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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.

From my class notes on the 10-series: “You get to do in Session Ten what you wanted to do in Session One, but couldn’t.” This right here is why I love the 10-series. The slow, methodical, dedicated unwinding of old patterns that are so deep and ingrained that going straight for them in the first session could be impossible and would very likely be traumatic. The patterns we currently use to breathe, sit, stand, and walk may not be the most comfortable or efficient ways to do any of those things, but they’re old and deep and they’ve gotten us this far. They’re safe.

Which is why, in the first three sessions of the 10-series, known as the “sleeve” or “superficial” sessions, we start by focusing on adaptability. Improving the client’s ability to integrate changes. What’s the point of giving someone a great new pair of legs if they don’t know how to use them? We try to assist the body in opening and lengthening to organize those outer layers of the body before the deep work of the “core” sessions. But there’s also this idea that the sleeve of our body is the boundary between our core being and the outside world. The sleeve is responsible for our external interactions and the boundaries we set. This is where our sense of self as defined by our interactions with others is established. Not only are we concerned with the boundary between ourself and the outside world, but the boundary between our inner self and our outer self. Are they congruent? Does this meat suit match the soul? Do our actions match our intentions? That all sounds pretty important, right?

But. Still. Session One of Ten. I’ll be the first to admit, I have favorites in the 10-series and this session is not one of them. Which is so strange and illogical, I know. I mean, the first time I ever got Rolfed, Session One of the 10-series was it, and it was definitely love at first sight. And I know from my practice, that many of my clients feel the same way, falling hard for that first session. But what can I say? Now that I know the 10-series so well, I find Session One a little boring compared to some of the others. I mean, Two? I love Two! And Five? I think Five is probably my ultimate favorite. But I love Seven, too. And Four. I really love Four. But One? Session One feels like sleep. Sure, sleep is important. Super, duper important. I’ve built my life around getting enough sleep. But I wouldn’t call sleep exciting. Same with Session One. Clearly important. Not so clearly exciting.

Which isn’t to say I wasn’t looking forward to Session One. I was. Because, honestly, I’ve never had a bad session from Dave. So, if anyone could make Session One really pop, Dave could do it. And I knew I needed it.

There’s a lot that goes into the first session of the 10-series. In the short-hand in my head, it’s the free-the-breath session. From a structural standpoint, the goals of Session One are to differentiate the ribcage from the shoulder girdle, the shoulder girdle from the arms, the shoulder girdle from the neck, the pelvis from the legs and the pelvis from the ribcage. All in one session! According to the master, Ray McCall, Session One goals (for the Rolfer, not the client) are as follows:
Establish rapport/relationship with your client.
Teach the client how to be Rolfed.
Learn from the client how you can best Rolf them.
Make it easier for the body to breathe.
Prepare the body for subsequent changes.

Well. Like I said last time, Dave and I have been trading sessions for about 5 years now. We’ve already established a rapport and a relationship, so that mission’s been accomplished. Each of us is pretty practiced at both being Rolfed and Rolfing the other, so we’ve got 2 and 3 on lock. Goal 4, though, that’s what I really needed. A couple weeks back I had a minor surgery. And I had noticed since then that the biggest hit my body took, had been in my lungs (even though the surgery itself was nowhere near my lungs). I took a week off from running, and it was slow getting back into it, but while my legs and torso and arms all felt fine and strong, it was my lungs that were really holding me back as I worked back up to my normal mileage. So, yeah, I needed a little help in the breathing department. And as for goal 5, it’s never a bad idea to prep for what’s ahead. Anything Dave could do here in Session One to make the work of the later sessions easier would be appreciated.

So, even if Session One isn’t my favorite, I figured I should probably get it anyways. I guess.

