Ida Rolf History


“Gravity is the Therapist.”

Ida Rolf, PhD.,    

Founder  of Rolfing®

Rolfing®, a manual method of body alignment through connective tissue manipulation, was founded by Ida Rolf, PhD., a native New Yorker.  Dr. Rolf originally called the work structural integration, but the term “Rolfer” prevailed and eventually became her officially sanctioned and legally trademarked term for her work.

Ida P. Rolf, was born on May 19, 1909, graduated from Barnard College in 1916, and in 1920 earned a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. For the next twelve years Ida Rolf worked at the Rockefeller Institute, first in the Department of Chemotherapy and later in the Department of Organic Chemistry. 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 and spent many years studying and experimenting with different systems of healing and manipulation.  Medical treatment available at that time seemed inadequate to her; this led to her exploration of osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, yoga, and the Alexander technique.  The notion that proper alignment, physiologic function and anatomical structure are related is the basis of many of these healing methods.

Dr. Rolf agreed that the body functions best when the bony segments are in proper alignment, which is dependent upon the effects of gravity’s constant force. Dr. Rolf posed this fundamental question: "What conditions must be fulfilled in order for the human body-structure to be organized and integrated in gravity so that the whole person can function in the most optimal and economical way?" “Gravity is the Therapist”,one of her most famous quotes, brilliantly states the premise of Rolfing; that when the body is in balance, gravity becomes a positive effect which enables proper function.

By the 1940’s, she was working in Manhattan where her schedule was filled with people seeking help. During 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 Esalen Institute in California at the suggestion of Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy. There she began training Rolfing practitioners and instructors.  In order to pass along her work to others and to make the education process accessible, she developed an expedient series of ten sessions, which came to be known as the Ten Series.  For maintenance and continuing transformation, the Advanced Sessions are also available.

Until her death in 1979, Ida Rolf taught advanced Rolfing classes, provided direction to the Rolf Institute, planned research projects, and was actively involved in writing, publishing and public speaking. In 1977, she wrote Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures (Harper and Row, Publishers). This book is the major written statement of Ida P. Rolf’s scholastic and experiential investigation into the direct intervention with the evolution of the human species.

Another book, compiled by Dr. Rolf’s friend and associate Rosemary Feitis, is Ida Rolf Talks About Rolfing and Physical Reality. Additionally, the book Remembering Ida Rolf was published, authored by Rolfers who knew her well, sharing their experiences and paying homage to Dr. Rolf.

Throughout most of her life she was intrigued with and explored many forms of alternative healing including homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractics and yoga. Dr. Rolf continues to be recognized as a pioneer and leader in soft tissue manipulation and movement education.

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