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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.

I’ve been thinking about Core a lot lately, SassyPants. Therefore, I wanted to write about Core. But I thought to myself, “Theresa, you always write about Core. And yeah, it’s important and all, but come on. The masses are tired of hearing about Core.” Turns out, I’ve written about Core twice. Once on January 3rd of last year, I wrote about my favorite Core muscle, the psoas.  And almost two years ago, I wrote about your energetic core, or your golden midline. So I’m going to write about Core again, since I don’t actually always write about Core. I just always think about Core, and I always want to write about Core.

So, ‘the Core’ is something Rolfers are always going on about. A whopping 4 sessions of the 10-series are devoted just to the Core. We’re always rambling about movement being initiated from the Core, and lengthening the Core, and accessing the Core. And while it all logically makes sense, I didn’t know what any of that felt like in my body until I was halfway through my second 10-series in the middle of my training to become a Rolfer. I got up off the table, and could feel my Core. It was lovely! So strong and stable! So long and tall! I felt like I could stand forever without getting tired. My Core could support me and my ‘sleeve,’ on the other hand, could just rest. Physically, I finally knew what Core meant.

In the last few years as I went through my Saturn Return, I had a very real sense of my non-physical Core. This was the essence of who I was as a human being. It felt as though my Core was a ceramic vase, and was being smashed to smithereens. Not exactly a pleasant experience. But among the shards and dust, I felt like a new core, this one made from un-smashable steel, was emerging. As painful as it was, it turns out I’d rather have a steel pipe than a ceramic vase as my Core, and I’m grateful for that brutal smashing. I now have a very clear sense of this indestructible mental, emotional, and spiritual core, to go with that physical core I found back in Rolfing school. Huzzah!

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga. Well…a lot by my standards, which means 2 to 4 classes a week. And those yoga teachers, man, they just won’t stop talking about Core. Engage your Core! Use your Core! And they’re so right. Each pose, each movement feels better and stronger and more stable when my Core is engaged and active. It’s when I forget about my Core that I fall over or tweak something in a weird way.

So, yeah, Core is important. It’s a big deal. I might go as far as to say Core (and your ability to access it) is critical to a happy, healthy life. But learning to relate to your Core can be challenging. In my case, it took 15 Rolfing sessions before I could feel it. It took years of soul searching, and a fair number of tears, before I could emotionally access it in a moment. It took a lot of journal entries and long walks with friends before I felt confident in my Core. So if you’re there…if you know your Core and how to access it on all levels, good on ya! I’m so impressed. And if you don’t, if Core is still a bit of a mysterious concept to you, don’t fret. Little by little you will learn, if you want to learn, how to relate to your Core. And more importantly, how to make sure every movement you make, every word you speak, every spell you invoke, and every thought you think comes from your Core. And that will be a beautiful day, indeed.

I’ve been thinking about the fourth session of the Rolfing 10-series.  These are the sorts of things you think about when you’re a Rolfer, but not the sorts of things you think about if you have pretty much any other life.  Keep that in mind if you were thinking about a career change.  Anyway.  The fourth hour is big in a lot of ways.  It’s the first of the ‘core’ sessions, after the first three ‘sleeve’ sessions.  This focus of getting the body to relate to ‘core’ is key all through Rolfing and session four is continued through five, six, and seven, all of which wouldn’t be possible without that initial session four.  The focus is on the insides of the legs and the pelvic floor.  Not an area that’s often addressed in your typical massage.  In fact, Ida Rolf said the difference between massage therapists and Rolfers was that Rolfers had the guts to go for the pelvic floor.

Not that I have a problem with massage.  I’m not trying to start a fight here (although Ida might have been).  I think massage is really helpful for relaxation.  It’s great for calming a muscle that’s completely freaked out and won’t let go for all the tea in China.  But Rolfing has more of that get-to-the-root-of-the-problem approach so that your massage can be that much more enjoyable.  If you’re not focused on the pain in your shoulder, it might be easier to relax and enjoy the massage for what it’s supposed to be.

Of course, there are other differences as well.  Rolfers tend to use little, if any, oil, lotion, or other lubrication.  This is because our goal is not to slide over muscles, but to change the shape of the fascia.  We’re more about sinking in and waiting than gliding over the surface of everything.  Also, every session is different in Rolfing.  Even within the confines of the 10-series, there’s a lot of variation.  I’ve never done the same session twice, and I don’t plan to.  We don’t work symmetrically, which can also throw people used to massage for a loop.  It’s just that if you broke your right leg, but not your left, there’s no reason for me to work those legs in exactly the same way.  Rolfers tend to do a fair amount of assessment before and after a session, as well as throughout.  This can be visual, energetic, or tactile assessment, but you’d better believe it’s going on all the time when you’re getting Rolfed, whereas it might not be at any point during a massage.  Also, there’s more client involvement with Rolfing than is typically expected in a massage.  In the massages I’ve received, the most I’ve had to do was roll over from my stomach to my back.  In Rolfing I’ve gotten work while standing, walking, sitting, doing knee-bends and stretches, reaching my arms and legs in different directions, even moving my eyes to look right, left, up, and down.

Rolfers, as a general rule, don’t like being compared to massage therapists.  Which is kinda funny, ’cause well over half of the Rolfers in the world trained as massage therapists first and many of them maintain their massage certifications.  But the fact remains; the Rolfers I know think what they do is VERY different from massage.  I happen to agree.  But when you haven’t experienced Rolfing yourself, it’s hard to understand what could be so different.  You’re lying on a massage table for an hour, right?  Sure, but that’s about where the similarities end.  Now you know.  Go tell your friends.  Please.  I’m tired of meeting people and hearing “oh, Rolfing, that’s like a deep-tissue massage, right?”  No, sweetheart, not really.

(I’m talking about your relationship to your core, not that special someone in your life.)

Hey, let’s talk midline.

‘Midline’ AKA ‘Core’ is a concept we Rolfers talk about ALL the time. So, what exactly is your midline?  It may be surprising, but it’s the line that goes through the middle of your body, top to bottom.  I know; I was shocked as well.  Your midline goes through the top of your head, along the front of your spine, through the center of your pelvic floor, and down between your legs.  It extends above your head towards the sky and below your feet into the earth.  You can picture it as a golden line or thread connecting you to space as well as to the ground.

Why does anyone care about midlines?  In Rolfing we talk about each person having the ability to relate to their core; encouraging their actions and movements to come from their core.  If all our movements come from the outside, we tend to rely on big burly muscles, which makes for blocky movements.   When our movements come from our core, we start with smaller intrinsic muscles, making for smoother, more graceful movements.  Then, those big blocky muscles can be used primarily for the heavy lifting instead of making breakfast.

We also need a sense of up and down and center.  Without those senses, we can get dizzy and off balance.  There’s also more of a chance you might put all your weight on one side or the other when you’re not aware of your midline.  And everyone feels better when they’re centered.  Your midline can be compromised as a result of trauma or just from forgetting it’s there.

Get your midline back!  There are some really simple SourcePoint techniques for reestablishing a midline during a session, if you’re interested.  You can also help reestablish your own midline by simply tracing a line down your center, a few inches above your body.  You can simply imagine your golden core while you lie in bed.  You can picture a golden point about six inches above the top of your head, and another golden point six inches below your feet and then draw that line between the two points.  So practice working with your midline today and see how it helps!