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Tag Archives: leg

(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.

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.