Skip navigation

Tag Archives: rolfing

I came to Rolfing out of curiosity. I didn’t really know much about it before my first session. I’d heard it was deeper than the deepest massage I’d ever had. I’d heard there was something about 10 sessions. I’d probably heard something about realignment or restructuring, but truth be told, maybe not. And that was about it. So, I didn’t have many expectations for going through the 10-series the first time. I didn’t know what was possible to hope for. And honestly, I thought I was doing pretty well. My body felt good, for the most part. I saw my chiropractor about once a week. I hiked and danced and ate reasonably well and got plenty of sleep and had a fairly low-stress life. I didn’t have any major complaints. I just wanted to learn about what Rolfing was.

However. I had no idea how much better my life could be after getting Rolfed. And here I am, almost 9 years after I first tried Rolfing and, looking back, there is so much I gained besides knowledge about Rolfing. So I made a listical. If I get in the habit of writing listicals, please stop reading this blog.

In no particular order, here is my personal list of 10 unexpected results of being Rolfed:
1. I can stand for hours at a time without pain. Once upon a time, I was a freshman at CU, and, as was customary at the time, I camped out with my friends to get season tickets to the football games. It’s not my thing now, but I had a blast going to those games as a freshman, with one small caveat: it killed my back. In the student section, we stood for the entire game and I remember watching the game clock desperately wishing for half-time when I could sit down without being taunted. And then again for the end of the game. My back and shoulders would ache after the first 20-30 minutes and so the remaining 2-3 hours would be torture. A few years ago, a friend of mine invited me to a CU football game and for the fun of it, we stood in the student section. It wasn’t until the game was over that I realized I was perfectly comfortable. I had stood for at a tailgating party before the game and I was happy to continue standing at the continuation of the same party for another hour after the game. I hadn’t even needed to sit down during half time.
2. I no longer see my chiropractor. Which is a shame on an emotional level, because I really like my chiropractor as a person. I just don’t feel like I need a chiropractor anymore. There was a time in my life when I was getting adjusted 4-6 times a week. I had been getting adjustments since I first “threw my back out” at 17 years old. I’ve worked for 3 different chiropractors. I love chiropractors. But I don’t need one anymore, because I don’t “throw my back out” anymore. And my ribs stay where they belong most of the time. And if anything’s out of place, I go see my Rolfer, not my chiropractor. So, in the last 6 or 7 years, I think I’ve been adjusted less than 10 times.
3. I have better posture. This one, I should’ve seen coming, as improved posture is one of the main goals of Rolfing. But again, I didn’t know much about Rolfing and I didn’t know that was one of the goals. Having been told to “sit up straight” and “stop slouching” my whole life, I now feel like I have pretty decent posture. It’s not perfect or anything. But I can look back on pictures of myself from high school and college and see my head 6 inches in front of my shoulders. Whereas in more recent pictures of me, my head is actually over my shoulders. And my shoulders aren’t rounded forward as much. Without even trying, or my mom nagging me.
4. I stopped spraining my ankles. I used to sprain one ankle or the other a couple times a year. I mean, I’ve had 2 or 3 ankles braces as well as two ace bandages in my medicine kit since the beginning of college, when I “borrowed” them from my parents’ medicine kit. A few months ago as I was konmari-ing my bathroom, I realized, I haven’t used those ankle braces since I first got Rolfed. And into the garbage they went. To be fair, this is not just because of Rolfing, though I attribute it largely to Rolfing. But it’s also because I’ve transitioned to minimal footwear and spending as much time barefoot as possible. I’ve helped my ankles get stronger and more adaptable through regular use in challenging situations as opposed to trying to always keep them protected in supportive, inflexible shoes and boots. But still, Rolfing started me on that journey and thinking differently about my feet and ankles.
5. I’m a runner. A trail ultra runner to be exact (I run longer than marathon-length races on trails, not roads). I used to hate running. Hate. Dread. Despise. And again, I can’t give Rolfing full credit for my current love of running. But as a combination of a few of the above surprises (better posture, stronger ankles), running is a lot more comfortable than it used to be. And as a direct result of Rolfing, I can breathe so much better now than I used to be able to, which is somewhat important when you’re running.
6. I can kneel and squat without pain. I had knee surgery in 2007 for a torn lateral meniscus and after months of physical therapy, I was frustrated that I still couldn’t kneel or do a full squat without pain. When I asked my doctor and my physical therapist about this, they both responded with some version of “You just shouldn’t do those things anymore. And while you’re at it, you shouldn’t run.” I was 26 and being told that I might never be able to kneel or squat again was beyond maddening. Since being Rolfed, I often forget which knee I had surgery on. I have no problems whatsoever with kneeling or squatting. And see above about the running.
7. My eyesight has improved. This is such a weird one. But it’s undeniable. I first got contacts as a freshman in high school and every check-up with the eye doctor since then, my prescription got a little stronger. Until I got Rolfed. Now, they downgrade my prescription with every check-up. At this rate, I won’t need glasses or contacts by the time I’m 45.
8. I have more confidence. I feel like getting Rolfed helped me understand who I am better. And helped me express that core, true self more clearly. With less apologizing, less accommodating of other people’s expectations for who I should be. I just am. This is me. And knowing, in a deep way, with a felt-sense, that who I am is just fine. Who I am is great, actually. I had no idea bodywork could bring me confidence. But it did. And with this confidence, I’ve been better able to navigate the world in a manner that’s congruent with my values. Having a better understanding of who I am helps me make choices that support me.
9. Along the same lines, I have better relationships. Maybe this is just a side-effect of getting older, and of having more practice at being in relationships, or of having more confidence. But I really think that Rolfing, in helping be have a better understanding of who I am, helped me relate to other people differently and in a clearer way. I think it has also helped me be a better communicator and if there’s one way to improve a relationship, it’s better communication.
10. I have a career. I was not supposed to have a career. I got bored after 6 months at any job I ever had. The longest I ever held a job continuously was 14 months. I just couldn’t imagine myself doing the same thing every day for 40 years. I couldn’t really imagine myself doing the same thing every day for 3 years. So a career was out of the question. Until Rolfing. Because with Rolfing, I never do the same thing every day. I’ve never done the same session twice. Even if I do the same session of the 10-series 4 times in one day, that session looks completely different with each client. So I don’t get bored. And I don’t even feel like I have a job. And please don’t ever make me retire. I love this work so, so, so much.

