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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.

So.  Session Six.  Let’s just dive right in, shall we?  With the start of Session Six, we are officially past the halfway point in the series, which always makes me nervous as a client, because I feel like there’s so much more to do.  But Session Six is also this lovely session where, for the first time in the series, we (as clients) are facedown, and we get oh-so-much work on the back.  Seeing as back pain (and hip pain and shoulder pain and sciatica, etc.) are so common, it’s a session a lot of people, myself included, look forward to.  The “territory” of Session Six is the back of the body.  More specifically, we work from the bottoms of the feet, up the backs of the legs, through the glutes, to the lower and middle back.  Are you noticing a pattern here?  In Sessions One and Two, we address the top and then the bottom.  In Three and Four, we work the outside and then the inside.  In Five and Six, we focus on the front and then the back.  It’s kinda genius, but it’s another reason why you might not want to start the 10-series if you can’t commit to finishing it.  I wouldn’t want you to have an open and flexible front without a matching back!

Dr. Rolf used to quiz her students about the goals of each session.  She’d ask, “What’s the goal of Session Three?”  And her students would hazard guesses such as “increase anterior-posterior depth” or “balance the body along a plumb line” or “transition the client from sleeve sessions to core sessions.”  And while none of those answers were wrong, none of them were the answer that Dr. Rolf was looking for.  Eventually, her students learned that whenever Dr. Rolf asked, “What’s the goal of Session (fill in the blank)?” the answer she wanted was “free the sacrum,” regardless of which session it was.  Apparently, Dr. Rolf thought freeing the sacrum was important enough to be the primary goal of every single one of the 10-series sessions.  However, in Session Six, we actually spend an entire session working directly to free the sacrum.  So, hooray!

Your sacrum, in case you were wondering, is that awesome bone at the bottom of your spine that’s comprised of five fused vertebrae, shaped in a curved triangle, between your last lumbar vertebra (on top), your coccyx (on bottom), and your two hip bones (on the left and right).  If you’ve ever had a session from me, it’s the bone I’m holding at the very end of every session.  It’s the Latin word for “sacred,” is considered our anatomical center and the keystone of the pelvis, and it’s tied to, in addition to your spine and hips, many muscles like the piriformis, one of your hamstrings, and a few of your pelvic floor muscles.  Your rectum is nestled right up against it.  So, nothing important.  Kidding.  I can see why freeing the sacrum would be so critical.  It seems like a bone you’d definitely want in the right position, and free to move how it needs to move.  The sacrum is held in a ligamentous bed, basically swimming in a sea of ligaments, and if any one of those ligaments is either too short or too long, you might have problems.  It’s a broad, annoying, and painful range of problems, too, from sciatica and constipation, up to headaches and TMJ problems, and down through plantar fasciitis, with many, many crappy options in between.  Freeing the sacrum is no joke.

Unfortunately, the sacrum is a bone (and an area of the body) I’ve found to hold trauma more than most.  I don’t know why.  I just see it a lot.  That time you drunkenly tried to do a high kick and and fell on your bum instead; that snowboarding tumble; that trip down icy stairs…if you injured your sacrum, it tends to give you trouble for 10, 20, or even 30 years, while your broken arm heals in a few months with no after-effects.  I’ve also found the back of the body to be where boundaries are established, maintained, and broken.  I’ve long felt that we give our energy out into the world from the front of the body; be it love, anger, support, or just our opinion.  Where we receive energy from the rest of the world is in the back of the body.  And the back of the body is where we make the decisions, conscious or not, around what we allow in and what we don’t.  I’ve often found with people who had boundaries violated in a big way at a young age, accessing and connecting to the backs of their bodies can be really challenging.  That might have something to do with trauma hanging around so long in the sacrum.  Perhaps.  But still, 20 years?  Come on, body.  Regardless of the reasons, Session Six can be a good one for beginning the process of reestablishing an awareness of that back body and learning where there might be more work to be done in establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

I had been looking forward to Session Six because I’m always looking for a little more attention to be paid to my hips and healthy boundaries are something I’ll probably be working on for the rest of my life.  But when it was time for me to get my Session Six, I had kinda broken myself and was very ready for a Rolfing session of any number, and I figured Six was as good as any other.  See, I’d been playing volleyball and I dove for a ball that I probably should have just let go.  I ended up feeling like I had whiplash, like someone had taken hold of my spine and given me a good shake.  From my left hip up to the left side of my head hurt.  I had a headache, rib pain, low back pain, as well as a charming inability to follow conversation.  My brain felt broken and swollen.  So, yeah, I was ready for some bodywork.

Session Six is the session that most people struggle to stay awake through, and I’m no exception.  I definitely drifted in and out of dreamland while receiving the work, but when I stood up afterwards, I felt tall, grounded, and clear-headed.  As per usual, Dave had worked his magic and gotten me all sorted out.  My pain and the headache were completely gone.  My left hip still felt a little off, but after a few days, that also seemed to sort itself out.  In fact, it’s been several months now since I had that Session Six and I haven’t had any problems with that left hip.  And that left hip had been bothering me for 13 years.  See what I mean about that sacrum trauma sticking around much longer than it’s welcome?

