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(If you’re missing some context, the story starts here.)

Session Two changed my life. I fell in love with Rolfing during Session One, but Session Two was when I first realized we should probably move in together; you know, take things to the next level. I’ll never forget that feeling, when my first Rolfer asked me to sit up toward the end of the session. She wanted me to walk, so she could asses the progress, see what else needed to be done before closing the session. I sat on the edge of the table, feet on the floor, staring down in disbelief. Those were not my feet. I mean, I knew what my feet looked like. Not just as a human, who generally knows what her feet look like, but as someone who had a not-very-great relationship with feet in general and her own feet in particular. I hated my feet. I hated all feet, actually. They were weird-looking. And smelly. And sweaty. And just generally gross. Feet, ew. And when I was 20 years old, my right foot swelled up overnight for no apparent reason and never went back to being its normal self. It had been a source of shame and frustration ever since. I had wanted to pretend my feet didn’t exist for most of my life. But because I hated my feet, I was also obsessed with my feet. Comparing them to each other. Comparing them to other people’s feet. Getting mad at them for not being like other people’s feet. You know how it goes. So, I knew well what my feet looked like. And as I sat there on the edge of the table, staring at the place between my ankles and the floor, I knew, those were not my feet.

It’s true, this makes no sense. I hadn’t had surgery during the session. I hadn’t lost consciousness (at least, not for long). There were no wounds. And I didn’t think I was in some bizarre magic land where body parts were randomly swapped out. But still. Those feet at the ends of my legs were not the feet I knew and hated. They looked…different. I can’t say how, exactly. They just didn’t look like mine, even though the nail polish on those toes was exactly the same color as the nail polish had been on my toes an hour earlier. My brain was seriously struggling for a minute, but my Rolfer was waiting for me to stand up and walk and I didn’t want to say out loud the crazy thought that was running through my head, so I just stood up.

And my world changed.

Oh. So this was what feet were supposed to feel like. I had no idea. It was like I had great big lion’s paws down there at the ends of my legs. Soft and strong and supple. This was what standing was supposed to feel like. I’d never done it this way before. Balanced and comfortable and easy. And then I started walking. Whoa. It was like I was on wheels it was so smooth and effortless. This was better than that poor approximation of walking I had done before. Better by far. Those feet may not have looked like mine, but I was keeping them. No way in hell was I giving those feet back. I loved those feet.

How did I not understand before how amazing feet were? 26 bones, 33 joints, practically infinite possibilities.

Session Two, in case it isn’t obvious by now, is dedicated to the lower legs and feet. The one and only (but very challenging) goal is “functional, bilateral support.” Questions to think about (as the Rolfer, or for you at home) include things like: Which leg is it easier to stand on? Does the weight transmit (in each leg) through the medial (inside) aspect of the foot or the lateral (outside) aspect of the foot? When doing a knee bend, do the knees move straight forward and straight back (or point out, or point in, or wobble, or move in different ways)? Are all three arches (yes, three!) of the foot responsive to loading and unloading?

Since that day, 7 1/2 years ago when I first received Session Two, I have fallen deeply in love with feet. Not in that way. Geeze. I just love working with feet and I continue to love my feet. I think they’re fascinating. The way the bones are formed into those three arches, all by muscles and fascia, both within the foot and throughout the lower leg. The way the foot and ankle respond to the slightest changes in surface while standing, walking, and running. How we mess up all of this beautifully intricate and genius ability with shoes. How we think that point and flex (and maybe pronate and supinate) are the only options. How it’s so hard to explain that what happens in the foot is reflected in the pelvis. There’s just so much to know when it comes to the feet.

It’s interesting. When I went through my first 10-series, any pain or tension I had was always in my shoulders, neck, and upper back. I found those sessions (2, 4, and 6) focusing on the lower body a little aggravating. When were we going to get to the good stuff?! But I think all those lower body sessions were the ones that ended up making the biggest difference in clearing up my shoulder, neck, and upper back pain. See, my feet weren’t supporting my legs, which therefore weren’t supporting my pelvis, which obviously couldn’t support my ribcage, which couldn’t support my shoulder girdle, and so on. Once I got my feet under my legs, my legs under my pelvis, and my pelvis under my ribcage, all my upper-body pain started to fade. Which meant that all those lower-body sessions I thought were a waste of time ended up being the most dramatic when I stood up from the table. And the ones I was looking forward to the most, the upper-body sessions, while still cool, had a subtler effect.

