Recently, I stumbled upon a surprisingly effective intervention sequence that facilitates establishing horizontality in the body. I call it the ‘ankle-lean intervention sequence’. It does not look anything like our Tenth-Hour technique, and it is not meant to replace it. The ankle-lean sequence is much more global in its application and affects. Metaphorically, it is like loosening horizontal barrel straps. It is safe, simple, easy to apply, and highly effective. It works well at the end of a session, especially when you want to see more fluid coordinated movement. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It can be applied almost any time to anybody, but seems to work best with responsive clients – as do most of our techniques.
I am still trying to figure out why this particular intervention sequence works so well. Some of the more consistent results you can expect to see are enhanced verticality, more coordinated movement, core lengthening, owning one’s space, and an enhanced sense of belonging here. I am interested in seeing what results other practitioners observe. After you have experimented with the ankle-lean intervention sequence for a while, if you are so inclined, please send me a description of your discoveries ([email protected]).
How to Establish Horizontals
Let’s take a moment to visualize the horizontal planes with which we will be concerned. Imagine cross-sectioning the body into a stack of horizontal discs. Each disc is a horizontal plane. Now imagine each disc is connected not only above and below, but also throughout the body. As a result of this connectivity, you can readily see how order-thwarters anywhere might disturb the integrity of the body everywhere. It only stands to reason that working with these large horizontal planes should have a profound effect on the body.
Before you apply this intervention sequence, perform a thorough assessment across the five assessment categories (also known as the taxonomies). Note where the major order-thwarters are and in which taxonomy they appear so that you can clearly recognize the results of your efforts. Be especially attentive to how your client walks before and after applying this technique.
1. You can begin with any horizontal plane, but I like to begin with the diaphragm. Sit on your Rolfing bench and ask your client to stand in front of you (see Figure 1). With your palms facing the floor, place your fingertips on each side of the thorax just a bit above the diaphragm. Instruct your client to keep the front of his spine long. Ask him to lean slowly and gently forward at the ankle joint, surrendering his weight bit by bit into your fingers. Your client should not be experiencing pain, and you should not be exerting much effort. Ask him to continue leaning into your fingers until you feel yourself connected with his structure. Do not try to take a lot of weight into your fingers. The idea is to take just enough weight into your fingers to connect with his structure via the horizontal planes of his body. When you attain some level of balance and connection, just stay where you are and do nothing. Wait for his body to respond. Wait for the dance of the tissues, their softening, their release, their ‘horizontalization’ and orthotropic elongation as his body appropriates the next available level of order.
Figure 1: Ankle-Lean Intervention.
2. You may have to give more support and guidance to neck positioning when the client is leaning forward. If your client is having trouble managing his neck while forward-leaning, allow him to first find his optimal balance when standing. Instruct him to slowly and consciously move the back of his head back (posteriorly) just a bit. At the same time move the top of the head up (vertically). Take the newfound balance into forward- bending at the ankles. (I believe this neck technique comes from Mabel Todd.)
3. Step back and ask your client to walk. Assess the results. How has his rib cage changed? How did the sleeve respond? How did his body as a whole respond?
4. Choose another horizontal plane. For example, place your fingers on his thorax a bit above the horizontal nipple line and complete the process.
5. Choose another horizontal plane – say just below the clavicles – and complete the process.
6. Apply the same technique in the abdomen or to the psoas. To work with the psoas, you employ the same technique but with a different placement of your hands. Rest your hands on the iliac crests and place each thumb on a psoas. Instruct your client to lean forward at the ankles taking his weight into where he feels the pressure of your thumbs and complete the process.
7. Apply the same technique to the back. Instruct your client to turn his back to you. Pick a horizontal plane. Use the same placement of fingers on the back as you did on the front and ask your client to lean backwards at the ankles, slowly bringing his weight on your fingertips. Complete the process.
8. Perform ankle-lean at least five times in five different places and assess after each intervention.
There you have it. Within ten to fifteen minutes of applying this technique, I predict that you will be thoroughly astonished by the results. Why and how this technique works so well, I will leave to your speculation. I will also leave it to you to discover the common results among clients. The more you connect with the whole body through the horizontals that are circumscribing the body, the more effective you become.
Jeffrey Maitland, PhD, has spent most of his adult life deeply investigating the mystery of existence, Zen practice, philosophy, and the nature of healing. He is a Certified Advanced Rolfer™ and Advanced Rolfing Instructor, a former tenured professor of philosophy at Purdue University, philosophical counselor, energy healer, and an ordained Zen monk. Maitland has published and presented many papers on the theory of somatic manual therapy, Zen, philosophy, and Rolfing Structural Integration. His research, articles, and book reviews are published in numerous professional journals. He is also the author of four books, three of which have been translated into other languages. They are Spacious Body, Spinal Manipulation Made Simple, Mind Body Zen and Embodied Being: The Philosophical Roots of Manual Therapy. He lives and practices in Scottsdale, Arizona.[:][:pb]The Ankle-Lean Sequence[:]