So there’s my list of 10 unexpected benefits of Rolfing. What about you all out there? Any surprise results since you’ve been Rolfed? I’d love to hear about them!

Session Ten! Of ten! We made it, you guys! This is it! The end of the 10-series! I don’t know why I always use so many exclamation points when talking about Session Ten. It just seems like such an accomplishment. To make it through the 10-series requires such commitment, so much perseverance, and so much vulnerability. It is such an honor to work with someone all the way through; I feel the desire to bow to each person who makes it this far. It’s a big undertaking. So nicely done, you, if you’ve made it this far. I’m proud of you.

Like I mentioned last time, Session Ten is not the time to start new projects. Session Ten is about closure. Dr. Ida Rolf said, “In the 10th hour we put bodies together. Putting together means relating imperfect segments so that they create a functional whole; not working for one hour to correct bad feet or bad whatever.” I like describing Session Ten as the session where we frost the cake. Hopefully, we’ve built a strong, stable, balanced foundation, and when we put on those final frosting touches with this session, everything will work beautifully together, and look pretty in the process. One of the goals of Session Ten is, no joke, “uniform brilliance.” Or maybe it’s “unicorn brilliance.” One of the two, for sure. (If I could make my clients into brilliant unicorns in 10-sessions, my phone would never stop ringing.) But for real, in Session Ten, we tie up any loose strings, smooth out any rough edges, and send you on your way. Or, said another way, we bring the body to the highest level of integration that it needs and can sustain for an extended period of time. And we say goodbye. After Session Ten, it is advised to take a break from Rolfing for three to six months to let the whole series settle out and integrate. After that, you’re free to never get another Rolfing session again, if you’d like. Or, you can go to a maintenance schedule of your choosing (I like once a month, but I’m pretty damn reliant on my body working well). Or you can just come in when something hurts for a little tune up. I love how self-directed Rolfing is.