This time through the 10-series, I’m having the opposite experience (so far). I was blown away by One. And while Session Two felt good, it was small, gentle differences I noticed afterwards. While thinking about why this might be, I realized how differently I treat my feet now versus 8 years ago. Because I was so uncomfortable with my feet, I was always hiding them away. I wore shoes always. And heels. Lots of high heels. I never went barefoot outside of the house. Now, I’m a huge proponent of being barefoot and wearing minimalist footwear. I own one last pair of heels and I think I wore them once (maybe twice) in the last year. I walk barefoot whenever I can, despite the weird looks I get. I wear minimalist (zero rise, flexible soled, wide toe-box) shoes whenever I can. So the way I’m living is supporting healthy, flexible, highly functioning feet, all day, every day. It shouldn’t be surprising that I don’t need a big, dramatic Session Two anymore. A little fine-tuning, some minor adjustments, sure; but the big work has already been done. Huzzah!

But don’t you worry, Session Two, you will always hold a special place in my heart.

Can we talk about shoes (oh my god, shoes) for a minute?  I know, I know, we’ve talked about them before.  I don’t care.  It’s my blog and I do what I want.  Shoes keep coming up, so we’re going to talk about shoes again.

You know how we evolved running through the savannas of Africa?  You know how we evolved climbing trees and mountains?  You know how we did that without Doc Martens on our feet?  Yeah.

Your feet (and my feet, or any feet, for that matter) are awesome.  Not only are they strong enough to hold you up and carry you around all day, but they are so magnificently flexible and adaptable.  You can wiggle your toes.  You can flex and point.  You can supinate and pronate.  You can rotate left and right.  You can tell, even with your eyes closed, so much about your environment, just from your bare feet.  Is the surface you’re standing or walking on level, tilted, or uneven?  Is it smooth or textured?  Is it slippery or grippy?  Is it hot or cold?  Is it soft or unyielding?  Is it wet or dry?  Is it constant or constantly changing?  So much information!  Feet are like the wikipedia of human existence!  They might not tell you everything you need to know, and you might want to fact check what they tell you, but you can still learn an awful lot from your feet.

And what do we do with them?  We put them in casts.  We put them in their little leather (and canvas and rubber and plastic) casts as soon as we wake up and don’t take them out until it’s time to go to sleep, when, let’s face it, they’re not good for much besides regulating temperature.  Can you imagine?  (I’m sure you can because you’ve probably been doing this to your feet most of your life, or at least know someone who has.)  It’s like taking a well-trained, super-fit border collie and putting it in a crate all day.  Every day.  For it’s whole life.  Not cool.  And it wouldn’t be super-fit for long, would it?

We’re missing out, people! And the bottoms of our feet are connected to the tops of our heads, obviously.  When we stimulate, stretch, and move one, we stimulate, stretch and move the other, and everything in between.  Did you know there’s a huge correlation between foot function and pelvis function?  Don’t want to be incontinent as you age?  Keep your feet healthy and active.  Did you know that pelvis function is related to head and neck function?  No interest in headaches or TMJ?  Keep your feet fully functional.  And can we just pause for a minute and consider how important it is to feel steady on our feet as we age?  How often have you heard of an elderly someone who seemed to be in great health, but they fell, and broke their hip, and then they were hospitalized, and then they got pneumonia…and that was the beginning of the end?  I’m not saying that you’ll never fall again once you restore your foot health.  But functional, vibrant, healthy feet will not make you fall more.  Guaranteed.

I know, I know, we can’t all be barefoot all the time.  I get it.  We live in a place where winter happens.  We (some of us at least, myself not included) go to real jobs, where shoes are expected to be worn every day.  And quite frankly, for most of us, suddenly going all barefoot all the time would land us with tons of injuries and the accompanying pain.  Think about it like this: if you kept your hands in casts from your fingertips to just above your wrists, starting around age two, until now, and then decided to take them off today and go play a two hour piano concert, do some light carpentry, knead a double batch of bread dough, and write a five-paragraph essay, by hand, how do you think that would go?  Yeah.  Not super great.  Let’s think about our feet the same way.  Yes, the goal is to do light carpentry with our feet.  No, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  (I’m kidding about the carpentry.  Come on.)

