- Slow down when you need to. Speed up when you don’t need to slow down. Massage that’s always slow is ultimately boring massage.
- Palpate – how can you love if you don’t know what’s there?
- Know anatomy – not just in general. Have memorized the origins, insertions and actions for at least the 90 most important muscles.
- Care; really care; let your care be palpable.
- First do no harm – to yourself! Pay attention to your body mechanics and your psycho-mechanics.
- Don’t substitute force for intelligence.
- Take a history; your client’s complaint arises from and takes place within their whole life. You’re working on time as much as space.
- Try to do no more than 4 sessions a day.
- Become a boundary genius; when you hold to impeccable boundaries it becomes a powerful part of the healing process. When you create an atmosphere of total safety and trust, the healing process is initiated.
- Don’t hedge on the business side – you are in the massage business as much as you are assisting in the healing process.
- Get massage. Not getting massage is like a writer never reading.
- Take a workshop at least once a year; a vacation twice a year, and a contemplative break once a day.
- Don’t give up. Work, exacting work, moves mountains.
by Gregory Gaiser
My first experience as a health care professional working with trauma happened in the early 1990s with a woman I’ll call Roberta. Roberta was in psychotherapy at a local women’s center which specialized in treatment for childhood sexual abuse and rape survivors.
Roberta’s story was particularly tragic as she had been born into and raised in a cult where the most heinous acts occurred. Not only was she repeatedly sexually abused in a ritualistic way, but she was also psychologically abused every day in her own family. As a result, she coped by separated the feelings, memories and body experiences into ‘parts’ within herself; her diagnosis was Multiple Personality Disorder (this was before the DSM diagnosis changed to Dissociative Identity Disorder).
She came to me for massage therapy as an adjunct to her psychotherapy. Our goal was to help Roberta reconnect with her body.
I quickly learned that no particular techniques in my massage school training had prepared me for working with Roberta. In fact, if I stayed within the realm of techniques and formulaic massage it was counterproductive. I had to work withRoberta as a person, not on her body with a set of symptoms.
By tracking the moment to moment impact of the touch and talking about that, healing and integration started to happen. I learned I had to be extremely flexible and emotionally attuned. I needed to remind Roberta that she was in charge and we could stop at any time. Slowly over time, cultivating an attitude of working together, we found a particular kind of ‘still touch’ spoke to all the parts inside Roberta: the terrified little girl, the older quiet child, the sullen and desperate teenager, the angry one, and even the pre-verbal infant. This approach offered Roberta a felt sense of safety through touch. The results were profound.
Roberta’s nervous system began to experience grounding and deactivation. She calmed down and experienced a felt sense of safety like never before.
Over time I began to study more and more about trauma and to understand how Roberta’s experiences were like those of other trauma survivors. Indeed she had things in common not only with other childhood sexual abuse survivors, but with battered wives, men and women who had served in combat, and people who had been in earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.
As a result of being in life or death situations, all these folks had dysregulated Autonomic Nervous Systems. Massage therapy can be a potent component of a treatment plan for such individuals.
Some years ago, I went with my daughter, Katja, to receive her first facial. The esthetician, from Colombia, explained how it would proceed. She said, “Your face does not end at your neck! It goes down to your chests!”
Well, something similar can be said about your back. Your back doesn’t end at the waist! It goes down to your tail!
However, the majority of massages I receive almost entirely avoid the sacrum! This is a serious problem. Unless you are working with a new or very modest client, you are doing them, especially those with lower back pain, a disservice by not addressing this area with knowledgeable, skillful, compassionate, specific touch.
This is just a matter of good applied anatomy. Take a look at the accompanying illustration. The fascia of the back ultimately goes down to the coccyx (and from there into the lower body). If you leave out specific work on the sacrum you are ignoring an area that is often literally and figuratively the root of low back pain.
Now I am not recommending work on the coccyx. But, to give the person the experience of the full length of their back and spine, you have to go at least three-quarters of the way down the sacrum.
And to address the fascia there you can’t just do a few general passes. This area needs specificity. As long as you are being sensitive, working here with thumbs, knuckles, or even, gently, with the elbow can make all the difference in the world.
