Joyful Movement

Welcome to my blog. I've designed this site as a resource for existing and potential bodywork clients, and anybody else who has an interest in improving their relationship to their body.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yelp Help!

How often do you use Yelp to find services in Santa Cruz? I found myself shopping (strange thought) for an MD this morning, and one of the first places I looked was Yelp. It's an easy, quick way to vet somebody who would otherwise be a stranger on a list of names.

On that note, if you have experienced bodywork and/or Rolfing™ by me, and feel inclined to review me on Yelp, please act on that impulse! Search for "Elaine Lee Rolfing" in Santa Cruz, register as a user if you haven't already, and type away. You would have my sincere and heartfelt appreciation.

Help others find me in a sea of strangers!

Thanks, over and out.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Low Back Pain and Six-Pack Abs

Low back pain is as common as a double latte in downtown Santa Cruz. Our lifestyles, our culture and our furniture conspire to make us C-shaped retromorphs, hands affixed Tyrannosaurus-like to an imaginary keyboard. No wonder our bodies protest.

Biotensegrity Model by Tom Flemon
In truth, our spines are designed to float weightlessly, perfectly balanced by the precise and dynamic tensional “guy-wires” of our myofascia. The bones of our spine, the vertebrae, are not so much weight-bearing bricks as they are spacers and attachment points for muscles and ligaments. This is a concept known as biotensegrity.

It’s when some of those guy-wires become loose or flaccid—and then we do something requiring lumbar stability, like lifting a potted citrus tree—that problems arise. Lacking the lift provided by properly toned abdominal muscles, the spine essentially becomes a poorly aligned stack of bricks pulled catawampus.

Now before you hit the floor and double up on the crunches (“I thought you said we need strong abs!” Yes, I did, but keep reading…) here’s one more important factoid: rectus abdominus is only one of four abdominals (six if you count sides). Rectus gives us that glorious six-pack and makes you looks like a superhero, but by itself it doesn’t help your back. In fact, over-active rectus abdominus is implicated in de-activating one of the most important abdominals: transversus abdominus. You can actually contribute to the destabilization of your lumbar spine by doing too many situps and/or crunches.

So what to do? Careful instruction from a skilled pilates instructor will teach you how to activate all of the abdominals. I recommend one-on-one sessions at first so that you learn the proper technique, as pilates done properly is not as easy as it looks. It’s too tempting in a class to use poor form in an effort to keep up.

And remember, fluidity and adaptability are important, too. If you’re already a strong, compact fireplug of a gymnast, more pilates will reap diminishing returns. All things are better in moderation.

For a succinct introduction to biotensegrity, start with this excellent blog written by a senior robotics engineer at NASA: BeingHuman

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More on Barefoot Running

The Once and Future Way to Run

This is another great article by Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run, in the New York Times Magazine about barefoot running. Sorry about the italics, by the way, this blog editor doesn't let me use the proper form for book titles. Or, more likely, I just can't be bothered to figure it out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

French Documentary About Rolfing®

This is a really nice documentary with English subtitles. A bit lengthy--about 25 minutes--but well worth it. It also features Hubert Godard, considered by many to be at the forefront of Rolf Movement development. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Wonderful Foot

Consider…the Foot.

Take a moment to kick off your shoes, remove the socks, and get a good look at those two things at the bottoms of your legs: your feet. Wiggle your toes. Make circles with your ankles. Grab your big toe with the toes of the other foot. Just check them out. 

Ida Rolf, in designing the 10-series, deliberately focused her second session on the feet and lower legs. She thought this work second in importance only to making sure the body could obtain and utilize oxygen, which is the project of the first session. The feet are literally one’s connection to the ground. The security of the body, and arguably of one’s psyche, is intimately connected to the quality of the foot’s connection with the earth.

So back to yours. Each of your feet has 26 individual bones, all packed into a relatively tiny package. That space is especially tiny when you consider the size of your entire body that looms over it. Gravity travels through every inch and ounce of you and drives you into your pedes belli (beautiful feet.) And your feet somehow, mysteriously, spring back to give you a lift in your stride, balance in your dance, and lightness in your run.