One more core session to go (and it’s a doozy!) before we get to the integration sessions!

What up, Sassy Pants?  Enjoying the heat?  I know I am.  It feels like summer, for the reals.

So, let’s talk about your adrenal glands.  Or, if that makes you uncomfortable, let’s talk about my adrenal glands.  Potayto, potahto.  See here?  I found a drawing of adrenal glands on the interweb.  Aren’t they cute, those adorable glands, sitting there like dunce caps on their little kidneys?  Interesting factoid:  your kidneys are the only abdominal organs not located within the peritoneum, which is a bag of fascia that holds all the others, like your stomach and your spleen and your liver and such.  Yep, your kidneys are behind all of those, just in front of and below your lowest ribs, if you’re coming in from the front.  Which means your adrenals are back there too, right up under your ribs.  Which is cool and all, until they get worn out.

Now, I can’t prove this, but I see it a lot in my practice and I experienced it myself for years.  I think your adrenal glands help to physically hold your lower ribs in place.  When your adrenal glands get worn out, your lower ribs suffer.  By suffer I mean they struggle to stay where they should, politely attached to your vertebrae, and instead tend to just sorta fall out of place.  And as anyone who’s ever had a rib out of place can attest, when your ribs suffer, nothing much matters except getting your hands on more vicodin.  And that’s just not a happy place to live from.  Trust me.  Under each rib head (the end that attaches to your spine) is a nerve ganglion, which is like a nerve hub.  Drop a rib on that and the whole area lights up like the 4th of July.  Fun times for all!  Unless you wanted to sleep, or breathe, or bend over, or anything silly like that.

So, how do your adrenals get worn out in the first place?  Well, adrenal glands, oddly enough, produce something called adrenaline.  Ever heard of it?  Just kidding.  We use adrenaline for all sorts of things.  Like escaping super-scary situations.  A moose sneaks up on you in the woods and you get scared and you get a huge adrenaline dump and all of a sudden you can run faster than you’ve ever run in your life.  Hooray!  Adrenaline just saved your life!  But the thing is, you also get a huge adrenaline dump when your alarm clock scares you.  Or a scary movie.  Or a super-loud crack of thunder.  But by the time you can explain to your adrenal glands that there’s nothing to be afraid of because zombies aren’t real (unless bath salts are involved) and it’s just a movie, it’s too late.  That adrenaline’s flowing through your veins and your heart is pumping hard so you can run away.

Your body asks for adrenaline at other times, too.  Like when we’re stressed out about that deadline for work.  Or if you have three shots of espresso.  Or if your body is worn down because you have the flu.  Or if your blood sugar goes up and down like it lives at Six Flags because you’re not careful about eating balanced meals and snacks at regular intervals.  Which is fine.  That’s what it’s for.  Adrenaline gets you through the rough patches.

But when it’s not so much a rough patch as it is your life, we run into trouble.  If you never take care to maintain a steady blood sugar, you’re getting adrenaline dumps all day.  If you never get enough sleep, so your alarm clock scares you every morning, that’s another rush, every day.  Then, you have two cups of coffee, to make matters worse.  If you hate your boss and work is stressful all day, every day, you’re burning through adrenaline like it’s going out of style.  If this is your life and then you get the flu, chances are you’ve just drained the last drop of adrenaline your body had to offer.  And now, your adrenal glands are pissed.  Or they would be if they weren’t so tired.  At this point, your adrenal glands feel like parents of newborn triplets.  They’ve given all they had to give and they need a nap.  A very, very long nap.  So when your ribs turn around and say, “Hey, can we get a boost?” your adrenal glands just give them a sleepy, incredulous look and go back to sleep.  And your ribs fall out of place.  And where did I put that vicodin?

Obviously, this is a situation that we should try to avoid.  But life happens.  And we all tend to go through rough patches that last longer than a few weeks.  So, you come to me and I do my best to get your ribs back into place so you can breathe and move and sleep again.  The thing is, that once you’ve drained your adrenals, it’ll take a while to get them back up to snuff.  Like months.  And that’s if you’re able to do everything you can to help them out, which you probably can’t, or you’d already be doing it.  So, your ribs may continue to thwart your desire for a pain-free existence.  Still, if your adrenals are drained you should try to get them rested and replenished.  Sleep, as much as you can.  Eat before you’re famished, and make sure you eat proteins and fats so your blood sugar stays as level as possible.  Avoid sugars (including alcohol) and caffeine as much as possible.  Try and reduce any mental and emotional stress.  Stop doing things you don’t have to.  Schedule a ‘me’ day once a week if you can, or take a weekend ‘staycation’ where you just don’t answer your phone.  Use your vacation days at work and stay in bed the whole time, or go for a leisurely walk.  Do all the things you’d want to do if you were the parent of newborn triplets.  And if at all possible, don’t let yourself get into this situation again.  It’s just not worth it.