Restore length and health to the lumbodorsal fascia working especially from L3 on down. Respond with deep transverse friction to fascial thickenings with the sacroiliac ligaments, exploring the space between the sacral spinous processes and the ilium.
Don’t ignore the sacrum!
This a simple but powerful reminder of how even the most sophisticated bodyworks, like Rolfing, are, fundamentally, just good applications of anatomical knowledge.
Honor your origins! Thoracolumbar fascia, we have your back!
Clients often reveal that the most intense areas discovered during the session are exactly that: unearthed, previously unknown tension and pain. Around this pain and because of it, compensatory movements and postures can grow. These very pragmatic structural and energetic arrangements are temporary adaptations, but can linger long after they have served their purpose, obscuring the initial cause. Compensations can become convoluted over time; intricate knots of, well, knots. Deep massage is my modality of choice in these situations.
Deep massage is a conversation with a client’s nervous system, with each step directed by working signs. Using the steps of the fulcrum, each touch is clear and safe; inviting the client to self-exploration. Deep massage doesn’t prejudge and impose; it listens and invites. The client, rather than bracing against a foreign force, listens to what they themselves are doing. Sometimes they share their discoveries, and it is humbling to understand our role in the process when they do.
Massage as an Introduction to Oneself
I’ll recall the following session as an example. My client booked a session through the hotel to help her recover from hours on a plane. She was in her thirties, fit, sharp. Her head position was beautifully neutral, a product of attention and yoga. The session proceeded unremarkably, a mixture of circulatory modalities with the occasional fulcrum into areas that were holding onto tension. She remained silent throughout the session until I placed a fulcrum into pectoralis major. She said, “I’m thinking of my brother.” She took a deep breath, then said, “He died in Iraq last year. This is the first time I have been able to think of him without breaking down.” She was not overwhelmed by emotion; she was releasing the tension around her heart. She was able to look beyond what I was doing, to discover what she was doing.
We serve our clients best when we introduce them to themselves.
by David Lauterstein
I’m not sure you all know that we have a delightful and very special workshop coming up on March 30. It is a don’t-miss experience to for all bodyworkers and massage therapists in Central Texas! This remarkable class is called Fascial Explorations – and the Streams of Life.
It features Ritchie Mintz, one of Austin’s most highly esteemed Rolfers and teachers. It also features a rare appearance of Howard Miller who has been with Wheatsville for many years and is their produce and meat supervisor. Mr. Miller will be contributing a detailed knowledge of anatomy and fascia while Ritchie will be sharing insights from many years of studying, doing Rolfing, and attaining a mastery of working with the body’s fasciae.
I want to share some information about Ritchie Mintz. I first met Ritchie in 1985 when I moved to Austin. Ritchie had been one of the early Rolfing students who was privileged to study directly with Ida P. Rolf. So Ritchie has been devoted to this tradition now for over 30 years. His enthusiasm is contagious and his knowledge from all his experience is vast.
Though a published author for many years, this year has seen the publication of his first book – Foundations of Structural Integration. This book is a labor of love, a superb, personal and professional view of structural integration that is both enlightening and delightful to read.
Ritchie is both a total enthusiast and a total joy. His sense of humor and his vision combine to foster a much deeper knowledge and enjoyment in doing bodywork. Not surprisingly, he is, as befits all Austin therapists in this live music capital of the world, also a musician! He is well known also as a devoted bluegrass banjo player!
A few years ago, I was at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California assisting one of my teachers, Dr. Fritz Smith, who interestingly had been one of the earliest Rolfing students as well. I was sitting in the dining room there when who should appear as if conjured up out of thin air? Ritchie Mintz! Even though we both live here, it had been a year or more since we’d seen each other. What fun! Ritchie and I had a great time and especially since then have enjoyed our mutual admiration more than ever.
I want to encourage you to join Ritchie Mintz and Howard Miller for this unprecedented, stimulating and fun day – exploring the role of fascia in biology and in all the work that we do.
In the previous article on the Austin Massage blog I focused on the “Deeper” aspects of Lomi Lomi (it’s a great read and I encourage you to read or reread it and blend it with this new article.) Since Lomi Lomi means to “Weave”, amongst its other definitions, I thought I would weave this article into that.