Before my trade of Session Ten with Dave, I’d gone for a little backpacking trip (this was a while ago, obviously) and I was having a little neck and shoulder pain. I also had a little, strange soreness in my lower right ribs, even though I had no memory of an injury or impact there. I know my liver’s under there and it felt more related to anger than a physical problem. But all in all, I was feeling pretty good. I was curious to see what Dave would find. At the very start of the session, Dave lightly touched those lower right ribs and instantly, I felt my right side contract, as if to protect, from my hip to the top of my head. It felt heavy and uncomfortable, but after a minute or two, that feeling shifted and I felt much lighter. Things felt easier and I felt calmer. Sometimes a minute or two of discomfort is worth the relief it brings in the end. Through the whole session, it felt like Dave was working on an energetic and emotional level, more than a physical level. Afterwards, I felt whole. I hadn’t realized I felt less-than-whole before, but now that I had the sense of wholeness, I found it very comforting. I felt peaceful and relaxed and my breath felt full and steady. I always find it bittersweet to end the 10-series, because I love receiving Rolfing so much and never want it to stop, but I feel so good and complete I can’t imagine what we’d work on next time, if there was a Session Eleven. This time through the series, I think I felt a more profound sense of completion than any previous time. Maybe the third (and a half) time through the series is the charm. As they say.

There’s this concept that Session Ten should leave you feeling energized and whole because whatever work still needs to be done, your body will now be able to do on its own. Bodies are really good at healing, after all. Bodies want to be healthy and functional and efficient. It is always my goal and my hope that with each client I take through the 10-series, the work has given them a nudge and a poke in the direction of health and now their body will take that and run with it.

Alright.  We’re going to streamline this and I’m going to talk about Sessions Eight and Nine at the same time.  Laziness and efficiency are super closely related.  Trust me on this one.

So, with the start of Session Eight, we are officially finished with the core sessions and into the integration sessions.  And, as my hero Rolfer, Ray McCall says, “With Session Eight, the trail thins out a bit.” In Sessions One through Seven, there’s a clearly defined ‘territory’ of the body we’re working with.  There are clearly defined goals.  With Sessions Eight and Nine, there’s a lot more that depends on each individual’s circumstances, so these sessions are very customized.  Basically, we’re trying to differentiate anything that has not yet been differentiated in the previous seven sessions.  And integrate all these new changes so that they’re comfortable and easy for your body to use.  As it’s taught to newbie Rolfers, there’s usually an upper body session and a lower body session.  But it can be two middles.  It can be a left side and a right side.  It can be a right lower and a left middle.  And as Ray also likes to say, “You get to vote, but I get to decide.”  Not to remind you of our current political situation or anything.  So, this is when I really, really want to know what you think is still missing.  What still needs attention?  Was there a session you felt ended way too soon?  What area of your body still feels neglected or stuck?  I’m going to make the final decision about what needs work, and in what order, but I really do want to know what you’re missing because these two sessions are our last chance before the end of the series.  Session Ten is not for new projects.

Because Sessions Eight and Nine don’t have well defined territories or goals beyond differentiation and integration, they’re a little tricky to talk about.  But basically, I just want to see all the parts of your whole body working well together.  I want your core to be able to express through your sleeve without restriction or distortion.  I might ask you to walk or do some other diagnostic tests to see what looks restricted or where movement has to go around instead of through.  There are some really funky positions I might put you in during these sessions, too, trying to link everything up.  These are not your standard “face up” or “face down” positions, but rather “while on your stomach, turn your head to the right, raise your right arm up by your head, bring your left arm down by your side, turn your hips so that your left hip is on the table, while your right hip is stacked above it, bring your left knee up towards your chest and straighten your right leg a little behind your (quite twisted by now) midline.”  Go ahead and try it.  I’ll wait.  It’s easier with help from your Rolfer, but it’s always a little awkward.

When it was time for Dave and me to trade Session Eight, I was ready for some body work.  Before Session Eight, I had fallen twice while running and my left shoulder was bothering me.  Dave started working on that left shoulder and I got all emotional, which was surprising but not uncomfortable.  It passed fairly quickly.  After the session, I felt relaxed and open.  My upper body felt spacious, my shoulders were back without any effort, my head was upright, and for some reason it felt like there was more space between my teeth.  I haven’t had any shoulder pain since, so I’d call that a win.