Getting Started:  So what can you do, today, to start restoring your feet to high functionality?  Let’s get rid of the shoes once in a while to start.  Can you walk around your house without shoes on?  I’m guessing most (if not all) the walkable surfaces in your house are flat, level, in a narrow range of comfortable temperatures, not too slippery, and not very texturally interesting (ooh! carpet! how exotic compared to hardwood floors!), but also pretty gentle on your fresh-out-of-their-casts feet.  This is like going from a cast to a sling.

Other sling-like options include switching out your hard-soled shoes for more flexible-soled shoes.  Sure, there are lots of companies nowadays making ‘barefoot’ shoes and minimalist shoes.  Which is awesome.  And most of those shoes are hideously ugly.  (I still own them.  Stop judging me.)  And some of those shoes may just be too much for your recently-back-from-the-dead feet.  So, instead.  Next time you go shoe-shopping, try this.  Walk around the shoe store for a minute or two in just your bare feet, or with socks on.  Yes, you will look weird.  Who are you trying to impress? You can do this at home, first, to get a feel for it.  While you’re walking around, pay attention to how your feet feel.  How do they move?  Do your toes spread as your weight transfers forward over them?  How long is your stride?  How fast do you comfortably walk?  Where does your foot contact the ground?  Heel first?  Mid-sole?  Starting at the toes?  Really feel your feet as you walk.  Then, try on a pair of shoes.  Go for another walk.  Really feel your feet again.  What changed?  If the answer is “nothing,” this is probably a good shoe for you.  In fact, this is probably a great shoe for you (but is also probably imaginary, as even ‘barefoot’ shoes still feel different from actually being barefoot).  If the answer is “everything,” this probably a terrible shoe for you.  Try to get as close to “nothing changed” as possible within your style/budget/patience-for-shoe-shopping constraints.  See?  Easy.  If you do this every time you go shoe shopping, in 10 years, you will have totally different, and significantly healthier feet.  I promise.  (They’ll also probably be bigger.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

With your new and improved choice of footwear, you can now start mixing up the terrain you walk on.  Start with walking through the grass at the park instead of on the sidewalk or path.  This will help build up the stabilizing muscles in your lower legs and feet (and all the way up through your pelvis and back) that might have atrophied from always walking on flat, level surfaces.  Go hiking (not in thick-soled hiking boots, in your new, more flexible shoes).  Climb trees.  Scramble up rocks.  Go out in the rain and the snow and the ice.  Teach your feet to be good at handling as broad a range of experiences as possible.  This is also good advice for bodies in general.  Flat and level is for sissies.

Another option for improving foot health and slowly restoring function to your feet is taking shoe breaks.  We all know by now that sitting for four hours straight is bad for us, right?  Right.  We all know that even if we can’t be moving all day, we’re supposed to get up every hour (or 20 minutes) and walk around/stretch/just stand.  Same thing applies to shoes.  Can you slip them off at your desk and wiggle your toes?  Can you pad around in your socks while you’re on that phone call?  Can you go stand barefoot in the grass in your backyard for five minutes while you’re waiting for the water to boil?

Next Level Shit:  Once you’ve gotten your feet out of their casts, and comfortable in slings (and this could take several years), it’s time to take things to the next level.  Go ahead.  Take the slings off.  You might want to consider some of those ugly, but awesomely functional ‘barefoot’ shoes.  Work up to spending as much time as possible barefoot.  Strengthen the skin of your feet by walking barefoot on as many different textures (and in as many temperatures) as you can.  Strengthen the tiny little muscles in your feet and the big strong muscles of your core by walking on different terrain, at all sorts of angles.  You can even do some of this in your house!    Throw the couch cushions on the floor.  Throw the kids’ building blocks and Lincoln Logs (Do they still make Lincoln Logs?  Please tell me they still make Lincoln Logs.) on the floor.  Walk over it all.  The couch cushions will make you work harder to balance.  The Lincoln logs will challenge your skin strength and flexibility.  Rolled up towels, wooden spoons, pencils, a rolling pin, a candlestick holder, a bookend, heck, crumple up your junk mail and throw it on the ground.  The list goes on.  Throw it on the floor and walk on it.  (And you’ll get bonus movement points when you have to pick it all up and put it away!)  Keep seeking new and different challenges for your feet.  Don’t let them get bored.

