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I came to Rolfing out of curiosity. I didn’t really know much about it before my first session. I’d heard it was deeper than the deepest massage I’d ever had. I’d heard there was something about 10 sessions. I’d probably heard something about realignment or restructuring, but truth be told, maybe not. And that was about it. So, I didn’t have many expectations for going through the 10-series the first time. I didn’t know what was possible to hope for. And honestly, I thought I was doing pretty well. My body felt good, for the most part. I saw my chiropractor about once a week. I hiked and danced and ate reasonably well and got plenty of sleep and had a fairly low-stress life. I didn’t have any major complaints. I just wanted to learn about what Rolfing was.

However. I had no idea how much better my life could be after getting Rolfed. And here I am, almost 9 years after I first tried Rolfing and, looking back, there is so much I gained besides knowledge about Rolfing. So I made a listical. If I get in the habit of writing listicals, please stop reading this blog.

In no particular order, here is my personal list of 10 unexpected results of being Rolfed:
1. I can stand for hours at a time without pain. Once upon a time, I was a freshman at CU, and, as was customary at the time, I camped out with my friends to get season tickets to the football games. It’s not my thing now, but I had a blast going to those games as a freshman, with one small caveat: it killed my back. In the student section, we stood for the entire game and I remember watching the game clock desperately wishing for half-time when I could sit down without being taunted. And then again for the end of the game. My back and shoulders would ache after the first 20-30 minutes and so the remaining 2-3 hours would be torture. A few years ago, a friend of mine invited me to a CU football game and for the fun of it, we stood in the student section. It wasn’t until the game was over that I realized I was perfectly comfortable. I had stood for at a tailgating party before the game and I was happy to continue standing at the continuation of the same party for another hour after the game. I hadn’t even needed to sit down during half time.
2. I no longer see my chiropractor. Which is a shame on an emotional level, because I really like my chiropractor as a person. I just don’t feel like I need a chiropractor anymore. There was a time in my life when I was getting adjusted 4-6 times a week. I had been getting adjustments since I first “threw my back out” at 17 years old. I’ve worked for 3 different chiropractors. I love chiropractors. But I don’t need one anymore, because I don’t “throw my back out” anymore. And my ribs stay where they belong most of the time. And if anything’s out of place, I go see my Rolfer, not my chiropractor. So, in the last 6 or 7 years, I think I’ve been adjusted less than 10 times.
3. I have better posture. This one, I should’ve seen coming, as improved posture is one of the main goals of Rolfing. But again, I didn’t know much about Rolfing and I didn’t know that was one of the goals. Having been told to “sit up straight” and “stop slouching” my whole life, I now feel like I have pretty decent posture. It’s not perfect or anything. But I can look back on pictures of myself from high school and college and see my head 6 inches in front of my shoulders. Whereas in more recent pictures of me, my head is actually over my shoulders. And my shoulders aren’t rounded forward as much. Without even trying, or my mom nagging me.
4. I stopped spraining my ankles. I used to sprain one ankle or the other a couple times a year. I mean, I’ve had 2 or 3 ankles braces as well as two ace bandages in my medicine kit since the beginning of college, when I “borrowed” them from my parents’ medicine kit. A few months ago as I was konmari-ing my bathroom, I realized, I haven’t used those ankle braces since I first got Rolfed. And into the garbage they went. To be fair, this is not just because of Rolfing, though I attribute it largely to Rolfing. But it’s also because I’ve transitioned to minimal footwear and spending as much time barefoot as possible. I’ve helped my ankles get stronger and more adaptable through regular use in challenging situations as opposed to trying to always keep them protected in supportive, inflexible shoes and boots. But still, Rolfing started me on that journey and thinking differently about my feet and ankles.
5. I’m a runner. A trail ultra runner to be exact (I run longer than marathon-length races on trails, not roads). I used to hate running. Hate. Dread. Despise. And again, I can’t give Rolfing full credit for my current love of running. But as a combination of a few of the above surprises (better posture, stronger ankles), running is a lot more comfortable than it used to be. And as a direct result of Rolfing, I can breathe so much better now than I used to be able to, which is somewhat important when you’re running.
6. I can kneel and squat without pain. I had knee surgery in 2007 for a torn lateral meniscus and after months of physical therapy, I was frustrated that I still couldn’t kneel or do a full squat without pain. When I asked my doctor and my physical therapist about this, they both responded with some version of “You just shouldn’t do those things anymore. And while you’re at it, you shouldn’t run.” I was 26 and being told that I might never be able to kneel or squat again was beyond maddening. Since being Rolfed, I often forget which knee I had surgery on. I have no problems whatsoever with kneeling or squatting. And see above about the running.
7. My eyesight has improved. This is such a weird one. But it’s undeniable. I first got contacts as a freshman in high school and every check-up with the eye doctor since then, my prescription got a little stronger. Until I got Rolfed. Now, they downgrade my prescription with every check-up. At this rate, I won’t need glasses or contacts by the time I’m 45.
8. I have more confidence. I feel like getting Rolfed helped me understand who I am better. And helped me express that core, true self more clearly. With less apologizing, less accommodating of other people’s expectations for who I should be. I just am. This is me. And knowing, in a deep way, with a felt-sense, that who I am is just fine. Who I am is great, actually. I had no idea bodywork could bring me confidence. But it did. And with this confidence, I’ve been better able to navigate the world in a manner that’s congruent with my values. Having a better understanding of who I am helps me make choices that support me.
9. Along the same lines, I have better relationships. Maybe this is just a side-effect of getting older, and of having more practice at being in relationships, or of having more confidence. But I really think that Rolfing, in helping be have a better understanding of who I am, helped me relate to other people differently and in a clearer way. I think it has also helped me be a better communicator and if there’s one way to improve a relationship, it’s better communication.
10. I have a career. I was not supposed to have a career. I got bored after 6 months at any job I ever had. The longest I ever held a job continuously was 14 months. I just couldn’t imagine myself doing the same thing every day for 40 years. I couldn’t really imagine myself doing the same thing every day for 3 years. So a career was out of the question. Until Rolfing. Because with Rolfing, I never do the same thing every day. I’ve never done the same session twice. Even if I do the same session of the 10-series 4 times in one day, that session looks completely different with each client. So I don’t get bored. And I don’t even feel like I have a job. And please don’t ever make me retire. I love this work so, so, so much.

