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The second session of my 10-part Rolfing series began very similarly to a 5Rhythms® movement class, with an emphasis on the feet. My therapist Laurie explained that this particular session would not be as physically intense as the previous one, which had focused on such an anatomical (and emotional!) powerhouse: the ribs, solar plexus, and diaphragm.
She described that the first session was necessary in order to release the areas around the lungs, as this kind of work is not possible without being able to breathe fully!
Once that key area is open, it’s then time to work on the “grounding” areas of the body: the feet and lower legs.
Her description of why the feet are so important early on in Rolfing made so much sense, as it is also a key concept in the 5Rhythms practice. Flowing, the first rhythm, the rhythm of the earth, is about finding your connection to the floor, establishing groundedness, pulling energy up from the earth as your sustenance rather than grasping frantically at air.
It’s not about knowing where you’re going but having confidence you’ll be able to get yourself there, wherever “there” is. You’re completely aware of the support holding you upright.
Laurie was right—the first half of the 60-minute session was incredibly relaxing and reminded me of reflexology, the way she pressed into key pressure points on my feet. Reflexively, my fingers began to fan along with my spreading toes.
It was certainly more active than reflexology, though, with her prompting me to flex and release my ankle several times as she worked in that area and up my calves. It felt a bit like a PT session for a foot injury, with all of the repetition. (And I’m speaking highly of PT here, not knocking it! It did wonders for me 4 years ago for my hip issues.)
Like the first session, I began to experience some interesting sensations as the session continued.
The first thing I noticed was a distortion in my perception of size. My body began to feel very small and Laurie’s arms, which were working on my legs at the time, very long. Lying there with my eyes closed, I did not understand how Laurie’s condor wing-arms could continue to move up and up and up my leg, which felt no longer than a standard ruler. I was certain she’d hit my head, when in reality she never strayed from my leg.
Then, the reverse. My legs no longer felt tiny but expansive, billowing from below my quadriceps like clouds or overly fluffy pillows. It got to the point where my legs no longer felt attached to my body, that they were these highly sensitive entities hanging out in my personal space but not attached by means of bone or muscle, tendons or ligaments. It was a very contradictory sensation—my legs feeling “detached,” and yet I was still so highly aware of them, feeling every touch of Laurie’s.
But perhaps the most powerful moment of the session was when Laurie was working on my left knee. She was doing nothing painful or terribly intense, but suddenly it felt like that knee was a portal to All The Energy on the left side of my body, and she had successfully opened it.
I felt a rush of warm, pleasant, bubbly energy spread up through my hip, chest, spine, all the way up into the back of my skull. My body rocked in place a bit, and I released some kind of vocal exclamation—a laugh or a Wow! or an ecstatic *&*&((**^####! All I remember was feeling like I had just experienced a kundalini opening on my left side, and that the knee was the trigger point.
Laurie ended my session the same way she does for each, by cradling the neck and skull and doing some kind of energy healing that this time felt like I had long Rapunzel-like locks spreading outward that she was combing with an electrically charged brush. It’s both a bizarre and comforting feeling, all at once.
(Would it be weird to say that right before the Rapunzel hair sensation, I felt like everything from my neck up was encased in a swirling red, gold, and green Christmas ball, but it was a sensation so soothing and reassuring that I was nearly brought to tears? Yeah? Well, that’s what was going on.)
My immediate sensations after the session included:
- Baby-smooth soles, as though they had been scrubbed with a pumice stone.
- Incredible sense of equal weight distribution between the feet—no wobbling from right to left.
- Intense awareness of the bottoms of my feet, almost like I could feel the bottom of my shoes through my socks.
- A sense of walking with purpose and confidence.
- Vibrancy of the world around me, senses in high gear—mostly in the way I perceived color (green tree buds, red cars, yellow street signs).
- My legs looking much thinner when I put my pants back on after the session, as though I had done some magic instant toning exercise routine.
- My left foot expelling excess energy during my car ride home, a bubbly sensation, like my foot was carbonated!
- HUGE emotional release during the drive home, crying just to cry, which released a lot of blockage in my throat area.
It has been about two weeks since that session, and I’m still happy with the way my feet feel. Maybe it’s also because I’m wearing thinner socks or no socks now due to the warmer weather, but I do feel like I have more contact with the floor than usual.
I’ve noticed my gait feels more comfortable now—I take a walking break every day at lunch and sometimes felt like I was walking on a tilt. That has subsided.
The effects from the first session are still sticking for the most part as well. I don’t feel like I’m being tugged forward on my left side, and I’ve been able to incorporate more lunges into my morning stretching routine, something I stopped doing for a while because of the restriction I felt in my psoas, pelvis, and lower back. Now, those lunges actually feel good rather than a prelude to another hip injury.
This week I return for Session 3: the side body!
