January 2009


Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this 4 Part series.

After graduating from university I tried to force myself into a career as an accountant. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of working in the business world, but was unhappy sitting at a desk all day long. Upon taking my first full-time job my gloom about my profession started to grow. Each day at work felt like a slow soul death and most of my nights were spent being sick to my stomach. At some point in the future I knew my inner spark would be completely snuffed out. I was living a double life. During the day I did my best to be a business professional, but after work, most every night, I headed to ballet class. I loved ballet.

I had started taking formal dance lessons at the age of 15, first in jazz and then moved on to tap dancing. I noticed some dancers had much better technique than others. I found out they had studied ballet. Given my leg issue history and not fond memories of ballet from pre-school age I had steered clear of those classes. However, the tap dance studio was in the same building as the ballet school. I would watch the students come and go, and hear the classical music drifting out from behind closed doors. Doesn’t every little girl dream of becoming a ballerina?

Don Quixote Peninsula Dance TheatreI decided to take a beginning class, just to improve my technique. It was hard, and I wasn’t built for it, but I loved it. I gave up tap dancing just to focus on ballet. I had the good fortune to have a teacher, Antonio Mendes, who noticed how committed and hard working I was, and he encouraged me. I continued dancing while in college, both at the ballet school and at the university. I knew I wasn’t capable of having a professional career as a dancer and would have to give it up at some point, but I just couldn’t stop. Dancing felt wonderful, and freeing. I felt beautiful when I moved.

At around the same time I graduated from university I also managed to injure myself dancing. I damaged my left hamstring to the point I couldn’t balance on that leg and when walking would have to kind of pull it along behind me. I sought out physical therapy and was eventually referred to Dr. Garrick at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital’s Center for Sports Medicine. I’d never been to a clinic like this. It was everything under one roof, orthopedics, podiatry, physical medicine, sports medicine, physical therapy and unique to Saint Francis, Dance Medicine. I worked with the Pilates trainers there, and ran into one of my dance teachers from Sonoma State University, Mercy Sidbury. She had been the first person to introduce me to Pilates principles back in the late 80s.

One particular dance medicine specialist inquired if I’d had any manipulation done on my leg. My response, “No, they do that?” Up to that point all the treatment I had received focused on exercise and stretching. No therapist had actually touched me. The specialist referred me to a chiropractor who referred me to a massage therapist, and thus I received my first taste of hands-on manual therapy. It was transformative! My intelligent bodymind knew it was exactly what I needed: hands-on work to break up the scar tissue in my hamstring.

But, what was I going to do about my career? I felt strongly I needed to do something more fundamental and grounded then work in the abstract world of numbers. I liked the clinic at Saint Francis and began to ponder how I could get the skills to work at such a place. Also, for me, there was something magic and powerful about touch. I decided to quit my full-time job and enroll in massage school.

While in massage school, I continued dancing and exploring movement. I took Feldenkrais classes, modern dance classes, yoga. I kept learning more and more about body structure and how bodies work in motion. The woman who ran the massage school brought in the local Rolfing practitioner to speak with us about his work. From somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I remembered Rolfing. Rolfing changes structure. . . I have structural issues. . . being able to change structure is a good thing. . .

I volunteered to be the model for the Rolfing demo. The first thing the Rolfer did was have me stand so he could look at my structure. He described to me what he saw, and what he described made perfect sense to me. I felt it in my body standing there, and had felt it previously when at the barre in ballet. He told me he could help me change my structure, and that the changes would last a long time. (Something that resonated for me. I’d been getting a massage a week on my hamstring and felt strongly I needed something that would have a longer lasting impact.)

I eagerly laid down on the table and he started to touch me, touch like I’d never felt before. His touch had an intelligence to it, a listening quality. It was like he was having a conversation with my flesh. His touch had no quality of the rather mindless pushing, pressing or kneading that can often be likened to one’s body being a lump of clay that the other person is trying to mold or soften into some shape. No, he was asking my body to open here, let go there, and listening for the response from my system. This conversation was highly conscious non-verbal communication between our two dynamic, biological living systems.

