Standing behind me he said, “I’m going to place my hands on your hips. Now as you walk forward, I am going to be behind you, slightly lifting up either side of your hips. Are you ready?”
Wearing only my bra and underwear, I sought to set aside my nervousness. I focused. I began to step forward. I tried to remember everything he’d taught me. Breathe. Relax your shoulders. Connect your feet to the floor. Lead with your heart.
It was day 10—-the final day of an intensive program to realign my body. Deep massage of the fascia– the body’s connective tissues—was the main method. Every day I arrived at 5:15 p.m. to lie on a table and have my body pressed, moved, and stretched. I breathed, flexed my toes, lifted my legs, and turned my neck for an hour and a half.
Randy was my practitioner. A pediatric dentist from North Carolina, Hellerwork, as this work is known as, was an encore career. A black man who looked younger than his 40 something age, he was trim with strong arms and a head shaved on one side. He had giant smile and a beautiful way of saying my name throughout each session. “Nice deep breath, Susan.” Is the pressure too much, Susan?” “Are you warm enough, Susan?”
Because there was some pain involved, I decided from the start that my tolerance for discomfort was a 7.8 on a 10 point scale. I only needed to stop him once.
Each session had a lesson. How to relax my neck when I reach. How to let my head bobble a bit when I walk. How to stroll or stride or strut like Susan.
As Randy creates space between parts of my body unseen to the outside world, I did my own inside work. Randy guided me on an exploration of the connection of my body to me. He loosened tight space between my ligaments and we looked at my capacity for flexibility in my life. He pressed the tissue on my legs with sufficient strength to change my stance and we explored where I resisted letting in support. He placed his hand on my clavicle to clear the tightness and I spoke of the many times my heart had been broken open.
I cried. I laughed. I listened to Randy. I listened to my body. I learned.
A lot of life happened each day outside of the ninety minutes I spent being cared for by Randy. One friend had a stroke and entered hospice. Another shared he was separating from his wife. The wind chill sunk to a negative 32 degrees. I gave a talk on grief. I got a bouquet of roses. I had two waltz lessons.
At the conclusion of our work together, Randy flew south to his hometown of Ashville, North Carolina. I re-entered our Midwest winter having stretched my mind, my body, and my heart. My season was warmed from head to toe.
Have you listened to your body lately?
Who might you partner with for your learning this season?
What might warm your heart in winter?