The Human Puzzle
I’m a puzzle person.
It’s partially what attracted me to finance as a first career. It’s what drew me into Rolfing as a second career. It’s why I obsessed for three weeks a few years ago to master the Rubik’s Cube my mother-in-law got us for Christmas (nailed it, by the way!). And it’s what’s driven my interests within my practice from the get-go.
Rolfing on its own is beautiful system of manual therapy; I’m amazed at how consistently it creates incredible results and pain relief in the human body, person after person. But from the very early days in my practice I was drawn further in, wondering why it is that we end up where we are physically, especially in the absence of major physical trauma or pathology. Often, it seems, we choose (mostly unconsciously) very physically-expensive ways of being. My next puzzle then became to figure out how to help clients make better choices.
So where has this human puzzle led me?
When a new client comes in for a Rolfing session, the first thing I attune to in their System is “orientation and coordination.” I’m not talking here about our typical sense of how coordinated we are – this isn’t about whether or not you can pat your head while rubbing your belly. What I’m talking about is the set of strategies we use for doing EVERYTHING. Orientation, in a nutshell, means where your attention and efforts go as you prepare for an action. That can mean how you orient to the space around you, or even how you orient to your own body as an instrument for movement. And coordination, then, is how you do that action.
What kind of strategy do you have in place for walking across a room? Or sitting at a desk? Or even relating to other people (because that strategy, too, ultimately has an effect on the physical body)?
Do you first connect outward into your environment, or bring yourself inward? Is the way you act effortful? Is it relaxed? This collection of strategies is effectively your operating system, your ‘software’; it creates the way your body works in the world. Whether or not you’ve come to a Rolfing session, the physical structure of your body likely has room to improve – hardware often needs to be re-balanced and upgraded after years of use. Working to change and improve the way you orient to and coordinate movement as well upgrades the entire system. In fact, with some clients I do very little manual work, focusing primarily on the software, with tremendously positive results.
Several years ago I had the pleasure to train with one of the Rolfing community’s thought leaders in this field of movement and coordination. That training shifted my work forward radically, creating a new level of interactivity during sessions. This might be simple guidance to allow heaviness and to feel the sense of weight in the body. It could be having clients dramatically slow down movement, and begin it with a sense of reach into a support surface like the table or the ground, or even with a visual awareness of the space around them. And many times I ask clients to literally just imagine that they’re moving or that someone else is moving their bodies for them – our nervous systems map imagined movement exactly the same as actual movement (think about athletes doing visualization training, like Lindsey Vonn before a downhill, shown here), so your physical body gets the information it needs to more efficiently move. Fascinating stuff!
This has been incredibly impactful on client outcomes; this type of work helps your nervous system understand and integrate the hands-on work we’ve done on the table back into gravity and out into your world. Why? For one, you’re more engaged in the process as we go along, so you’re literally learning how to move better while I’m working on you rather than just passively being worked on. And importantly, it changes the way you relate to gravity.
Gravity exerts a constant downward pressure on us from the day we’re born. Generally we’re unaware of it, but if you are structurally imbalanced, you most definitely are aware of its effects. When you’re lying down on a Rolfing table, you don’t have to work against gravity, you’re probably mostly at rest. When you sit or stand up, however, your nervous system brings on line a host of operating strategies for being upright under that constant pressure. Oftentimes it’s these very strategies that are the “expensive” ones I’m talking about – they’re create the pain and limitation through inefficiency and overexertion that is the root of your pain symptoms.
So, as we’re working on the table with these types of slow, mindful movements, then transitioning to similar work seated and then standing, we’re literally building new neural pathways – a.k.a. habits – into your nervous system, giving you a software upgrade alongside the work I do to upgrade your hardware by differentiating and balancing your fascia.
It’s a big puzzle, a fascinating puzzle, figuring out how the human system organizes and works for each of us. Putting all these many pieces together throughout a Rolfing session or series of sessions – Rolfing, mindfulness, orienting and coordinative work – creates an amazing set of new possibilities for you to carry back into your world.
If you’d like to experience this type of transformational work, contact me anytime to ask questions or schedule an appointment. I look forward to working with you!