Dr. Ida P Rolf earned a PhD in biological chemistry in 1920. She worked at the Rockefeller Institute, in the Department of Chemotherapy and later in the Department of Organic Chemistry, eventually rising to the rank of Associate. This was no small achievement for a young woman those days. In 1927, Ida Rolf took leave from work to study mathematics and atomic physics at the Swiss Technical University in Zurich.
Her main interest, however, was health and the human body. She was disillusioned with medical science, which had an inability to provide answers to her personal and family health problems. Which led her to actively seek alternative solutions.
She studied homeopathic medicine in Geneva during the time when she was in Switzerland. Upon her return to New York, Ida Rolf spent the 1930’s exploring osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, the Alexander technique and Alfred Korzybski’s work. Much of her thinking was also influenced by yoga, which she studied intensively.
By the 1940’s, Ida Rolf had developed her own methods. Working out of a small apartment in Manhattan, she soon had a full schedule filled with people seeking help. In the 1950s, word of her techniques had spread to England, where she spent her summers as a guest of John Bennett, a prominent mystic and student of Gurdjieff.
Given her scientific training, Ida Rolf was committed to the scientific method. Yet many of her breakthroughs came intuitively when she worked with chronically disabled persons who were unable to find help elsewhere. In the beginning, she referred to her work as Postural Release and Postural Dynamics, later settling on the name, The Rolf Method of Structural Integration.
In the mid 1960’s, Ida Rolf was invited to Esalen Institute, in California, at the suggestion of Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy. There she began training practitioners and instructors of Structural Integration. Her students at Esalan began to call her work Rolfing.
Ida Rolf’s fame and popularity grew. Newspapers and magazines began featuring her work; causing more students to seek training from her. Soon, it became clear that there was a need to establish a formal organization responsible for teaching her work.
In 1967, an organization was formed and headquartered in a private home in Boulder, Colorado. It later became known as the Rolf Institute. In 1988, the Rolf Institute was divided into two, the Rolf Institute and the Guild for Structural Integration.
The Rolf Institute holds the registered trade marks for the names Rolfing® and Rolfer®. The Guild for Structural Integration continues to preserve the original form of the work of Ida Rolf.
In 1977, Ida Rolf wrote Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures. Another notable book is Ida Rolf Talks About Rolfing and Physical Reality compiled by her close associate and companion, Rosemary Feitis. This book provides significant insights into Ida Rolf’s unique and incredible mind.