As I'm a Rolfer™, most of the clients coming into my Seattle bodywork practice are addressing posture or pain in some fashion – even if their bodies function pretty well, they want them to function better. This is a great goal, and Rolfing® Structural Integration in particular works to optimize the body's structure in a way that serves this goal. As do craniosacral work (for headaches, TMJ, whiplash, auto injury) and visceral work (implicit in many postural issues and often a "missing piece" when someone has a stubborn pain issue).
In my practice one of my goals is "mind-body integration," and with yesterday being Thanksgiving I reflected on how our attitudes towards our bodies can affect how easily we can recover from injury and change old patterns. This is not to say that pain is "all in your head." After all, an auto accident or other injury, or pain from a postural complaint, can definitely turn aspects of your life downhill. Rather, it's to say that viewing your body in an appreciative way, for all that it does for you, gives holding and context for change and optimization to occur, and compassion for the ways we are suffering.
For example, I'll never forget a client of mine who was dealing with alot of physical pain – from fibromyalgia, and from an acute knee injury. She also had emotional pain from a recent ugly divorce. One day during a session she said with vehemence "I hate my body." I don't know how that felt to her or to her body, but to me it felt like a slap, and I wasn't even the object of her hatred.
In wondering how her body felt in response to the hatred and rejection she expressed toward it, I remember an episode in Unit II of my training at the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration. In this phase of the training, students work on each other to learn the Rolfing "Ten Series" of work. The training is intense, requiring students to both give and receive work, as well as to absorb large amounts of information about anatomy and Rolfing theory in a period of about 10 weeks. It's not uncommon as a Unit II student to feel pressured and at your "edges" as a combination of the learning challenges and receiving at least two Rolfing sessions a week. One day the student working on me was doing her pre-session visual analysis, with an instructor observing. She was frustrated with her work and said something like "I fixed the arches in Anne's feet last session and now I don't see the change anymore, what happened?!!" While I intellectually understood her frustration with her learning curve and felt for her, my body had an entirely different reaction: It felt like it locked down and said "well then, screw you, I'm not going to change just to make you happy."
This is why one of the things we learn in Rolfing training is to language change in a way that is supportive. Here's an example: As a practitioner, I could say "Your shoulders are up in your ears, you've got to learn to let them go," which implies complaint, judgement, and an expectation that you change for me. Alternatively, I could say "How would it feel if your shoulders could relax back and settle here?" (using my hands on the mid-back to give a sensory cue). This is language that is meant to evoke, to help the body feel and consider an alternative that might be more comfortable. It's also language that invites the body to participate, rather than to put up resistance and deflector shields in the face of demands for it to change.
Whatever our pain or posture issues are, these bodies we move through life in are a miracle of interconnected functioning. They work so hard for us in the face of our criticisms and judgments ("sit up straight," "you're too fat," "you used to be in shape," "you're looking old"....) Any time you find yourself wishing something were different about your body, I encourage you to take steps toward that betterment, and at the same time to appreciate all that your body does for you despite whatever limitations it may have. That viewpoint makes it easier to enlist all of you in the change you seek.