You can get those border collies back in top shape.  It’s a long process, but you can do this.  I know you can, because I’ve done it.  And my feet continue to get stronger and more flexible.  And the rest of my body continues to thank me for it.  But we’ve got to start with the shoes.  For the love of your feet, please stop it with the high-heels and the flip flops and start letting your feet be the magnificent beings they are.  Oh my god, shoes.

Who doesn’t love some good before and after pictures, eh?  I’ve been pretty excited about this whole photo/video project I’ve been working on for the past couple months.  And I’m excited to share that two people are finished with their 5-serieses.  Serieses?  That can’t be right.  Whatever the plural of 5-series is, that’s what I meant to say.  Regardless, today we’re going to do a little visual analysis of the before and after pictures of Mr. Steve.  I hope you’re ready, ’cause it’s going to be absolutely thrilling.  Let me tell you.

Okey dokey.  To get started, let’s take a minute to say thank you to Steve for his willingness to be photographed in his underwear.  What  a champ!  Then, let’s take a look at Steve’s before and after pictures with him facing forward and backward.

So, when I look at these photos, the changes from before the first session (on the left) and after the 5th session (on the right) are pretty dramatic.  But, I look at people’s structures all day long.  Just ask my friends.  I can’t go anywhere without pointing out people who need Rolfing.  I’m pretty annoying.  Let’s get back to Steve, though, shall we?  Let’s take the first two pictures, of Steve’s front.  Can we just look at those shoulders?  I mean, wow.  Not only does he look 6 inches broader, but those shoulders are pretty damn close to even in height in the second picture…not so much in the first.  Yay!  And look at that head!  It’s like the turtle has come out of his shell in the second picture.  As we take a look at Steve’s back, we see that same breadth across the shoulders.  Gorgeous.  Now, take a look at Steve’s feet.  Notice how much more parallel they are in the ‘after’ pictures?  Yeah, I bet you do.  Ready for more?

Let’s move on to a little side action.  This is where it gets really crazy.  I hope you’re prepared.

Check out that neck!  Steve’s probably an inch taller, with his head over his shoulders instead of out in front of them.  And again, there are those stunning shoulders.  Rolled forward in the first pictures, and not so much in the after pics.  Love it!  And take a look at his chest.  In the before shots, there’s a bit of a shortening, or a collapsing of his rib cage.  In the after pictures, he’s all puffed up like a robin on the first day of spring.  As we take a look at his abdomen, we notice that just from postural changes, it looks like Steve’s lost 5 pounds of belly.  No sit-ups involved!  Through his legs we can see that the muscles look more balanced and relaxed after the 5-series and less ropey than they did beforehand.  And then we’ve got one last look at those much-closer-to-parallel feet.  Huzzah!

Well, this all might not be as exciting to you as it is to me.  But as you know, I don’t normally take before and after pictures in my practice.  So it’s been fun seeing the visual results of these sessions.  Maybe, with practice, or enough time spent hanging out with me, you too can annoy your friends by pointing out strangers who need Rolfing!  Fingers crossed.

Next up, we get to check out Marissa’s pictures.  I’m on the edge of my seat.  Until then, enjoy this beautiful spring, SassyPants!

—-Announcements—-

The next Demo Day will be Monday, April 15th (come after you’ve mailed your taxes)!
If you have people in your life you feel would benefit from a session with me, this is the perfect way to get a little taste with very little commitment.  30 minute sessions for $10 each.  New clients only.

Meditation/Bodywork Retreat
This is actually happening, people.  I never thought it would get here, but it’s this month!  The Posture of Meditation:  Breathing Through the Whole Body.  April 26th through May 5th in beautiful Crestone, Colorado with Will Johnson.  Combining meditation techniques with Rolfing.  Participants will receive a Rolfing session every other day for a total of 4 sessions, while spending several hours each day in guided meditation.  I’ll be there Rolfing and meditating my heart out.  Will you?  For more information, please click here.

Anxiety.  You hate it.  I hate it.  We all hate anxiety!  Yet, here it is, walking into my office for the third time today.  And there it is, just around the corner at the coffee shop.  Gross.

