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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!
I’ve been experiencing some discomfort in my foot recently, and my podiatrist—an athlete who knows better than to tell an active patient, “Well, just stop dancing for a bit!”—recommended taping my big toe to help stabilize the joint that’s causing me pain. This isn’t that fancy kinesio taping method you see on Olympic divers, either. Nah, this is a just an ugly mound of adhesive that looks like I’ve broken my toe.
My movement isn’t too inhibited by the tape—I’ve just been advised not to go into full relevé on my left side. However, after a test dance in my carpeted living room that had bits of hair and rug fuzz clinging to the unraveling tape, I decided that maybe I should protect the tape by wearing my soft-soled jazz shoes.
Although most people dance 5Rhythms barefoot, there is no shame in wearing shoes during class. Jazz shoes, ballet slippers, FootUndeez, lyrical sandals, sneakers set aside solely to the dance floor…all are welcome, as long as they aren’t worn out on the street. Heck, a young woman came to class the other day in an orthopedic walking boot.
During a recent 5Rhythms class in New York City, I completed the first of two Waves in my jazz shoes. They protected my tape, and I also felt like the shoe’s slight heel and split sole gave me more support. But as I started the second Wave, I found myself falling into a foot funk, looking enviously at all the beautiful exposed toes and cracked heels flying around me.
Most of all, what I was longing for was the sense of connection that comes from dancing barefoot. You wouldn’t think that a think layer of leather and rubber would create an energetic barrier, but it does! The bottoms of the feet are loaded with acupressure points, and their stimulation can affect all body systems and energy channels.
The minute I decided to say hell with it and peel off my shoes and socks—that moment when my once-cocooned feet touched the cool floor—I simultaneously felt both ferociously wild and peacefully contained. Almost instantly, I could feel my dance change. I wasn’t doing new moves; rather, it was my body being moved differently as my feet were given the freedom to breathe in and receive the bubbling waves of energy around me.
Appropriately, the shoe removal came just before a dance-mix mash-up of The Doors’ “Break On Through” ripped through the studio speakers. My cloaked feet had broken through to the other side, a new nakedness that gave me a sense of falling into the floor and ascending high past the Manhattan skyline. I was walking on air, stomping on flames, sinking into sand, stepping into the unknown…and feeling every sensation of the journey.
I don’t recommend compromising comfort and podiatric health, but, if possible, I do encourage trying out even just a few minutes of being barefoot. How does the connection with the ground below you influence your dance? If impossible to remove your shoes, allow the palms of your hands (also loaded with acupressure points) to explore the floor. You may be amazed at the energy you can harness from these extremities.
Five years ago on this day, I feel like crap. I can’t breathe; my chest hurts. I can’t do half of Rudy’s morning sadhana. I take pity on myself and eat not just my cereal, yogurt, and banana at breakfast but also two pieces of blueberry cake and a slice of the delicious potato and cheese egg fritter.
B. teaches at 9 a.m.; Megha facilitates. The class is fun, despite my coughing, because Megha is totally into everything, oohing and aahing in and out of every pose. One of the most profound moments for me was having to lie on my stomach during savasana, my head turned to the side, staring at Megha’s feet. As a dancer and with Megha being a dancer, feet are really amazing windows into the soul for me, so I was honored to stare at her flawless extremities. Knowing mine are dry and cracked and bleeding and tearing, it was pleasant to see such dandy feet. It was another moment of “Remember.” Remember lying on my belly in savasana, staring at Megha’s feet as she lay in relaxation.
More sharing circle followed, more tears and profound statements. I admit it was about at this point when I got sick and tired of listening to people talk all emotionally and slowly and blah about love and support and wow and blessings, I Love My Atitham, yadda yaddda.
Turkey sloppy joes for lunch (which I later joke about during my practice teach for garbhasana/digestion), tea, OJ, cough drops, chocolate, belching. I start practicing in Shadowbrook at 12:55. My facilitator is Catherine from Cape Cod, who turns out to be absolutely incredible, sweet, thoughtful, and thorough.
I felt it today, for real. After greeting Catherine and settling into the class, I immediately forgot about all of my worries and self-doubt and just became…myself. A little shaky at first, but growing into it. Moving steadily along with my stillness/motion theme, unconsciously bringing my dancerly ways to the mat, which everyone said they enjoyed watching. The best part about ending this class was actually remembering it. I was present. I Remembered. I remembered watching K. doing one hell of a cobra face, B.’s eyes drifting all over the place, Catherine completely immersed in Stage 3 after bridge. I remember being there, watching the students and being intrigued by their interpretation and movement. I remember my voice crackling and having to take several sips of water. I remember C. being nearly speechless because she saw my notes with modifications for her bad knee. I remember B. commenting on how she loved the way I stepped back into Warrior I. I remember breaking down to Catherine about FINALLY finding who I was, crying, being HAPPY, learning what “I speak through my body” really means. So much emotion afterward, and finally I had something deep for the sharing circle. K. made me cry (sob, actually), as did E.
It is at this point we come up with our YTT group name. Says Megha: “You guys are one kick-ass group!” Says L.: “There’s our group name!!” And let it be noted, the Fall 2006 YTT class name is Kickasana, Sanskrit for “Kick-Ass Group.”
Our evening session is a restorative class with Sudha; lots of blankets and pillows, lots of crying, lots of ecstatic sighs and moans. Dinner, then celebration party preparation with E. and M.; we’re dancing to some chanty yoga music. We find a free space on the 2nd floor, a yoga studio complete with mirrors on both walls. We compare our enlarged asses, our bellies, our sweat/cafeteria stink, and our reduced ability to dance quickly after a large dinner (and a celebratory Kripalu cookie for me).
I sit alone at night in the empty cafeteria, tea by my side, and ruminate on Kripalu’s past and future. How long will Kripalu maintain its Indian/Sanskrit heritage? People here from Amrit’s days are slowly fading away, and there’s something so strange and sacred about having these people here like Dinabandhu, Devarshi, Megha, Rudy, Vandita, etc, who remember the guru-disciple days, the intense schedule, the honor, the duty, the sacred, the revered. As preposterous as all those things seem (e.g., Relationship Programs, wearing white for the guru, meditating for hours, waking up at 4 a.m. for yoga), they give this place a very peculiar and sacred feeling, a deep sense of history. What happens when all the Sanskrit folks fade away? What will Kripalu be like when there’s no one here with three names? I hope Kripalu never becomes glamorized as a spa, a luxurious place of manicures and Pilates classes and glossy magazines. I like its earthiness, even if I complain. The monastery feel of the building, the outdated gym equipment, the bunk beds, the hippies, the enema bathroom stall, the picture of Bapuji at the exit, the simplicity of the Main Hall and our Shadowbrook room. I hope that years from now the KYTT program is not some posh, superficial program of sweat and asana. I hope BRFWA is always the underlying theme here.
Side note: I just wrote the above, and who walks in to get water but Devarshi?! I ask him about my concern, what will Kripalu be like when the ashram folk disappear? He gave a great analogy about Kripalu being like a dandelion, that someone had to come along and blow the plant in order to get the seeds to disperse, and now the seeds are planted all over, and they’ll keep on spreading. And even as time goes on, Kripalu has a mission–yoga is not just about the perfect posture (as it is in Iyengar, for example)–it’s about the yoga of life. And Kripalu is accessible to everyone–those who want to stay in forms of 20, and those who want a private room with bath. It’s here for us all.