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    [#1]: Getting in better shape by getting a better shape: Kinesis Myofascial Integration is a deep tissue therapy that promises change

    Vancouver Sun

    Monday, June 28, 2004

    Page: C1 / FRONT

    Section: Arts & Life

    Byline: Kirk Lapointe

    Source: Vancouver Sun

    I decided one day that my body felt like a car whose tires had run up repeatedly against the curb. Nothing terribly wrong, nothing ready to break down, just nothing exactly right any more.

    Maybe it was the middle-age encroach, but I acutely recognized life's cumulative adaptations: Daily reshaping by hours over the workstation, near-daily stresses and strains through road and trail running, nightly twists and turns of sleeping. My body felt as if it were in constrictive armour, ill-prepared to take me further without a serious step back to take a couple of steps ahead.

    Getting in better shape wasn't the immediate answer. Getting a better shape was.

    I found what I consider the answer -- I guess I'll see over the next few weeks -- in a deep-tissue therapy known as Kinesis Myofascial Integration, or KMI, a descendant of the structural integration work best known as rolfing.

    The process is, literally, a reworking of the body, head to toe, that aims to instill better alignment, a better relationship within the body of its connective elements, and a finer sense of inquiry to direct my resting, breathing and activity.

    Literally, too, it's an arduous odyssey: Twelve 90-minute sessions over a period of months under the tree-trunk hands of Mark Finch, a Vancouver body worker (www.thepathyoga.com/markfinch) who has studied the techniques under North America's best. Four sessions to knead the various parts, four to really open me up, four to put them back together. Over the next number of weeks, I'll keep track of my sessions and report here on the process of change.

    Some friends think I have taken leave of my faculties. One called me a flake. Another suggested I was foolish to defy the properties of middle age. Others wondered why I would pay to have this inflicted on me. Mainly, though, they wanted to know more. They,

    too, have their aches and pains and trouble zones, and they want to know if this will help.

    I know others who have gone through this process. Some gained height, or shoe sizes, and almost all experienced immeasurably improved flexibility and better balance. But many also spoke of an emotionally deeper experience, because the deep tissue therapy on the body can produce different neurological connections -- a rewiring in the reworking -- that taps into something beyond the

    flesh. The spirit.

    This is not for the pain-shy. A life's worth of adjustment isn't easily undone, and some won't finish the course of treatments. But I'm told, and I'm certainly expecting, the dominant feature isn't about reaching my physical pain threshold. There is bliss in each session, too, and not the kind of feeling good that comes when you stop hitting your thumb with a hammer, but actual elation in the body work that reboots your operating system.

    Mark is an affable mid-30s New Zealander with a fragrant, welcoming office adjoining a Montessori school. The sessions on his table and bench have a soundtrack of hushed classical music CDs and the hardy chirp of children outdoors.

    His Popeye-like forearms and calloused fingers -- and on occasion his utterly unforgiving elbows -- probe and manoeuvre well into the tissue, and you have to learn how to deal with what he endearingly calls "sensation." It's necessary to learn how to "move toward" that sensation to embrace and cap it; resisting it only makes you break into a fight-or-flight sweat and deepens the stress.

    Our first session worked the front of my legs, my ribs and chest, and the effect was instant: I felt a larger range of breathing, my legs felt looser for walking and running, and I could stand more easily over my pelvis.

    But the real impact came the next day in a more limber stride when I walked and ran. My breathing was relaxed because I had a little more space around my ribs. And my shoulders and neck weren't as tense when I sat down to the keyboard.

    No real emotional -- or spiritual -- result yet, but it's early days on the journey.

    Next week my feet are the focus, and given my daily abuse of them through nearly a quarter-century of running, I am apprehensive.

    Illustration: Color Photo: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun / Mark Finch does

     extensive bodywork on Vancouver Sun managing editor Kirk LaPointe.

     Photo: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun / Mark Finch works hard on the

     legs, chest and feet of Vancouver Sun editor Kirk LaPointe.