I was smitten, not by him, but by the work. It was on that day in 1992 that I knew I had found my calling. I would combine my curiosity and interest in body structure with my love for touch and train to become a Rolfing® practitioner.


© Carole LaRochelle, 2009.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this 4 part series.

In reconstructing the timeline for this article I discovered I wore the twister cables for 15 to 18 months. I was still wearing the cables when I entered kindergarten in the fall of 1972.

Until that time I had been relatively sheltered at home from the type of harsh teasing that can happen when one is “different” from their peers. We, as humans, seem to have a primitive instinct that informs us if someone’s legs are funny or they walk abnormally then they may be retarded.

Thus, similar to Forrest Gump climbing on the school bus for his very first day of school, I was ostracized and cruelly mocked by some older children. I tried my best not to show how much it hurt me and vowed to never make fun of someone else’s disability.

Wearing the braces at the age I did, and having to cope with difficulties like being teased by older children helped to reinforce an earlier defense strategy in my character structure known as Late Will. This terminology, as I use it here, comes from Bodynamic Analysis, a form of body-oriented psychotherapy from Denmark.

They have defined a seven phase character structure model starting from the 2nd trimester through the age of 12. Their model puts a more positive spin on character structure than previous models developed by Freud, Erikson and Lowen.

Indeed, in Bodynamic Analysis, each developmental stage represents a central issue or theme dealt with during a particular age period. In fact, each theme can also be viewed as a basic human right. They are:

  1. Existence (2nd trimester to 3 months) The right to exist in one’s physical environment.
  2. Need (1 month to 1 1/2 years) The ability to sense one’s own needs and that one’s needs can be met.
  3. Autonomy (8 months to 2 1/2 years) The ability to engage in independent movement and explore the world.
  4. Will (2 to 4 years) The ability to make choices and state one’s own power through actions and emotions (i.e. control) and still be loved.
  5. Love/Sexuality (3 to 6 years) The ability to create a balance between feelings of the heart (love) and the genitals (sexuality).
  6. Opinion (5 to 8 years) The ability to form and express one’s opinion.
  7. Solidarity/Performance (7 to 12 years) The ability to balance being one’s best with being a member of a group.

Bodynamic Analysis was developed by Lisbeth Marcher and a group of 10 Danish therapists who studied and worked together for 20 years. I have studied this system’s character structure model as well as their approach to working with shock/trauma.

I continue to study Resource Oriented Skill Training with Merete Holm Brantbjerg one of Bodynamic’s co-creators. I will write more about this body of work in future posts.

At some point during kindergarten the doctors deemed the braces no longer necessary and I was set free. I chuckle now to think about it, but they gave my mother instructions to stretch me.

I suppose this was to keep working to improve the external rotation in my hips. What they showed us to do I now know as Baddha Konasana or Bound Angle Pose from yoga.

Bound Angle Pose

Of course my Bound Angle Pose didn’t look like the one in this picture. My knees were much higher off the ground. I would sit in this position with my back against the hallway wall while my mother would push down on my knees. It hurt, and I didn’t know how to relax. I would push up with my knees as hard as my mother would push down. I’m not sure we made much progress in changing my pattern.

As you may imagine, going through all of this at such a young age created in me quite an awareness of body structure and alignment. After we stopped torturing me with stretches my leg issues faded more into the background.

The next time I can remember a significant Aha! Moment that led me down the path to become a Rolfing practitioner was in high school.

In the 1980s I used to listen to a morning radio program called The Alex Bennett Show out of San Francisco. One morning Alex was talking about getting Rolfed. Since his show featured standup comedians as his guests, he was making fun of the funny sounding name. However, he also said some things that burned into my memory.

He said the work was literally changing the structure of his body, that he had better posture, was more flexible, and had more energy. That information got stored in my brain. . . there is something out there that changes structure. . . being able to change structure in a positive direction is a good thing.

And then, I promptly forgot about Rolfing until many years later.

Continue to Part 4 Finding My Calling


© Carole LaRochelle, 2009.

Read Part 1 of this 4 part series.

It’s taken most of my life to understand the structural issues that are going on in my body. I can’t remember ever speaking with a professional who explained to me what was happening in the bones and joints of my legs. It’s not such a simple thing having a toe-in gait pattern.

Foot and Ankle Pain by Rene CaillietThe first source I discovered that explained the pattern in more detail is an excellent little book by Rene Cailliet, MD titled Foot and Ankle Pain. In 2002, while browsing through the bookshelf of a colleague, I spotted the book and inside I found a wonderful little drawing labeled “orthotic twisters.” It was the first drawing I’d ever seen of my braces. It explained that twister cables were coiled springs within a cable housing that resists torque. Through adjustment of these springs the foot can be made to turn in or out and thus hopefully control and retrain the movements of the legs.

I went on to read that intoeing can result from excessive internal rotation of the femur and/or from marked internal tibial torsion. Cailliet also stated that techniques for measuring femoral torsion presented “radiologic difficulties” and had not yet been standardized. Apparently there wouldn’t be any medical testing to answer my questions. I’d need to figure this out on my own.

I sat down on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me and began to look. I noticed that when I pointed my toes straight up to the sky my right knee also pointed straight up, but my left knee pointed towards the left. I was also aware of a lot of muscular effort happening around my left hip joint. What was going on? I started to allow my left foot to rotate in. I rotated it in until the strain in my hip muscles relaxed and my kneecap pointed straight to the sky. Now my left foot was pointing towards my right. Aha, I thought, so I have an internal tibial torsion!

I then started to explore the range of motion in my hips. My right leg had much more external rotation than my left; my left leg had much more internal rotation than my right. As far as I’ve been able to figure out I most likely have a femoral torsion in my left leg in addition to the tibial torsion. I also suspect there is some modeling of my actual hip joint and the associated ligaments that is congenital and some that was patterned into my body while I was growing and walking in the toe-in pattern. I believe it shaped the structure of my hip joint much like a tree can be shaped by the wind constantly blowing against it from one direction.

I found some additional resources on the internet about femoral and tibial torsion that have been very helpful to me in my explorations. It is my hope that through writing about my own experience I can help others to better understand their own structural challenges.

Continue to Part 3 After The Braces Came Off



© Carole LaRochelle, 2009.

Different synchronistic events and life circumstances can sometimes conspire to show you your life’s path. In my case, those events and conditions combined with my anatomical structure to show me mine.

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from new clients and friends is, “How did you get into Rolfing?”  Being born in San Francisco at the height of the Summer of Love (August 1967) maybe it was inevitable I should become involved with a body of work that came into public consciousness during the Human Potential Movement of the 1960s. My Vedic astrologer, who happens to live in San Francisco, certainly believes it is clearly evident in the alignment of the planets at the time of my birth.

As I look back on my life I see it all began around the age of four. I was very “pigeon-toed” as a child. I remember going to see Dr. Adams, my pediatrician, with my mother and her asking him at the end of my physical, “What about Carole’s legs?” Early on the answer was, “She’ll grow out of it.” and “Do these stretches and that should help.”

I remember running down the hill one day and falling down again. (I fell down a lot as a child, frequently enduring bruises and abrasions on my elbows and knees.) As I was picking myself up off the ground I became curious about my predicament and determined to figure out what I had tripped over. Looking around on the ground I could find nothing. And then, slowly creeping into my consciousness, came the awareness I had tripped over my own feet! That was a monumental moment for me.

I was eventually referred to a “specialist” and fitted with twister cables, braces that fastened around my waist, thighs and calves with attached shoes. I was to wear them 24 hours a day which I ultimately detested. The daytime wasn’t so bad, but nighttime was horrible. The shoes, being connected to the braces, didn’t allow me to relax my legs at night. I have memories of the sheets getting twisted around the braces leaving me feeling trapped in bed with the frequent result being torn sheets.

My father, who is quite the home filmmaker, filmed this footage of me in my braces in 1971.

Continue to Part 2 Gaining Knowledge


© Carole LaRochelle, 2009.