With the deep waters of Lomi Lomi being explored in the previous article, lets now bring ourselves back up to the surface where we can float effortlessly on the waves of authentic experiences and new learning.
As a veteran therapist I have been surprised at the level of forward progress in our profession. New techniques, new approaches, new methods , clinical therapy, scientifically evidence based, deep structural alignment, all of which have their merits and values and benefits to the physical human condition. It seems as though I am swimming in a sea of so much information and being expected to learn all of it and utilize it and take workshops on it and continue my education.
As a teacher of Massage and a practicing therapist this is the realm I live in and to be honest it gets overwhelming and I find myself,at times, wanting to swim in simpler and calmer seas. With my learning comes those breaks where I have to rejuvenate myself and re-affirm why I became a therapist and now an educator. Lomi Lomi surpisingly provided me with that break and re-affirmation.
Not only was it easy enough to pick up it was also challenging enough to get me back into my body and refocus my physical tools to work on others.
Lomi Lomi also,to my surprise, greatly enhanced all the other modalities I learned and enhanced the quality of how I contact bodies. I realized that my forearms were a very valuable tool to utilize and by using them so efficiently I could rescue my hands and wrists from burn out and injury. Lomi Lomi also taught me to,in the midst of my usual compartmentalization of the body, see the body as a whole and to flow around it in such a way that felt not only comfortable but it made sense to my left analytical brain. Lomi Lomi literally weaved its way into everything I did as a therapist. When I first learned it and started to incorporate the techniques into my routines and sessions, my clients started coming back again and again,so much that one year I won an award for being one of the most requested therapists where I worked. This only proved to me the value of what I had learned and the value of applying it to my tool bag of techniques.
What I didn’t expect from this learning was that Lomi Lomi would also re-open my heart and my mind to the endless possibilities of my own growth in not only this profession but in my life.
“E pili mau na pomaika`i ia `oe” ( May Blessings ever be with you)
This is an article I’ve spent a long time writing – for the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education and just published by Massage Today. May it do a WORLD of GOOD.
Please share with other therapists!
Very happy to get these responses already! Thank you most sincerely!
“A very well spoken and balanced perspective on this challenging topic (and we could use a lot more of that balanced perspective!).” – Whitney Lowe (OMERI)
“David hits the nail on the head with this one. Many thanks for bringing a balanced perspective to the collective conversation!”- Kate Ivane Henri Zulaski (COMTA)
Read the entire article – CLICK HERE!
by Lauren Bilbe
A few years back, I made a fortuitous decision to leave my career as a bureaucrat. My goal was to find a calling that allowed me to live a rhythm of life that works optimally for me, allowing for more free time. I desired to have a greater, more immediate impact on my community. Massage has met those goals and allowed a transformation of healing and healer within me that is proving greater than my hopes.
In my first year as a practitioner, I have learned to more fully trust myself and my intuition. Like any great education, I left massage school feeling confident in my skills and a sense of wonderment at all of the possibilities out there for me to learn and try.
My natural reaction to massage as a science is to want to learn more, understand anatomy, physiology, pathology and the interconnectedness of the human body at its depths, a life-long pursuit. The human body is absolutely fascinating to me. And yet the art part, trust and intuition, is just as important. I am learning to open myself as a channel for artistic, therapeutic experiences at the fulcrum of the clients’ needs, yet releasing my attachment to outcomes and any desire to fix them. I provide educated healing experiences the clients receive how they need with great results. Trusting myself and my intuition has been key at every step of the entrepreneurial process, from taking the initial leap of becoming a therapist and private practitioner, to continuously figuring out marketing and new client needs.
Building my practice has allowed me to face challenges and opportunities on my terms with the spaciousness to take care of what arises with presence. It is creating spaciousness in the now, being fully present with myself and others, that is the most important skill in life from my perspective. Massage allows the time and spaciousness for presence. For me, the practice is in large part a moving meditation. I practice acceptance of the present moment as the key to quieting my mind, my little meandering path to Nirvana. This space allows me to provide a higher quality of touch, to be more creative in session design and to adapt my sessions more readily based on the clients’ needs.
