Rolfer, Dancer, Teacher

Archive for October, 2012

Rolfing® as an Alternative to Corticosteroid Injections

There has been a lot in the news recently about the outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated steroid injections.  With the increasing industrialization of our health care system, we as patients and our doctors as providers are becoming more removed from direct knowledge of the drugs we take to manage pain.  I am often surprised at the willingness Americans have to pop a synthetic pill or go under the surgical knife as a first treatment rather than a last resort to dealing with pain.  There are many options that exist today which can treat the actual causes of physical pain and provide a number of other health benefits as well.  Rolfing® can help provide long-term relief from issues like back pain by addressing not just the symptom but the underlying structural causes and it does so without the use of drugs.

Rolfing is a therapy based on hands-on manipulation of fascia, the connective tissue that forms ligaments and tendons in the body.  In contrast to steroid injections which work by limiting the immune system response and dampening inflammation, Rolfing works by creating space in the body allowing for better movement and circulation and allowing inflammation to clear on it’s own.  Rolfing has also grown over the years to encompass elements of addressing the nervous system and movement patterns that reinforce painful posturing or movements.  Rolfing also involves no injections or pharmaceuticals so there is no need to worry about current issues like life-threatening infections from contaminated steroid injections.  Beyond not being linked to infections, there are a numbers of reasons that Rolfing is a much more effective therapy to consider.

Rolfing provides additional health benefits

Steroid injections and a great many other standard medical treatments are designed with insurance in mind to directly treat a singular issues and only that issues.  Rolfing, rather than being simply a quick fix is based around the idea of fostering health rather.  A Rolfed body stands taller and moves more fluidly.  Clients often report feeling more like themselves and most note improvements in sleeping and energy levels through a course of Rolfing sessions.  Rolfing also frequently helps the body to strengthen it’s own structural support leading to a reduction in in frequency or severity of future injuries.

Rolfing does not come with a list of side effects

A quick check of WebMD for methylprednisolone acetate (the injection linked to cases of contamination) reveals a list of rather nasty side effects including vomiting, dizziness, trouble sleeping, appetite changes and pain/redness/swelling at the injection site.  While I think it is fair to say that many of these side effects are probably preferable to months of chronic pain, there are also treatments available such as Rolfing that don’t come with a list of side effects.

Rolfing involves the personal touch of a local provider

With the increasing industrialization of pharmaceuticals, we are much less likely to have a personal relationship with our prescription provider than we did 20 years ago.  With the myriad drug interactions out there, it becomes much easier to miss something if your provider is a large remote company.  A Rolfer will work with you one-on-one and typically spends an hour or more with you on each treatment.  And a Rolfer will treat you as an individual whole person and adjust treatments on the fly according to your needs.

None of this is to say that corticosteroids are inherently bad.  I have known people who had great results with them, and I have also helped a lot of clients who didn’t respond to steroid injections.  Any treatment has advantages and drawbacks and I think it is important for people concerned about their own health to consider the alternatives and weigh the benefits of allopathic treatments versus the benefits of other modalities.

For more information on Rolfing therapies in the Raleigh/Durham area, you can visit RaleighRolfing.com.  To learn more about Rolfing in general or find a Rolfer in your area, you can visit the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration website at Rolf.org.

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Contrasting Up and Down Orientation – Part 5: Developing Your Own Orientation

Continued from Part 4: Modern Lindy Leads

So where does all this talk about up and down get us?  Much like a number of classes that I’ve taken recently from Bobby and Kate or at The Experiment, the idea here is that self knowledge allows you to better assess both strengths and weaknesses.  By knowing your strengths, you can pick motions and stylings that appeal to your natural tendencies and by knowing your “weaknesses” you can start to view them as simply areas for improvement and then work on them.  For instance, I recently realized in the course of writing this article, that the way I originally learned Charleston lacked up energy.  For years my Charleston has felt heavy and clunky and it wasn’t obvious why.  When I began working with including Up in my Charleston, my dancing immediately began to feel lighter and more dynamic, and my pulse felt more in-tune with the music.

Developing a stronger vertical orientation tends to work best through the cultivation of imagery. While you can get some benefit out of simply thinking “There’s no place like up,” most people find that creating more detailed imagery helps them make progress faster.  Below are a few examples of such imagery which you can use as is or to inspire your own imagery.

Accessing Up

My favorite image for accessing up is a variation on Christmas ornaments.  Imagine a string suspending you from the ceiling or some other imagined point above you.  Start with the idea of a string attached to the top of your head that is being pulled gently upwards.  As it pulls upwards, allow your body to hang from the string, dangling freely beneath your head.  Notice if your spine or neck lengthen or relax and how your weight shifts on your feet.  As you get comfortable with the lifted feeling in your spine, you can begin to play with adding imaginary strings to the arms, legs, feet, and hands, imagining yourself as a marionette.

Up imagery can also be used to exhance down movements.  Most of us find our shoulders creeping up towards our ears in times of stress.  In such situation, it can be difficult to directly push the shoulders back and down.  However, allowing your shoulders to actively rise up can prime them to relax and sink back to a less strained position.  To try this, create an image of your shoulders being suspended from strings then imagine the strings pulling upward, lifting your shoulders towards your head.  Settle into this lifted feeling for a few breaths, then slowly imagine the strings releasing downward and allow the weight of your shoulders and arms arms to sink with them.  Keep imagining the strings slowly releasing downward until you reach an end point and notice if your shoulders have changed position.

Accessing Down

Down is an idea that shows up a lot in Lindy.  Concepts like pulse, using the floor, and counter-balance all require use of down energy, typically in ways that we don’t necessarily practice in daily life.  I find most people can conceptually understand the idea of using the floor or grounding, but it frequently takes some deeper work to be able to feel down energy for themselves and understand it on a visceral level.

The image I like to use to access down energy is growing roots.  Start from standing or sitting, preferably in bare feet and a comfortable position.  Imagine your feet or your tailbone beginning to grow long tap roots down into the floor.  Allow the image of the roots to expand at it’s own pace and notice if your posture shifts or settles in reaction to the image of roots.  As they grow, you can imagine the roots going deeper or spreading outward with a wider reach.  Allow the root image to expand to a comfortable distance and settle into it for a minute or two.  Notice any energetic or emotional shifts, for instance many people find a strong down image helps foster a sense of calm and stability.

As you gain confidence with the down imagery, you can start taking it into motions like walking, imaging roots reaching into the ground with each step.  The better you get at pushing or rooting through the ground this way, the more it can support upward movements as well.  For instance, in jumping, you can get more height by pushing off the floor as if you were pushing through it rather than pushing at the surface of it.  And serious power lifters derive their power in moves like squats not just from pushing at the floor but pushing through it.

How these images work

The general concept of these images is to help create attention beyond the physical confines of your body.  This expanded attention helps gives you more sensory input which helps with orienting motion and creating extension in movements.  By expanding the sense of space that your body can move in, more of your muscle becomes active in creating motion and the outward attention helps to activate deep postural muscles.  The more comfortable your sensory system is extending attention beyond your body, the more readily your body will create action into those spaces.

While these exercises may not immediately seem dance related, the concepts they help you access can be seen in many great dancers.  They won’t make you an amazing dancer overnight, but consistent practice will help open up new avenues for movement and expression.

I would like to leave you with an image of what is possible with this sort of expansive attention and presence.  Mikhail Baryshnikov at 5′ 6″ was not a large man, but his immense presence on stage gave him an amazing ability to seem as if he could fill the whole space with his dancing alone.  I could go into detail describing this, but I think it’s best to let his dancing do the talking.

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