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Tag Archives: incontinence

You guys.  I can’t tell you how excited I was for Session Four.  Actually, how excited I was for Sessions Three, Four, Five, and Six.  I mean, there was the armpit dread with Session Three, it’s true.  And I usually fall asleep through most of Session Six (even though it’s super important!).  But about 12 years ago I slipped on some icy stairs and fell HARD on my butt and ever since then I’ve had this “hip thing.”  My sacroiliac joint pops really loudly on the left side.  And sometimes I can’t get it to pop and it just aches for days.  And my pelvis has just felt “off” since then; not quite balanced; not moving as freely as I think it should.  And when I’m tired or stressed, I can feel myself collapsing around my left side, like I’m weaker over there.  So I really thought this time through the series might be the time I finally got to let go of all that.  This might be my chance to resolve my “hip thing.”  And sessions Three, Four, Five, and Six are the sessions that most directly address the fascia of the hip.  Sessions Four and Five, addressing the core structures of the pelvis, in particular, were the ones I was super duper hopeful about.

Session Four, being the first of the “core” sessions is where we start to ask “Who Am I?” and we begin looking at evoking the authentic self.  Which is the real meat and potatoes of what I love about Rolfing.  The good stuff.  Obviously the good stuff is to be found in the pelvis.  Ida Rolf said the difference between massage therapists and Rolfers was that Rolfers had the courage to go for the pelvic floor.  And Session Four is where we do that.  Session Four, just like in Session Three, has the client lying on their side.  But this time, instead of working on the top leg (or the right leg if you’re lying on your left side and vice versa), we’re working on the bottom leg; the one on the table.  The main territory of Session Four is the inner line of the leg, from the inside arch of the foot all the way up to the ischial tuberosity (or sit/sits/sitting bones) and the pubic bone.  Hello, nice to meet you.  We don’t actually work directly on the pelvic floor.  But we work on a lot of fascia that goes up into and through and around the pelvic floor.  The goal is to “evoke balanced span in the pelvic floor.”  Which is important if you want to avoid things like pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence and pain with pregnancy and low back pain and sciatica.  Other Session Four goals include evoking increased horizontality at the arches, the ankles, and the knees; differentiating the lower leg relative to the upper leg and the upper leg relative to the hip; and freeing the legs from the pelvis.  We’re trying to bring the support we started to create in Session Two up through the pelvis as well as further clarifying the definition between core and sleeve.  One of the diagnostics we use that you can try at home is simply to stand in your natural stance (probably in your underwear) facing a mirror.  Look at your kneecaps.  If your kneecaps were headlights, where would they be pointing?  If you need a little more help, do a shallow knee-bend.  Do your knees come straight forward, or do they point out to the sides or in towards the middle?  Kneecaps pointing forward (and ankles, and toes, while we’re at it) is the goal.  Imagine if the wheels on your car were aligned like your knees.  Would you take it on the highway?

So, like I said, I was super psyched to receive Session Four.  And I was not disappointed.  Just moments into the session, I experienced some of that crazy Rolfing magic, where Dave was working on my lower left leg and all of a sudden, I felt my right shoulder open up.  Like there was more space and flexibility in there.  And he was about as far away from my right shoulder as he could be!  Soon after that, I found my back straightening and my head pulling back, because that felt better than being hunched.  I hadn’t even realized I’d been hunched.  Magic, I tell you.  After doing the standard Rolfing stuff, Dave did some straight SourcePoint, setting the Guardian Points and doing an Extraction.  I felt my pelvis relax and my chest open.  I noticed my left nostril open, my left ear release, and my left jaw relax.  What?  I’m still awed by how this stuff works.  I don’t get it, but I sure do appreciate it.  When the session ended, I stood up and felt very solid, tall, strong, and balanced.  It felt like everything was in the right place.  And I looked down to see that my right foot, which loves to turn out to the side, was pointing straight ahead like a champ.

My hips (both of them) felt great there in the Rolfing room, but I have to admit, I still noticed some inflexibility and some imbalance in them over the next week.  And I still had the popping now and again.  But I have high hopes for Sessions Five and Six.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see where this 10-series takes me!

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.

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.