So there’s my list of 10 unexpected benefits of Rolfing. What about you all out there? Any surprise results since you’ve been Rolfed? I’d love to hear about them!

Session Ten! Of ten! We made it, you guys! This is it! The end of the 10-series! I don’t know why I always use so many exclamation points when talking about Session Ten. It just seems like such an accomplishment. To make it through the 10-series requires such commitment, so much perseverance, and so much vulnerability. It is such an honor to work with someone all the way through; I feel the desire to bow to each person who makes it this far. It’s a big undertaking. So nicely done, you, if you’ve made it this far. I’m proud of you.

Like I mentioned last time, Session Ten is not the time to start new projects. Session Ten is about closure. Dr. Ida Rolf said, “In the 10th hour we put bodies together. Putting together means relating imperfect segments so that they create a functional whole; not working for one hour to correct bad feet or bad whatever.” I like describing Session Ten as the session where we frost the cake. Hopefully, we’ve built a strong, stable, balanced foundation, and when we put on those final frosting touches with this session, everything will work beautifully together, and look pretty in the process. One of the goals of Session Ten is, no joke, “uniform brilliance.” Or maybe it’s “unicorn brilliance.” One of the two, for sure. (If I could make my clients into brilliant unicorns in 10-sessions, my phone would never stop ringing.) But for real, in Session Ten, we tie up any loose strings, smooth out any rough edges, and send you on your way. Or, said another way, we bring the body to the highest level of integration that it needs and can sustain for an extended period of time. And we say goodbye. After Session Ten, it is advised to take a break from Rolfing for three to six months to let the whole series settle out and integrate. After that, you’re free to never get another Rolfing session again, if you’d like. Or, you can go to a maintenance schedule of your choosing (I like once a month, but I’m pretty damn reliant on my body working well). Or you can just come in when something hurts for a little tune up. I love how self-directed Rolfing is.

Before my trade of Session Ten with Dave, I’d gone for a little backpacking trip (this was a while ago, obviously) and I was having a little neck and shoulder pain. I also had a little, strange soreness in my lower right ribs, even though I had no memory of an injury or impact there. I know my liver’s under there and it felt more related to anger than a physical problem. But all in all, I was feeling pretty good. I was curious to see what Dave would find. At the very start of the session, Dave lightly touched those lower right ribs and instantly, I felt my right side contract, as if to protect, from my hip to the top of my head. It felt heavy and uncomfortable, but after a minute or two, that feeling shifted and I felt much lighter. Things felt easier and I felt calmer. Sometimes a minute or two of discomfort is worth the relief it brings in the end. Through the whole session, it felt like Dave was working on an energetic and emotional level, more than a physical level. Afterwards, I felt whole. I hadn’t realized I felt less-than-whole before, but now that I had the sense of wholeness, I found it very comforting. I felt peaceful and relaxed and my breath felt full and steady. I always find it bittersweet to end the 10-series, because I love receiving Rolfing so much and never want it to stop, but I feel so good and complete I can’t imagine what we’d work on next time, if there was a Session Eleven. This time through the series, I think I felt a more profound sense of completion than any previous time. Maybe the third (and a half) time through the series is the charm. As they say.

There’s this concept that Session Ten should leave you feeling energized and whole because whatever work still needs to be done, your body will now be able to do on its own. Bodies are really good at healing, after all. Bodies want to be healthy and functional and efficient. It is always my goal and my hope that with each client I take through the 10-series, the work has given them a nudge and a poke in the direction of health and now their body will take that and run with it.

Alright.  We’re going to streamline this and I’m going to talk about Sessions Eight and Nine at the same time.  Laziness and efficiency are super closely related.  Trust me on this one.

