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Rolfing is a big undertaking.  It’s not cheap, it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of bravery and vulnerability, and there can be many uncomfortable side effects in the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental realms of your life while getting Rolfed.  And so, I am often asked by my clients, “What can I do to help?”  When undergoing such a possibly transformative process, many people want to make sure they do their part to help things along, and to make sure they’re getting the most bang for their buck, so to speak.  (Which is awesome, btw.  I love when my clients are really invested in the process of transformation.)

Generally, most of what you can do to support the work of Rolfing, whether you’re doing one session, or the 10-series, or ongoing work to unravel old injuries and patterns, is a lot of stuff that we all know we should be doing regardless, but is extra helpful if you can do it around your sessions.  Drink a lot of water.  Eat the food your body is asking you to eat.  Stretch and move when and how your body asks you to stretch and move.  Rest when you body asks you to rest.  Don’t sit in one position for hours on end.  In short, pay attention to what’s going on in your body, then respond accordingly.  It’s so obvious, but a lot easier said than done.

There are, however, a few things specific to Rolfing that can be beneficial to supporting your sessions.  Exercising immediately after a session is not a great plan.  So, get your workouts in beforehand, and make sure you can take a rest day after your session.  Actually, this applies to more than just exercise.  If you have the freedom to schedule your sessions so that you can relax and tune in to what your body is asking for afterwards, that can be super helpful.  Even if you do hear your body screaming that it would like a nice, long walk after your session, it’ll be hard to manage if you’ve got back-to-back meetings scheduled for the rest of the day.  Also, letting your body be a body without many other inputs is great for the integration of the structural changes we’ve made.  This means no shoes, no tight or restrictive clothing, no sitting on/in furniture/cars, and no movements that don’t happen in nature (i.e. no treadmills, no ellipticals, and no lat pulls).  Pro-tip: If you need a machine or a piece of equipment to do it, it’s probably not a natural movement.  So save that stuff for after your session has had a while to settle out and your body has found its new normal.  Obviously, it’s hard to go 24 hours in our culture without shoes or sitting in chairs or cars, so I’m really just asking that you mindfully avoid these things as much as possible, but there’s no need to get obsessive about it.

And on the emotional/spiritual front, talk therapy can be very helpful for processing and integrating the changes being made through your work with Rolfing.  As I like to say, “There are issues in the tissues.”  If any of these emotional issues come up during your sessions, I’m happy to talk about them, but it can also be super beneficial to work with a trained therapist, social worker, or counselor who can more thoroughly and skillfully help you get to where you want to be.  I’m also happy to coordinate with your therapist so they have a better idea what you’re going through (as so many people, therapists included, still don’t know what Rolfing is), if that’s at all helpful to you.

But that’s it.  Try to be aware of what your body wants and needs (both physical and mental) and create space to do what you want and need.  That’s all it takes to support your Rolfing sessions.  That, and enjoy your new flexibility, balance, strength, and stability.

(And buy a whole new closet full of barefoot-shoes, and get a moveable stand-up desk, and probably quit your job, and do pilates and yoga, and start walking a lot more, and climbing trees, and sleeping outside, and throw away your phone…  But that’s it.)

Can I talk to all my ladies for a few minutes?  We need to talk about boobs, or more specifically, bras.  Gentlemen, if you’re a life-long bra wearer, please, read on.  But generally, I’m talking to my women-folk here.

Dearest bra wearers,

For years, I have held off on saying something.  Like, from the beginning of my career as a Rolfer.  See, one of the things that drew me to Rolfing was that you (the client) got to do whatever you liked doing.  I had had a chiropractor tell me when I was in high school, that I shouldn’t go into landscaping, because it would be too hard on my back.  I’d had a surgeon, a doctor, and a physical therapist all tell me to give up on running after knee surgery.  I don’t really like being told what I can and can’t do.  Just ask my mom.  Rolfing never asked me to stop doing what I loved just because it hurt.  Instead, Rolfing attempted to make the hurting go away, so I could just enjoy the loving of the thing.  And that’s a major, major thing I love about Rolfing.

But.

There are things I see in my office, over and over and over and over again.  Things that make me cringe.  Things that make me sad.  And at a certain point, doesn’t it become my responsibility to say something?  As part of your healthcare team?  I want to be a good Rolfer and all, and not tell you what to do or what not to do.  But at the same time, I feel like I gotta say something.  What if I just tell you what I’m seeing and you can decide for yourself what you want to do or not do about it.  Okay?  Okay.

What I see is this: bras are suffocating us women.  When I think about it from a fascia standpoint, I’m not at all surprised.  If I wear a restrictive garment around any other body part, the body will change accordingly.  It’s like how shoes change the shape of our feet (and everything above them).  If you know anyone who has worn glasses their whole life and you ask them to take their glasses off, you can see the indentations in their heads, just above their ears, and usually at the bridge of the nose.  This is the whole idea behind braces and why they work to reorganize our teeth in our mouths.  How many of us have indentations in one of our middle fingers from where we hold a pen when writing?

So I understand why bras, too, would leave their mark with a tight band around the rib cage, just under the breasts.  Just like with shoes shaping feet and glasses shaping heads, you can see the indentations a bra strap leaves on the rib cage.