And so I did. And thank goodness. That was a crazy session. I mean, I knew Dave was a next-level sorcerer, but wow. During the session, I got the shakes and the yawns and the stretches and probably fell asleep for a few minutes…you know, the full range. I have a hard time describing what it feels like to receive Rolfing because it’s just so all over the place. Sometimes it hurt (who knew my lateral hamstrings were so tight?!), sometimes there was that deep achey feeling (in my left wrist? really?), sometimes I felt the urge to wiggle or stretch or shake (and I wonder, is that leftover from so many years in Catholic school being told to sit still with my hands folded?), and sometimes my breath got all big and full and delicious (aaaaahhhh!). But what I can definitely describe is how it felt afterward. I stood up from the table and felt like a huge, old oak tree. So tall and solid and straight, I was afraid I’d hit my head on the ceiling. But also so grounded and stable, I felt like I had roots extending 30 feet down into the ground. It was beautiful. Oh, and my breath felt full and deep and easy. Like it was extending out to my fingertips and toes and eyeballs. Goal #4 of making it easier for the body to breathe? Check. Honestly, I felt like we’d already done a whole 10-series. Like my body was all tuned up and ready to go. Throughout the rest of the day, I kept having little things settle out. My left sacroiliac joint would ache and I would need to stretch it a little. My feet and ankles wanted to wiggle, so I let them. I found I wanted/needed to move a lot and shift positions often, which is probably something I should do always, but after getting that session I was much more aware of my body’s requests for movement. A few days later, I took those new lungs for a 4-hour run/hike through Eldorado Canyon and they felt as good as new. I guess Session One is alright, after all. I’m glad I didn’t skip it, for sure.

Next up, Session Two! And real quick, before I go, another gem from my classroom notes: “This is not a spectator sport. The client should be working as hard as the practitioner.” Um. I know some of my clients work really hard in their sessions, but maybe I should wake some of the others up and make sure they’re pulling their weight.

Hey SassyPants,

I’ve been meaning to drop you a note about how awesome Katy Bowman is and how you should read her books and listen to her podcast and watch her videos and read her blog.  And that’s probably going to happen at some point, because Katy Bowman is my hero and she is, indeed, awesome and you should, indeed, do all those things.  But, this isn’t that note.

What I want to talk about today, is the Rolfing 10-series.  This is a weird one for me for many reasons.  While I love, love, love the 10-series, I don’t recommend the 10-series very often.  It’s such a big commitment.  I find the thought of committing to 10 whole sessions, right off the bat, to be intimidating to a lot of people.  I mean, we just met.  I’m not going to ask you to commit to spending 15 hours and $1,200 with me, right from the start.  Sometimes a client walks in already committed.  They want the 10-series.  They’ve watched my videos and read my blog posts; they feel like they already know enough about me.  They’ve researched the 10-series, or had a friend or relative go through it and it’s something they’ve wanted to do for a while.  They’re ready.  And good for them.  But that’s not average.  Most people come to me because something hurts and they’ve tried everything else and it hasn’t worked and finally they’re ready to give big, scary Rolfing a try.  So, no, I’m not going to tell those brave souls that they now need to commit to coming back 9 more times and undertaking this huge transformative journey.  Especially when it might not be right for them.

If you’re in agony, the 10-series is not for you.  The 10-series is for healthy people who want to be healthier.  It’s for people who feel good, but want to feel great.  If you have low-back pain that makes it so you can’t sleep, can’t sit without pain, can’t enjoy a meal, do you really want to wait until the 6th session before we work on your back?  ‘Cause that’s how the 10-series is set up.  If you put one to three weeks between sessions, we’re looking at 6 to 18 weeks before we directly address your back pain.  Sure, with the magic of fascia being everywhere and all connected, your back pain might go away after we address your breath in session one.  Or maybe after we address your feet and lower legs in session two.  But maybe not.  Remember, most of my clients are coming to me after they’ve been in pain for a long time, and have tried a lot of other things that haven’t worked.  The last thing I’m going to tell them is to give me a month or three to see if maybe I can help.