So, with the start of Session Eight, we are officially finished with the core sessions and into the integration sessions.  And, as my hero Rolfer, Ray McCall says, “With Session Eight, the trail thins out a bit.” In Sessions One through Seven, there’s a clearly defined ‘territory’ of the body we’re working with.  There are clearly defined goals.  With Sessions Eight and Nine, there’s a lot more that depends on each individual’s circumstances, so these sessions are very customized.  Basically, we’re trying to differentiate anything that has not yet been differentiated in the previous seven sessions.  And integrate all these new changes so that they’re comfortable and easy for your body to use.  As it’s taught to newbie Rolfers, there’s usually an upper body session and a lower body session.  But it can be two middles.  It can be a left side and a right side.  It can be a right lower and a left middle.  And as Ray also likes to say, “You get to vote, but I get to decide.”  Not to remind you of our current political situation or anything.  So, this is when I really, really want to know what you think is still missing.  What still needs attention?  Was there a session you felt ended way too soon?  What area of your body still feels neglected or stuck?  I’m going to make the final decision about what needs work, and in what order, but I really do want to know what you’re missing because these two sessions are our last chance before the end of the series.  Session Ten is not for new projects.

Because Sessions Eight and Nine don’t have well defined territories or goals beyond differentiation and integration, they’re a little tricky to talk about.  But basically, I just want to see all the parts of your whole body working well together.  I want your core to be able to express through your sleeve without restriction or distortion.  I might ask you to walk or do some other diagnostic tests to see what looks restricted or where movement has to go around instead of through.  There are some really funky positions I might put you in during these sessions, too, trying to link everything up.  These are not your standard “face up” or “face down” positions, but rather “while on your stomach, turn your head to the right, raise your right arm up by your head, bring your left arm down by your side, turn your hips so that your left hip is on the table, while your right hip is stacked above it, bring your left knee up towards your chest and straighten your right leg a little behind your (quite twisted by now) midline.”  Go ahead and try it.  I’ll wait.  It’s easier with help from your Rolfer, but it’s always a little awkward.

When it was time for Dave and me to trade Session Eight, I was ready for some body work.  Before Session Eight, I had fallen twice while running and my left shoulder was bothering me.  Dave started working on that left shoulder and I got all emotional, which was surprising but not uncomfortable.  It passed fairly quickly.  After the session, I felt relaxed and open.  My upper body felt spacious, my shoulders were back without any effort, my head was upright, and for some reason it felt like there was more space between my teeth.  I haven’t had any shoulder pain since, so I’d call that a win.

When we traded Session Nine, I actually wasn’t desperate for bodywork.  I felt really good walking into the session, with nothing calling for attention, so I guess I was almost ready to be done with the series.  Since I wasn’t in any physical discomfort, and things felt like they were moving well together, Dave was free to do a very energetic session, just using SourcePoint Therapy and his intuition to guide him.  Over and over again, I felt big waves of tension being released that I hadn’t known were there.  Big breaths, neck stretching, and hip wiggling were my contribution to the work.  Afterwards, I felt like popped popcorn: expanded in every direction.  I felt light and calm and easy like no problem was too big or heavy or serious.  I felt like my emotions could just flow through me instead of getting stuck and spinning around.  So basically, no complaints.

Sessions Eight and Nine are where the art of Rolfing comes into play.  We get to leave the formulas behind and play with the beauty of the body.  It’s a magical part of the series, even if it’s a little hard to talk about.

Session Seven is such a weird session. If anyone’s heard about the Rolfing 10-series from a friend, they’ve probably heard about Session Seven. This is THE ONE. The session where we work inside the mouth and INSIDE THE NOSE. Sure, it’s weird and not super comfortable to have someone else’s fingers inside your mouth, but we’ve all been to the dentist a time or two and gotten over that. As the joke goes: you can pick your friends; you can pick your nose; but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. Unless you’re a Rolfer. And Session Seven is where I get to pick other people’s noses. Well, not pick, exactly, but stick my pinky fingers in them. Close enough.

I should probably back up a bit. The goal of Session Seven is not simply to be a weirdo for the sake of being a weirdo, or for a great answer to the “what did you do today?” question. It’s not just to make my clients squirm, either. The goal of Session Seven is to differentiate your neurocranium from your viscerocranium. Your head (and my head, and everyone’s head) can be divided into two parts, based on the work that each half does. The back and top of your head houses your brain and therefore is in charge of your nervous system. Hence the title of neurocranium. The front and bottom of your head is connected to and works with your organs of digestion, or your viscera. Hence your viscerocranium. Your mouth, like it or not, is connected to your anus and everything along the way. Tension in your tongue can affect your small intestine. And the goal of Session Seven is to relieve excess tension in the whole neck and cranium and to balance your head on your body. We’re working here with the muscles of expression, be it joy, grief, or pride as well as perception, through sight, sound, smell, and taste. In the mouth, we’re working with muscles related to eating or not eating, and therefore all of our issues around food. And there are often physically traumatic experiences related to dental or orthodontic work, rhinoplasty, or a good old fashioned punch to the face to work on as well. Chronic sinus infections, migraines and headaches, and issues with vision are just a few of the reasons you might be excited for Session Seven, even if the thought of someone else’s fingers in your nose wigs you out.