Massage has been a gift of transformation for me. My heart feels a renewed sense joy and ease when I am giving massage. I feel in alignment with my purpose. All of these qualities (happiness, peace, presence, trust, connectedness, and I add love) are what we all strive to create in our lives, isn’t it? I find my bliss in this moving meditation.
Lauren Bilbe loves running her private massage therapy practice Willow Bend Wellness (www.willowbendwell.com), providing integrated table and Thai yoga massage. She specializes in working with outdoor, wellness, and spiritual growth enthusiasts who seek to relieve chronic and lifestyle related pain, mobility, and energy limitations. Lauren considers travel an important tool for deepening compassion towards the human experience and all life and keeps a blog of her adventures, Trails of Wonder (www.trailsofwonder.wordpress.com). She welcomes your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it “the way it really was”. It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.
— Walter Benjamin – Illuminations
The above quotation may serve to remind us – we are living in a potentially dangerous time. Not to be a spoil sport, but we know that it is reasonable, given the unresolved psychological and ecological issues of humankind, to wonder how and whether we will be around 50-100 years from now. In addition to possible future global dangers, massage therapists and educators are themselves at a great crossroads defining, as we become more accepted and accessible, whether we are really to become part of the medical-industrial establishment or to retain our maverick, holistic feet-in-both camps- status. Frankly, I’m staunchly in the latter camp, believing in the precious natural and spiritual healing legacy of Pehr Henrik Ling, Andrew Taylor Still, Ida Rolf and other great teacher/therapists throughout history. I am firmly convinced, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin, that even the dead will not be safe if the reductive medical model is victorious.
Years ago there was a famous issue of National Geographic magazine containing a lengthy article on the immune system. It aroused in me some sneaking suspicions. It depicted the immune system as an intense and formidable military apparatus with T-cells as tanks and B-cells as anti-personnel weapons, the good solider lymphocytes, the valiant white blood cells all amassed in do-or-die battle against the dreaded pathogens, the NON-SELF substances, the foreign invaders threatening our very boundaries! I thought – just wait a minute! This is b.s. Is health really to be defined as an organism’s success at defending itself against foreign invaders?
At that time I postulated in jest and in hope a much more interesting system, one based on nourishment and love, not on division, conquest or repulsion. This is a complementary system with its own specialized cells, molecular dynamism and organs which splendidly welcomes “outsiders”. I imagined the foreign visitors being offered refreshment. “Some DNA or maybe you would like a phosphate? Or a massage in the interstitial baths or would you like to experience the sublimity of being rocked in the cerebrospinal fluid?”
These thoughts acted as seeds for years of questioning and reflection. Where and how might be this opposite of the immune system? It is still a question which is very much with me.
Sam Keen, the philosopher, said something like anything you can accomplish in one lifetime is probably not worth doing. The most important questions are those in fact which are posed by evolution itself, those which are taking generations of humans and perhaps the evolved spectrum of life millennia to survive, let alone answer. These are truly great questions!
Anyhow, a few years ago, a chiropractor somewhat patronizingly claimed to me that chiropractors were more effective than massage therapists because with their adjustments they worked faster than the stretch reflex could kick in. Somewhat defensively I countered that our work was at least as powerful because we worked slower than the stretch reflex could kick in.
Years later this conversation lit up a big light bulb for me. I was searching for an explanation as to the nature and efficacy of the main touch tool of Zero Balancing, called the “fulcrum”. This is similar to what I and others teach as “melting” or myofascial release in which the therapist presses into the body until he/she feels the beginning of resistance, then waits attentively for a further opening, then adds, as feels appropriate, two or more additional gentle vectors of force. Explained anatomically, I thought, one might say the therapist enters until just the beginning of the stretch reflex, waits for it to fatigue, then softens and lengthens the connective tissue in some relevant directions.
Then suddenly I began to see the stretch reflex as primarily a response to entry into the body, not only as a mechanism designed to prevent the overstretching of joint. A whole new world opened up.