But I do love, love, love the 10-series.  So, when a client is ready for it, I get excited.  And the other day, when my Rolfer friend, Dave sent me this text, “Want to trade a ten series?” I got pretty excited, and “yes!” was the only response available to me.  I’ve been through the process of receiving the 10-series 2 1/2 times before, but it’s been 4 1/2 years since that last half a time through.  And, this may sound odd, but I’ve never actually received the 10-series from a Certified Rolfer™.  What?!  I know!!  My first introduction to Rolfing, and trip through the 10-series was as a model for a student in a class of soon-to-be Rolfers.  And my second trip through was in my own class, halfway through my training, when all of us students did the 10-series on each other.  My 1/2 journey through the series was when a similar class had a student drop out in the middle and since they were all working on each other, they needed someone to step in and take his spot.  I was that person.  So, all of my Rolfers in my experience of the 10-series, have been students.  When I realized a few days ago that I was about to get my first 10-series from a Certified Rolfer, and a very experienced, skilled Rolfer, who does SourcePoint, at that, I almost started wagging my tail I was so pumped.  (I don’t actually have a tail, but I often wish I did.)

For those of you who haven’t researched the 10-series extensively, or who haven’t already been through it, the 10-series is basically one really big, full-body session broken down into 10 pieces, because 10-15 hours of bodywork in one day is too much for anyone to receive, as well as too much for one bodyworker to give.  It’s broken up into three segments.  Sessions 1-3 are called the superficial, or sleeve sessions, with the structural goal of opening the outer layer of the body, to prepare it for the deeper work to come.  Sessions 4-7 are called the deep or core sessions, and they work with (surprise!) deep or core structures that aren’t often addressed in a typical massage.  And sessions 8-10 are the integrative sessions where we focus on finding the highest possible level of organization, connection, and communication throughout the body.  Each session has goals of its own, both structural and energetic in nature.  And each Rolfer and client can have specific goals for the series as a whole.  When Dave asked me what my goals for the series were, I’ll admit, I didn’t have a great answer.  My goals are kinda vague and nebulous.  I mean, I’ve already had a lot of Rolfing.  Even if I haven’t been through the 10-series in a while, Dave and I have been trading a session every month or two for about 5 years now.  And I’m a Rolfer.  I do a fair amount of self-care as I need it.  I stretch while waiting for clients to show up.  I’m mindful of my posture and my habits.  But at the same time, I haven’t had dedicated, focused, regular bodywork in a long time.  Since my last 10-series, I’ve gone from never running to being an ultra runner.  I got really into yoga, doing 3-6 classes a week, and then stopped doing yoga altogether.  I’ve taken up (and put back down) climbing.  I met and married my husband.  I’ve moved a few times.  I’ve made friends and lost friends.  I got a pull-up bar.  You know, things change.  And there are a lot of little things that bug me regularly.  My right foot turns out to the side a bit.  My left hip aches now and again.  My shoulders round forward more than I’d like.  And every now and again I have a rib go out of place for a few days.  So, I’d like to address all of those, if we can.  It just feels like I could use a full-body tune up.  Which, the 10-series is great for.  Also, enlightenment.  I’d like to achieve enlightenment.  The 10-series can do that, right?

So, I’m starting the 10-series and I’m going to try to write about it as I go.  Both from the perspective of a Rolfer, knowing the objectives of each session and all the nerdy behind-the-scenes goodness, and from the perspective of a client, receiving the sessions in an attempt at greater health.  I hope it’s interesting or helpful or entertaining.  (Also, if you’ve been thinking about doing a 10-series yourself, this might be a great time to try it, as I’ll be digging through all my notes and whatnot from classes that I may not have looked at in, oh, 5 or 6 years.  Good stuff.)  Let the journey begin!

The only thing I do every day is brush my teeth.  I mean, technically, that’s not true, of course, because I open my eyes every day and I breathe every day and I eat every day and I drink water every day.   But you know what I mean.  The only helpful habit I’ve cultivated (that’s not demanded for life) is brushing my teeth every day.  Some people do yoga every day.  Some people meditate every day.  Some people take a multivitamin every day.  I brush my teeth, and that’s it.

