Ida Rolf

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Ida Pauline Rolf
Ida Pauline Rolf.jpg
Born (1896-05-19)May 19, 1896
Bronx, New York
Died March 19, 1979(1979-03-19) (aged 82)
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania[1]
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Barnard College, Columbia University
Known for Structural Integration
Scientific career
Fields Biochemistry

Ida Pauline Rolf (May 19, 1896 – March 19, 1979[2]) was a biochemist and the creator of Structural Integration or "Rolfing".

Early life and education[edit]

Rolf was born in New York City in the Bronx on May 19, 1896. An only child, her father, Bernard Rolf, was a civil engineer who built docks and piers on the east coast.

Rolf attended Barnard College and graduated in 1916 with a bachelor's degree. In 1917 she began her doctoral studies at Columbia University and, at about the same time, also began work at the Rockefeller Institute in the chemistry laboratory under the supervision of Phoebus Aaron Theodore Levene. She earned her PhD in biological chemistry from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1920. Her dissertation was titled "Three Contributions to the Chemistry of the Unsaturated Phosphatides".

In the 1920s she was studying Yoga and Tantra with Pierre Bernard.


After graduating, Rolf continued to work with Levene at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City. In 1918 she was promoted to assistant in the chemistry lab. In 1922, two years after receiving her PhD from Columbia, she was promoted to associate, then the highest non-tenured position for a scientist at Rockefeller.[3]

From 1919 to 1927 she published 16 scholarly journal papers, mostly in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Her research was mostly laboratory studies on biochemical compounds lecithin and cephalin. With the exception of her doctoral dissertation, all of her published work was co-authored with Levene.[3]

In 1926, Rolf left her academic work in New York. She took leave to study mathematics and atomic physics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and also biochemistry at the Pasteur Institute in France.[3]

Rolf later developed Structural Integration. In addition to her 16 academic papers published from 1919 to 1927, she would later publish two papers in scholarly journals on structural integration. She had an h-index of 10 with a total number of 299 citations (February, 2007).

Structural Integration (Rolfing)[edit]

Structural Integration (or Rolfing) is a type of manual therapy that aims to improve human biomechanical functioning as a whole rather than to treat particular symptoms.[4] Rolf began developing her system in the 1940s. Her main goal was to organize the human bodily structure in relation to gravity. Rolf called her method "Structural Integration", now also commonly known by the trademark "Rolfing".[5]

Structural integration is a pseudoscience and its claimed benefits are not substantiated by medical evidence.[6][7]

Rolf's second son, Richard, helped her to continue developing and refining Structural Integration, as well as assisting in preliminary studies of the healing effects of structural integration. They taught Structural Integration classes at locations around the United States in the 1950s. Based for many years in New York City, they worked together to advance the practice and to make the general public aware of the practice and benefits of Structural Integration.[8]

In the mid-1960s she began teaching at Esalen Institute, where she created a loyal following of students and practitioners.[9] Esalen was the epicenter of the Human Potential Movement, allowing Rolf to exchange ideas with many contemporary visionaries, including Fritz Perls.[10][11]

In 1971, Rolf´s teaching activities were consolidated under the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI).[12][13] The school has been based in Boulder, Colorado since 1972. As of 2010, the RISI had graduated 1536 practitioners, including some trained in Germany, Brazil, Japan and Australia. In 1990, a group of senior RISI faculty split to found the Guild of Structural Integration, which had 628 graduates as of 2010. Currently there are nearly two dozen schools teaching Structural Integration.[14] Standards are maintained by a professional membership organization, the International Association of Structural Integration.[15]

In addition to the proliferation of practitioners and training institutes that are devoted specifically to Structural Integration, Rolf's concepts and methods have influenced a wide range of other contemporary manual therapies. A growing number of organizations offer training in "structural bodywork" or in techniques of fascial manipulation that are clearly derivative but lack the holistic perspective of Structural Integration, instead focusing only on the treatment of specific symptoms (i.e. massage therapists, chiropractors or physical therapists).[14][15]

Research foundation[edit]

In 2007, the Ida P. Rolf Fascia Research Foundation was formed to encourage and support evidence-based studies of Structural Integration's effects and its implications for conventional and complementary health care. It was introduced at the First International Fascia Research Congress (FRC) at the Harvard Medical Center. The foundation is dedicated to growing a symbiotic relationship between science and therapeutic practice. These events bring scientists and clinicians together to share their ideas and encourage collaboration.[16][17] The Fascia Research Congress occurred again in 2009 in Amsterdam, 2012 in Vancouver, BC, and in 2015 in Virginia, US.

Personal life[edit]

Rolf was married to Walter Frederick Demmerle. They had two sons, Alan Michael Demmerle and Richard Rolf Demmerle. Richard was a chiropractor and also a Rolfing instructor who was involved in his mother's Rolfing project and continued her work. Richard moved to Switzerland in 1979 with Brigitte Waldmeier Demmerle, his wife, and their youngest son Michael Richard Demmerle. Richard Demmerle died February 1, 2015.[citation needed]


(From the Institute for Scientific Information.)

  1. Jacobs WA, Heidelberger M, Rolf IP, On certain aromatic amines and chloroacetyl derivatives JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 41: 458-474 MAR 1919
  2. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Cephalin. VII. The glycerophosphoric acid of cephalin. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 40 (1): 1-16 NOV 1919
  3. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Structure and significance of the phosphatides - Bibliography PHYSIOLOGICAL REVIEWS 1 (3): 327-393 JAN 1921
  4. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Lechitin. III. Fatty acids of lechitin of the egg yolk. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 46 (1): 193-207 MAR 1921
  5. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Lecithin. IV. Lecithin of the brain. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 46 (2): 353-365 APR 1921
  6. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Unsaturated fatty acids of brain lecithins. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 54 (1): 99-100 SEP 1922
  7. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Unsaturated fatty acids of brain cephalins. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 54 (1): 91-98 SEP 1922
  8. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Lysolecithins and lysocephalins. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 55 (4): 743-749 APR 1923
  9. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Simms HS Lysolecithins and lysocephalins. II. Isolation and properties of lysolecithins and lysocephalins. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 58 (3): 859-871 JAN 1924
  10. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Synthetic lecithins. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 60 (3): 677-683 JUL 1924
  11. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Plant phosphatides. I. Lecithin and cephalin of the soy bean. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 62 (3): 759-766 JAN 1925
  12. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Bromolecithins. I. Fractionation of brominated soy bean lecithins. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 65 (2): 545-549 SEP 1925
  13. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Bromolecithins. II. Bromolecithins of the liver and egg yolk. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 67 (3): 659-666 MAR 1926
  14. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Plant phosphatides. II. Lecithin, cephalin, and so called cuorin of the soy bean. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 68 (2): 0285-0293 MAY 1926
  15. Levene PA, Rolf IP, Note on the preparation of cephalin. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 74 (3): 713-714 SEP 1927
  16. Levene PA, Rolf IP, The preparation and purification of lecithin. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY 72 (2): 587-590 APR 1927
  17. Rolf IP, VERTICAL - Experiential Side to Human Potential. JOURNAL OF HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY 18 (2): 37-39 1978
  18. Rolf IP, Structural Integration - Contribution to understanding of stress. CONFINIA PSYCHIATRICA 16 (2): 69-79 1973
  19. Rolf IP, 1979. Rolfing: Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being. Healing Arts Press. (Book)


  1. ^ "Funeral services". The Morning News. Wilmington, Delaware. March 22, 1979. Retrieved 30 April 2016. Funeral services will be tomorrow for Dr. Ida P. Rolf, founder of the Rolf Institute in Colorado and creator of the 'rolfing' physical therapy technique. She died Monday in Bryn Mawr, Pa., at 82. 
  2. ^ "Guild for Structural Integration: Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D. - Ida P. Rolf Method training and information". 
  3. ^ a b c Johnson, Sam (2007). "Ida Rolf and the Two Paradigms". International Association of Structural Integrators (IASI) Yearbook. 
  4. ^ Jacobson, Eric: The Journal of alternative and complementary medicine. Volume 17, Number 9, 2011, p.775.
  5. ^ Salvo, Susan G. (2012). Massage Therapy: Principles and Practice (4 ed.). Elsevier Saunders. p. 423]. ISBN 1437719775. 
  6. ^ Cordón, LA (January 2005). Rolfing. Popular Psychology: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 217–218. ISBN 978-0-313-32457-4. 
  7. ^ Baggoley C (2015). "Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance" (PDF). Australian Government – Department of Health. Lay summaryGavura, S. Australian review finds no benefit to 17 natural therapies. Science-Based Medicine. (19 November 2015). 
  8. ^ Demmerle, Richard, DC (Dec 2007). "Memories of an Exceptional Pioneer". Structural Integration.
  9. ^ Stillerman, Elaine (2009). Modalities for Massage and Bodywork. Mosby. pp. 152, 157, 329–345. ISBN 032305255X. 
  10. ^ Claire, Thomas (1995). Bodywork: What Type of Massage to Get and How to Make the Most of It. William Morrow and Co. pp. 40–56. ISBN 9781591202325. 
  11. ^ Perls, Frederick (1969). In and Out of the Garbage Pail. Real People Press. 
  12. ^ "Business Search (search for 'Rolf Institute')". Secretary of State, CA. 
  13. ^ Stirling, Isabel. Zen Pioneer: The Life & Works of Ruth Fuller Sasaki (2006) Shoemaker & Hoard. ISBN 978-1-59376-110-3 p. 8.
  14. ^ a b Jacobson, Eric: The Journal of alternative and complementary medicine. Volume 17, Number 9, 2011, p. 778.
  15. ^ a b Myers, Tom: Structural Integration. Developments in Ida Rolf´s recipe. I. J Bodywork Movement Ther 2004, pp. 131-142.
  16. ^ "Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation - Charting the Science of Structural Integration". 
  17. ^ "Fourth International Fascia Research Congress, Washington, D.C., September 18-20, 2015". 


  • Feitis, Rosemary. 1985. Rolfing and Physical Reality. Healing Arts Press

External links[edit]