Rolfing, bodywork, yoga bolsters... equals movement for mental health
When we called to ask Angela Hill if we could feature her on our blog this month talking about the benefits of mindfulness and yoga, we caught her at the right time. She was walking out the door to see a client and saying goodbye to her kids.
"We all need yoga and mindfulness today to calm us while going in so many different directions," said Angela. "Especially children. They need reminders to chill. Right now my child is lying back on her Atlas bolster. In this way, the bolster represents a place to land and just be."
Angela Hill has integrated many things into her practice over the years. She started out as a dancer, movement educator, and choreographer. She has been a Certified Rolfer™ (Structural Integration Bodywork) and Rolf Movement® Practitioner since 2009 and is trained in several different somatic approaches from movement to psychotherapy including Somatic Experiencing and The Hakomi Method. When she started raising children she saw the links between movement, connection, and human development across the lifespan, and she became a parenting educator. Currently she's working towards a master's in clinical social work to become a licensed therapist and work with families in a more accessible way. All while maintaining a private practice as a somatic coach, parenting educator, and bodyworker in Knoxville, TN.
How do you use Inner Space bolsters with your clients and your bodywork sessions?
Angela: I most often use them on the table during Rolfing sessions to support my clients in side-lying work - an aspect of Rolfing that many people don't experience with more popular bodywork forms. This helps my clients to really let go so that I can get into areas that hold a lot of tension, particularly in the hips and shoulders. I also really like to use the bolsters at home both for myself and my daughters for chest opening or any kind of support that is needed. I even use an Inner Space bolster under my feet while I do zoom coaching sessions or classes from home while I'm sitting on a ball!
Is there a technique you teach clients using a bolster or prop to practice mindfulness, and calm anxieties when they arise?
Angela: Again, with the side-lying! I see so many clients who are bound up on one side more than the other. They are bracing in such a way that one side is slightly shorter, and they've lost awareness of the space that they could allow themselves to have there. The bolster gives the support they need to let go and explore this newfound space through the breath. Using a bolster for support during child's pose is a great go-to for anxiety relief - turning your head to one side, feeling into the support, and using nourishing self-talk to soothe yourself or humming gently on the out breath...
How do you think practicing yoga and meditation benefits Mental Health?
Angela: The biggest challenge to mental health other than lack of access to equitable health care, is stress and trauma which is now all around us and can seem unrelenting. Compounding that is our addiction to technology and screens which is a recipe for disembodiment. While it may seem counterintuitive, the real secret sauce to trauma resolution is to actually build the skills to tune into some sense of pleasure which is easier said than done for many people... Learning to experiencing the present moment through our senses is the key to unwinding trauma and building resiliency to face ongoing stress which is now a given in modern day life. We must rest to restore our systems. Yoga, movement, and mindfulness can provide restorative experiences and give us an opportunity to notice what is happening within ourselves, hopefully in a way that is manageable for the practitioner rather than overwhelming. Simply put, tending to your mind-body connection is a great way to cope with stress, and I think it is important to do this in a way and at a pace that feels just right for you.
What do you love about Inner Space Yoga bolsters?
Angela: What I love about bolsters is that they support the body's relationship to gravity. Folks who have a high allostatic load, high ACE's (Adverse Childhood Experiences), the existential stress of marginalization, or dysregulation from PTSD, neurodevelopmental disorders or any other mental or physical health issue including chronic pain and addiction very often have some kind of distortion in their sense of how gravity feels to their body due to a fight, flight, or freeze response. They are typically tensing up and away from the support of the earth rather than yielding to it and getting that sense of buoyancy from the ground up. Bolsters are a great tool to re-pattern this, to teach your system to let go even if you have to do it a little bit at a time in order to feel safe enough.
Angela showed us a movement she enjoys, while side-lying on her bolsters and letting go in gravity.
"So the reason I have all these bolsters is to be able to let go and really get the support, and to get that twist and the separation of the ribcage from the pelvis," she said.
"Someone asked Ida Rolf in an interview if she had to pick one part of the body what would she work on and she said the 12th rib," continued Angela. "And over and over in my practice I see that this is such an important space. Bodyworkers often don’t know how to get into it, and we [rolfers] do. Movement and any kind of twisting or opening, helps that relationship from the shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle, and the ribcage and the diaphragm. It’s really like the whole nervous system benefits form opening this up, and then that letting go at the end is really important. Which is why I really love having this Atlas here."
Thank you Angela!