Not that I haven’t tried to do other things daily.  I’ve gone through (relatively short) periods where I meditated every day.  I’ve taken different supplements for weeks or months at a time.  I like yoga.  But brushing my teeth is the only thing I do every, single, day.  So, when it is suggested to me, or I suggest to myself, that I start a new something, every day, my response, both to myself and to others, is usually something along the lines of, why bother?  How many bottles of half-finished supplements have I thrown out because after 3 weeks of diligent supplementing, I’ve completely forgotten about them until they expired?  How many yoga/gym/class memberships have I purchased for a great month of sweating to be followed by a few months of guilt and eventual cancellation?  Which means that I often don’t do things that I know are good for me.  Things that would make my life better.  The knowledge that I’m probably not going to be able to keep this up every day, forever, stops me from even starting.

But then I went to the dentist.  For the first time in 4 years.  Don’t judge me.  And the dentist said I needed to start flossing.  (I know, I know, I should’ve started flossing a long time ago.  But I didn’t.  Probably because I tried to to it every day, failed, and gave up.)  As it stands, I floss when I’m bored, standing in the bathroom with the medicine cabinet open, and the floss catches my eye.  As you can imagine, this is about twice a year.  Or, not as often as I should be flossing.  The dentist had the audacity to suggest that I should floss every day.  Which is approximately 363 times more per year than I’m currently flossing.  Naturally, I thought to myself, “That’s not going to happen.”  Clearly, my dentist hadn’t gotten the memo about me only doing one thing every day.  But then, something strange happened.  I went home, and the next day, I flossed.  And then, about a week later, I flossed again.  And then a week after that, I flossed again.

And then I felt silly.  Why even bother flossing once a week?  And then, I thought, “Wait a minute.  What if it’s not silly?”  I mean, flossing once a week has to be better than flossing twice a year, right?  I mean, it’s 26 times better than flossing twice a year!  And, if I’m 34 (and a half) now, and I live to be 100, I could end up flossing 3,275 times more in the next 65 and half years than I would if I just stuck with my regular schedule of twice a year.  That seems to me like a pretty significant improvement.  So maybe it’s not so silly.

And who knows?  Every now and again, I might get the urge to floss twice in a week.  Or three times.  Maybe next year, or in 2020, I could commit to flossing every other day.  Which might not be enough to make my dentist happy, but it’s a helluva lot better than twice a year.

As you may have gleaned by now, I’m not one for new year’s resolutions.  Not that I have any problem with you having them.  By all means, go right ahead.  They’re just not for me.  But, that being said, I do have things I’d like to work on this year.  And I’ve decided to try applying my new flossing approach to them.

For example, I’m trying to sit less, and stand and move more.  And instead of saying, “I will only stand while I write emails and check facebook; never again shall I sit!”  I’ve put my laptop up on a pile of books so that it makes more sense to stand than to sit.  Sure, I can and do take my laptop to the couch when I want to.  But now it’s more effort to sit than to stand, so through my own laziness, I’m standing more than I was before.  I’ve also switched to walking to work more than driving or riding my bike.  I’d love to say that I only walk to work and that I never drive.  But I drove to work on Friday and that doesn’t mean I’m a failure.  I’m still standing and walking more than I was before.  And I count that as a win.

I’ve gotten really excited about this idea of little changes over long periods of time adding up to big differences in the end.  And letting go of the idea that a habit is only good if I do it every single day.  It just makes me happy to come to terms with teeth brushing being my only every-day-habit.  I don’t have to do push-ups every day.  I don’t have to eat kale instead of cheese burgers for the rest of my life.  I don’t have to meditate for an hour a day, every day.  Doing 5 push-ups this week is better than no push-ups.  Even if I swap kale for a cheese burger once this year, it’s a step in the right direction.  And 2 minutes of meditation are better than zero minutes of meditation.

