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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.

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

So, a few months ago, I wrote about how common and normal and not-at-all-a-problem it is for people to fall asleep during sessions with me.  And that’s still true.  But what about if you don’t fall asleep when you get Rolfed?  What about the times when the healing trance isn’t forcing your eyes to close and your breathing to slow?  Should you just think about your grocery list and that email you still have to send and what time yoga class starts tomorrow?  Well, obviously, you can think about whatever you’d like during a session.  But if I had my druthers, you would leave all those thoughts outside the office, to be picked up again on your way out, if you so choose.  And instead of thinking about what happened before your session, or what will happen after your session, maybe you could choose to focus on what is happening, right now, during your session.

I like to think of it as meeting me from the inside.  Wherever I’m working, bring your awareness there.  For some people, that means bringing your breath to that place.  Trying to breathe air and space into the tissues I’m working on.  For others, imagining light coming into those muscles or tendons is a better image.  I know some of my clients like to picture everything getting super juicy and extra-hydrated, like the tissues are water balloons, slowly being filled up.  For me, I literally imagine a piece of my brain breaking off (don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt) and traveling down to my leg or my abdomen or wherever to bring its wisdom to that area.  I’m sure there are a gazillion different ways to meet me from the inside, but whatever image works best for you, go with that one.

The thing is Sassypants, you and me, we work better as a team.  There’s only so much I can do on my own.  And while I don’t mind if you think about your grocery list, your session will be more effective if you’re working toward the same goals I am during your sessions.  If I’m pressing on your quads, asking for length, and you’re also asking on the inside for your quads to lengthen, chances are, your quads are going to lengthen; and it’s not going to take as long, or hurt as much, as it would have if I’d done it all myself.  So if for no other reason than to avoid pain, next time you’re in, try to meet me from the inside.  See how it goes!

I’ve been listening to Lungs by Florence & The Machine lately, and I can’t get enough.  Also, I just worked with a client through a very powerful first session, which is focused on the breath, and it got me thinking about lungs and breath and how most of us aren’t living up to our potential in that department.

So why don’t we try a little exercise?  Take a breath and notice where you feel your lungs inflating.  Is your breath in your belly or more in your rib cage?  Do you breathe more in the center, close to your throat or further out to the sides?  What about the front versus the back?  The fact is that your lungs take up a huge amount of space in your thorax and most of us are only using a little piece.  That’s fine for watching TV, but if you need that lung capacity, you should know how to access it.  After noticing where your breath is going, try inhaling to the places where it’s not reaching.

Two thirds of your lungs are behind your midline.  I most commonly see clients who have forgotten that their back can breathe as well as their front.  Are you one of them?  Next most common is ‘narrow’ breathing, only in the center, behind the sternum.  Can you push your right ribcage out to the side with your inhale?  Now try the left.  If you’re struggling with any of these, go ahead and spend a few extra breaths on that area.  Next we’ll move to the tops of your lungs, which go all the way up to the place where your neck and shoulders meet.  You can poke a finger down there and touch your lungs.  Can you breathe all the way up there?  What about down to your hips?  Go ahead, fill that abdomen, front to back and side to side.

The lungs can hold a lot of trauma, so which may be the issue, if you’re still struggling to access an area.  Grief is commonly stored in the lungs and the diaphragm.  Ever have the wind knocked out of you?  Your lungs may still be hanging onto that.  And if you’ve ever had an asthma attack, bronchitis, or pneumonia, your lungs may still be cranky about it.  When you break your leg, you do physical therapy to get back to normal after it’s healed.  Same thing should be true with any lung trauma, but it’s just not expected in this culture.  If you’re having a hard time getting your breath to an area, we can work with that in your next session to get it to finally open up and let you breathe.