When Bryan and I decided to go to Washington, DC this past Saturday, my #1 priority was to get to the National Gallery of Art to see Thomas Cole’s The Voyage of Life. It is the four-part series of paintings that inspired Jeanne Ruddy’s Out of the Mist, Above the Real, the dance piece I saw a few weeks ago. The piece moved me greatly, and how fortunate am I that a day trip to DC allowed me the opportunity to see the original artwork behind the choreography?
Once I got that off my chest, we moseyed around the museum and admired Manet, Monet, Renior, and Degas, among others, including a visually striking photography exhibit on the circa-1984 New York City subway. Although snaking through an art museum without a guidebook or plan of action makes me a bit discombobulated (I feel like I need a trail of breadcrumbs to remind me where I’ve been), the act of turning a corner and coming face to face with something surprising, stirring, or moving is what the museum experience is all about.
I hesitate to interrupt this artistic discussion with talk of food, but I feel it is my duty to share with everyone my love for the Mitsitam Cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian. If you need to break for lunch at one of the Smithsonian museums, this is the one to do so.
The food court is broken down into stations representing the various regions of the Americas and the foods indigenous to that culture: Northern Woodlands, Mesoamerica, South America, Northwest Coast, and Great Plains. You can mix and match food items, creating one melting pot of a meal. It reminds me of World Showcase in Epcot, but without the need to walk a mile in the central Florida sun to collect your global cuisine.
Our meal, clockwise from upper left: Indian fry bread; buffalo chili; cedar-plank fire-roasted salmon with wild berry glaze; pumpkin cookies; red beets, candied apples, toasted walnuts, cherry vinaigrette; braised chard; and quesadilla with chihualua cheese, spinach, mushroom, and huitlacoche.
We did a lot of walking, probably close to a half marathon (13 miles) by the end of the day, including a ridiculously strenuous climb up a non-working escalator in the Woodley Park-Zoo Metro station as other (sane) people watched us from the functioning one. The ascent was steep and loooong; it looked like a fun challenge at first but then just got hard. We further punished ourselves by standing in a 20-minute line at the Zoo to see a panda bear that was dead asleep and then walking through every twist and turn of the Asia exhibit hoping to catch sight of the sloth bear that was nowhere to be found.
One thing I did find, though, was each of the 5Rhythms. Even when I’m trekking around the nation’s capital, my mind is never far from dancing and the rhythms that tie us all together. For example, I witnessed kites soaring high above the National Mall lawn (Flowing), a flock of Canada geese audibly pecking the grass under their webbed feet (Staccato), a group of hyper schoolchildren in matching T-shirts and hats scramble onto their tour bus (Chaos), a young girl in a cream-colored dress run with her same-colored dog up a grassy hill (Lyrical), and a group of veterans in wheelchairs being pushed slowly around the Vietnam Memorial (Stillness).
I think the practice of 5Rhythms, coupled with yoga and meditation, has helped sharpen my senses and my awareness of all the little dances taking place within the larger dance. When you look at a satellite map of a city, everything looks either gray, green, or blue. Look closer, and you see, hear, and feel the rhythms:
This past weekend I went to the bank to deposit a check and get some cash.
I gave the teller my check, the deposit slip, and requested my $50 back in tens.
Click, click, click went his computer, and in seconds he was presenting me a handful of five $10 bills.
I paused, furrowed my brow. What the…? The transaction was over way too quickly, and I felt uncomfortable by the way he just magically produced my cash and handed it over without counting it. Every teller counts your money! Several times, in fact! That’s why they wear those plastic finger condoms, so they can whip through those bills like a blackjack dealer. The nerve of this teller, to just assume he produced the correct amount of money…
…and then reality hit me. I saw the black printer-like machine next to the teller–a money computer. Just days ago, this teller would have opened a drawer, pulled out some tens, and flip, flip, flipped through the wad to give me the correct amount. But now all he has to do is click in some code that translates to $50 = tens, and with a yawn he reaches down, grabs the cash, and ho-humly passes it over to me like a bored CVS clerk giving me my receipt for a bottle of water.
Technology, 1; Things That Make Life Exciting, 0.
Sure, counting money the old-fashioned way must be time consuming when paired with a robot that does the math for you, but there is something fascinating about watching a bank teller whip through a stack of new, freshly cut bills with cheetah-like speed: 10-20-30-40-50. Re-stack. 10-20-30-40-50. Re-stack. 10-20-30-40-50. All yours! Have a great day! It’s a sensory experience of watching the teller flash through the the money, hearing the flip-flip-flip of the paper against the person’s hands. It adds some color to the otherwise mundane task of going to the bank, a little magic trick of sorts to make that 10-minute wait in line seem not so bad in the end. And, jeez, at least it gives the teller a little dignity! Going from bank lobby pseudo-magician to robot peon can’t be good for self-esteem.