Personally, I was excited to receive Session Seven because leading up to it, I’d had some issues with my first and second rib on the right side popping out of place. I’ve had wiggly ribs since I first dislocated one when I was 17. Thanks to lots and lots of Rolfing, I now experience rib problems once or twice a year instead of every day, like I used to, but it’s my thing. Some people get headaches or throw their backs out or have knee problems. I dislocate my ribs. And so, probably due to stress or some other such nonsense, I’d been having some discomfort with those top two ribs, the little jerks. Along with that, I’d been noticing that I’d been clenching my jaw at night, waking up with a sore face. Lastly, I’d been waking myself up by snorting and snoring, which is not my usual habit. Clearly, something, or several things, in the top portion of my body were out of alignment, and I was definitely ready for Session Seven.

A note about Session Seven: while yes, there is a portion of the session where, traditionally, your Rolfer will stick their fingers in your nose, it is a very small portion of the session. In a 90 minute session, it’s usually less than 2 minutes. And another 2-3 minutes of work inside the mouth. Almost all of the time during Session Seven is spent preparing all the surrounding tissues for that work. So, there’s work around the whole rib cage. There’s work through the shoulders and sometimes down the arms and into the hands. There’s a lot of neck work, as well as work on your skull and face. One of my favorite anatomy terms comes into play in this session as we try to loosen the galea aponeurotica, which is like a swim cap of fascia. Session Seven is the fascial face-lift session.

I’m not going to lie, though. Having Dave’s fingers in my nose wasn’t awesome. It wasn’t terrible, either. It was just uncomfortable. And it was over in less than two minutes, so I really couldn’t complain. Especially because when the session was over, I felt so good. It felt like there was more space in my head and my jaw felt a lot looser. I stood up and felt taller and more balanced top to bottom. Like there was a force, exactly opposite to gravity, that was pulling me up as gravity pulled me down. I also noticed that I was more aware of my periphery, as if someone had pulled a big hood off my head and suddenly I could see to the sides again. My chest felt lifted and open while my feet, oddly enough, felt grounded and strong and stable. And while I got the hiccups three times that afternoon, I haven’t had that jaw tension, or rib problems, or snoring issues since.

And if you’re still worried about Session Seven, you don’t have to get the work inside your nose or mouth. There are actually several reasons your Rolfer might choose not to work inside your mouth or nose. One of those perfectly legitimate reasons is that you simply don’t want them to. So, not to worry.

So.  Session Six.  Let’s just dive right in, shall we?  With the start of Session Six, we are officially past the halfway point in the series, which always makes me nervous as a client, because I feel like there’s so much more to do.  But Session Six is also this lovely session where, for the first time in the series, we (as clients) are facedown, and we get oh-so-much work on the back.  Seeing as back pain (and hip pain and shoulder pain and sciatica, etc.) are so common, it’s a session a lot of people, myself included, look forward to.  The “territory” of Session Six is the back of the body.  More specifically, we work from the bottoms of the feet, up the backs of the legs, through the glutes, to the lower and middle back.  Are you noticing a pattern here?  In Sessions One and Two, we address the top and then the bottom.  In Three and Four, we work the outside and then the inside.  In Five and Six, we focus on the front and then the back.  It’s kinda genius, but it’s another reason why you might not want to start the 10-series if you can’t commit to finishing it.  I wouldn’t want you to have an open and flexible front without a matching back!

Dr. Rolf used to quiz her students about the goals of each session.  She’d ask, “What’s the goal of Session Three?”  And her students would hazard guesses such as “increase anterior-posterior depth” or “balance the body along a plumb line” or “transition the client from sleeve sessions to core sessions.”  And while none of those answers were wrong, none of them were the answer that Dr. Rolf was looking for.  Eventually, her students learned that whenever Dr. Rolf asked, “What’s the goal of Session (fill in the blank)?” the answer she wanted was “free the sacrum,” regardless of which session it was.  Apparently, Dr. Rolf thought freeing the sacrum was important enough to be the primary goal of every single one of the 10-series sessions.  However, in Session Six, we actually spend an entire session working directly to free the sacrum.  So, hooray!

Your sacrum, in case you were wondering, is that awesome bone at the bottom of your spine that’s comprised of five fused vertebrae, shaped in a curved triangle, between your last lumbar vertebra (on top), your coccyx (on bottom), and your two hip bones (on the left and right).  If you’ve ever had a session from me, it’s the bone I’m holding at the very end of every session.  It’s the Latin word for “sacred,” is considered our anatomical center and the keystone of the pelvis, and it’s tied to, in addition to your spine and hips, many muscles like the piriformis, one of your hamstrings, and a few of your pelvic floor muscles.  Your rectum is nestled right up against it.  So, nothing important.  Kidding.  I can see why freeing the sacrum would be so critical.  It seems like a bone you’d definitely want in the right position, and free to move how it needs to move.  The sacrum is held in a ligamentous bed, basically swimming in a sea of ligaments, and if any one of those ligaments is either too short or too long, you might have problems.  It’s a broad, annoying, and painful range of problems, too, from sciatica and constipation, up to headaches and TMJ problems, and down through plantar fasciitis, with many, many crappy options in between.  Freeing the sacrum is no joke.