    [#2]: Learning how to put his best foot forward: Just a few seconds of arduous strain on the system brings about tremendous rewards Vancouver Sun

    Monday, July 5, 2004

    Page: C1 / FRONT

    Section: Arts & Life

    Byline: Kirk Lapointe

    Column: Kirk Lapointe

    Source: Vancouver Sun

    Kirk LaPointe is getting a full-body restructuring through a 12-session deep-tissue process known as Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI). This is the second in a series about the sessions.

- - -

I won't kid you, the first of my sessions under the

    needlenose-plier hands of Mark Finch was intense. Which is not to say all pain and no pleasure. Mark smartly moves during the course of about an hour from that fight-or-flight grief to blissful pressure. You're left with the full-body equivalent of a runner's endorphin high.

    But the slow, strong application of fingers deep into my muscle tissue brought on profound sensation and an almost arresting level of pain bound to come from an overwound, understretched, middle-aged body. You learn how little you do for yourself when someone has to do something like this for you.

    Still, those few seconds at a time of real arduous strain on the system brought about tremendous rewards: Slightly more space for fluidity of movement, wonderfully relaxed muscles that were clearly on the road to more efficiency, and the first baby steps toward greater physical potential.

    A little surprisingly, the next day I wasn't sore. I kept looking for some strain, but all I found was a more limber gait and a bit more breathing room. I ran like a gazelle -- OK, like a gazelle

freshly off rehab, but a breezy speed for me.

I wanted to go back and do more.

    There were reasons to approach my second session the next week as a race driver would a yellow flag. When Mark assessed me before our 12-session process, he identified my feet as the body part most out of whack. Today we were going there.

    I know my feet are a real mess. Running will do that to you. Putting three or so times your body weight's worth of pressure on them for six to 10 kilometres, five or six times a week, for nearly a quarter-century, isn't exactly a recipe for nirvana. I can't recall any specific problems, but I don't get any calls to be a foot model in sandal advertisements, and my children have more than once told me not to move my feet when we're watching TV because the clicking subsumes the onscreen dialogue.

    Some may disagree, but I think we mostly like our feet rubbed. There are so many body functions tied up in the reflexes of the foot, and it's hard to beat the relief that comes with de-stressing the constant pounding.

    But what Mark was proposing was much more radical and visceral. He'd found that my running gait had essentially reshaped my feet over the course of years. I tended to strike my mid-foot, not my heel, when I landed, and it meant I had slightly less space between the back of my ankle and my heel. It affected the way I stood, walked and ran.

    Basically, Mark set off to rearrange my wonky dogs. It was my first experience with the real structural promise of Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI), in how deep pressure could realign. It got nasty at times. I felt alternately as if I'd just experienced second-degree burns and stumbled into a beaver trap. I think I ran out of sweat.

    But if I can bring you past my pain for a moment -- I feel like I'm whining -- here's what also happened. When the pressure stopped, a second or two later I would have a gigantic electric-like reflex, as if my muscles were adjusting to a new connection. And when I stood, I felt like I had two giant new buckets for heels. I could lean back on them more, I could stand more appropriately over my pelvic bones. I felt an astonishing balance.

    Even though it's preliminary, it worked. I could feel a change for

the better.

    On my next run, I spent a few minutes trying to strike my heel first. I can't accomplish the change overnight, but I'll see where it goes. I'm standing on a golf ball a couple of times a day --

    usually with a drink in hand, I might add -- and it's opening my foot a bit more.

    With a few more sessions, I think my good feet will start coming back.

    Next up in the sessions is the back of the body, and interestingly, no direct work on the back itself.

    [#3]: Pain for gain: Work on feet helps balance: KMI's third session works at lengthening space between ankle and heel Vancouver Sun

    Monday, July 12, 2004

    Page: C1 / FRONT

    Section: Arts & Life

    Byline: Kirk Lapointe

    Column: Kirk Lapointe

    Source: Vancouver Sun

    Kirk LaPointe is undergoing a 12-session reworking of his body in a process called Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI) by Vancouver body worker Mark Finch (www.thepathyoga.com/markfinch). This is the third in the weekly series.

- - -

    My second session of Mark Finch's deep-tissue body work focused on my feet, and his mighty effort to lengthen the space between my ankle and heel tested my capacity to withstand what he calls the "intense sensation" -- occasionally I still call it "pain," but I'm trying to acquire the lingo.

