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Tag Archives: flexibility

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.

This question came up three (yes, three!) times in one day in my practice and I found it odd.  So I started asking the same question of friends for the following few days.  Ready for the question?  Here it is:  On a scale of zero to one hundred, where would you say your heart is?  Let’s calibrate the scale, shall we?  Zero is drawbridge up, moat filled with alligators, and an armed gunman on every parapet.  Not to mention the reinforced concrete walls, the electrified barbed wire, and the cannons loaded and ready to fire.  Oh, and dragons; lots of dragons.  On the other end of the spectrum at one hundred, what we have is more open and welcoming than a puppy dog.  You’re more vulnerable and less protected than a baby.  You’re an overripe peach, without skin.  Anything and everything that wants to get in is getting in, and you’re not even going to raise a tiny baby fist in protest.

I hope that for all of us, this is a question where the answer changes hour to hour and day to day, based on the situation.  Obviously we’re not going to go argue about the cable bill with our hearts at 100.  And hopefully, when you hang out with your bestie or your favorite pet, your heart’s not in full-lockdown mode.  But, on average, say for the last week, where would you put your heart?  I don’t really care where it was when you were 3.  Or where you hope it will be when you’re 90.  Or if it wasn’t for that stupid ex-husband of yours, it would be at 70, but now it’s at 31.  Tell me where you’re at, right now, in this life you’re currently living.  Or better yet, tell yourself.  Are you on the open and vulnerable side with 50 or above?  Are you closed and protected with 49 or less?  Much more importantly, do you feel comfortable moving around on that scale?

Once, I read about a study which showed that a heart which oscillates between beating fast and beating slowly is healthier than a heart that stays at a constant, calm rate.  (If I could find that study for you now, I would link to it, but alas; my 92 seconds of googling came up with nothing; I got frustrated, and I decided to just write this post instead.)  This report I read made the point that while we typically assume it’s better to be calm and even keel all the time, this is just not true.  Getting all worked up, whether it be physically or emotionally, is actually better for your heart, as long as you also have periods of rest and relaxation where your heart rate comes back down.  Living this way allows your heart to learn a sort of flexibility so that the highs aren’t so shocking and exhausting when they happened.

I feel like this applies to pretty much everything.  I don’t like air conditioning because I want to be hot in the summer.  It’s summer!  This is when you’re supposed to be hot!  I like to work out super hard, then sit on the porch talking with friends for hours.  I tend to get carried away when I cook and I have to remind myself that just because you can put every single one of the spices in a meatloaf doesn’t mean you should.  And at the same time, I’m perfectly happy eating plain crackers for dinner.  Go to extremes, then find middle ground.

Same goes for your emotional, energetic heart.  Your life experiences and your current outlook have led you to whatever number you came up with regarding the openness of your heart.  No biggie.  No need to judge yourself, or flaunt your number.  No number is better than any other (except 9, which is just the coolest number on the planet, but not any extra cool for this exercise).  What’s more important is, can you move from that number, when it’s appropriate?  26 may be a super comfortable place for you right now.  Safe, but not on full-lockdown.  Guarded, but you’ve got a good reason for that.  However, when the love of your life appears, do you have the ability to open up a bit more?  Can you get to 54 so they can squeeze through the door?  And if 78 is where you normally hang out, do you know how to draw things in a bit, when necessary?  Can you hear criticism without it destroying your whole week?  Are your boundaries well defined and well protected, in case an ill-wishing marauder comes your way?

If so, hooray!  You’re like a heart olympian!  If not, what stretches can you do to increase your emotional flexibility?  Imagine scenarios where your heart moves towards the bigger numbers along the spectrum.  Picture your heart lowering the drawbridge, putting the dragons out to pasture, and taking off the suit of armor.  What have you been missing out on, that can now come in?  Now go towards the itty, bitty numbers, put that chain mail back on, and grab your sword.  What challenges can you meet face first, with your heart protected like this?

Going back to your original number; is that something you’re happy about?  Are you comfortable there?  Does that rating of openness serve you well?  Again, if so, then super-duper!  If not, now may be a good time to point your nose towards the end of the spectrum you’d like to be closer to.  One day at a time, one decimal point at a time, make an effort to get your heart to a number that better suits you.  And remember, while it might be scary, it’s probably not a bad idea to Love Love Love.

Hey Sassy Pants, happy Tuesday!  Yoga Instructor Appreciation Week starts on Thursday and I’m totally pumped!  It’s filling up quickly (only 8 spots left out of 30 available openings!) and I’m so grateful to you for all your help in spreading the word to the yoga teachers in your life.  I couldn’t have done it without you!

