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

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

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

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

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