Seen from this perspective, the stretch reflex is a way for the body to repel from its surface things that bump against it too hard or too fast. It serves, in other words, to repel non-self substances. But isn’t that an immune function? Exactly.
The stretch reflex is an immune mechanism repelling non-self input but on such a grand scale that we may want to consider it as part of what I call the “macro-immune system”.
Let’s take a moment for reverie. For a minute just imagine that you are receiving an incredible massage. Not just a good massage – an incredible massage, anywhere in or out of this universe, from anyone or anything. Enjoy imagining receiving your most ideal, incredible massage. (Please breathe and pause).
My guess, from having talked now with thousands of students, clients and therapists, is that some elements of what you experienced may have included feelings of total safety and a letting go of anxiety; a sense of unimpeded being; a sense of being un-isolated and easily connected to all of yourself and the environment you are at home in.
Massage is not a very revealing word for what we do. From the experiences people report, it is certainly more accurate to describe it, for instance, as re-connection therapy. Virtually everyone you ask, when they are freed to imagine what is or has been most extraordinary about receiving massage, report this sense of deep self-acceptance and a deep sense of being at home in this world.
Yet something about the concept of immunity kept bugging me. I decided to look it up in the dictionary. It means, get this, “exempt from public service.” AHA! I felt at once the glee of discovery and the tragedy imbedded in the very root of the word. By placing immunity, “exemption from public service”, at the center of our healing ideology, our society has hitherto made disconnection, successful isolation, as the sine qua non for health. Everyone’s an island! This isn’t a definition of health. It’s a prescription for loneliness and dis-ease!
So now of course it all came together – what’s the opposite of immunity? – COMMUNITY, meaning to “serve together.” Let’s look and see what may be the beginnings of a community-based model for health.
What happens in a great massage? We get a direct and extremely thorough experience of being beyond an immunity-based orientation. The macro-immune system shuts down and we let someone else’s being contact us. We step beyond immune-based living, beyond isolation, literally into community or, if you like, communion, an experience of oneness with another being. We are one, if only for moment which feels like an eternity because in oneness our everyday sense of time and space is gone. This touch of communion takes us out of our narrow selves and restores us to a larger, saner whole.
Insanity can be seen as the world-view based on the belief that we are fundamentally separate isolated beings with no connection to each other. But even on a rigorous scientific level we encounter primarily connection and community: atomic – there is no atom belonging to or defining me as opposed to the environment; ecology – the science of the environment in which interdependence and co-evolution are the rule; sociology – studying the intricately interwoven tapestry of culture requisite to civilization. Please look around at the world we share! Not even to mention our connection in time – evolution and history. As a matter of fact, from a scientific standpoint it is virtually impossible to prove the existence of separate beings! The fabric and interweave are what’s obvious. On this common sense level then science and religion agree in saying there is no separate self-existing self, except as a more or less conveniently held fiction for the definite but limited benefit of certain “self-conscious” organisms.
In a precise sense we are rescued from isolation by massage. We are, in other words, saved. It is no accident that God’s saving grace, his life-giving touch of Adam, is so commonly used in therapists’ logos and literature. “Salvation” comes from the Latin root meaning, “whole, unbroken.”
Eating of the tree of knowledge really has been rough. With our enhanced cortical capacity to draw distinctions we divided up the world into you/me, good/evil, us/them, friend/foe ever since and it has nearly killed us! At the same time in the spiritual realm and recently in science, we see a striving for wholeness. Gustav Schwenk in his incredible work, Sensitive Chaos shows how water inherently strives to form a circle – that’s why it meanders as a river, to try to re-unite with itself in circular form. Sometimes I think human life is just striving for re-union on the basis of its fundamental water nature.
In massage we are redeemed by inspired touch from the sense of being isolated. We remember our larger self. We are not fundamentally separate. Our deep need for community is fed. The community, literally nourished, grows and we are more alive. While still getting permission from the person’s being, and protecting the person from harm, we affirm a new, more united experience of being. This is the second coming. Coming home to oneness.
This is what we have to teach. This is what we have to learn.
by Ritchie Mintz
Sunshine Canyon, Boulder, Colorado. April 1973.
