The Ten Series
Rolfing is somewhat defined by the classical ten-series format. Rolfing is different from most forms of bodywork because it focuses on improving the organization of the entire structure, rather than focusing on the place that hurts, feels stiff, etc. This is because the area that hurts is often a compensatory or secondary issue.
Your neck may hurt because you’re not getting the proper support from your feet, or your pelvis is rotated, or your shoulders are rounding forward (or all of these). Until we try to balance the entire structure, the neck is likely to stay strained trying to keep your head upright. Focusing where it hurts goes after the symptom, not the problem.
A Tune up for your body
Designed by Dr. Ida Rolf, the ten-series is like a tune up for your body. The ten-series is a systematic approach to aligning body structure; each session builds upon the last and prepares the body for the next.
The first three sessions work on the more superficial layers of connective tissue. Sessions four through seven remove strain from deeper layers of the body. The remaining sessions organize and align the body as a whole, providing better balance. If your schedule requires a break between sessions, after sessions three and seven are ideal stopping places in the process.
The ten-series provides Rolfers with a map, a general template, but as anyone who travels knows, “the map is not the territory.” Although structural goals may be similar, the same session may look very different for different clients based on their structure and movement patterns. Each session is as unique as the person receiving it. Neck and back work is included at the end of almost every session to balance and integrate the work into the body. For most people, the series progresses as follows:
Sessions 1- 3: Focus on Superficial Layers
This session focuses on freeing the lungs to allow fuller breath, and beginning to free the shoulder and pelvic girdles from the ribcage. This is accomplished by working superficial tissue around the ribcage, shoulders, arms, and hips.
The feet and lower legs are opened and aligned to better support the body in gravity, as they are the foundation. Often clients feel a greater sense of support and balance from their feet, as well as better contact between their feet and the ground. Foot problems such as high and rigid or fallen arches, over-pronation at the ankle, and irritation to the plantar fascia are also addressed in this session.
Now we move the sides of the body to work with opening the sides in respect to front and back balance. Manipulation is done to the sides of the torso, neck, and hips to allow these major segments to better support each other—improving the relationship between the upper and lower body.
Sessions 4-7: Focus on Deeper Layers
This session returns to the legs and focuses on the inside of the leg from the ankle to the pelvis, at a slightly deeper layer. The relationship of the foot to the pelvis is aligned; torsions at the knee and hip are addressed. Manipulating adductor attachments allows increased range of movement of the pelvis, which starts the pelvis on its way to becoming more horizontal. This session provides the feeling that the legs are supporting the abdominal space and providing lift for the upper body.
It’s best to schedule sessions four and five about a week apart, as session five continues the work started in four.
Work continues up the front of the abdomen, quadriceps, and psoas, lengthening the front of the body and providing lift up the center of the structure. By freeing deeper pelvic and abdominal restrictions, which can inhibit pelvic movement, the pelvis can continue its shift to a more supportive and balanced horizontal position. Clients frequently report a “big box” feeling as the front seems to lengthen—quite the opposite of all the hip flexion we experience working in our daily activities.
This session lengthens the deep muscles of the back and hips, matching the change achieved in the front in Session five. Starting in the legs we address the calves, hamstrings, back of the pelvis, and up both sides of the spine to the head.
All the work we've done so far has been necessary before we could organize the head and neck. This session focuses on the upper shoulders, head, neck, and sometimes the arms. After this session clients often feel that their head is more "on." By this time in the series, flexibility and body symmetry are usually noticeably improved.
Sessions 8-10: Focus on Integration & Overall Function
Sessions Eight and Nine
The final three sessions are about integrating the work that has been done. The human pelvis is an amazing structure that links the upper and lower segments of the body, supports the spine in a vertical position, and allows rotation of the spine. To improve these functions, our work has emphasized freeing and horizontalizing the pelvis. Sessions eight and nine revisit the upper and lower segments of the body and work to integrate them with the pelvis and each other to work as a fluid whole.
The final integration: This session is usually customized to each individual’s body and needs. This is our opportunity to complete, for now, all we've been able to free. We will smooth the fascial wrappers over the structural changes that you have gained. This session usually involves the whole body at a somewhat more superficial layer.
After the Ten Series
The ten-series is designed to leave your structure at a balanced place.
- Many clients complete a ten-series, get good results, and never feel the need for another session.
- Others, view Rolfing as an important way of maintaining their bodies and come in for regular "tune ups" (anywhere from bimonthly to quarterly). This is particularly common among athletes, heavy computer users, and adults with scoliosis.
- Some clients find so much more ease and relaxation in their bodies after Rolfing sessions, that they use it instead of massage.
- Other clients take a break for several months after the ten-series and then request a post ten series, generally five sessions in length, which may focus on the client's specific goals.
- Lastly, some clients only receive work when something feels out of place.
These are all good ways to use Rolfing after you've completed the initial work. Do what makes sense to you.