I spend all day long listening to my body. When I’m stretching, training, doing yoga, walking, sitting, dancing, or mowing the lawn…I am always in detection and assessment mode. Part of being a movement artist is that you can’t quite turn that off. I feel like I am constantly “tuning in” to my physical state. We do this because we train all the time. Even when we’re not training. I stretch during my conversations with you. I do yoga while I wait for my plane to board. I do handstands while my dinner is cooking. It’s not necessarily intentional. It’s just my lifestyle.
I am surrounded by athletes and artists that operate this way. (Although I’ll admit, I’ve been accused of taking it to the extreme. 5-minute plank before bed anyone?) Some may think we are weird or obsessed…maybe we are, but I highly doubt that’s going to change anything–or anyone. We live through movement. We crave it. And to be quite honest, we need it. Not just for physical health, but emotional, mental and spiritual health as well.
When my body isn’t feeling right, it affects my whole day. My attitude, my energy level, and my happiness. The deeper I delve into my movement-based art form, the more barriers I seem to encounter. This is not necessarily a negative. I recognize that the reason I become aware of these barriers is because I am pushing (and extending) the current limits of my body, whether it be strength, agility, or flexibility. This is a good thing. The more limitations (ahem–I mean challenges) I encounter and overcome, the further I will be able to take myself professionally and personally.
Lately I’ve been struggling with some serious hip discomfort and limitations. I think it’s coming from my feet. I have bunions on both feet, one worse than the other. Because of this structural weakness in my feet, I have formed a tendency (over 26 years) to walk on the outside edge of my right foot. This subtle balance shift changes everything from the ground up. I do it unconsciencly, but I am becoming increasingly aware of it and how it may be affecting my posture and long term structural alignment.
I tried to address the issue with a Western Medicine approach. I went to a podiatrist to discuss my options. Since I spend most of my day training movement arts barefoot, a shoe insert was out. It simply wouldn’t be used frequently enough while I was active on my feet to make a difference. With the more passive approach eliminated, that left us with the more aggressive one…surgery. The Doctor’s answer: let them break my foot and screw it back together to fix the misalignment of the bones. I actually considered it. After all, we’re talking about long term structural alignment here! But when it came down to it, I am a dancer, an athlete, a performer, and an instructor. At this point in my life, staying off my foot for 3-6+ months of recovery would be devastating to me. And there’s no guarantee that I will come out of it with less discomfort than I already experience. Why? Because right now my foot is *not* broken. Breaking bones and rehealing them tends to create new pains. Actually, my current complaint is not pain at all–it’s discomfort, mostly felt in reflective areas like my hips and back. From a structural alignment perspective, the surgery may be helpful to me long term, but at what cost to my current lifestyle? I decided not to do the surgery.
So after years of chatting with others about my situation, in hopes that they might have some alternative therapy ideas, something surfaced that caught my attention. Rolfing!
Rolf·ingˈrôlfiNG/nounRolfing Structural Integration is a form of hands-on manipulation and movement education developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf over 50 years ago. It works on the web-like network of connective tissues, called fascia, to release, realign and balance the whole body, potentially resolving discomfort, reducing compensations and alleviating pain. Rolfing SI aims to restore flexibility, revitalize your energy and leave you feeling more comfortable in your body. www.rolf.com
I’ve encountered a few other circus artists that swear by it, and they say that this is the only thing they’ve found that provides them with real long-term relief from physical ailments, plus it improves their overall posture and alignment. One day I met a juggler that struggled from the same foot issues that I do. She too recommended Rolfing. That’s when I really started to look into it.
Basically, it’s a deep tissue massage for your fascia, the connective tissue that spans your whole body. It considers the fact that some muscles are being overworked and some underworked at the same time. Some of your fascia may be too tight, whereas other corresponding tissue may be too loose. A Rolfing treatment series is usually done in 10 visits. In these 10 sessions, the practitioner moves through your entire body. Rolfers don’t just treat the symptom area, they recognize that the human body is a holistic system and that everything is connected. You can’t treat one area, ignore the others, and expect that your ailment will disappear. That’s why when you receive a massage, you feel amazing for a day or two, but then the results slowly start to fade over the coming days, weeks or months. I’m not looking for short term relief anymore…I want long term improvement.
I have already begun my search for a Rolfer here in Bend, Oregon that has experience working with athletes and dancers. I am going to be thorough, because we’re talking about at least 10 sessions of treatment here. That is no small commitment, physically or financially. As someone who’s more in tuned to their body than the average person, I want to be sure that the professional I’m working with is capable of going as deep into my issues as I do everyday.
I’ve decided to blog about my experience with Rolfing for one simple reason. When I started doing research about the practice, the first thing I did was surf the Internet for others who have tried Rolfing, what their experiences were like, what type of relief they found, and whether they thought the results stuck around in the long term. I read everything I could find, which wasn’t much. So I am offering up my experience to others out there that may be setting out on a similar quest. I’m not sure yet how it will turn out, but let’s find out together!
I will be posting blog/vlog updates over the course of the entire treatment. To receive an email when I post a new segment, please sign up below. I would also recommend joining my YouTube page, as I plan to post videos after each treatment I receive to discuss what we did and how it felt.