“Ahhh, they’re different,” laughs my Yoga teacher, Carrie Gaynor at Absolute Yoga.
Carrie begins each class with fascial fitness warm-ups designed to address the outer, fascial envelopes of each muscle, cell and organ. One of her favorites is simply jumping on one foot and then the other. We all try it and then she asks newcomers which foot they chose first. People laugh and look at their feet. The choice is so unconscious, they have to stop and notice. Carrie explains that we all prefer one leg for action and the other for anchoring. “Which one is easier to jump with?” she asks. For me, my left is easier. The right wobbles. She explains that the anchoring leg is more stable and the one we go to easily. We alternate back and forth – jump, jump, jump – noticing how each feels. Curious that the anchoring leg is stronger than the action leg and not the other way around.
Then it gets interesting. In just a few minutes I notice that my wobbly right leg is becoming more stable, the left more bouncy, and I find greater balance.
When I stop noticing, I return to the same habitual patterns: I’m right-handed, and my right leg is my “action” leg. After hours of dancing, gardening, working, or playing with my grandsons my body will need loving attention.
Walt Fritz, P.T. (MyofascialPainRelief.com), my Myofascial Release Instructor, agrees that balance “isn’t what you think.” Our bodies are not alike. After many years of working with real people in pain, he relies less on the “rules” and more on paying attention to what is happening under his hands. He notices a place of restriction; I do, too. Without forcing or “fixing” anything, the tissue (fascia, muscle, nerve?) begins to change, to find it’s own path to balance.
I’m grateful for wise teachers.
When I graduated from Finger Lakes School of Massage in 1999 I wanted to help relieve physical pain. In my zeal to heal I studied Trigger Point work and became quite effective at finding and relieving them. One thing I learned was that the pain was rarely where the problem originated. For example, a tearful bride came to me just hours before the ceremony because her right hand was numb. She only had thirty minutes for the miracle, but I told her to trust me. I began working around the thoracic outlet and brachial plexus (neck and shoulder) inviting her to breathe into those places of exquisite discomfort. Numbness turned to tingling and feeling was restored. It worked — to my great relief!
Many successes followed. A hairdresser was told her career was over because of the pain in her legs. She received a prescription for muscle relaxers and pain relievers which made her groggy and solved nothing. After weeks of diligent work on her many trigger points, she was back to work and quite grateful.
After years of practicing my specialty, I realized that my body was in pain and I was working too hard.I was jumping up and down on my action leg, ignoring my anchor leg. Sometimes I caused discomfort rather than relieving it. I needed to remember what I learned in school: “You’re not the healer. The body always seeks balance. It’s your job to listen to the body’s wisdom.”
When I was ready, my teachers appeared. In the past few years, I’ve received a whole new education about the fascial system, as well as a gentler, subtler way to work. Do I still do trigger point work? Sure. My hands instinctively know where to go. And, it works. I always invite my clients to experience myofascial release (MFR), and they then understand that the effects are “deeper” and longer lasting than “deep tissue massage.”
I’m no longer hopping on one foot. A familiar modality is informing the new one.
Wise teacher, my body.