So that’s what I’m going with.  Baby steps.  And no beating myself up when I don’t floss.  Compassion always, even (especially) for myself.

Can I talk to all my ladies for a few minutes?  We need to talk about boobs, or more specifically, bras.  Gentlemen, if you’re a life-long bra wearer, please, read on.  But generally, I’m talking to my women-folk here.

Dearest bra wearers,

For years, I have held off on saying something.  Like, from the beginning of my career as a Rolfer.  See, one of the things that drew me to Rolfing was that you (the client) got to do whatever you liked doing.  I had had a chiropractor tell me when I was in high school, that I shouldn’t go into landscaping, because it would be too hard on my back.  I’d had a surgeon, a doctor, and a physical therapist all tell me to give up on running after knee surgery.  I don’t really like being told what I can and can’t do.  Just ask my mom.  Rolfing never asked me to stop doing what I loved just because it hurt.  Instead, Rolfing attempted to make the hurting go away, so I could just enjoy the loving of the thing.  And that’s a major, major thing I love about Rolfing.

But.

There are things I see in my office, over and over and over and over again.  Things that make me cringe.  Things that make me sad.  And at a certain point, doesn’t it become my responsibility to say something?  As part of your healthcare team?  I want to be a good Rolfer and all, and not tell you what to do or what not to do.  But at the same time, I feel like I gotta say something.  What if I just tell you what I’m seeing and you can decide for yourself what you want to do or not do about it.  Okay?  Okay.

What I see is this: bras are suffocating us women.  When I think about it from a fascia standpoint, I’m not at all surprised.  If I wear a restrictive garment around any other body part, the body will change accordingly.  It’s like how shoes change the shape of our feet (and everything above them).  If you know anyone who has worn glasses their whole life and you ask them to take their glasses off, you can see the indentations in their heads, just above their ears, and usually at the bridge of the nose.  This is the whole idea behind braces and why they work to reorganize our teeth in our mouths.  How many of us have indentations in one of our middle fingers from where we hold a pen when writing?

So I understand why bras, too, would leave their mark with a tight band around the rib cage, just under the breasts.  Just like with shoes shaping feet and glasses shaping heads, you can see the indentations a bra strap leaves on the rib cage.

But then I started wondering about the benefits of bra wearing.  What’s the reason we’re wearing them all day, every day?  I understand there are several benefits to shoes.  Besides warms toes, protection from broken glass, and fashion, they’re required by the health department in restaurants.  I’m guessing most people who wear glasses their whole lives do it because they gain a benefit from having corrected vision and that benefit is worth the cost of having a slightly dented head.  Straight, well-organized teeth are highly valued in our culture, and probably easier to keep clean and healthy.  I will take a dented finger bone for the pleasure granted to me by writing.  But bras?  The cost-benefit analysis gets a little murky.

Why do we wear bras?  What is the benefit, here?  Well, they hold boobs up and in all sorts of positions that boobs don’t naturally come in.  They hold boobs still (or more still) during exercise and activity.  They make boobs look bigger, higher, smoother, and less dynamic than they actually are.  They minimize the appearance of nipples.  And they provide any extra layer of protection from the elements.  So, what it comes down to is mostly looks, with a little bit of function.  When I really take a good look, it seems like the number one reason I wear a bra is because it’s expected that I wear a bra.  I wear a bra because everyone else (with boobs) wears bras.  You know what they say about jumping off bridges just because your friends jump off bridges, right?

Really breaking it down, I realized despite my relatively high activity level, I ‘needed’ a bra for less than an hour and a half a day, on average.  I don’t like my boobs bouncing around while I run because it’s uncomfortable and I have sensitive nipples.  Same goes for when I play volleyball.  That works out to be about 9 hours a week that I ‘need’ the support of a sports bra.  And if I hadn’t coddled the damn things since I got ‘em, my boobs would probably be fine unsupported while I ran and played volleyball.  In addition to these ‘highly bouncy activities,’ I’m active in many other ways (walking, hiking, dancing, climbing trees, stretching, cleaning), but it’s actually fine if my boobs move during those activities.  That’s what they were designed to do. And it’s super fine for my boobs to be unsupported, free-flowing fat-bags while I do stuff like write, cook, read, watch tv, drink tea, and eat meals.

