazine articles began featuring the person and work of Ida Rolf, and soon the necessity for a formal organization became apparent. As early as 1967, a school for Structural Integration was loosely formed and eventually headquartered in a private home in Boulder, Colorado. Until her death in 1979, Ida Rolf actively advanced training classes, giving direction to her organization, planning research projects, writing, publishing and public speaking.

A few years after her death, the school divided into “The Guild of Structural Integration” and “The Rolf Institute”. Over the years, evolution of the work has led to a number of schools developing from Dr. Rolf’s direct students. These subsets include: Hellerwork (Joseph Heller), Kinesis Myofascial Integration – KMI (Tom Myers) and Soma Neuromuscular Integration (Bill Williams). For more information on Structural Integration as a whole you can visit www.sidirectory.co.uk and http://www.theiasi.net.

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