When Michael McIver opened the door, he had a twinkle in his eyes and a smile that hinted of a secret he was willing to share. I was immediately taken with how happy he seemed to be with his livelihood. I remember thinking, “Maybe I could be that happy some day.”
As we visited, Michael was looking at me in a way I felt I’d never been seen before. What is he looking at? What does he see? I wondered if he could see my insecurities. Could he see how small and insignificant I felt? Could he see how I really wanted to love myself and my life if only — if only what? Even I didn’t know. But somehow, Michael McIver, Certified Rolfer™, seemed to see and to know.
We walked back to the Rolfing room where I found a low homemade plywood table with a foam pad covered by a clean sheet. One corner of the room had a Polaroid camera on a tripod. We were ready. I removed my outer clothes and left my shorts on. Michael’s presence was so easy that I felt okay. I thought, “Not bad for a guy who doesn’t want to be seen at the beach in a bathing suit.”‘
Michael took Polaroid pictures of my front, back, and profile and we looked at them right away. Michael pointed out how my lower back was so swayed forward as to be completely hidden behind my elbows in the side views. He showed me how my ribs were compressed and dropped down in front, giving me a look of having little or no chest. I already knew that. Most striking was that my hips, as seen from front and back, did not begin to approach being level. My right hip was dramatically higher than my left and my right shoulder was dropped down a lot lower than my left shoulder. In profile, my tilted pelvis dumped my abdomen forward. I had always wondered – I don’t have an ounce of fat on me, how could I have that protruding belly?
Michael was quick to say that these were not isolated problems or independent from one another. They were all related and all part of a “big picture”, if one only had the eyes to see it that way. I thought for the first time that I was beginning to “see” what Michael saw when he looked at me. It occurred to me that if he could see people’s ”invisible” problems that most folks just take for “normal”, the world must be a pretty funny looking place to a Rolfer. Perhaps that was the reason for Michael’s secret smile. Maybe he could see places where people hold their strains and pains and he knew he could do something to help them. I sure hoped he could do something for mine.
We did a session about once every two or three weeks. At times the work seemed intense but I noticed that whatever discomfort I experienced came not from Michael but rather from inside of me. There were places that were very tender which were, of course, right where I needed the most release. Michael was very sensitive to how much pressure was too much and although he pushed my limits at times, he never exceeded them.
Considering the outcome of Michael’s efforts, it is amusing that at the time, I found some of his favorite comments very annoying. As he worked, he would say things like, “Now feel how you can breathe into your armpits.” Or he would say, “Feel the length come into your back.” Sometimes he said, “See if you can feel the support of gravity.”
Whenever he said these things, I would think to myself (but never aloud since I liked him), “Would you please spare me these kooky California witticisms.” Most annoying was how he proclaimed repeatedly throughout the ten sessions, “We’re breaking up the ice so the river can flow.” “Give me a break!” was my silent retort. But the work went on.
In addition to the Polaroid pictures he took before session #1, Michael also took pictures after #3, #5, and #7. As we looked over these pictures, Michael seemed most pleased. He pointed and said, “Look how much longer this side is,” and, “See how much more balanced this looks.” I looked and looked but I swear I never saw any changes. I said as nicely and agreeably as I could, “Michael, if you say so, okay, but I don’t see it.” Michael was unperturbed. He just shrugged as if to say, “It is there. Someday you will see it.” And boy, was he right about that!
We completed the series with my 10th session in August, about five months after we began. Michael took a final set of photos after session #10 and we reviewed the pictures of Before #1 and After #10. Michael went on and on about how this had lengthened and that had changed. He spoke of balance and support, of release and organization. He asked me if I saw what he was talking about. Again, I said, “Michael, if you say so, I believe you, but I swear I don’t see it.” Michael smiled that “I know a secret” smile and said, “This isn’t the end — it’s the beginning. Don’t forget, Ritchie, your body will continue to change in the next six months or more.” He thanked me and I thanked him and I left the house with my pictures in my hand.