When we traded Session Nine, I actually wasn’t desperate for bodywork.  I felt really good walking into the session, with nothing calling for attention, so I guess I was almost ready to be done with the series.  Since I wasn’t in any physical discomfort, and things felt like they were moving well together, Dave was free to do a very energetic session, just using SourcePoint Therapy and his intuition to guide him.  Over and over again, I felt big waves of tension being released that I hadn’t known were there.  Big breaths, neck stretching, and hip wiggling were my contribution to the work.  Afterwards, I felt like popped popcorn: expanded in every direction.  I felt light and calm and easy like no problem was too big or heavy or serious.  I felt like my emotions could just flow through me instead of getting stuck and spinning around.  So basically, no complaints.

Sessions Eight and Nine are where the art of Rolfing comes into play.  We get to leave the formulas behind and play with the beauty of the body.  It’s a magical part of the series, even if it’s a little hard to talk about.

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.

Ugh.  Writing about Session Five has been Such. A. Struggle.   I may be guilty of some perfectionistic tendencies.  And I really love Session Five and want to do it justice, honoring its magic.  But it’s also this deep session, at the core of the 10-series that works on the center of the body, corresponding to central aspects of our emotional beings.  Which all leads to me not having the easiest time writing about this gorgeous session.  But I’m going to try.

In Session Five we’re hitting the reset button.  We’re awakening the core.  We’re asking “Who am I?” relative to the inside self, the center, to instinct and vulnerability.  This is a core/sleeve session.  This is a top/bottom session.  This is a front/back session.  In other words, this session is the motherlode.  No wonder I love this session.

The main focus of Session Five, structurally, is the psoas, a muscle I didn’t even know existed before I first got Rolfed.  But now, I know and love the psoas, and hopefully you will, too.  The psoas is this beautiful muscle, or really, there are two, matching beautiful muscles, the psoai.  They run from the front and sides of the lumbar vertebrae (and the last thoracic vertebra), down through the pelvis and connect to the tops of the femurs.  Here’s a drawing of the psoai with their partners in pelvis stability, the illiacus muscles, which also get attention in Session Five:

The psoai are strong, long, and luscious.  Or, at least they should be.  Most of us spend so much time sitting that we have shorter than ideal psoai and they tend to be locked and loaded all the time, without the ability to relax and lengthen.  When you lift your leg in front of you, to go up a stair, for instance, your psoas is one of the main muscles responsible for that action.  And when you swing your leg behind you, to take a long, graceful step, for instance, your psoas needs to relax and lengthen.  Did you know your legs start above your belly-button?  Because they do, and the psoas is the muscle responsible for that.  I’ve found in my practice that overly tight and shortened psoas muscles are responsible for almost all the low-back pain I ever see, and I see a lot of low-back pain.  Shortened psoas muscles can also lead to hip pain, groin pain, sciatica, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, restricted breathing, and jaw pain.  It seems like a pretty important muscle.  Oh, and to get to the psoas, we have to work through 4 layers of more superficial abdominal muscles and around the majority of your viscera (organs), just for funsies.  Session Five is amazing, but I never said it was comfortable.

Session Five goals (beside simply loving the psoas) include:

  • increased anterior-posterior (front to back) depth; (remember that Double Stuf Oreo we started working on in Session Three?)
  • to begin helping the core space open from the pelvic floor to the roof of the mouth
  • balancing the relationship of the thorax (rib cage) to the pelvis
  • establishing the front of the spine
  • having the legs function from the lumbo-dorsal hinge (at the bottom of the ribs)

We are working here with the front of the back and the back of the front.  What’s more representative of the front of the back than a muscle that connects to the front of the spine, but is considered an abdominal muscle (as opposed to a back muscle)?  When I first learned about the psoas, this concept blew my mind.  I’d never thought about the front of my spine before.  I don’t think it had occurred to me that my spine HAD a front.  Obviously, it does.  I just hadn’t thought about it.  This is the core of the core.  This muscle is the physical embodiment of the place between future and past, between top and bottom, and is literally at our center.  This is the session where we ask questions like:  What is core?  What is surface?  Where and how do they connect?  Are they balanced in relation to each other?