    It will sound like one of those old jokes about pain to say the "intense sensation" felt especially great when it stopped, but it did, and in a truly good way. I felt I could move back on my heels. I was much better balanced and aligned, which is one of the purposes of the weekly sessions.

    And, if I can venture into a bit of a new-age zone for a second, I felt a powerful new sense of inquiry emerging about my body -- how I

    could stand, walk, breathe, recline and run with greater efficiency, particularly in the days after the sessions. This is one of the strongest purposes of the body work.

    Back to the old-age zone again: My feet may be what Mark detected as my biggest problem, but I've always felt my back was the weakest link in the chain. My posture has been ruined by too many hours over the typewriter and computer terminal, and my back seems to droop instead of drape.

    I'm accustomed to mid-back stress and the unsightly stand-up slouch it produces. I've come to the conclusion I'm too far along in years to do much about it structurally, so I've just tried to get the occasional bout of relaxation, typically by having someone directly massage it.

    Mark believes he can help me deal with this in a more significant way. Interestingly, his hands don't touch my back at all in our session. Instead, they work on everything around it: the ribcage, the breastbone, the shoulders, the armpits and the sacrum, among them. If he can reinvigorate the frame and get my head aligned with my ribs and my pelvis, my back should begin to naturally fall into place.

    So he works on my sides, delving under my breastbone. Out of it I feel a slight opening of my ribs and chest, as if I were being granted more breathing space.

    Then he goes into my armpits, which is not a sensation for the squeamish. With a force that I think could crush a car, he wheedles his way into my right armpit as I lie on my back and follow his instructions, attempting to move my arm toward the wall.

    Sounds a little strange, but when I stand up, I notice my right shoulder blade is about an inch lower than my left one; it has been released into a less-stressed position. When he works on my left side, the two shoulders balance and I feel like I've had air taken out of overcompressed tires.

    Learning to breathe properly amid the deep-tissue work remains my largest challenge, and I'd recommend to anyone thinking about going through the sessions of Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI) to know how to breathe fully. I tend to wince, withhold breath and work against the sensation instead of breathing deeply toward the locale of the body work. I have that fight-or-flight response, which only makes me sweat, clench my jaw and feel greater pain. The better I

    get at breathing, the more I can withstand and the more progress I make.

    Lest anyone think these sessions are all about reaching a new plateau for this sensation, there is also a para-sympathetic phase to lengthen the spine and some dandy neck work to bring on the bliss.

    You leave these sessions feeling like the contours of your container are different.

    The next session, my fourth, is the last of the first phase of KMI, and it will deal with a lot of the large-sized connective tissue criss-crossing the body.

    I'm hoping to get some clues about the next four sessions after that, which are supposedly the most intense of the dozen.

    [#4]: Deep tissue work bruises, but relieves years of physical strain: Moving toward the pain is the only way to cope as the work becomes more intense

    Vancouver Sun

    Monday, July 19, 2004

    Page: C1 / FRONT

    Section: Arts & Life

    Byline: Kirk Lapointe

    Column: Kirk Lapointe

    Source: Vancouver Sun

    Kirk LaPointe is undergoing a deep-tissue process called Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI) by Vancouver body worker Mark Finch (www.thepathyoga.com/ markfinch). This is the fourth of the 12 sessions.

- - -

    Session 3 of my 12-step Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI) makeover with body worker Mark Finch provided real insight into the delicate balance between physique and psyche. He worked on my back without actually working on my back, mainly by addressing the incongruence in my shoulders, ribs and chest. It's an interesting approach: Get the frame right, the picture gets clearer.

    And as I stood and walked, I felt less stress and strain in my neck, which (don't laugh, even though you are entitled) made me

    think more clearly. By the end of the session, and for days after, I felt more upright and limber. My improved balance came with much less effort -- it wasn't hard work at all to stay in that better position -- which suggested a preliminary realignment was taking effect in some of my larger muscle groups.

    How long it will last, I don't know. But I think it's the start of a process that leads me in the right direction. I don't view these 12 events as the be-all-and-end-all -- no one should view any program or process as anything like that -- but the start of a more conscious inquiry about how my body works.