Unfortunately, the sacrum is a bone (and an area of the body) I’ve found to hold trauma more than most.  I don’t know why.  I just see it a lot.  That time you drunkenly tried to do a high kick and and fell on your bum instead; that snowboarding tumble; that trip down icy stairs…if you injured your sacrum, it tends to give you trouble for 10, 20, or even 30 years, while your broken arm heals in a few months with no after-effects.  I’ve also found the back of the body to be where boundaries are established, maintained, and broken.  I’ve long felt that we give our energy out into the world from the front of the body; be it love, anger, support, or just our opinion.  Where we receive energy from the rest of the world is in the back of the body.  And the back of the body is where we make the decisions, conscious or not, around what we allow in and what we don’t.  I’ve often found with people who had boundaries violated in a big way at a young age, accessing and connecting to the backs of their bodies can be really challenging.  That might have something to do with trauma hanging around so long in the sacrum.  Perhaps.  But still, 20 years?  Come on, body.  Regardless of the reasons, Session Six can be a good one for beginning the process of reestablishing an awareness of that back body and learning where there might be more work to be done in establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

I had been looking forward to Session Six because I’m always looking for a little more attention to be paid to my hips and healthy boundaries are something I’ll probably be working on for the rest of my life.  But when it was time for me to get my Session Six, I had kinda broken myself and was very ready for a Rolfing session of any number, and I figured Six was as good as any other.  See, I’d been playing volleyball and I dove for a ball that I probably should have just let go.  I ended up feeling like I had whiplash, like someone had taken hold of my spine and given me a good shake.  From my left hip up to the left side of my head hurt.  I had a headache, rib pain, low back pain, as well as a charming inability to follow conversation.  My brain felt broken and swollen.  So, yeah, I was ready for some bodywork.

Session Six is the session that most people struggle to stay awake through, and I’m no exception.  I definitely drifted in and out of dreamland while receiving the work, but when I stood up afterwards, I felt tall, grounded, and clear-headed.  As per usual, Dave had worked his magic and gotten me all sorted out.  My pain and the headache were completely gone.  My left hip still felt a little off, but after a few days, that also seemed to sort itself out.  In fact, it’s been several months now since I had that Session Six and I haven’t had any problems with that left hip.  And that left hip had been bothering me for 13 years.  See what I mean about that sacrum trauma sticking around much longer than it’s welcome?

One more core session to go (and it’s a doozy!) before we get to the integration sessions!

Ugh.  Writing about Session Five has been Such. A. Struggle.   I may be guilty of some perfectionistic tendencies.  And I really love Session Five and want to do it justice, honoring its magic.  But it’s also this deep session, at the core of the 10-series that works on the center of the body, corresponding to central aspects of our emotional beings.  Which all leads to me not having the easiest time writing about this gorgeous session.  But I’m going to try.

In Session Five we’re hitting the reset button.  We’re awakening the core.  We’re asking “Who am I?” relative to the inside self, the center, to instinct and vulnerability.  This is a core/sleeve session.  This is a top/bottom session.  This is a front/back session.  In other words, this session is the motherlode.  No wonder I love this session.

The main focus of Session Five, structurally, is the psoas, a muscle I didn’t even know existed before I first got Rolfed.  But now, I know and love the psoas, and hopefully you will, too.  The psoas is this beautiful muscle, or really, there are two, matching beautiful muscles, the psoai.  They run from the front and sides of the lumbar vertebrae (and the last thoracic vertebra), down through the pelvis and connect to the tops of the femurs.  Here’s a drawing of the psoai with their partners in pelvis stability, the illiacus muscles, which also get attention in Session Five:

The psoai are strong, long, and luscious.  Or, at least they should be.  Most of us spend so much time sitting that we have shorter than ideal psoai and they tend to be locked and loaded all the time, without the ability to relax and lengthen.  When you lift your leg in front of you, to go up a stair, for instance, your psoas is one of the main muscles responsible for that action.  And when you swing your leg behind you, to take a long, graceful step, for instance, your psoas needs to relax and lengthen.  Did you know your legs start above your belly-button?  Because they do, and the psoas is the muscle responsible for that.  I’ve found in my practice that overly tight and shortened psoas muscles are responsible for almost all the low-back pain I ever see, and I see a lot of low-back pain.  Shortened psoas muscles can also lead to hip pain, groin pain, sciatica, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, restricted breathing, and jaw pain.  It seems like a pretty important muscle.  Oh, and to get to the psoas, we have to work through 4 layers of more superficial abdominal muscles and around the majority of your viscera (organs), just for funsies.  Session Five is amazing, but I never said it was comfortable.

Session Five goals (beside simply loving the psoas) include:

  • increased anterior-posterior (front to back) depth; (remember that Double Stuf Oreo we started working on in Session Three?)
  • to begin helping the core space open from the pelvic floor to the roof of the mouth
  • balancing the relationship of the thorax (rib cage) to the pelvis
  • establishing the front of the spine
  • having the legs function from the lumbo-dorsal hinge (at the bottom of the ribs)

We are working here with the front of the back and the back of the front.  What’s more representative of the front of the back than a muscle that connects to the front of the spine, but is considered an abdominal muscle (as opposed to a back muscle)?  When I first learned about the psoas, this concept blew my mind.  I’d never thought about the front of my spine before.  I don’t think it had occurred to me that my spine HAD a front.  Obviously, it does.  I just hadn’t thought about it.  This is the core of the core.  This muscle is the physical embodiment of the place between future and past, between top and bottom, and is literally at our center.  This is the session where we ask questions like:  What is core?  What is surface?  Where and how do they connect?  Are they balanced in relation to each other?