Naturally, on a personal level, I was interested to see if and how this session, with it’s deep abdominal focus would effect my ‘hip thing.’  And I’m always down for a little exploration around “Who am I, really?”  So I was excited to receive Session Five.  It did not disappoint.  As per usual, Dave worked his magic.  Some standard, structural Rolfing with a nice mix of SourcePoint to clear out some fear I didn’t know was hiding in my abdomen.  I got up from the table after receiving Session Five and started singing “I’ve got no strings” from Pinocchio.  Seriously.  My joints all felt so smooth and loose, without being floppy or sloppy.  And I felt a lot taller, and longer along my whole front, as if I’d been unzipped from a too-tight casing.  This is what I felt like:  I took a little walk around Dave’s office and felt so upright and tall, with my shoulders effortlessly back behind me, instead of rounding forward.  My feet were contacting the ground well and comfortably.  It was amazing.  And two weeks later, I still had no trouble with my ‘hip thing.’  Since Session Five, though, I have had a lot of internal and emotional upheaval.  A lot of questioning around what’s really important to me and whether or not my life reflects those things.  Questions around integrity and long-term happiness and fulfillment.  Again, this session is amazing (and obviously important), but not necessarily comfortable.  I’m grateful for the experience.  Session Five rules.

 

Truth be told, I hated Session Three.  Both the first time I received it and while learning about it in Rolfing school, I hated it.  Like, with a fiery passion, I hated it.  Not that it was Session Three’s fault.  It was my armpits’ fault.  But the hatred toward Three was real and deep.  Allow me to explain.  

I have the most ticklish armpits of anyone I’ve ever known.  And I’ve known a lot of people.  And just in case you’re one of those people who isn’t ticklish and thinks it soooo funny to tickle people, it’s not.  Just because I’m laughing does NOT mean it’s fun for me.  Having my armpits tickled is (thankfully) the closest I’ve come to being tortured.  And getting back on topic, Session Three deals with the armpits.  Or axillary region if you want to get technical.

I have been told that Session Three deals with a lot more than just the armpits.  It deals with the sides of the body, all the way from the head to the toes, with the goal of making more space from front to back.  My teacher said, we’re making the Oreo into a Double Stuf Oreo.  But all I could focus on was the armpit, and I really like Oreos.  That first time I went through the 10-series, I had no idea what was coming and I probably still owe apologies to the 7 other people getting their Session Threes at the same time in that classroom.  The shrieks and yelps that came from me were certainly not health inducing for the others made to listen.  And my poor Rolfer probably just wanted to pin me to the table to get me to stop squirming and jumping away from her. 

It turns out that the tickle reflex is mostly protective.  At least, that’s what I’ve found with my clients and myself.  Just beneath the tickle is the pain, if you can get there.  So while my worst nightmare was my Rolfer working on my armpits, what I needed most was also my Rolfer working on my armpits.  Go figure.  But with every Session Three I’ve received, the process has gotten easier.  I’ve since made my peace with Session Three.  And this time through, I actually loved it.  I didn’t think that was even an option!

While I had my usual dread regarding receiving Session Three this time, I also knew that I could really use some armpit work, specifically on my left side.  I’d noticed in the last few weeks that my left shoulder was slowly but steadily getting less mobile.  I couldn’t remember injuring it, but my range of motion was shrinking to the point where I could no longer reach my arm up overhead or behind me.  I was starting to feel like the Tin Man searching for his oil can.  By the time Dave was done working with me (only one little yelp per armpit!), I was ready to get back to climbing trees and swinging on the monkey bars.  Hooray!  And after the session I had the deepest sense of vertical I can remember ever having.  As if every cell in my whole body was suddenly organized around a plumb line dropped from the center of my head.  It was super cool.  

