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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!
This past weekend marked the beginning of a tidal wave…of 5Rhythms, that is!
As I’ve written before, I’m a huge fan of the movement/dance practice called 5Rhythms. In a nutshell, 5Rhythms is the practice of movement through five different rhythms (duh)–Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness–which collectively are called a “wave.” This weekend was the start of a monthly series dedicated to concentrating on one rhythm (although we did the other rhythms as well. My god, I would collapse if we did three hours of just Chaos!).
I think of myself as a very fluid and flow-y mover (um, hence the name of this blog), so I honestly thought that focusing on the first rhythm, FLOWING, would be easy and fun for me.
I DO like Flowing…but only to a point. There came a threshold when after so many swoops and sweeps and flutters and airy turns that I wanted some definition. Some pizzazz. Some oomph. I wanted Staccato.
Now, I’m not sure if it’s because I got tired of the Flowing movement itself…or whether it’s because I love structure, and my OCD brain was thinking, “OK, time’s up! The blueprints say we’re supposed to move onto Staccato now. Chop chop!”
Nevertheless, lingering in Flowing for longer than usual began to feel like an aerobics class that never progressed beyond the warm-up.
After class during our sharing circle, people commented that I am very much a Staccato dancer, which surprised me because in real life I am far from a Staccato personality (direct, forthright) and probably closer to Flowing (indecisive, experimental, constantly changing direction). I linger in the supermarket aisles because I cannot decide which yogurt to buy. I hem and haw over what to make for dinner, which restaurant to go to on Saturday night. I wanted to be a yoga teacher. And then I didn’t. Currently, I edit during the day…but dream of flying Southwest jets by night.
Environmentally speaking, another factor that inhibited my Flowing freedom was the floor (How many Fs can I get in that sentence?). We were dancing in a school auditorium, and certain spots were as slippery as ice. That was a HUGE factor in how I moved, and I had to be very cognizant of which areas were the danger zones and what moves I did if I found myself standing there. It’s kind of tough to fully let go when you have only three options: flow, fumble, or fall.
The instructor had some great tricks up his sleeve to help facilitate the notion of Flowing. For instance, we took a partner, placed our hands against the sides of her chest by the rib cage, and simply stood there with a gentle touch to receive the expanding and contracting of the partner’s inhalations and exhalations. It was soothing as both the passive holder and as the active breather–it is so much easier to take full, deep breaths when someone is physically encouraging you. It’s also a good reminder that breathing doesn’t just take place in the front of the chest and that it’s a 360-degree action.
Another great exercise was getting the whole class to stand in a circle, collectively inhaling our arms up toward the ceiling and then exhaling our arms and upper body down toward the floor, a bit like unstructured sun salutations. We did this several times until it began to sound like the ocean. It was so calming…and pretty cool to see the entire group do relatively the same motion (as usually we are all doing our own thing). We then began incorporating our hips into the breathing, then the feet. Soon, our entire body was part of the inhalations and exhalations, and the circle began to slowly break apart ever-so-calmly as we flowed into our own dance.
As I approach two years of dancing the 5Rhythms, I am learning some interesting things:
• I dance better at night. The monthly class I attend is on Friday nights, and it is there that I always feel my most free. I think there is something exotic about letting loose after work, as the sun sets, especially when there’s a full moon. This particular Flowing workshop started mid-afternoon (sunny) and ended at dinnertime (dark), and I definitely felt more “on” as the room grew darker and darker, until we were dancing only in candlelight and a small spotlight.
• I am more responsive to some people than I am to others. The notion of partnerwork can either make my heart leap or have me cringing. I generally love working with people who exhibit a heightened sense of musicality and rhythm, but even some people with those qualities just make me feel oogy. I am aware that I energetically block them off from me, and I often wonder/worry whether they can sense that.
• The simple act of looking someone straight in the eyes can be both terrifying and electrifying, like unlocking a door to a whole new realm of connection beyond movement. It takes A LOT for me to let my eyes dance. I can twirl and curl and shimmy and shake, but allowing my face to get involved is a huge feat. It’s why practices such as Biodanza are so important.
• There is still a lot of chatter going on in my head when I dance. Sadly, it is usually about other people in the room. I am somewhat of a storyteller and tend to develop these imaginative back stories of the people around me. I usually need to complete a full wave of dancing before this judgmental jibber-jabber dissipates and my brain is rid of unhelpful junk.
Barring any winter storms that prevent me from driving over the river and through the woods to February’s workshop, next month I’ll be focusing on my supposed dominant rhythm: STACCATO!