The bank encounter reminded me of other sensory experiences being silenced in place of technology, one of which is the old time board at Orlando International Airport.
I nicknamed this behemoth the “flippy screen,” because any time a plane departed, arrived, or was delayed, the line in question spun like the numbers on a slot machine until the new designation was listed. At times several lines would flip at once, making the sound of a card dealer on speed. It was fun to witness, too, a bit mesmerizing, like watching little old ladies in a casino pull their slot machine lever over and over and over again. Lucky 7s? Flight to Philadelphia on time?
So you can imagine my disappointment when, several years ago, my beloved flippy screen became a victim of technology and was replaced with several flat-panel televisions. They’re boring. They just sit there. When a flight status changes, in just a blink of an eye, the wording goes from “Boarding” to “Departed.” Like that! No sound, no anticipation of where the flippy board will end. It’s like getting a scratch-off lottery ticket and finding that the numbers appear by themselves without you having to grind a penny into the card and brush the metallic crumbs off your kitchen counter. Yes, it’s quicker, but what’s the fun in that?
We have eyes and ears and a nose for a reason. We’re sensory creatures!
Now, I dislike the traffic that builds up around toll booths on bridges and expressways, but I’m not looking forward to the day these guys go extinct:
True, true, these coin baskets can sometimes be a great cause of anxiety on the road (“Do I have exact cash?” “Is my car too far away from the basket?” “What if I have awful aim and the coin misses?!”), but again, it’s a sensory experience. There’s the satisfaction off “gettin’ the coins in” (c’mon, we’ve all at least once compared ourselves to some sports hero when all the money reaches its destination), the jingle-jingle as the money funnels to the bottom of the basket, and the final nod of approval from the monitor that has counted all of our coins and gives us permission to pass through the gate.
There are plans underway to make many of the roads in South Jersey all under the control of EZ-Pass, eliminating not only these delightful sounds of quarters and dimes tap dancing in a plastic bucket but most of the physical, human people who serve as toll collectors as well. No matter how many times I tell my husband the story of the charming toll collector on the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge who flirted with my grandmother every Friday when she crossed into Philly to visit her siblings, he firmly stands by fiscal responsibility and eliminating unnecessary jobs and doesn’t care about jingle-jangles or romantic glances from overpaid toll collectors. I totally see his point, and my brain agrees–it’s my eyes, ears, fingers, and heart that struggle to make peace with all of this sensory-stealing technology.
The other day I finally fulfilled my desire to spend a day down the shore. I get anxious and antsy when summer weather kicks in and I have yet to see the ocean; summer is already so fleeting, and I feel like once Memorial Day hits, a countdown clock to doomsday (cold weather, dark nights) starts ticking. I have do everything NOW!
I feel very fortunate to live in such an area where I can grab a few dollar bills, spare quarters, hop in the car, and in just over an hour be surrounded by surf and sand. I was giddy on the car ride down, my anticipation and excitement doubling once I hit the rest stop on the AC Expressway.
The causeway, which links the shore points to Jersey mainland, is like the rainbow to Oz. Once you cross over the bridge, only good things lie ahead.
I made the mistake of taking off my sandals to walk from the boardwalk to the ocean. I was expecting the sand to be hot but not scorching. It was like walking on burning coals, and I nearly collapsed onto a stranger’s blanket just so I could save my feet. I could feel the heat rising from my soles to my knees to my thighs; it was an awful, awful feeling, and I thought I was going to need medical attention.
One of my most brilliant decisions of the trip was to wear running shorts for the day, the kind with the built-in underwear. It was so stinkin’ hot and humid that day, even down the shore, so I felt pretty relaxed and comfy. 🙂
I was by myself that day and didn’t have my photographer husband on hand to snap shots of me by the ocean. So I was so happy when I found a woman lying on the beach who volunteered to be my interim photog. It turns out we live only minutes away from each other! She was so friendly and encouraged me to “work it” for the camera!
In fact, I had a really great time connecting with people that day. I struck up conversations with shopkeepers, a guy playing a djembe on the boardwalk, a teenage boy who didn’t want sprinkles on his custard (“That’s so un-American!” I said), a group of seniors who needed help taking pictures with their cell phone, the owner of a hippie clothes/jewelry store who told me fascinating stories about sweat lodges and a customer from Nepal, a girl who was cheering to a group of friends on the beach:
I was a bit obsessed with taking photos of older couples too. They are cute and romantic, and it made my heart swell for my own husband.
Even the TV stations find the boardwalk worthy of broadcasting:
The insides of the shops along the boardwalk are also entertaining.
As you can see, one of the BEST parts of being down the shore is the food. Sometimes a trip to the boardwalk really isn’t so much about catching waves or feeling your toes in the sand as it is about deciding what treat to eat next.