So, if I’m wearing a bra most of my waking hours, let’s say for 14 hours a day; but only 1.5 of those hours do I need a bra; then we’re looking at around 12.5 hours a day, every day of wearing a restrictive garment for no reason other than everyone else is doing it.  If I asked you to put one of your arms (even your non-dominant one) in a sling for 12 1/2 hours a day, every day, just because, how would you feel about that?  If I asked you to do this starting around the age of 10 and told you to do this every day for the rest of your life, how would you feel about that?  Why did we all agree to do this again?

Here’s the thing.  Your life would be severely limited if you put one of your arms in a sling for 12 1/2 hours a day, every day, but people live without arms.  Your survival does not depend on you having two functioning, sling-free arms.  You know what your survival does depend on?  Breath.  You know what a bra restricts?  Yeah.  See what I’m saying here?  See why I can’t just be quiet about this?  We need to breathe.  Yet every day, for 10-16 hours a day, most women (and girls who are on their way to becoming women) wrap a strap around their rib cages and voluntarily limit their breath.  The thing that keeps them alive.  Because everyone else is doing it.

What.  The.  Heck.

When I first started my practice, I thought, “well, that’s just how it goes with women.”  And I am so done with that.  It may be how it goes with women right now.  But, it’s not how it has to go.  There is no reason I can see, from a health perspective, for women to wear bras all the time.  They’re not cheap, or easy to maintain, or super convenient.  It’s not like any of us accidentally fell into the habit of wearing them because it was so fun.  If wearing a bra is more comfortable for you during certain activities (like me and running, per esempio), then by all means, be my guest.  But watching Portlandia?  Sitting at your desk checking emails?  Almost any activity besides jumping and running?  Think about it.  If we free the boobies, we begin to free the breath and the ribs, the shoulders and the neck, the sternum and the heart.  Sounds ay-okay to me.

I don’t want you to think that I’m this shining example of braless living.  I’m not.  But I am trying to wear a bra less.  Putting one on later in the day, taking it off as soon as I’m home at night.  Seeing if I can just be a little more conscious around my bra wearing instead of automatic.  I’m not going to tell you what to do or what not to do; I still want to be a good Rolfer, after all.  But if breath is important to you (and it is, trust me), maybe you might want to bring a little more consciousness to your bra habits as well.

That’s all for now, ladies.  Breathe free and prosper.

-Theresa

If I get another email telling me how I just have to market to my customers, right now, well, I’ll probably just delete it.

I get it already.  I know.  Everyone is (or soon will be) looking for interesting, unique, lovely gifts and if my customers see a special offer from me, they might just realize that my product, service, or whatever would just be perfect for that special someone.  I know.  And still.  It makes me gag.  All the selling and buying and stress and worry that’s tied up in the holidays.  Days where we should be focusing on feasting and family and gratitude and love and resting in the quiet dark.    I don’t want to contribute to the feeding frenzy.  So I’m not.

But.  I do feel super lucky to have the best clients in the world, namely you.  I’m so grateful that I love going to work every day.  As a big ‘ole thank you, I’m doing half-priced sessions for the first two weeks of November.  I want to encourage you to take care of yourself before the holidays start.  Before the madness of last-minute trips to the mall or tears shed over burned cookies or out-of-town travel making you nuts.  Take care of yourself first.

So for the first two weeks of November, Sunday the 1st through Saturday the 14th, all sessions are $60.  As a way for me to say thank you and so you can take care of you.  That’s it.  Happy Thanksgiving, and happy holidays in December.  Hopefully I’ll see you soon!