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Hey there, I just realized (I know; it’s been 8 years; sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake) that even though each of you has come to see me for a specific reason, you might not know about all the other specific reasons people try Rolfing.  So, in an effort to address that, I’m going to be highlighting clients and having them tell their stories.  Hopefully you’ll find it as interesting as I do!  And if you’d like to tell your story, I’d love to hear it and share it if you’re willing!

Now, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Beth Angel.  Here’s what she has to say about her experience going through the 10-series with me:

I could write about Rolfing, my experiences with Rolfing, and my outcomes with Rolfing.  However, if you have made it this far, I think you have read enough about Rolfing to make a decision if it is for you or not. Instead, I’ll spend my time explaining why Rolfing with Theresa was my best decision.

I came to Theresa after seeing two other Rolfers.  I already knew that Rolfing was for me; research on the body and the impact Rolfing sessions could have on posture, pain management, and injuries had made my decision.  My previous Roflers had been good at the technique, but the connection wasn’t there.  I couldn’t see spending 10 sessions with those individuals, so I kept on looking. My first day with Theresa was a breath of fresh air. I told her what I didn’t want from my Rolfer, and then rambled away on what I was looking to accomplish with Rolfing.  My thoughts were not focused, so I just rambled and Theresa began working.

Throughout my time with Theresa, I became more aware of my body and my ability to explain what was going on within my body.  Theresa listened, pointed out things when appropriate, and educated whenever she could. She remained calm and kind when I came into a session with tears coming down my face, and she was always up for a random discussion on whatever I decided to ramble on about that day.

Throughout my 10-series, I worked on minimizing the pain in my right shoulder from a repetitive motion injury and better posture to fix my habit of locking my knees.  Theresa and I worked on so many other things, and I am beyond thankful I took the time to find the right person.  Rolfing is an amazing experience that will open your eyes to your habits, your body, and the impact they have on each other.  Do not entrust just anyone with the ability to Rolf, pick someone that will listen and educate you so the impact of this practice will be long-lasting. For me that was Theresa, and I truly believe she will be that person for anyone that is willing to give Rolfing a shot.

Hey there SassyPants,

It’s (apparently) been 8 1/2 months since I wrote a blog post.  I guess I didn’t have much to say.  But now I DO have something to say.  Two things, in fact.  No, make that three.  Good things come in trios, as they say.

First and foremost, I’m moving to a new office.  For the second time in my almost-8-year career, the space I’m currently renting will soon be torn down and turned into a luxury apartment building.  Love you, Denver!  And so, it is with great excitement that I announce Monday, January 29th will be the last day I see clients at 701 S. Logan and Wednesday January 31st will be the first day I see clients at 1221 S. Clarkson (suite 122).  I’ll be sending out reminders of the new location for the first month or so, but after that, you’re on your own.  The new building is around the corner from Whole Foods for all your pre- and post-Rolfing snacking needs and is still very accessible and in the West Wash Park neighborhood.  The only trick is parking, in that there are about 8 spots directly in front of the building on Clarkson which is designated as 2-hour parking.  The surrounding blocks are all 1-hour parking (which is a bit short for a Rolfing session).  However, exactly one block north, on Mississippi, parking is unlimited (except for the once a month street sweeping days).  So here’s your chance to get a little more movement in your life and spend just a minute or two more outside by parking a block away!  I really am excited about this new space and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.  I’m also looking for a few other therapists to share the space with, as there are two treatment rooms and I’ll only be using one (and even that one I don’t use 24/7).  So, if you are a, or know any massage therapists, Rolfers, Reiki practitioners, acupuncturists, counselors, psychologists, or other healers who could use some full or part-time office space, please let me know!

Secondly, my dear friend and personal Rolfer, Dave Sheldon is organizing and co-teaching a SourcePoint Therapy module 1 class in Boulder at the Rolf Institute April 6th-8th.  This class is open to the public and you need absolutely no experience as a bodyworker or in any particular field to participate.  I’ll be attending the class myself for a review and would love to see you there as well.  If you’ve ever had any interest in exploring SourcePoint Therapy for your own personal use (or to use on your friends or kids or pets or unsuspecting strangers), this is a great opportunity to check it out.  You’ll learn a lot of the basics taught by the creators of SourcePoint, Bob Shrei and Donna Thomson.  Early registration is $550; after February 23rd it goes up to $600.  You can contact Dave directly at dave@davesheldon.com to register and more information about SourcePoint Therapy can be found at sourcepointtherapy.com.

Lastly, I wanted to let everyone know that I’ll be taking off 6 weeks this summer to thru hike the Colorado Trail (unless the whole state is on fire because we haven’t had any snow or rain).  My exact date of departure is yet to be determined, but will probably be around the first of July. I bring this up now just in case you want to do a 10-series this year.  Since a 10-series takes a minimum of 10 weeks to complete, and more commonly takes 20-30 weeks to complete, and because there are only 24-25 weeks before I head out, and because it’s really not ideal to take a 6-week break in the middle of your 10-series (but it won’t kill you either, let’s not be overdramatic here), it’d be ideal for you to either start your 10-series pretty soon, and get on a regular schedule, or wait until I get back, in mid-August to start.  If, however, you have already done the 10-series, or have no interest in the 10-series, then proceed as usual and don’t even worry about the fact that I’ll be gone for 6 weeks.  It’s half a year away!

That’s all I’ve got for now, peeps.  I hope you’re enjoying the new year!

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.