Unfortunately, we live in a time and place that produces copious amounts of anxiety.  Whether you tend to be an anxious person or not, I’m sure you’ve been hit by the anxiety sneak attack at least once.  And we can all agree that anxiety doesn’t feel so good.  Let’s try something together, shall we?  First, imagine you’re in your happy place, be that a cabin in the woods, or lying on the beach, or walking through a mountain meadow.  Go ahead, let your body and mind really get into it.  What does it sound like in this happy place of yours?  Are the birds singing, or is it that perfect quiet after a snowfall?  Can you hear the ocean waves lapping, or the wind through the trees?  What does it look like?  Is the sun bright and hot, or is it dark, on a moonless night?  How does your skin feel?  Is it humid or dry where you’re at?  Hot or cold?  Windy or still?  What are the tastes associated with this place?  Hot chocolate around the fire?  Cool watermelon on your tongue?  Trail mix crunching as you hike?  Can you smell the ocean salt or the mountain sage or that crisp, cold night?  Are you all the way to your happy place?  Down to your bones?  Okay, now that you’re there, what does your stomach feel like right now?  How’s your breathing?  How do your shoulders feel?  Got a good sense of how your body feels, as a whole, in your happy, calm space?  Good.

Next, let’s think about anxiety inducing moments.  You got the job, but you feel under-qualified and overwhelmed.  You’re about to close on the house, but you’re afraid you’ve made a huge mistake.  You just realized you won’t be able to pay all your bills this month.  You’re waiting for the results on the tests your doctor ran.  Your lease is up and you don’t know where you’ll live next.  You feel undervalued at work and you’re sure it’s only a matter of time before you’re fired.  Your kid is in big trouble and you don’t know what to do about it.  You’re sure your boyfriend is about to dump you.  Pick a scenario.  Whatever makes you feel the most anxious.  Then, go for it.  Step into it, just like we did before.  Where are you sitting, or are you pacing?  Are you talking to your best friend on the phone, or are you holed up in your bedroom with the curtains drawn?  Are you eating a pint of ice cream or throwing up in the office restroom?  Are you crying yourself to sleep or lashing out at the UPS guy and the neighbor’s dog?  Wherever you go when you’re stressed, go there.  Go all the way there, with all five senses.  Then, check in with your body.  How’s your stomach feeling?  What’s your breathing like?  How do your shoulders feel?  Notice a difference this time around?

Obviously, stress sucks.  There are a gazillion studies to prove it shortens your life and makes your body unhealthy, but after our little exercise, do you really need a study to tell you that?  Just from writing that last paragraph, I feel like I need a massage to help me relax.  I’m going to go back to my happy place for a second to reset.  Maybe you should, too.  Ahhh…that’s better.  Let’s continue.  So we know stress sucks.  Now, what to do about it.  Here, in no particular order, are 17 things that work for me, and work for people I know.  Hopefully, they’ll work for you, too.  Hopefully, you’ll tell me all the other tips that you use to deal with stress.  And the world will be a happier, calmer, less-anxious place.  Nothing wrong with that, in my book.

1. Take a walk.  Anxiety is generally a mental thing.  We get really caught up in whatever’s spinning around in our heads.  Doing something physical, outside, where we have to pay attention to more than the thoughts in our head, can be a great way to snap out of it.
2. Sit on the ground.  I think of anxiety as this tornado with the base being in my neck and it just spins out and up from there.  When I’m anxious, my thoughts are usually rotating about 12 feet above the top of my head.  Anything to get me grounded, like physically sitting on the ground, can help stop this madness.
3. Meditate.  A lot of times, when I’m anxious, it’s because I don’t know what to do next.  Which path to take.  Meditation brings me very quickly in tune with my intuition and therefore in tune with the answers to my questions.  A 15 minute meditation can usually solve the problems I’ve been wrestling with for weeks.
4. Drink some tea.  Because really, who doesn’t feel just a tiny bit calmer with a warm mug of tea in hand?
5. Exercise.  Again, anything to get you out of your head and into your body is probably a good thing.  Also, if you’re still wrestling with those questions, or you haven’t gotten around to meditating yet, you can sometimes get your big epiphany answers with exercise.
6. Put your bare feet on the earth.  I cannot repeat this enough.  Physically grounding is super-duper helpful.  Physically connecting your body to the actual earth is one of the quickest ways to do this.
7. Think about opening your pelvis.  When we tense up, we tend to tense our pelvises without even noticing.  Where do you think anal retentiveness comes from?  So, to counteract this, notice your pelvis, then allow it to open and breathe.  Let your sit bones get a little farther apart.  Let the floor of your pelvis sink low and heavy.  Think about your pelvic floor as a clock face and take the time to relax each segment.  12 to 1, then 1 to 2, and so on, until your entire pelvic floor is open and soft.
8. Do some gentle sacral rocking.  Lie on your back on the floor, with your knees bent and your heels close to your butt.  Focus on your sacrum (that awesome triangle-shaped bone at the bottom of your spine, in-between your hip bones).  Imagine your sacrum is a stamp and the floor is an ink pad and you need to get ink all over your sacrum-stamp.  Roll your pelvis forward and back, left and right, until you’re sure you’ve got it all inked.
9. Hang out with a dog.  But not if you’re allergic.  Dogs can provide an endless source of positive energy, if you’re feeling a little low.  Also, they loved to be walked (see number 1).
10. Hang out with a cat.  But not if you’re allergic.  Cats can ground an endless amount of negative energy, if you have an excess.  Besides, a purring cat is a pretty calming influence.
11. Do simple, grounding activities.  Try sweeping the floor, or weeding the garden.  Chopping vegetables for soup, or apples for apple sauce are good ones too.  Knitting or spinning yarn are simple, grounding activities.  Cleaning’s generally good (although I’d stay away from noisy stuff like vacuuming), as is cooking, or organizing, or simple crafts.
12. Dance.  Shake it off.  Sweat it out.  Laugh at yourself.  Dancing also prevents dementia, so you can stop worrying about that.
13. Spend time in nature.  This is my go to stress reliever.  Nothing like a hike (and we’re back at number 1) in the mountains to make my problems seem small and insignificant.  Even a few minutes in the garden can bring my stress level down from a 10 to 4.
14. Take a bath.  Not everybody’s a bath person.  But if you’re a water-lover like me, this may do the trick.  Especially if you really let yourself have a bath.  Light some candles, use the fancy bath salts or essential oils (see number 15), put on some soothing music and just enjoy.
15. Get some lavender in your life.  I’m not a doctor.  I can’t prove this works.  Please don’t get me in trouble with the FDA or the AMA or any other acronyms.  But I know that lots of people think lavender is calming.  You can put lavender essential oils in your bath, or in a diffuser, or just take a whiff from the bottle.  Dried lavender can be sewn up in an eye pillow for super-zen sleepy-time or a satchel to throw in your car to counteract road rage.  You can even eat lavender with strawberries and balsamic vinegar and fresh whipped cream!
16. Remove distractions.  Turn the TV off.  Turn the radio off.  Turn your computer off.  Turn your phone off.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “You know, I was super stressed out, but then I watched the news/checked my email/heard a commercial on the radio, and now I feel so much better.”  Do what you can to limit the input you’re getting.  You have enough going on as it is.  Try to keep things as simple as possible.
17. Remember your happy place.  You know, that one you went to in our little exercise a few minutes ago?  Take a few minutes to go there whenever you need it.  It might not solve your problems in the long term, but it will get your shoulders out of your ears for a minute or two, and that counts for something.

So, what’s your favorite way to put anxiety in its place?  Got a good one that I missed?  Send me an email with all the details, or leave it here as a comment on the blog.  Thanks for reading and I’ll catch up with you next week!

We don’t often think about standing.  We just do it.  But there are an awful lot of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and fascia that all have to get on board before this simple thing can happen.  And once we’re upright, lots of things need to work to keep us there.  Let’s do a little exercise.  Go ahead, stand up with your feet about hip width apart.  Give it a few seconds.  Now, check in with your feet.  What do you notice?  Is there more weight on the outsides of your feet?  The insides?  Are you resting more on your heels or your toes?  Go ahead and gently rock forward and back and see if you can find the middle.  Is it comfortable to be there?  Do you stand more on your left or your right?  Go ahead and stand on one foot.  Now stand on the other.  Which one is easier?  Does it feel stronger?  More stable?  More balanced?  So many questions; so many things to consider; and we rarely think about any of them!  (You can sit down now, but I’m just going to make you stand back up in a minute.)

Ideally, when we stand, our weight should be balanced: front to back, side to side, inside to outside.  When we stand, everything that happens in our feet is reflected in our pelvis.  So if you’re just on the outsides of your feet, the central corridor of your pelvic floor (where all that important stuff like excretion happens) isn’t turning on.  And speaking of turning on, if all your weight is in your heels when you stand up, the front half of your pelvic floor isn’t being stimulated (and who doesn’t want the front half of their pelvic floor stimulated?).  If you’re noticing a drastic difference in any of these areas, it might be something to talk about with your favorite Rolfer (also known as Theresa).