Many people who are not me find Session Three to be an incredible session, even on their first go around, as we really start to get into the structures that aren’t addressed in a typical massage.  One of the assessment tools, looking at a profile view, is something you can do yourself with a full-length mirror.  Stand with one of your profiles to the mirror, preferably wearing clothing that shows your body pretty well.  See that ankle bone sticking out?  Draw a vertical line up through that bone.  Is the center of your knee on that line?  What about your hip joint?  What about your shoulder?  And your ear?  Which ones are in front of the line?  Which ones are behind?  That’s the stuff we’re addressing in Session Three.  (If you’re perfectly lined up, I want to see it.  And we can probably just call you done with no need to finish the 10-series.)  During Session Three, the client is lying on one side or the other for most of it and we get to work (in addition to the armpit) on the rib cage, the relationship of the shoulder to the neck, the ribs, and the arm, and the pelvic girdle and how it relates to the ribs and the leg.  There’s a big focus on the tiniest of our ribs, number 12, and the quadratus lumborum, a nifty muscle in the low back.  In Session Three, we’re wrapping up the “sleeve” or “superficial” sessions and prepping the body for the “core” sessions to come.  When I could finally stop focusing on the horrors of the armpit work and see the session as a whole, I realized that Session Three might be the coolest session of the whole 10-series, in that it does a great job of addressing the whole body, from a really interesting position (side-lying), something that I can’t find a comparison to in any other session.  Neato.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you know the drill: my birthday is coming up and I’m celebrating with Pay What You Want Week, the first week of May. If you are new around these parts, well, the same is still true. I’m turning 35 (halfway to 70, baby!) and I’m giving you presents. Well, just one present, to be specific. Pay What You Want Week is just what it sounds like. For the first week of May, the 1st through the 7th, you can schedule a Rolfing session with me as you normally would, but pay whatever you’d like when it’s all done. Want to pay in cookies? You can do that. Want to pay in fairy sprinkles? Totally an option. Want to pay with a song and a dance? I’m down. Want to pay a dollar amount of your choice? That works, too. The only rule is that you keep in mind that I share a 450 square foot apartment with a person, a dog, a cat, and three fish. I have no room for stuff. Please no stuff. (Fairy sprinkles don’t count as stuff.)

So go ahead. Schedule your Pay What You Want session for the week of May 1st through May 7th and I’ll see you then!

(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.

From my class notes on the 10-series: “You get to do in Session Ten what you wanted to do in Session One, but couldn’t.” This right here is why I love the 10-series. The slow, methodical, dedicated unwinding of old patterns that are so deep and ingrained that going straight for them in the first session could be impossible and would very likely be traumatic. The patterns we currently use to breathe, sit, stand, and walk may not be the most comfortable or efficient ways to do any of those things, but they’re old and deep and they’ve gotten us this far. They’re safe.

Which is why, in the first three sessions of the 10-series, known as the “sleeve” or “superficial” sessions, we start by focusing on adaptability. Improving the client’s ability to integrate changes. What’s the point of giving someone a great new pair of legs if they don’t know how to use them? We try to assist the body in opening and lengthening to organize those outer layers of the body before the deep work of the “core” sessions. But there’s also this idea that the sleeve of our body is the boundary between our core being and the outside world. The sleeve is responsible for our external interactions and the boundaries we set. This is where our sense of self as defined by our interactions with others is established. Not only are we concerned with the boundary between ourself and the outside world, but the boundary between our inner self and our outer self. Are they congruent? Does this meat suit match the soul? Do our actions match our intentions? That all sounds pretty important, right?

But. Still. Session One of Ten. I’ll be the first to admit, I have favorites in the 10-series and this session is not one of them. Which is so strange and illogical, I know. I mean, the first time I ever got Rolfed, Session One of the 10-series was it, and it was definitely love at first sight. And I know from my practice, that many of my clients feel the same way, falling hard for that first session. But what can I say? Now that I know the 10-series so well, I find Session One a little boring compared to some of the others. I mean, Two? I love Two! And Five? I think Five is probably my ultimate favorite. But I love Seven, too. And Four. I really love Four. But One? Session One feels like sleep. Sure, sleep is important. Super, duper important. I’ve built my life around getting enough sleep. But I wouldn’t call sleep exciting. Same with Session One. Clearly important. Not so clearly exciting.

Which isn’t to say I wasn’t looking forward to Session One. I was. Because, honestly, I’ve never had a bad session from Dave. So, if anyone could make Session One really pop, Dave could do it. And I knew I needed it.

There’s a lot that goes into the first session of the 10-series. In the short-hand in my head, it’s the free-the-breath session. From a structural standpoint, the goals of Session One are to differentiate the ribcage from the shoulder girdle, the shoulder girdle from the arms, the shoulder girdle from the neck, the pelvis from the legs and the pelvis from the ribcage. All in one session! According to the master, Ray McCall, Session One goals (for the Rolfer, not the client) are as follows:
Establish rapport/relationship with your client.
Teach the client how to be Rolfed.
Learn from the client how you can best Rolf them.
Make it easier for the body to breathe.
Prepare the body for subsequent changes.

