Many yoga practitioners have spaces in their bodies that, after years of practice, still have not opened and areas with pain that just will not go away. Our bodies resistance to the opening typically experienced in the practice can be mental and or physical. Samskaras are mental grooves in the mind that cause our muscles to resist change. In the case of yoga, it is often due to trauma from a previous injury or fear. Physically, it can be caused by scar tissue that has healed in a way that restricts our movement.
One therapy that some yogis have found to be effective is Rolfing. Definition from Google:
a massage technique aimed at the vertical realignment of the body, and therefore deep enough to release muscular tension at skeletal level. It can contribute to the relief of long-standing tension and neuroses.
A few weeks ago I began a course of ‘Structural Integration’ also known as ‘Rolfing’, as a yoga teacher told me once that it was the best form of body-work that they’d experienced. I hesitated at the price back in the UK (it can be quite expensive, I think 40-50 GBP and there weren’t that many Rolfers around) so when I saw that there were a couple offering it for less than half that in Mysore, I jumped at the chance to give it a go.My yoga teacher has been working with me for a few months now, trying to entice my hips to open, but for some reason they just weren’t budging! He even said, ‘Michelle, I don’t understand, you’ve been here for 5 months now and you still cannot do baddha konasana?!’ So I decided to ‘get Rolfed’ and see if the manipulation of the myofascial tissue would somehow release my hips.I explained I’d been having pain in the front of my right hip, but that both were sore most of the time, restricting movements especially in marichi A and C as well as ardha matsyendrasana. So she took a look and did some work on the SI and the hips as well as doing something to my arms as I had wrist pain but also across my collar bones. The results the next day were astounding! The wrist pain was gone, she said that because of the growth of muscle in my arms it was squeezing my nerve to my wrist and that by separating them it would release the nerve and there would be no pain and, the next day there was no pain. My SI and hips found a kind of space that they’d never had before and I could do leg behind head without ‘much’ pain! But the best result of this session was that I could instantly breathe deeper and without holding tension in my left shoulder which for some reason I noticed always happens. I was told that there was what Rolfers call the 10 series where they work on the whole body over 10 sessions to get your body back to its natural balance. So given the results I signed up for the whole course.I have 2 sessions to go, but I am literally addicted to Rolfing now! It’s great to practice yoga in between the sessions because you can notice the changes so much. My balance whilst standing is better because she worked on my feet and heels, moving the heel into proper alignment and taught me how to stand properly. I used to stand with an exaggerated lumbar curve which has now gone and she also sorted out my head which I used to hold forward but now it sits properly at the top of my spine. A few years back I injured both knees (doing yoga in fact and have never been the same since) and my whole body contorted to try and protect them. The rolfing has ‘unstuck’ all my hamstrings and quads so that my knees now track properly and this has allowed me to use the muscles properly, instead of them acting like other muscles, pulling and straining and twisting my legs and knees. I’m not describing this well at all, but the overall experience has been amazing. Probably one of the best things I’ve done for my body ever. It’s one of those, ‘why didn’t I try this before’ moments.Well, I still can’t do baddha konasana and get my chest to the floor, but it’s improved greatly! However, something’s definitely shifted as I can now get both legs behind the head relatively comfortably (eka pada for some reason is a little harder but I’m putting that down to a wonky SI joint/anteriorly tilted pelvis on the right), over the past 3 weeks I’ve been working on the Tittibhasana sequence in Intermediate and can now complete the sequence with full correct vinyasa, without collapsing in a heap and dead thighs on my mat! I think Vijay’s pleased with my progress…well he must be cos he’s given me Pincha Mayurasana to practice now…and I know what’s coming next…more baddha konasana, upavistha and lotus work needed for that one for sure…Nevertheless, the bit in the article about feeling energized is completely true too. I used to feel a lot of weight in my legs and the lower part of my body but now feel like that weight is distributed evenly throughout my body, I feel like my energy is moving a lot more freely now and I can differentiate single muscles now, when before they were all just ‘stuck’ together. I’d got to a point where my body no longer felt like my own body, I knew something was wrong but just couldn’t work out what was wrong. I knew there were blockages in energy, I could feel them and I have tried physiotherapy, psychotherapy, meditation, yoga, cardio-work, even an energetic healer and I would have to say that Rolfing by far, is the best thing I’ve done. Yep, even over yoga. But now I can continue my yoga practice with greater energy and use it to ensure that the blockages and unhealthy patterns, those physical and mental samskaras don’t come back!!
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.