But then I started wondering about the benefits of bra wearing.  What’s the reason we’re wearing them all day, every day?  I understand there are several benefits to shoes.  Besides warms toes, protection from broken glass, and fashion, they’re required by the health department in restaurants.  I’m guessing most people who wear glasses their whole lives do it because they gain a benefit from having corrected vision and that benefit is worth the cost of having a slightly dented head.  Straight, well-organized teeth are highly valued in our culture, and probably easier to keep clean and healthy.  I will take a dented finger bone for the pleasure granted to me by writing.  But bras?  The cost-benefit analysis gets a little murky.

Why do we wear bras?  What is the benefit, here?  Well, they hold boobs up and in all sorts of positions that boobs don’t naturally come in.  They hold boobs still (or more still) during exercise and activity.  They make boobs look bigger, higher, smoother, and less dynamic than they actually are.  They minimize the appearance of nipples.  And they provide any extra layer of protection from the elements.  So, what it comes down to is mostly looks, with a little bit of function.  When I really take a good look, it seems like the number one reason I wear a bra is because it’s expected that I wear a bra.  I wear a bra because everyone else (with boobs) wears bras.  You know what they say about jumping off bridges just because your friends jump off bridges, right?

Really breaking it down, I realized despite my relatively high activity level, I ‘needed’ a bra for less than an hour and a half a day, on average.  I don’t like my boobs bouncing around while I run because it’s uncomfortable and I have sensitive nipples.  Same goes for when I play volleyball.  That works out to be about 9 hours a week that I ‘need’ the support of a sports bra.  And if I hadn’t coddled the damn things since I got ‘em, my boobs would probably be fine unsupported while I ran and played volleyball.  In addition to these ‘highly bouncy activities,’ I’m active in many other ways (walking, hiking, dancing, climbing trees, stretching, cleaning), but it’s actually fine if my boobs move during those activities.  That’s what they were designed to do. And it’s super fine for my boobs to be unsupported, free-flowing fat-bags while I do stuff like write, cook, read, watch tv, drink tea, and eat meals.

So, if I’m wearing a bra most of my waking hours, let’s say for 14 hours a day; but only 1.5 of those hours do I need a bra; then we’re looking at around 12.5 hours a day, every day of wearing a restrictive garment for no reason other than everyone else is doing it.  If I asked you to put one of your arms (even your non-dominant one) in a sling for 12 1/2 hours a day, every day, just because, how would you feel about that?  If I asked you to do this starting around the age of 10 and told you to do this every day for the rest of your life, how would you feel about that?  Why did we all agree to do this again?

Here’s the thing.  Your life would be severely limited if you put one of your arms in a sling for 12 1/2 hours a day, every day, but people live without arms.  Your survival does not depend on you having two functioning, sling-free arms.  You know what your survival does depend on?  Breath.  You know what a bra restricts?  Yeah.  See what I’m saying here?  See why I can’t just be quiet about this?  We need to breathe.  Yet every day, for 10-16 hours a day, most women (and girls who are on their way to becoming women) wrap a strap around their rib cages and voluntarily limit their breath.  The thing that keeps them alive.  Because everyone else is doing it.

What.  The.  Heck.

When I first started my practice, I thought, “well, that’s just how it goes with women.”  And I am so done with that.  It may be how it goes with women right now.  But, it’s not how it has to go.  There is no reason I can see, from a health perspective, for women to wear bras all the time.  They’re not cheap, or easy to maintain, or super convenient.  It’s not like any of us accidentally fell into the habit of wearing them because it was so fun.  If wearing a bra is more comfortable for you during certain activities (like me and running, per esempio), then by all means, be my guest.  But watching Portlandia?  Sitting at your desk checking emails?  Almost any activity besides jumping and running?  Think about it.  If we free the boobies, we begin to free the breath and the ribs, the shoulders and the neck, the sternum and the heart.  Sounds ay-okay to me.

I don’t want you to think that I’m this shining example of braless living.  I’m not.  But I am trying to wear a bra less.  Putting one on later in the day, taking it off as soon as I’m home at night.  Seeing if I can just be a little more conscious around my bra wearing instead of automatic.  I’m not going to tell you what to do or what not to do; I still want to be a good Rolfer, after all.  But if breath is important to you (and it is, trust me), maybe you might want to bring a little more consciousness to your bra habits as well.

That’s all for now, ladies.  Breathe free and prosper.

-Theresa

I want to try a different way. I want to dream into being a place where we focus on the basic work of living. Where our periods of rest and activity are determined by the sun and the seasons and our small internal voice that says ‘sleep’ or ‘go, do things.’ I dream of a place where we lie down when we are tired. Eat when we are hungry. Celebrate when joy bursts out of and through us. Where we work hard during the day because we are strong and our bodies get stronger and feel better when we use them. Where the work we do is meaningful and creative and necessary. Where art is created and valued. Where we live in dwellings that support and nurture our spirits as well as our bodies. Where we eat food we grow and gather and prepare ourselves. Where we talk to each other and laugh with each other and give thanks with each other and dance with each other. Where we remember the beauty and grace of simply being alive and what a magical gift that is. Where we take care with this life we’ve been granted.

I’ve been reading, listening to, and watching a lot of good stuff lately. If you’re interested in being heartbroken and inspired, like I was, here’s a short list: