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What is Rolfing®?


Rolfing is hands-on manual therapy used to release bound tissue, restore the alignment of your whole body, and to re-educate your mind/body for efficient and coordinated movement. Its intention is to address the pain, tension, and tightness in your body. Rolfing addresses injuries and physical issues, no matter how long or recent, and improves your overall posture. Rolfing is safe for everyone – Tam has experience with infants as young as 6 weeks old, pregnant women, and adults well into their 80’s.

Rolfing’s guiding principle is physical order promotes health. By restoring proper order in your connective tissue system, your body is then balanced and aligned at its foundation. At this deep and multi-layered level, your mind/body can reset to move better, to heal itself, and to prevent other injuries.

The therapy was developed by the pioneer of fascia (connective tissue) science, Dr. Ida Rolf, who taught her students a strategy and a way of seeing and thinking that has been successfully practiced and evolving for over 60 years. Today, thousands of practitioners all around the globe are helping others in her system, and many other schools have taken her concepts to create their own versions of connective tissue therapy for alignment.

How does Rolfing compare to other treatments?

Similar to massage, comfort and a state of relaxation is paramount as your practitioner applies various levels of pressure using their hands to your body with the intention of releasing bound tissue. Unlike massage, your Rolfer will use no (or very little) lubricant. The reason being, your Rolfer does not want to kneed your muscle or glide on the surface. Your Rolfer will want direct hand to skin contact to properly feel, listen, and affect tissue change through the intricate webbing of the fascia system, from just below your skin all the way down to bone.

Like chiropractics, you will benefit from releasing joint restrictions, spinal adjustments, and traction to decrease tension and pain. Unlike chiropractics, you’ll be with your Rolfer throughout your entire treatment. With Rolfing you will experience a slow unwinding of your joints from your spine through your distal ends, meaning your hands and feet. You may also at times be asked to participate while receiving treatments.

Like physical therapy, you will work towards strengthening your body. However, you won’t be using weights or machines. Rolfers focus instead on deliberate step-by-step instruction to help your nervous system rewire for dynamic core stability.

Similar to acupuncture, your Rolfer will elicit electrical impulses that can travel throughout the body to help stimulate and regulate your system. Your practitioner will not be using needles to do so, but their hands.

What does Rolfing feel like? Does it hurt?

Rolfing has a range of sensations and can be different from person to person.  At times it can be intense, but with the right practitioner, those times are often described as the “good kind of pain” that reassures you that there is a release in your stuck tissue.

Everything is interconnected and your practitioner is guided by what you share and what he or she feels in your body.

When you are receiving a treatment, it can feel intense when your practitioner is tuned into your deep layers and it can feel light when your Rolfer is on a more superficial layer. There would be times as well when it can feel “energetic” as wave-like airy sensations coarse throughout your body. That may be an indication that bound sheaths of fascia are being released. What has been so interesting about Rolfing is that there are a range of sensations that bring you new insights and awareness that the “painful” parts are well worth the reward.

Does Rolfing last?

If you go to the right practitioner for you, it does more than last. Over time, your body actually continuously improves outside the treatment room, becoming more aligned and better functioning as you live your everyday life. This is where Dr. Rolf’s famous saying comes from: once you help the body better align, gravity flows through it better, movement and circulation improves, and it begins to heal itself.

That said, it is important to go through a series of Rolfing treatments to provide you with consistency and a foundation for that alignment and function. Releasing deeply ingrained tension patterns and establishing better habits takes focused attention and time. Your body’s natural healing cycle is 6-8 weeks. The Rolfing basic 10 series will take you through that period and provide support to help ensure progress and sustainability. Then tune-ups are recommended, spaced out based on your individual needs.

What's up with the funny name?

Rolfing is named after its creator: New York’s very own Dr. Ida Rolf. In the early 1920’s, a young Ida in her early 20’s earned her PhD in biochemistry from Columbia University and went on to lead the research team at the Rockefellar Institute.

Ida herself suffered from scoliosis and was pre-diabetic. She received osteopathic (treatment of bone and structure) and chiropractic treatments and further pursued studies in both. Since she possessed an inventive and intellectual mind, she started to piece together what worked for her in these treatments with her expertise in biochemistry.

She recognized that fascia, the white filmy substance that existed throughout the body, which was being overlooked or disregarded, was actually an integral part of the body. During her 60 years of work, she developed her own therapeutic modality she called “Structural Integration”, a modality aimed to re-establish the alignment of the whole body and instill efficient movement for the purpose of vitality and well-being.

She believed that the human body has a perfect order and ideal relationship with gravity and if the body is in that proper order, it would be in the optimal state to heal itself and prevent disease.

Will I have an emotional release?

Emotions may surface while you are going through your Rolfing process. Some believe that memories can be stored in tissue and over time can accumulate into deep blockages if not resolved properly. When you receive Rolfing, these blockages are released and memories may arise. This can be regarded as an opportunity to track your nervous system’s habits of arousal and the physiological discharges that occur. Rolfing then offers you new resource in your more resilient body and clearer mind.

Rolfing acknowledges the work of Peter Levine PhD, the developer of Somatic Experiencing®, a naturalistic approach to healing trauma. His work finds value in physiological discharge to complete the cycle of trauma. He is the author of the best-selling book “Waking the Tiger.”

Rest assured, you do not have to have an emotionally linked release to receive full benefit from Rolfing. It is just a possibility if that is what your body needs for restoring itself.

Will Rolfing help me lose weight?

Rolfing does not help you lose weight directly, but it does enable your body to move more efficiently and with less and less pain so that you can get more out of your exercise routines.

Will this help me stay young?

Those who have received Rolfing find that it is a fountain of youth. It allows your body to be supple and flexible again and improves on your overall circulation of internal biochemical processes. Improvements to your posture may help you gain confidence and may contribute to you feeling more positive and happy. Your energy will be more even and balanced and you may find yourself better equipped to regulate physical exertion and stress.

How often should I do this?

It’s recommended that you go through a 10 session series so that you allow for time and space to receive and implement changes that build on one another.  Afterwards, you and your practitioner will reassess and discuss next steps based on your individual needs and desires. If you are not able to do a full 10 series, there is still worthy benefit to receive a shorter series, like 3 or 5 sessions. If you know that beforehand, your practitioner can treat you accordingly so that you have the best series possible.

While going through a series, it’s recommended to space your sessions out one to two weeks a part so that your body has time to put the structural changes into action and to consciously work at developing new habits of moving. After a week or two, your body will more likely have integrated the structural and functional changes and then we can introduce more change and build upon what was laid out in the previous session.

Is insurance accepted?

Tam is a registered New York Licensed Massage Therapist and she is certified in Rolfing, Pregnancy Massage, and Eternal Spring™ Qi Gong. Some insurance programs may accept massage, Rolfing, or Qi Gong, as alternative or complementary care. Tam is not affiliated with any insurance providers but can offer receipts that can be submitted.

Many companies offer their employees a flexible plan where you may receive reimbursement for alternative and complementary healthcare. Please refer to your specific plan for details. Tam is happy to provide receipt of service at your request.

Contact Information

Tam Tran
Certified Rolfer™
Licensed Massage Therapist


I can whole-heartedly and very highly recommend Tam. I try to balance a hectic business and family with exercise, but I just found myself with too many daily aches and pains.

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