Dr. Ida Rolf, the namesake of Rolfing and the Rolf Method of Structural Integration which I practice at Kaposia Body Works, was a trailblazing woman. Her passion for holistic wellness grounded in the scientific point of view has inspired a devoted following around the world as well as strengthened my commitment to providing comprehensive bodywork for those in Minnesota who seek alignment and balance.

Black and white image of Dr. Ida Rolf with her hands on a client's foot

Dr. Ida P. Rolf: 1896–1979

S.I. is a preparation for relating oneself to gravity.

Ida P. Rolf
  • 1896 – Born, Brooklyn, NY
  • 1920 – Earns Doctorate, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons
  • 1920s – Post-Graduate Work, The Rockefeller Institute
  • 1960s – Residency, Esalen Institute
  • 1971 – Founds the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration
  • 1977 – Publishes Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures
  • 1979 – Dies, Bryn Mawr, PA

A New York native raised in the Bronx, Rolf pursued her education at Barnard College and Columbia University. In 1920, she earned her doctorate in biological chemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons. During her post-graduate work in the departments of chemotherapy and organic chemistry she progressed to the esteemed position of Associate Researcher, an especially notable accomplishment for a woman in the 1920s.

Through the late 1920s, she traveled, studied, and researched tirelessly. In 1926 Rolf’s work brought her to Europe and back; her quest for knowledge, plus family health issues and a dissatisfaction with the limitations of medical treatments available at the time led her to research mathematics, atomic physics, homeopathic medicine, osteopathy, yoga, chiropractic medicine, Alexander Technique, and general semantics.

Coalescing 20 years of varied studies, she made a fundamental addition to her observations that lasting improvement in alignment and general well-being required a closer look at the value of gravity and its effects on our bodies. She undertook the work of treating chronic pain using specific physical soft tissue manipulations—this systematic approach of organizing the myofascial system became known as Structural Integration. She practiced consistently during the ‘40s and ‘50s, but Dr. Rolf’s work wouldn’t break into the mainstream until the mid 1960s. Upon the invitation of Fritz Perls, father of Gestalt Therapy, she took residence at the Esalen Institute. The rugged bluffs of the California coast fostered the growth of the Structural Integration movement: with every class she taught at the Institute, her reputation and influence grew at the same rapid pace as enrollment.

In the mid 1960’s Dr. Rolf and her practitioners formed the original Guild for Structural Integration as a way to help organize Dr. Rolf’s students. Demand for her unique training necessitated the formation of her own dedicated school, and Rolf’s teaching activities were consolidated forming a 401C3 non-profit entity in 1971, The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI). Later on, after the Rolf Institute had become incorporated, the term “Rolfing” was registered with the U.S. Patent Office and RISI was granted service mark rights for the word Rolfing, distinguishing the Rolfing brand from all other forms of Structural Integration.

In 1990, a group of senior RISI faculty split off and reformed the original Guild for Structural Integration, incorporating it as a non-profit organization. It was here that I obtained my certification in Structural Integration and trained in 4-Handed S.I. and Rolf Movement. Both GSI and RISI are members of the International Association for Structural Integration (IASI), an organization of several schools that are inspired by Dr. Ida Rolf’s vision. 

In 1977 Dr. Rolf published her sole book, Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures. With her passing in 1979, she left a legacy of unprecedented work which continues to impact countless lives today. Practitioners like me are able to channel her research, teachings and techniques so that clients are able to enjoy the freedom of a body that is aligned and balanced in gravity.

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