 If our legs are the columns of the body, our feet are the foundation. When the foundation is horizontal and true, the columns can support the building above with satisfying uprightness. Skew the foundation, and the columns twist and tilt, and the security of the entire building is imperiled.

This is how the body works except that the metaphor falls apart when you consider that this building moves and adapts. Dilemmas in the feet, instead of causing you to fall over, simply require the rest of the body to twist, torque and twang as necessary to keep the eyes forward and the organism capable of forward locomotion.

This is why, in the Rolfing 10-series, we must organize the feet before we do anything else (except find the breath, of course.) There’s no sense in replacing the drywall and rehanging the doors if the foundation bucks like a rodeo bronc.

So before you shove them back into those stuffy shoes, send a message of love and gratitude to your beautiful feet. They may look humble, but they’re your connection to Mother Earth and the key to your uprightness. Reaching simultaneously for ground and sky—yet another human folly.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The tragedy of first position

This is too cute to pass up. Notice the array of strategies she employs to get her feet properly positioned. She cycles through her available engrams in various combinations. When none produce the desired result, she mimics her teacher by trying to move her own feet with her hands.

I recently read that it takes 10,000 repetitions to master a motor engram. A motor engram is a neural map created in the primary motor cortex of the brain that encodes a coordinated set of muscle movements. Mastery of an engram is associated with changes in synaptic efficacy along the neural pathways associated with the learned skill. It is like water taking the path of least resistance through a landscape, carving the terrain as it flows. This girl had yet to establish a motor engram to get her from normal standing to first position.

It is much more difficult to change an engram than it is to learn it the first time. "Old habits die hard." However, there is much research pointing to the plasticity of the brain and its neural mapping.
"It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Being More Than Your Asana, or Putting the Cues of Your Instructors Into Context

“Breathe through your abdomen.”
“Keep your knees slightly bent.”
“Pull your quads up.”

We hear the wise words and suggestions of our instructors throughout the hour, telling us how to move, how to stand, and how to position our bodies for the greatest effect.

In yoga, one common theme (or so I hear from my clients. Admittedly, my yoga attendance is sporadic at best. Blame it on my yang-centric disposition) is to breathe through your abdomen. This makes a lot of sense, especially in a culture of stressed out people such as ours. We attend yoga class to get centered, get calm, and relax. Abdominal breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, changing the hormonal balance to a chemical mixture more supportive of calmness and peace. Thus, meditation and yoga practices benefit from the abdominal breath.

It is natural, then, to want to cultivate these qualities outside of class. Standing in line at the coffee shop, you consciously belly breathe. Walking the dog, you practice it again. You have fallen into a common trap: mistaking the anatomical cues of your instructors to mean: this is how you must live your life!

While abdominal breathing is useful for achieving a certain state of body and mind, we also need to maintain the capacity to breathe into the upper thorax. Indeed, we should be able to expand the ribcage in all directions--up, down, left, right, forward, and back--depending on the physiological need at any given moment. You only use 15% of your lung capacity while you are abdominal breathing. Thoracic breathing uses 75%. This is why, when you are doing activities that require a high energetic output, you revert to thoracic breathing. Furthermore, abdominal breathing exerts more pressure on the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor holds up your visceral cavity, including the bladder and (for women) the uterus. Constant, ceaseless abdominal breathing needlessly puts excess pressure on the pelvic floor, potentially weakening its functional ability to keep the visceral contents contained.

I’m not saying don’t breathe through your abdomen. If you’ve begun hyperventilating just reading that last paragraph, you definitely need to do some deep breathing in order to calm your system. What I am saying is that you don’t need to practice deep breathing all the time. Just as you don’t need to practice thoracic breathing all the time. Normal breathing inflates both the ribcage and the upper belly equally and to partial capacity. So allow normal breath to occur most of the time. We want to retain the capacity to fully breathe thoracically and abdominally when needed, realizing that they are two ends of the spectrum of possibility. And we should generally inhabit the middle of that spectrum, visiting the extremes on occasion when the situation, or your yoga instructor, calls for it.