Also, we’re not really supposed to ‘stand still.’  As you stand there should be a subtle weight transfer through your feet and subsequently through your pelvic floor.  Weight on the outside of the left heel moves to the left big toe.  From there, weight moves to the outside of the right heel and then to the right big toe, and back to the left heel.  Go ahead and stand up again (told you) and give it a try.  Exaggerate it until you can really feel what’s happening in your pelvis as you shift your weight on your feet.  There’s a figure-eight quality to it, yes?

Keep that motion going and shift your attention from your feet to your pelvis.  As your weight moves through your feet, muscles in your pelvic floor should tense and relax in a very smooth pattern, like a wave.  Are there spikes in your wave?  Is it harder to shift to the right or the left?  Maybe going forward on one side is more difficult than the other.  Do you notice any ‘dead spots’ where you just don’t feel anything in your pelvis?  Is your figure-eight smooth or choppy?  You can continue to make your weight shifting more and more dramatic to really feel into your pelvic floor.  Again, any big imbalances may be something to discuss with your favorite Rolfer.

And, since everything’s connected, what happens in your pelvic floor is reflected in your shoulders and your head.  So if you’re noticing a not-so-smooth figure-eight in your feet and your pelvis, it may be causing neck and shoulder pain or headaches and TMJ.  What?!  It’s crazy, I know.  Thinking about neck pain coming from your feet is hard to get your head around, but it happens all the time.  Just something to think about while you’re standing there rocking from side to side.  You can sit down now.

And as we talked about two weeks ago, shortening your back line is no good.

Remember that conversation about plantar fasciitis?  Remember how your fascia from the bottoms of your toes is connected all the way to the fascia covering the top of your head?  That line of fascia, all along your back, is called your back line.  Let’s take that information and think about flip-flops for a minute.  ‘Tis the season of intense heat, trips to the pool, and picnics in the park and I see flip-flops everywhere I go.

When you wear flip-flops, your toes have to hang on tight, lest one (or both) go flying.  And once in a while, for a few minutes here or there, that’s just fine.  If, on the other hand, you spend all summer with your toes hanging on for dear life, well, the fascia in your feet will tighten up.  As will the fascia in your calves, and your hamstrings, and your glutes, and your low back, and your mid-back, and your upper back, and your neck, and the back and top of your head.  Yuck.  That’s a lot of tight fascia. Like, your whole back line.

Which is not exactly what we’re looking for.  In fact, we’re looking for quite the opposite.  What we really want is a bunch of loosey-goosey fascia that’s all fluid and supple-like.  Slippery, slidey, juicy fascia.  Not dry, stiff, stressed-out fascia.

If you want to feel the difference flip-flops can make, try this exercise:  Go for a small walk, barefoot.  Walk around your house a few times, or a park, or the block.  Feel your whole foot contact the ground, from the initial contact of your heel, to the final push-off with your toes.  Let your toes spread out and gather all the information they can with each step.  Notice how your legs swing and how your hips feel.  Notice your arms swinging, and your back and shoulders moving as you walk.  Notice your breathing and how easy it is.  Get a sense of how it feels to walk barefoot.  Now, put your flip-flops on and go for the same short walk.  How do your toes feel?  Can you gather the same amount of information with your feet?  How do your hips and arms feel?  Any change in your back or posture?  Any change in your breath?  Which feel more ‘right,’ barefoot or flip-flops?  And if you can feel a difference after a 5 minute walk, how do you think your body feels by the end of the summer?

I know flip-flops are convenient.  And really, what else are you going to wear to the beach?  But if you can wear them as little as possible, your body will thank you for it down the road.

If you’ve got plantar fasciitis, you know what a pain in the foot it is.  But do you know why?

Plantar fasciitis is an incredibly generic term: Your fascia is your connective tissue.  Rolfers can and will talk about fascia all day long as it is the focus of our work, so it’s probably best not to get us started.  You have fascia from your head to your toes, from your front to your back, and everywhere in between.  Every nerve has it’s own fascial wrapping.  So does every muscles fiber, every organ, and every bone.  That’s a LOT of fascia.  Your plantar surface is the bottom of your foot.  As you might imagine, there’s some extra fascia in the bottom of your foot ’cause it needs to hold the rest of you up all day, as well as maintain those pretty (and very useful) arches.  Your plantar fascia is simply all the fascia along the bottom of your foot, from toe to heel.