Well. Like I said last time, Dave and I have been trading sessions for about 5 years now. We’ve already established a rapport and a relationship, so that mission’s been accomplished. Each of us is pretty practiced at both being Rolfed and Rolfing the other, so we’ve got 2 and 3 on lock. Goal 4, though, that’s what I really needed. A couple weeks back I had a minor surgery. And I had noticed since then that the biggest hit my body took, had been in my lungs (even though the surgery itself was nowhere near my lungs). I took a week off from running, and it was slow getting back into it, but while my legs and torso and arms all felt fine and strong, it was my lungs that were really holding me back as I worked back up to my normal mileage. So, yeah, I needed a little help in the breathing department. And as for goal 5, it’s never a bad idea to prep for what’s ahead. Anything Dave could do here in Session One to make the work of the later sessions easier would be appreciated.

So, even if Session One isn’t my favorite, I figured I should probably get it anyways. I guess.

And so I did. And thank goodness. That was a crazy session. I mean, I knew Dave was a next-level sorcerer, but wow. During the session, I got the shakes and the yawns and the stretches and probably fell asleep for a few minutes…you know, the full range. I have a hard time describing what it feels like to receive Rolfing because it’s just so all over the place. Sometimes it hurt (who knew my lateral hamstrings were so tight?!), sometimes there was that deep achey feeling (in my left wrist? really?), sometimes I felt the urge to wiggle or stretch or shake (and I wonder, is that leftover from so many years in Catholic school being told to sit still with my hands folded?), and sometimes my breath got all big and full and delicious (aaaaahhhh!). But what I can definitely describe is how it felt afterward. I stood up from the table and felt like a huge, old oak tree. So tall and solid and straight, I was afraid I’d hit my head on the ceiling. But also so grounded and stable, I felt like I had roots extending 30 feet down into the ground. It was beautiful. Oh, and my breath felt full and deep and easy. Like it was extending out to my fingertips and toes and eyeballs. Goal #4 of making it easier for the body to breathe? Check. Honestly, I felt like we’d already done a whole 10-series. Like my body was all tuned up and ready to go. Throughout the rest of the day, I kept having little things settle out. My left sacroiliac joint would ache and I would need to stretch it a little. My feet and ankles wanted to wiggle, so I let them. I found I wanted/needed to move a lot and shift positions often, which is probably something I should do always, but after getting that session I was much more aware of my body’s requests for movement. A few days later, I took those new lungs for a 4-hour run/hike through Eldorado Canyon and they felt as good as new. I guess Session One is alright, after all. I’m glad I didn’t skip it, for sure.

Next up, Session Two! And real quick, before I go, another gem from my classroom notes: “This is not a spectator sport. The client should be working as hard as the practitioner.” Um. I know some of my clients work really hard in their sessions, but maybe I should wake some of the others up and make sure they’re pulling their weight.

Hey SassyPants,

I’ve been meaning to drop you a note about how awesome Katy Bowman is and how you should read her books and listen to her podcast and watch her videos and read her blog.  And that’s probably going to happen at some point, because Katy Bowman is my hero and she is, indeed, awesome and you should, indeed, do all those things.  But, this isn’t that note.

What I want to talk about today, is the Rolfing 10-series.  This is a weird one for me for many reasons.  While I love, love, love the 10-series, I don’t recommend the 10-series very often.  It’s such a big commitment.  I find the thought of committing to 10 whole sessions, right off the bat, to be intimidating to a lot of people.  I mean, we just met.  I’m not going to ask you to commit to spending 15 hours and $1,200 with me, right from the start.  Sometimes a client walks in already committed.  They want the 10-series.  They’ve watched my videos and read my blog posts; they feel like they already know enough about me.  They’ve researched the 10-series, or had a friend or relative go through it and it’s something they’ve wanted to do for a while.  They’re ready.  And good for them.  But that’s not average.  Most people come to me because something hurts and they’ve tried everything else and it hasn’t worked and finally they’re ready to give big, scary Rolfing a try.  So, no, I’m not going to tell those brave souls that they now need to commit to coming back 9 more times and undertaking this huge transformative journey.  Especially when it might not be right for them.