My eating adventure began with lunch at the Bashful Banana. It’s tucked off the main drag and is one of the only places on the boardwalk where you can get vegetarian, vegan, and clean, healthy eats.
I returned to the Bashful Banana a few hours later for my second treat: their famous “Banana Whip” dessert. It tastes like custard, but it’s only frozen banana + water. No dairy, no binders, nothing but fruit. I ordered a banana + strawberry whip with peanut butter chips, walnuts, and fudge sauce made from fruit.
For dinner I hit up Mack & Manco’s. It’s sacrilege to visit Ocean City and NOT get Mack & Manco’s pizza.
My final treat was Kohr Bros. custard. Although I love the vegan options that Bashful Banana serves, I do not follow a vegan diet and do not hesitate to get a classic vanilla custard with chocolate sprinkles/jimmies.
My visit down the shore lasted from noon till about 7:15, when I reluctantly decided to walk back to my car. I passed an older couple on their cell phone, talking to a friend: “It’s a little breezy right now, but the sun is shining. It’s beautiful. It’s just a beautiful day down here.”
A day at the shore contains so many stimuli, and driving home proved just to be as engaging. I swerved to avoid a giant turtle crossing the highway, and then I drove from blue skies to what looked like the end of the world. Black clouds–not even gray–loomed in front of me, and every time lightning flashed I could see the sunny sky behind all the doom and gloom. It was wild–and scary! An intense ending to an otherwise peaceful day.
I had such a deep desire this past week to run off to the Jersey shore for a day on the boardwalk. The weather has been stellar, and had it not been Memorial Day on Monday, man, I would have wasted no time getting onto the AC Expressway and cruising down to Ocean City.
I’m not a beach bum but I do love spending a day walking the boards and taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells of the seashore. The minute I hear the sound of the steel grid of the causeway bridge under my car tires–followed by the cry of the seagulls swooping over the bay–all of my senses are fired up. There’s the smell of curly fries and chocolate fudge, the taste of Mack and Manco’s pizza, the sight of the majestic Atlantic Ocean, the sound of arcade games, and the feel of slimy sunscreen all over my body, causing my pale skin to glow.
My husband finally convinced me that Memorial Day weekend was not the time for an impromptu drive down the shore, so instead I tried to make note of all the other wonderful, non-beach-related things this past week that tickled my senses. For example:
– The sight of Hidden Mickeys in my Sunday morning breakfast, which also included the glorious smell and taste of toasted cinnamon raisin muffins, something I’ve been craving since someone in my office toasted something cinnamon-raisiny, which is the smell of the gods.
– There was the taste of that first-really-hot-day-of-the-year bottle of beer, so cold in my hand, the condensation chilling my fingers.
– While I was trying to take a picture of the baby geese in the park, I spied something even more intriguing…a snake!
– The park offered many more sensory pleasures, like the sound of the guy with the headphones singing a severely off-key version of “Kokomo.” Or the sight of planes landing across the river at Philly International. Or the sound of the air traffic controllers and pilots talking about descending and landing, because Bryan found a live feed of the transmissions from the air traffic control tower on his iPhone, and we totally dorked out for the next 30 minutes knowing which airliners would be making their approach. (Did you know the call sign for US Airways is “Cactus”?)
– After sushi, it was time to see a half-asleep baby. Even more delightful was hearing her response to her daddy’s “Thundercats!” call. So faint and so sleepy and so cutie-patootie baby-voice, she responded, “Ho!”
– On Tuesday, with its high of 95 degrees, my upstairs felt like a hot yoga studio. So I did hot (Jivamukti) yoga.
– It is very tempting to visit the frozen yogurt joint when it’s 65, 70 degrees out, but waiting until a 90-something degree day makes the taste of soft-serve fro-yo a bajillion times better. And oh, how quickly it melts.
– Random smells: BBQ and charcoal in backyard picnics, funnel cake stands at the May Fair, gasoline from motorboats on the Delaware River, damp wood that reminded me of my childhood summers at Camp Johnsonberg, faded sunscreen, BO.
– It’s good to see words on paper, too. Up until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t even remember the last time I was actively engaged in reading and finished a book. Then I started a regular routine of reading while walking and finished The Tipping Point and am nearly done with Realityland.
– On the walk home from the May Fair, I felt the sky open up and pour down onto my body. I was utterly drenched with nowhere to run for cover, but it was nature’s way of giving my stinky, sweaty, sticky body a refreshing bath.
– Going to the gym for my swimming workouts isn’t always easy in the fall and winter, but jumping into the pool on a hot day feels fanTAStic!
Tomorrow morning it’s only supposed to be in the mid- to upper 50s, and I will be swimming…outside. More on that sensory shock to come!