Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Notes on the experience of bodywork: I have been a massage therapist/bodyworker since about 2000.
I have always had the urge to lay hands on people, mostly in a constructive way. The man I married gave me the impetus to go to school and "go pro" and has diligently supported me in this journey.

So far, I've done the 500 hours of training in the US, gone for the bar (and made an extremely high pass on the National Therapeutic Board- though they have given me exactly ZERO support for recertification over here in Army Land, what's that 200 bucks worth, kids?) and done special trainings with the Pittsburgh Pain Institute (not as kinky as it sounds) and my mentor in Dr Henry Okizaki's Long Life Massage (Danzan-ryu jujutsu teaching) Tom Lang.

At the same time, I have maintained my attitude as a hardheaded skeptic who is willing to look for proof. I don't have anything to do with Reiki or Healing Touch, both of which have nothing to do with the hard sweat, tears and technique of realistic and focussed bodywork. I was of the school of "find a trigger point, kill it, and recalibrate the movement" before I found myself in possession of a copy of Anatomy Trains, used by my friend Carol Shifflet and the teacher at the Institute, Richard Finn.

As is my usual pattern, when I find something I like, test, and find useful, I backtrack to sources to see where it came from. I traced the author of Anatomy Trains, Tom Myers, to Rolfing. I remembered that my teachers at Lauterstein-Conway were at least connected with Zero Balancing (super light Rolfing- sorry guys, it's just ancestry) and many of the authors I read and respected, such as Deane Juhan, were trained in Rolfing.
If you are wondering what the heck Rolfing is, go here:

I took the Rolfing Spectrum course in Agatharied south of Munich, and found a home. It's so important, far from home, to find something like that. I have been in Munich almost every month since that time, to complete my training. I am am just now in the homestretch, looking at certification end of May. I'll post a few things which may give people an insight into what exactly Rolfing is, what it feels like and what happens.

FEB 24 2006

My courses in Munich are at this time being taught by a mad Bavarian. It's a grand tradition, see Neuschwanstein or Hohenschwangau and many of the ornate wastes of public funds (which now admittedly generate same) littering the Bavarian countryside. Many of the castles are of older Celtic origin, which may explain a strong streak of red hair and freckles in certain Bavarian areas.

The mad Bavarian has the typical Bavarian problem. He is tremendously, obsessively precise in his work, and yet he is also gregarious and funny and likes to tell stories. Teaching the class, he flicks through points of interest for us like a telepath reading a phone book. At the same time, he wants us to get things exactly right. O weyh, as my Oberpfalzer friends say. The madman is a compact fellow, with rather short arms, small expressive hands and surprisingly bright dark eyes under a closely shaven round pate.

"So anyway, here is Houston, and here are 10 places all over town you have to deliver pizza. These guys drink pepsi, this guy loves anchovies and onions, but don't get the guy on 62nd street anchovies OR onions or the Mob will slash all our tires again. Don't worry about the couple on the East side, they shot each other twice last year, just call 911 and leave the pizza on the stoop. Don't go in the yard on Blueberry unless the dog is tied up."
This is how the instructions we are getting feel. It's just bodywork, you know, but here we have these 10 damn things we have to get right and not get the anchovies or onions in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The mad Bavarian is like Santa, he gets all 10 deliveries right before a small child can peek up the chimney, meanwhile we are trying to remember whether it was beer or pepsi and is the mob going to slash our tires and where is that damn dog?

"It's just here, here, and do this, and let your sternum hang like a pendulum." Yeah, I'm supposed to remember that, and the flocking anchovies too? Basically, we are supposed to be perfect, and make other bodies perfect as well. Yeah. Right. And I'll be on the Olympic podium for the basketweaving gold. More like the basket CASE gold, by this time.

We get on the subject of ruptured disks and (perhaps because I was looking intent) the mad Bavarian waves me to a table and demonstrates some wonderful side-lying leg-waving thing I can barely remember because I was getting my legs waved, and then proceeds to have me hang my head off the table so he can juggle it. Or woggle it. Or something. Anyway I began to feel like some bizarre experiment with giraffes and cantaloupe, and then he had me turn face up. This was pretty prosaic, he was demonstrating this and that, then he pulled the marvellous trick of hitting that murderous spot in my back and kind of "pulling the nail out" of it. This was after grabbing the skirts of my brain, somehow, and tugging on them. If you've never had your brain tugged on, it's a little like pulling on your own fingernails. Not unpleasant, just peculiar.

Then he proceeded to expound on something else I don't remember because I wasn't taking notes. I wasn't allowed to move. I stayed supine, with his palm on my frontal bone, occasionally waggling my skull for emphasis. Then he would Do Something, and go back to sort of gesturing through his stories with one hand on my head. I began to feel like an idly dribbled basketball, with my head bouncing lightly into the padded massage table. If I tried to turn and look at a colleague, my head was immediately turned back into the straight position and he went back to whatever he was/wasn't doing. I was a bit bobbly when I finally got up and wandered around, but I'm clear as a bell now, despite a couple of cozy beers with colleagues.

Things were well all evening, but I woke with a migraine. This is miserable, especially after being free of them for about five years now. I took two aspirin and a Sudafed and hoped for the best. The pain only dulled, and my vision began to narrow and blur. I tugged the Bavarian's sleeve and asked him to check and be sure that he did what he had meant to do. He took time to see to his students for that session, and then waved me to a table.
Again, he checked my spine, checked my neck. He asked what happened to me (all bodyworkers ask that) and I can only reply that my life has been one big accident after another, so who knows. Another thorn came out of my spine, and my neck. My spinal column now feels like that of a rubber chicken's.

As a child I used to wake with a silent scream from nightmares of being skewered by a spear through the back. Even after years of good bodywork, I could still feel the hole from it, somehow, rags flapping around a cold dead hole.
When they first began to touch it, in Rolfing, I twitched every time and really had to control my reactions. It's very strange to me, today, to feel normal, to feel all of my back, no pain, stiffness, or even the deep itch which tended to plague my left thoracic area.

Then the head work began. He stuck his thumbs in my ears and began to manipulate the halves of my skull like a semi-sliced apple. This went on for some time, the problem seemed stubborn. Then he stepped away, and I heard the familiar sound of rubber gloves coming out of a box. Don't be scared, they don't taste that bad. Very strong pressure on my hard palate and frontal bone, then pressure around my upper jaw and frontal bone. Amazing, how much the skull moves. Amazing, that our brains function at all, after the battering we give them, physically and chemically.

The night after the first treatment, I wrote most of this story.
The night I came home after the second treatment, I started this blog.
I'd call that the end of several years of writer's block. I don't have anything else to blame it on. If I don't write, right now, I feel itchy and fussy. We'll see how it goes. Anyway, my ears are much cleaner except for the thumbprints.

Moral of the story: sometimes it's OK to let other people play with your head.
Footnote: all the best Rolfers are completely mad.

Web site of the day:

No comments: