My goals in working with Human Garage are to get my body in the right position so that it's able to heal itself. Misalignment is causing some mechanical issues with my gut and digestion, not to mention make me prone to injury if I exercise. I hope that through working with Human Garage I'll be able to eat more foods with less discomfort and reduce or eliminate bloating after eating. I hope to be able to lift heavier weights. I'm currently experiencing some weird knee sensations and pressures which feel like bone on bone, due to being misaligned. If Human Garage can get me back in a righted position, I'd be able to lift weights without the fear of harming myself.
At my visit we began the first of 6 sessions designed to un-wind my body: Lower Release. They start from the bottom up (legs first) because that method has proven to be the most effective in releasing tension from our bodies. (We walk from our hips, feet first.) Starting with the legs allows the rest of the body to unwind (release tension from our muscles and fascia) easier.
My practitioner was Jen, they call her "gentle Jen" because she is not. She greeted me with a hug (they're all huggers at Human Garage, I love it) and led me to the massage table. We talked a little bit about how the process would go and why they start with lower release first. She started with my calves and ankles, feeling for knots in my fascia and tension in my muscles. Unsurprisingly to me, my body is tight, likely from years of sports but also emotional stress. I came prepared for pain, ready to breathe through the discomfort and "lean in" to the process. She worked on my calves and at one point reached for a tool they call a "TheraGun" it's a drill-like tool that has a rubber ball at the end. The ball vibrates against your muscle making it easier for the practitioner to release the tension. (Side note: I'm not sure if you're aware of this but we don't actually have "knots" in our muscles. What feels like a knot is actually the brain telling that muscle to fire and hold tension, either to protect a part of the body or from stress or trauma. Fascia can have knots, but even that is a misnomer. The "knot" is really a bundle of fascia stuck together. Each of these points of tension can be released with stretching and massage techniques.) After my calves were sufficiently released, Jen worked on my shins.
Most of the massage/acupressure/tension release is done manually. It feels like a really deep tissue massage. They break up the sessions into 6 and schedule the appointments 2 a week for 3 weeks. This is so you don't go too long between sessions and re-tense any of the areas they're working on. No massages, chiropractic appointments (outside of Human Garage) or working out is allowed during this time. The point of the protocol is to break down the tension in your body, allow it to right itself (alignment speaking) and then train your brain to keep you in that position, not fall back into old patterns of movement. Exercising, massage or chiropractics could interfere with that process and so HG has learned to tell clients to refrain during the realignment process. Walking and light stretching is encouraged.
So far, calves and shins, weren't so tough to sit through. Some of the tense muscle release even made me laugh, the TheraGun was especially tickling. Following the shins, Jen rearranged me to lie on my left side with my right leg at a 90 degree angle (and bent knee) resting on a cushion. This was to make my adductor muscles accessible. I know that these muscles and my hips are pretty tight. I have a hard time sitting cross legged on the ground with my knees not high up in the air. I can't sit in lotus position in yoga without pain because my tight hips put too much pressure on my feet, resting on my calves or thighs. While releasing tension in my adductors I was doing a lot deep breathing. It was painful close to my groin and even more so closer to my knee. I was noticing some sensations during this part of the session. I would tremble and convulse the more I relaxed and let the tension dissipate. (Sometimes, when I give my dog a massage he does this. When I'm rubbing his neck he'll tense up and breathe heavily while his muscles shake out the tension.)
So, she's working on my adductors, I'm shaking and breathing and doing my best to relax or "lean into ;)" the tension as it's releasing. The muscles with a lot of tension sometimes release in layers. So as the first round of tension is letting go and she's getting deeper in there, i start to feel shaking and tension release in other parts of my body. I could feel it in my lower back (perhaps lower back or psoas muscles) and i also felt this burning sensation in the right side of my abdomen. It felt like soft tissue, not muscular. it felt the way scar tissue burns when you massage it to break up. I was reminded of my consultation visit with Garry (owner and founder of Human Garage). He spoke about how my muscles and fascia were pulling my organs out of alignment and that tension was affecting my ileocecal valve and mechanically holding it open. (I know that area is prone to issue from my colonoscopy.) The area that was burning was right where my ileocecal valve is located. Even thought it was uncomfortable, it was encouraging to feel like the tension release in my hip muscles would relieve my gut of that tension.
From adductors, Jen moved on to lower psoas and quad muscles. Lower psoas wasn't so bad. It's really tight and it was uncomfortable so I just kept focusing on relaxing my body and breathing deeply. Breathing does two things in an instance like this: it will tell your body to relax, that this is a position it's meant to be in and allow the muscle to release and it also chills you out. The instinct is to tighten up, resist and hold your breath to bear down on the pain. But, (and i'm sure this is a metaphor for the mental aspect that Human Garage is also teaching) resisting will only maintain the pain and keep everything all jacked up. So, I'm doing my best and Jen starts on my thigh muscles, my quadriceps. When I first took a yoga class in around 2006, i remember hating it. I was in warrior 3, I think, and I remember my eyes leaking and feeling like I was going to cry because of the emotional surge I felt, connected to my thigh muscles. I was prepared for this at Human Garage. I feel like the last 4 years of my health journey, my relationship with myself, with meditation, with learning to let go (i said learning...), with sitting in the discomfort that life delivers, prepared me to find Human Garage and sit through this... the thigh release. Knowing that I store my feelings in my body (read: everywhere) I was mentally prepared to cry on this table. Jen starts working on my thighs and it's like i have three calf sized "knots" or spots of tension. And they. are. fucking. painful. I'm not shaking at this point, I'm basically lamaze breathing and spontaneously convulsing. I was trying so hard to relax into it but would feel the opposite side of my body tense up. It was hard to tell if I was tensing or if the tension was involuntary connection to other muscles like my lower back/psoas and hips.
Jen had Garry's son Jordan come over who also works at Human Garage doing fascia work, to hold/pull the fascia in my lower leg while she worked on that thigh. My eyes were watering, my lips were quivering and I just sat in it. I was tense, breathing heavy and trying to just feel what was coming up. Jen told me to try and name what I was feeling, that if my brain could identify it, it would actually help the muscle to release. A way of exorcising the emotion out of the muscle. Ironically, I was having a really hard time identifying it. It definitely felt like frustration, maybe some fear and a little sadness. I started thinking about high school and when i first started having panic attacks. It felt like I was scared and alone and no one really knew how to help me. It felt a little bit like the sadness that comes along with and lingers after fear has come and gone. It also felt like the control you seek when you're scared. Like you'll do anything to maintain the power position and relieve the feeling. I have felt this in moments of panic, I have felt this in the aftermath of a break-up, that urge to call the one person you know you can't, the inability to speak when your mind is in panic mode and you're flipping through your brain files, for a way out. It sucked. And that was only the right leg. I did my best the whole appointment, to talk through what I was feeling. Mostly so I could make sure I was articulating it. But also, if i said it out loud, then Jen would sometimes be able to tell me why something was happening or what it was. During this emotional moment she encouraged me to let it out. She tried to get me to name it. I tried to talk through what it kind of felt like and what i thought it was.
Then we moved on to the left leg. This one was even worse! I tried to take what I had learned from the right leg and really breathe into it. I tried to stretch my left leg longer rather than tensing up my body. I started laughing uncontrollably and saying that it hurt SO MUCH but i couldn't stop laughing. Jen asked if I wanted her to back off, but I said no. It felt like this was my penance. That the pain hurt going in, so it had to hurt going out, and I wanted it out. i want to exorcize the control and the attachment and judgement from my body and I don't think it'll go easily or quietly. Soon, after laughing my head off, I was mouth in a grimace, eyes squinched shut, silently sobbing. I kept thinking about something my therapist said to me back just before I was leaving my day job to do music. It was about me not having to do everything. She said "you think that if you didn't do everything, you'd cease to exist". I have this connection to "actions speak louder than words" so, if I'm not the friend I feel I am inside, and I don't show up for things, or take time for myself, or lead by example, then who am i? How can I exist outside of how i live my life? and Isn't living my life through action?
Remembering that while i'm feeling all this conflict and pain and sadness and frustration i say to myself "you are afraid if you feel this, if you let go of control, the pain and conflict, that you will die, you will break." I'm not exactly sure what it means or how to approach it but it felt true. I do have a terribly hard time letting go of things, emotionally speaking. I will circle around something I've done or said or felt and just hold onto it and revisit it over and over, looking at it from all the angles. It's a bit OCD, which I've written about before. I want to yank that part out of me. I want to live life easy and let things go and not get upset or angry or scared or sad or attach my self worth to the job I do and I'm not sure how to do it. How to release that. I think this is one more step in that direction. Meditation, self reflection and awareness, as debilitating as they can be some times, were also steps.
After Jen worked on my legs, she did my lower psoas and hips and then she put my ankle, knee and hip joints on these blocks to push through them and make sure they were opened up and working properly. Then she had me walk it off. As quickly as the emotions came, they were gone. I felt lighter. I also felt like i had someone else's legs on my body and wasn't sure that I could walk, or that I was re-learning how to walk. My feet felt like they were striking and rolling correctly. We took another photo to track my adjustment process.
I spent the rest of the day with friends and my husband. I felt sad. I felt open, vulnerable and exhausted. I was introspective and tried talking it through. I'm going to spend more time mulling this over. We'll be revisiting my thighs at later release sessions, lucky me, until they're done. So I'm sure there's more to learn from this.
Because of my tour schedule, I'm cramming all 6 sessions into two weeks. But will be writing and reflecting on them over time. Stay tuned for the next visit which I'll be posting about soon!
From just one visit, you can see my right shoulder is more aligned, my head isn't leaning as far forward and I look high AF.