How Healing Physically Can Also Benefit You Emotionally and Spiritually
I recently finished a series of 10 Rolfing sessions that has made me open to a deeper level of understanding of the mind-body connection. Rolfing is the name given to a type of bodywork that was originally created by Ida Rolf in the 1970’s. The practitioner (or “Rolfer”) uses a steady pressure to access the connective tissue layers beneath the skin. The goals of Rolfing are to balance and realign your body, enabling your body to experience more structural, functional, and energetic balance. After years of chronic physical pain, mostly due to scoliosis, I was curious to see if Rolfing could help me.
I was so fortunate to find Jeanne, who answered all my questions and provided such a safe environment for me. She has such a positive and nonjudgmental attitude, inviting me to also see areas of my body as full of possibility rather than lacking.
As Jeanne would find an area of tension in my body, occasionally I would feel what she terms “productive discomfort.” I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and even enjoy what I call “good pain” of deep tissue massage, but what was revelatory for me in this process was learning a new way to deal with physical pain. My tendency is to escape – if I have pain in my leg, for example, my mind goes elsewhere, focusing on an area of my body that doesn’t hurt, going through a to-do list, or imagining a vacation spot. Jeanne intuitively noticed this and would invite me to bring my attention back to the area “we” were working on. She would ask me to imagine breathing into that area, or she would ask me to do gentle movements in the area while she was working there. I couldn’t escape. I had to be present. And of course, being present for the process actually helps the tension to shift more easily and quickly. It’s similar to the work I do with clients, helping them to actually feel their emotions rather than pushing them down. The process of staying with the “productive discomfort” also reminded me of how shamans work using soul retrieval. The concept is that during times of trauma, danger, or immense stress, part of the soul leaves. Shamans call back these abandoned pieces to reunite with the whole. I wondered how many times I had abandoned my body because I was afraid.
Another light bulb moment for me was learning more about scar tissue. I had a hernia repair operation when I was 6-years-old, and during the session that worked on my abdomen, Jeanne described to me how scar tissue creates ropey roots that can venture internally far from the original incision. The scar tissue forms to lock down the wounded area so it can heal, but after the healing is done, the scar tissue can create an unnecessary inflexibility. Jeanne gently worked on my body to release the scar tissue. I imagined these great ropes being slowly dismantled, one thread at a time. And again I thought of the similarities with coaching, as I help my clients dismantle thoughts that are no longer serving them, breaking down neural pathways that have become habitual to create new thoughts and ideas that help them create the lives they want.
The 10-series focuses on different areas of the body systematically, and after each session, I noticed a tremendous difference in how my body moved. I have significantly less pain and noticeably more flexibility. I also have gained a much more connected, conscious view of my body – I am more aware of when I am tensing muscles (like holding my shoulders up) and in noticing, I can choose whether to maintain the posture or perhaps relax. More often than not, I can relax. As a coach, I also dig a little deeper, noticing what thoughts or emotions I was having that caused me to tense up. Overall, it feels much more comfortable and easy to live in this body now, and that is an incredible gift.
I’m co-leading a Retreat2Heal this November in Arroyo Grande, CA. Learn more about it at Retreat2Heal.com.