Naturally, on a personal level, I was interested to see if and how this session, with it’s deep abdominal focus would effect my ‘hip thing.’  And I’m always down for a little exploration around “Who am I, really?”  So I was excited to receive Session Five.  It did not disappoint.  As per usual, Dave worked his magic.  Some standard, structural Rolfing with a nice mix of SourcePoint to clear out some fear I didn’t know was hiding in my abdomen.  I got up from the table after receiving Session Five and started singing “I’ve got no strings” from Pinocchio.  Seriously.  My joints all felt so smooth and loose, without being floppy or sloppy.  And I felt a lot taller, and longer along my whole front, as if I’d been unzipped from a too-tight casing.  This is what I felt like:  I took a little walk around Dave’s office and felt so upright and tall, with my shoulders effortlessly back behind me, instead of rounding forward.  My feet were contacting the ground well and comfortably.  It was amazing.  And two weeks later, I still had no trouble with my ‘hip thing.’  Since Session Five, though, I have had a lot of internal and emotional upheaval.  A lot of questioning around what’s really important to me and whether or not my life reflects those things.  Questions around integrity and long-term happiness and fulfillment.  Again, this session is amazing (and obviously important), but not necessarily comfortable.  I’m grateful for the experience.  Session Five rules.

 

You guys.  I can’t tell you how excited I was for Session Four.  Actually, how excited I was for Sessions Three, Four, Five, and Six.  I mean, there was the armpit dread with Session Three, it’s true.  And I usually fall asleep through most of Session Six (even though it’s super important!).  But about 12 years ago I slipped on some icy stairs and fell HARD on my butt and ever since then I’ve had this “hip thing.”  My sacroiliac joint pops really loudly on the left side.  And sometimes I can’t get it to pop and it just aches for days.  And my pelvis has just felt “off” since then; not quite balanced; not moving as freely as I think it should.  And when I’m tired or stressed, I can feel myself collapsing around my left side, like I’m weaker over there.  So I really thought this time through the series might be the time I finally got to let go of all that.  This might be my chance to resolve my “hip thing.”  And sessions Three, Four, Five, and Six are the sessions that most directly address the fascia of the hip.  Sessions Four and Five, addressing the core structures of the pelvis, in particular, were the ones I was super duper hopeful about.

Session Four, being the first of the “core” sessions is where we start to ask “Who Am I?” and we begin looking at evoking the authentic self.  Which is the real meat and potatoes of what I love about Rolfing.  The good stuff.  Obviously the good stuff is to be found in the pelvis.  Ida Rolf said the difference between massage therapists and Rolfers was that Rolfers had the courage to go for the pelvic floor.  And Session Four is where we do that.  Session Four, just like in Session Three, has the client lying on their side.  But this time, instead of working on the top leg (or the right leg if you’re lying on your left side and vice versa), we’re working on the bottom leg; the one on the table.  The main territory of Session Four is the inner line of the leg, from the inside arch of the foot all the way up to the ischial tuberosity (or sit/sits/sitting bones) and the pubic bone.  Hello, nice to meet you.  We don’t actually work directly on the pelvic floor.  But we work on a lot of fascia that goes up into and through and around the pelvic floor.  The goal is to “evoke balanced span in the pelvic floor.”  Which is important if you want to avoid things like pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence and pain with pregnancy and low back pain and sciatica.  Other Session Four goals include evoking increased horizontality at the arches, the ankles, and the knees; differentiating the lower leg relative to the upper leg and the upper leg relative to the hip; and freeing the legs from the pelvis.  We’re trying to bring the support we started to create in Session Two up through the pelvis as well as further clarifying the definition between core and sleeve.  One of the diagnostics we use that you can try at home is simply to stand in your natural stance (probably in your underwear) facing a mirror.  Look at your kneecaps.  If your kneecaps were headlights, where would they be pointing?  If you need a little more help, do a shallow knee-bend.  Do your knees come straight forward, or do they point out to the sides or in towards the middle?  Kneecaps pointing forward (and ankles, and toes, while we’re at it) is the goal.  Imagine if the wheels on your car were aligned like your knees.  Would you take it on the highway?

So, like I said, I was super psyched to receive Session Four.  And I was not disappointed.  Just moments into the session, I experienced some of that crazy Rolfing magic, where Dave was working on my lower left leg and all of a sudden, I felt my right shoulder open up.  Like there was more space and flexibility in there.  And he was about as far away from my right shoulder as he could be!  Soon after that, I found my back straightening and my head pulling back, because that felt better than being hunched.  I hadn’t even realized I’d been hunched.  Magic, I tell you.  After doing the standard Rolfing stuff, Dave did some straight SourcePoint, setting the Guardian Points and doing an Extraction.  I felt my pelvis relax and my chest open.  I noticed my left nostril open, my left ear release, and my left jaw relax.  What?  I’m still awed by how this stuff works.  I don’t get it, but I sure do appreciate it.  When the session ended, I stood up and felt very solid, tall, strong, and balanced.  It felt like everything was in the right place.  And I looked down to see that my right foot, which loves to turn out to the side, was pointing straight ahead like a champ.