I got into my car and started the engine but I didn’t drive away. I sat there thinking – Well, everybody told me to get Rolfed™ and I did, but so what? I didn’t feel any different and I saw no changes in the pictures. I sensed that something significant had happened but I could not determine what. I scratched my head, drove home, and threw the pictures into a drawer. And that’s the way I stayed for the next six months. I was in a long-term state of scratching my head and wondering just what in the heck this Rolfing thing was. It was August 1973.
Six months later, in February, I happened to be walking down Pearl Street in Boulder. I was minding my own business and thinking about anything but Rolfing when I happened to catch a glimpse of myself reflected like a mirror in a storefront window. What I saw stopped me in my tracks.
I looked and looked and looked. I exclaimed out loud, “That’s not me!” But it was me. As I looked, I saw that my sunken chest was puffed up high and proud. My butt, which had always stuck up like a duck’s, was neatly tucked down and under. My former sway back was long and straight. My scrawny neck, usually stuck forward like a buzzard’s, was also long and straight. My head, instead of poking forward, was poised and balanced easily atop my shoulders. My shoulders were back and I looked like a proud Marine at attention. No, better than that. I was both straight and relaxed all at the sametime. I took a couple of steps forward and back. Instead of my awkward waddle that I had grown to hate so much over the years, I saw a brave, self-assured citizen of the world striding down the avenue.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! That couldn’t be me! But there it was. I took a breath and an amazing thing happened. I felt the breath effortlessly fill my whole chest and my back right up into my armpits! I was stunned! I couldn’t help but remember Michael McIver saying, “Breathe into your armpits.” I had silently ridiculed the very idea.
I found that if I swayed and shifted my weight back and forth between my toes and my heels, I could find a point where I felt completely weightless, as if I weren’t even there. At that zero-balance point, I felt that all my front muscles perfectly balanced my back muscles. At the same time, my back muscles perfectly balanced my front muscles. Likewise, my left and right sides perfectly balanced each other and I was… I was… well, balanced. I felt supported, however, I wondered, supported by what? It hit me again what Michael had said — “Feel the support of gravity.” And for the first time in my life, I did.
Then an even more amazing thing happened. As I stood there oblivious to all the other life around me on Pearl Street, I felt a river of… I didn’t know what… run up my spine! It seemed to begin in the seat of my jeans and it shot right up my spine and out through the top of my head. Again, Michael’s words washed over me: “We’re breaking up the ice so the river can flow!” YES! Yes, I feel it, Michael! I feel the river!! It was perfect.
At that point, it all hit me at once like a ton of bricks. In that profound moment, I fully got what structural integration is and what it does. I understood for the first time what my physical problems were and I saw why no previous efforts to change my body ever touched them. Suddenly I got how SI effectively addressed my structural issues. I also knew in that magical moment who Ida Rolf was and what her legacy was that she left for the planet.
Superimposed on top of all this revelation was something even more profound for me. It occurred to me that I had spent the previous 26 years … all my life… hating my body. Now, here in one second, I saw that a technology existed to, for the most part, make anything one could want out of a body. Here was a system that can release the human body from the pattern of distortions caused by birthing, accidents, injuries, seriousillness, pregnancy and delivery, surgery, negative emotion, cultural upbringing, and even the strain of living in the earth’s gravity. Here, finally, was the tool I could use to work on myself and erase the blocks to the happiness that had eluded me all my life.
Standing there before my reflection on Pearl Street that crisp February afternoon, I forgave my body and my life. My heart swelled with love for myself. My eyes flooded with tears as I forgave my body for its smallness and its fear and self-hatred. I realized that had I been born with the rugged swashbuckling body that I longed for all my life, I would hardly have been capable of appreciating how structural integration had set me free. Nor would I have the compassion and skill I would need for working with people who are small and stuck like I was. In that minute, a whole new life began for me that continues to this day.
I thought of Michael McIver and his secret smile. I thought of the love Dr. Rolf must have for this planet and its people. I thought that this thing with its unwieldy yet totally descriptive name – structural integration – was an original creative concept that had changed my whole way of relating to myself and to my life. And I knew in that beautiful moment that I wanted to share this with the world. I, too, would be a Rolfer.
® Rolfing is a service mark of the Rolf Institute, Boulder, CO USA