Now, let’s get down to it.  This issue seems to keep coming up lately, so I thought I’d address it here, out in the open.  What happens after a Rolfing session?  What should you expect?  I know we talked a little bit about this after your first session.  You may have gotten an email with lots of details, depending on when you started working with me.  But let’s just go over it all again, ‘cause some weird shit can happen after you get Rolfed, I’m not gonna lie.

First, let’s cover the basics.
-You might be very thirsty.  We are trying to make your tissues extra juicy, afterall.  I know it’s hard to believe, but you should drink some water if this happens.  Weird, right?
-You might crave protein.  Fascia is a protein matrix and as we move it around, you might need some extra oomph to fill in the gaps.  If this happens, you should eat some steak or beans.  This stuff is so complicated, I know.
-You might want to sleep for 12 hours straight.  You should follow this impulse.  I’m not sure why this happens, but I have two theories.  One, your nervous system is finally coming out of its perpetual ‘fight or flight’ state and would now like to take some time off.  Two, your body would like to integrate some pretty major changes and would like your logical brain out of the way because it keeps interrupting with things like, “That doesn’t make any sense!  Your head can’t feel different; she only worked on your feet!”  So your body says to your brain, “sssshhhhh…why don’t you take a nap…a really long nap?”  Either way, if you’re tired; sleep.
-You might be sore, like you would be after a good, hard workout.  Arnica, an epsom salt bath, lots of water, and rest are all good ideas.
-You might notice your balance and perception have changed.  You might be standing differently on your feet or holding your head in a different place.  Hooray!  Just be careful as you begin to do things like operate a car or workout.  You might want to lay off the gym for 24-48 hours after your session, just to be safe.
-That thing that always hurts?  It doesn’t hurt anymore.  I think I’m legally bound to say that the relief of symptoms is NOT one of the goals of Rolfing.  But let’s be honest, I’m not going to complain if your pain goes away, and neither are you.

Let’s get a little weirder, shall we?  These things are a little less common, but by no means unique.
-You might feel a little dizziness or light-headedness.  Please tell me about this before you leave the room.  We can work on that.  I don’t want you falling down the stairs.
-You might have small, sharp pains in different places in your body.  This is what happens when sheets of fascia shear away from each other because your body is changing its posture.  This is a good thing, as fascia shouldn’t be glued together, it should glide.  When this happens, it feels a little like a bandaid’s being ripped off, on the inside.  It shouldn’t last more than a second or two and should fade over the next 48 hours.
-You might feel like you’re gliding, instead of walking.  That’s awesome.  Work it.
-You might feel taller, or more expansive, like you’re taking up all the space in your body.  Words don’t do justice to this feeling, but it’s amazing, so if you’ve got it, live it up.
-You may feel a bit drunk or stoned.  Yes, that’s normal.  Again, be careful if you’re going to drive.  Or send texts to your exes.
-You may feel stronger or easier, if that makes any sense.  I have often finished getting a session and thought, I could walk all day!  I feel invincible!  I hope you sometimes experience that, too.
-You might experience an emotional roller coaster.  Usually, there are issues in the tissues.  And when we go stirring up the tissues, we stir up the issues.  Waves of whatever you don’t need anymore can hit you on their way out.  If you need to cry, then by all means, cry.  Pop in The Color Purple if you need a little help getting started.
-My mom says she feels all rolled out, like with a rolling pin.  Or spread out, like pancake batter.  Maybe you’ll feel this, too.  Maybe my mom’s just got food on the brain.
-You might be more flexible.  That yoga pose you always struggle with is suddenly a breeze.  You can touch your toes for the first time in years.  We’re trying to increase the length in your body, so this just means we’ve done a good job during your session.  Yay!

On to the extra odd.  Yes, indeedy, this Rolfing business is a strange one.
-You may notice that your dreams shift in quality as you do a series of Rolfing sessions.  Ida Rolf, when pressed, once said that Rolfing was really shamanism, but what did she know?  You may have more of a “journey-like” quality to your dreams for a period of time.  Keeping a dream journal could be an interesting experience, if you’re up for it.
-If you’ve had a particularly intense session, you may experience some out-of-body time, as disassociation can be a way to take a time-out from what’s happening.  Again, tell me about this before you leave, please.  This doesn’t make for safe operation of heavy machinery.

That’s all I can think of right now, but I’m sure I’ve missed a few.  Have you experienced some Rolfing aftermath that should be on the list?  Could you please remind me?  Or, do you have a crazy story about experiencing any of the above?  I’d love to hear about it!  Feel free to shoot me an email, or post it right here by leaving a comment.

And if you experience anything out of the ordinary that’s NOT on this list, please, please, please tell me about it.  I do free touch-up sessions if something’s just not integrating quite right.  As usual, thanks for reading.  Until next time, much love!