My hips (both of them) felt great there in the Rolfing room, but I have to admit, I still noticed some inflexibility and some imbalance in them over the next week.  And I still had the popping now and again.  But I have high hopes for Sessions Five and Six.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see where this 10-series takes me!

Truth be told, I hated Session Three.  Both the first time I received it and while learning about it in Rolfing school, I hated it.  Like, with a fiery passion, I hated it.  Not that it was Session Three’s fault.  It was my armpits’ fault.  But the hatred toward Three was real and deep.  Allow me to explain.  

I have the most ticklish armpits of anyone I’ve ever known.  And I’ve known a lot of people.  And just in case you’re one of those people who isn’t ticklish and thinks it soooo funny to tickle people, it’s not.  Just because I’m laughing does NOT mean it’s fun for me.  Having my armpits tickled is (thankfully) the closest I’ve come to being tortured.  And getting back on topic, Session Three deals with the armpits.  Or axillary region if you want to get technical.

I have been told that Session Three deals with a lot more than just the armpits.  It deals with the sides of the body, all the way from the head to the toes, with the goal of making more space from front to back.  My teacher said, we’re making the Oreo into a Double Stuf Oreo.  But all I could focus on was the armpit, and I really like Oreos.  That first time I went through the 10-series, I had no idea what was coming and I probably still owe apologies to the 7 other people getting their Session Threes at the same time in that classroom.  The shrieks and yelps that came from me were certainly not health inducing for the others made to listen.  And my poor Rolfer probably just wanted to pin me to the table to get me to stop squirming and jumping away from her. 

It turns out that the tickle reflex is mostly protective.  At least, that’s what I’ve found with my clients and myself.  Just beneath the tickle is the pain, if you can get there.  So while my worst nightmare was my Rolfer working on my armpits, what I needed most was also my Rolfer working on my armpits.  Go figure.  But with every Session Three I’ve received, the process has gotten easier.  I’ve since made my peace with Session Three.  And this time through, I actually loved it.  I didn’t think that was even an option!

While I had my usual dread regarding receiving Session Three this time, I also knew that I could really use some armpit work, specifically on my left side.  I’d noticed in the last few weeks that my left shoulder was slowly but steadily getting less mobile.  I couldn’t remember injuring it, but my range of motion was shrinking to the point where I could no longer reach my arm up overhead or behind me.  I was starting to feel like the Tin Man searching for his oil can.  By the time Dave was done working with me (only one little yelp per armpit!), I was ready to get back to climbing trees and swinging on the monkey bars.  Hooray!  And after the session I had the deepest sense of vertical I can remember ever having.  As if every cell in my whole body was suddenly organized around a plumb line dropped from the center of my head.  It was super cool.  

Many people who are not me find Session Three to be an incredible session, even on their first go around, as we really start to get into the structures that aren’t addressed in a typical massage.  One of the assessment tools, looking at a profile view, is something you can do yourself with a full-length mirror.  Stand with one of your profiles to the mirror, preferably wearing clothing that shows your body pretty well.  See that ankle bone sticking out?  Draw a vertical line up through that bone.  Is the center of your knee on that line?  What about your hip joint?  What about your shoulder?  And your ear?  Which ones are in front of the line?  Which ones are behind?  That’s the stuff we’re addressing in Session Three.  (If you’re perfectly lined up, I want to see it.  And we can probably just call you done with no need to finish the 10-series.)  During Session Three, the client is lying on one side or the other for most of it and we get to work (in addition to the armpit) on the rib cage, the relationship of the shoulder to the neck, the ribs, and the arm, and the pelvic girdle and how it relates to the ribs and the leg.  There’s a big focus on the tiniest of our ribs, number 12, and the quadratus lumborum, a nifty muscle in the low back.  In Session Three, we’re wrapping up the “sleeve” or “superficial” sessions and prepping the body for the “core” sessions to come.  When I could finally stop focusing on the horrors of the armpit work and see the session as a whole, I realized that Session Three might be the coolest session of the whole 10-series, in that it does a great job of addressing the whole body, from a really interesting position (side-lying), something that I can’t find a comparison to in any other session.  Neato.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you know the drill: my birthday is coming up and I’m celebrating with Pay What You Want Week, the first week of May. If you are new around these parts, well, the same is still true. I’m turning 35 (halfway to 70, baby!) and I’m giving you presents. Well, just one present, to be specific. Pay What You Want Week is just what it sounds like. For the first week of May, the 1st through the 7th, you can schedule a Rolfing session with me as you normally would, but pay whatever you’d like when it’s all done. Want to pay in cookies? You can do that. Want to pay in fairy sprinkles? Totally an option. Want to pay with a song and a dance? I’m down. Want to pay a dollar amount of your choice? That works, too. The only rule is that you keep in mind that I share a 450 square foot apartment with a person, a dog, a cat, and three fish. I have no room for stuff. Please no stuff. (Fairy sprinkles don’t count as stuff.)

So go ahead. Schedule your Pay What You Want session for the week of May 1st through May 7th and I’ll see you then!

(If you’re missing some context, the story starts here.)