If you’re in agony, the 10-series is not for you.  The 10-series is for healthy people who want to be healthier.  It’s for people who feel good, but want to feel great.  If you have low-back pain that makes it so you can’t sleep, can’t sit without pain, can’t enjoy a meal, do you really want to wait until the 6th session before we work on your back?  ‘Cause that’s how the 10-series is set up.  If you put one to three weeks between sessions, we’re looking at 6 to 18 weeks before we directly address your back pain.  Sure, with the magic of fascia being everywhere and all connected, your back pain might go away after we address your breath in session one.  Or maybe after we address your feet and lower legs in session two.  But maybe not.  Remember, most of my clients are coming to me after they’ve been in pain for a long time, and have tried a lot of other things that haven’t worked.  The last thing I’m going to tell them is to give me a month or three to see if maybe I can help.

But I do love, love, love the 10-series.  So, when a client is ready for it, I get excited.  And the other day, when my Rolfer friend, Dave sent me this text, “Want to trade a ten series?” I got pretty excited, and “yes!” was the only response available to me.  I’ve been through the process of receiving the 10-series 2 1/2 times before, but it’s been 4 1/2 years since that last half a time through.  And, this may sound odd, but I’ve never actually received the 10-series from a Certified Rolfer™.  What?!  I know!!  My first introduction to Rolfing, and trip through the 10-series was as a model for a student in a class of soon-to-be Rolfers.  And my second trip through was in my own class, halfway through my training, when all of us students did the 10-series on each other.  My 1/2 journey through the series was when a similar class had a student drop out in the middle and since they were all working on each other, they needed someone to step in and take his spot.  I was that person.  So, all of my Rolfers in my experience of the 10-series, have been students.  When I realized a few days ago that I was about to get my first 10-series from a Certified Rolfer, and a very experienced, skilled Rolfer, who does SourcePoint, at that, I almost started wagging my tail I was so pumped.  (I don’t actually have a tail, but I often wish I did.)

For those of you who haven’t researched the 10-series extensively, or who haven’t already been through it, the 10-series is basically one really big, full-body session broken down into 10 pieces, because 10-15 hours of bodywork in one day is too much for anyone to receive, as well as too much for one bodyworker to give.  It’s broken up into three segments.  Sessions 1-3 are called the superficial, or sleeve sessions, with the structural goal of opening the outer layer of the body, to prepare it for the deeper work to come.  Sessions 4-7 are called the deep or core sessions, and they work with (surprise!) deep or core structures that aren’t often addressed in a typical massage.  And sessions 8-10 are the integrative sessions where we focus on finding the highest possible level of organization, connection, and communication throughout the body.  Each session has goals of its own, both structural and energetic in nature.  And each Rolfer and client can have specific goals for the series as a whole.  When Dave asked me what my goals for the series were, I’ll admit, I didn’t have a great answer.  My goals are kinda vague and nebulous.  I mean, I’ve already had a lot of Rolfing.  Even if I haven’t been through the 10-series in a while, Dave and I have been trading a session every month or two for about 5 years now.  And I’m a Rolfer.  I do a fair amount of self-care as I need it.  I stretch while waiting for clients to show up.  I’m mindful of my posture and my habits.  But at the same time, I haven’t had dedicated, focused, regular bodywork in a long time.  Since my last 10-series, I’ve gone from never running to being an ultra runner.  I got really into yoga, doing 3-6 classes a week, and then stopped doing yoga altogether.  I’ve taken up (and put back down) climbing.  I met and married my husband.  I’ve moved a few times.  I’ve made friends and lost friends.  I got a pull-up bar.  You know, things change.  And there are a lot of little things that bug me regularly.  My right foot turns out to the side a bit.  My left hip aches now and again.  My shoulders round forward more than I’d like.  And every now and again I have a rib go out of place for a few days.  So, I’d like to address all of those, if we can.  It just feels like I could use a full-body tune up.  Which, the 10-series is great for.  Also, enlightenment.  I’d like to achieve enlightenment.  The 10-series can do that, right?

So, I’m starting the 10-series and I’m going to try to write about it as I go.  Both from the perspective of a Rolfer, knowing the objectives of each session and all the nerdy behind-the-scenes goodness, and from the perspective of a client, receiving the sessions in an attempt at greater health.  I hope it’s interesting or helpful or entertaining.  (Also, if you’ve been thinking about doing a 10-series yourself, this might be a great time to try it, as I’ll be digging through all my notes and whatnot from classes that I may not have looked at in, oh, 5 or 6 years.  Good stuff.)  Let the journey begin!