Plantar fasciitis, therefore, is simply an inflammation of the fascia in the bottom of the foot.  This fascia can be inflamed for a million different reasons and it seems that not many people care about any of them.  The only thing I hear people talk about is their plantar fasciitis, not WHY they might have it.  Which is fine…if you want to keep having plantar fasciitis.  But if you want it to go away, it might be helpful to know why it’s there in the first place.

There are some obvious places to look.  It’s common for us to look to an injury or an instance of overuse as the cause of inflammation.  And those are good places to start. Too much swing dancing?  Step on a giant rock?  That may have caused it.  From a Rolfing perspective, though, we have to keep in mind that all your fascia is connected.  And the plantar fascia specifically is connected to the fascia of your calves, which is connected to your hamstrings, through your glutes and lower back, to mid-back, to upper back and shoulders, through the back of your neck and all the way over your head, forming your skull cap of fascia.  And if there’s a problem in any of that fascia, you may see symptoms somewhere else along the train.

So, when dealing with plantar fasciitis, I may be working nowhere near your feet.  Do you get migraines?  What about low back or hip pain?  Are your calves tight and inflexible?  How’s your neck feeling?  Whiplash you suffered from a car accident ten years ago may lead to plantar fasciitis now.  Which may be confusing if you come in complaining about your feet and I work inside your mouth or around your ears.  That’s simply the crazy thing (well, one of them) about Rolfing.

This applies to pretty much anything in your body.  You may have noticed that no matter what you come in and report to be hurting, I’m probably going to work on at least one other area.  I may not even touch the area where you feel the pain.  As my favorite instructor, Ray says, “The good news is:  it’s all connected.  The bad news is:  it’s all connected.”  But please, if you came in with pain in your left elbow and want to know why I’m working on your right knee, just ask; I’m happy to explain the connections.  And if I don’t have a good answer, I promise to admit it if I’m making something up.

(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!

We could get into exactly what a bunion is and how they’re formed, but how about we just summarize, huh?

Your feet are a great way to get information: Am I standing on level ground or a hill?  Is it soft or hard?  Bumpy or flat?  Your feet inform how the rest of your body positions itself in order to stay upright and your eyes seeing as much as they can (to get the most food or stay away from predators back in the day).  So, the more contact your feet can have with the ground, the better.  If you lived your entire life barefoot, your feet would look something like this:

Look at those toes!  They’re all spread out, just grabbing whatever info they can!

In this country, though, we have this nasty little habit called ‘shoes.’  When you wear shoes, especially of the pointy-toed variety… your toes can’t grab a whole lot of info.  In fact, they get very squished.  It’s as if they’re being buried alive in gorgeous coffins.  Yes, it’s very scary and very sad, even if those shoes are just sooo cute and make your legs look amazing.  And then, there’s a lot of jargon about sesamoid bones and ligaments and tendons and plantar fascia, which I find interesting, but is probably TMI and you get a bunion.  Eek!  Once you have a bunion, there’s no easy fix, unfortunately.

 

First of all, prevention.  Take your pointy-toed shoes off!!  Don’t get me wrong; I have and wear shoes.  I even wear pointy-toed heels once in a while.  But I’m barefoot whenever I can be (around the house, at work, and in the car, but that’s illegal, so don’t tell anyone).  And I have those funny looking ‘toe-shoes’ that I wear all summer long, and when I run (on a treadmill or a path) or when I hike.  This is what I advise for you as well.  If you can’t be barefoot at work, try to get wide shoes with as little heel as possible.  Try to feel the ground as much as possible.  Wiggle those toes when you get a chance.  Spread them out while you’re lying in bed.   Stretch them wide!

Other options include surgery, Rolfing, and spacers, among other things.  The least intrusive is simply wearing a spacer between your toes.  I’m sure you can buy fancy spacers, but you could also use a small piece of foam or a wad of toilet paper between your first and second toes.  Rolfing can help restructure your feet, but it’s a long, slow process that is often painful.  Just being honest here.  Surgery, from what I hear, is painful and a long healing process as well.  So, yeah, I’d be happy to help, if you really want to work on fixing that bunion.  But if possible, it’s better to avoid getting one in the first place.

More questions about bunions, or feet, or what I can and cannot work on?  Send them my way!  I love hearing from you!