Session Two changed my life. I fell in love with Rolfing during Session One, but Session Two was when I first realized we should probably move in together; you know, take things to the next level. I’ll never forget that feeling, when my first Rolfer asked me to sit up toward the end of the session. She wanted me to walk, so she could asses the progress, see what else needed to be done before closing the session. I sat on the edge of the table, feet on the floor, staring down in disbelief. Those were not my feet. I mean, I knew what my feet looked like. Not just as a human, who generally knows what her feet look like, but as someone who had a not-very-great relationship with feet in general and her own feet in particular. I hated my feet. I hated all feet, actually. They were weird-looking. And smelly. And sweaty. And just generally gross. Feet, ew. And when I was 20 years old, my right foot swelled up overnight for no apparent reason and never went back to being its normal self. It had been a source of shame and frustration ever since. I had wanted to pretend my feet didn’t exist for most of my life. But because I hated my feet, I was also obsessed with my feet. Comparing them to each other. Comparing them to other people’s feet. Getting mad at them for not being like other people’s feet. You know how it goes. So, I knew well what my feet looked like. And as I sat there on the edge of the table, staring at the place between my ankles and the floor, I knew, those were not my feet.

It’s true, this makes no sense. I hadn’t had surgery during the session. I hadn’t lost consciousness (at least, not for long). There were no wounds. And I didn’t think I was in some bizarre magic land where body parts were randomly swapped out. But still. Those feet at the ends of my legs were not the feet I knew and hated. They looked…different. I can’t say how, exactly. They just didn’t look like mine, even though the nail polish on those toes was exactly the same color as the nail polish had been on my toes an hour earlier. My brain was seriously struggling for a minute, but my Rolfer was waiting for me to stand up and walk and I didn’t want to say out loud the crazy thought that was running through my head, so I just stood up.

And my world changed.

Oh. So this was what feet were supposed to feel like. I had no idea. It was like I had great big lion’s paws down there at the ends of my legs. Soft and strong and supple. This was what standing was supposed to feel like. I’d never done it this way before. Balanced and comfortable and easy. And then I started walking. Whoa. It was like I was on wheels it was so smooth and effortless. This was better than that poor approximation of walking I had done before. Better by far. Those feet may not have looked like mine, but I was keeping them. No way in hell was I giving those feet back. I loved those feet.

How did I not understand before how amazing feet were? 26 bones, 33 joints, practically infinite possibilities.

Session Two, in case it isn’t obvious by now, is dedicated to the lower legs and feet. The one and only (but very challenging) goal is “functional, bilateral support.” Questions to think about (as the Rolfer, or for you at home) include things like: Which leg is it easier to stand on? Does the weight transmit (in each leg) through the medial (inside) aspect of the foot or the lateral (outside) aspect of the foot? When doing a knee bend, do the knees move straight forward and straight back (or point out, or point in, or wobble, or move in different ways)? Are all three arches (yes, three!) of the foot responsive to loading and unloading?

Since that day, 7 1/2 years ago when I first received Session Two, I have fallen deeply in love with feet. Not in that way. Geeze. I just love working with feet and I continue to love my feet. I think they’re fascinating. The way the bones are formed into those three arches, all by muscles and fascia, both within the foot and throughout the lower leg. The way the foot and ankle respond to the slightest changes in surface while standing, walking, and running. How we mess up all of this beautifully intricate and genius ability with shoes. How we think that point and flex (and maybe pronate and supinate) are the only options. How it’s so hard to explain that what happens in the foot is reflected in the pelvis. There’s just so much to know when it comes to the feet.

It’s interesting. When I went through my first 10-series, any pain or tension I had was always in my shoulders, neck, and upper back. I found those sessions (2, 4, and 6) focusing on the lower body a little aggravating. When were we going to get to the good stuff?! But I think all those lower body sessions were the ones that ended up making the biggest difference in clearing up my shoulder, neck, and upper back pain. See, my feet weren’t supporting my legs, which therefore weren’t supporting my pelvis, which obviously couldn’t support my ribcage, which couldn’t support my shoulder girdle, and so on. Once I got my feet under my legs, my legs under my pelvis, and my pelvis under my ribcage, all my upper-body pain started to fade. Which meant that all those lower-body sessions I thought were a waste of time ended up being the most dramatic when I stood up from the table. And the ones I was looking forward to the most, the upper-body sessions, while still cool, had a subtler effect.

This time through the 10-series, I’m having the opposite experience (so far). I was blown away by One. And while Session Two felt good, it was small, gentle differences I noticed afterwards. While thinking about why this might be, I realized how differently I treat my feet now versus 8 years ago. Because I was so uncomfortable with my feet, I was always hiding them away. I wore shoes always. And heels. Lots of high heels. I never went barefoot outside of the house. Now, I’m a huge proponent of being barefoot and wearing minimalist footwear. I own one last pair of heels and I think I wore them once (maybe twice) in the last year. I walk barefoot whenever I can, despite the weird looks I get. I wear minimalist (zero rise, flexible soled, wide toe-box) shoes whenever I can. So the way I’m living is supporting healthy, flexible, highly functioning feet, all day, every day. It shouldn’t be surprising that I don’t need a big, dramatic Session Two anymore. A little fine-tuning, some minor adjustments, sure; but the big work has already been done. Huzzah!

But don’t you worry, Session Two, you will always hold a special place in my heart.