    A big part of the process involves expanding what Mark calls the "container" of pain and pleasure. This has meant bearing up as his jaws-of-life fingers dig deep enough into my tissue to make me wonder if he's extracting a kidney. I foggily recall he commented once about the size of my liver. The deep-tissue probing and prodding can reopen memories of injury and incapacity, so there is an enormous emotional quotient on the table as you're on the table.

    I was expecting to be sore the next morning, but the aches haven't materialized. I've slept well, run well and experienced very little post-session discomfort. The recounting of it hurts more. As for the improved pleasure, well, let's just say it's a work in progress.

    For the fourth session, Mark brought his fingers and elbows to bear on the large muscle groups that wrap the body across the abdomen and down the legs. Once again, I was driven to near-panic with the intensity, particularly in the hips, around the ribs and into my armpits. Once again, I learned to move toward the pain, breathe deeply into it, and cultivate more tolerance. I didn't cry, but don't think I didn't think about it. I welcomed the end-of-session work on the neck to elongate the spine.

    The fourth session is the end of the first of three major phases of the KMI process. Essentially it's a bit of a clean-up of some particular issues before the most substantial of the work takes place in sessions five through eight. The last four sessions put you back together.

    I wanted Mark to deal with some physical effects from three decades of working over a keyboard. As much as I love the technological advancement of the mouse -- I just used it to go back four paragraphs to tinker with a phrase -- it's not an ally of an aligned body.

    Mark relieved a lot of stress along my arm by working under my arm. Digging into the armpit may sound brutal, but it undid some of the tension that influenced my shoulder, arm and wrist. He instructed me to raise my ribcage, instead of pulling my shoulders back, to mitigate the end-of-day strain from writing and editing. Pulling the shoulders back aggravates the very tendons that you want to ease.

    It's part of the puzzle that keeps me from aligning my head, ribs and pelvis, that keeps me from being balanced over the pelvis and from my feet. I'm finding more and more that the series of small adjustments over the years has left me in need of a series of large adjustments over the weeks with Mark. If I can get past the bruising, the bliss is worth it.

    The next four sessions will be the most arduous ones: Work on the insides of the legs, the stomach, and the neck, among other things. With that should come some real emotion, too.

    [#5]: As intense sessions start, body opens up: Still standing -- and standing straighter -- after the first of the truly tough sessions

    Vancouver Sun

    Monday, July 26, 2004

    Page: C1 / FRONT

    Section: Arts & Life

    Byline: Kirk Lapointe

    Column: Kirk Lapointe

    Source: Vancouver Sun

    Kirk LaPointe is undergoing a 12-session deep-tissue process known as Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI) by Vancouver body worker Mark Finch (www.thepathyoga.com/markfinch). This is the fifth in his series of weekly reports.

- - -

    Now, I am told, the truly tough stuff happens. Or, as body worker Mark Finch puts it, the "quality" of the sensation now becomes most intense.

    Forget the fact I translate "quality" and "sensation" into "quantity" and "pain."

    Now, I am told, the real impact of Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI) takes hold. Out of it should come a greater tolerance for pain

    and a greater capacity for pleasure. Out of it should come a readier balance, an easier posture, and a stronger sense of inquiry about my body's alignment. Out of it may even come a purging of emotions trapped by old ailments and incapacities.

    The first four sessions essentially were there to knead the dough, the second four are here to open me up, the last four will reassemble me.

    Trouble is, I found the first four arduous enough. Can it possibly get any more challenging physically?

Yes, it can, and yes, it does.

    The focus of the fifth session starts on the insides of the legs. In the past, Mark has run his elbow down the outside of my legs on the iliotibial bands. That was a jaw-clencher.

    But it doesn't compare to the probing into my calves and inner thighs; the result is an excruciating new experience. No matter how much muscle there seems to be, he digs well into it. No matter how little muscle there seems to be, he digs well beyond it.

Any second now, I think he'll extract bone marrow.

    OK, you wonder, as I have wondered: When is this going to go from great aching to great feeling? The answer is the same I've given before: When it stops.

    Once he's worked on one leg, Mark asks me to stand. The first news is that I can. The best news is that, only seconds after I've almost pleaded with him to stop, dear God, stop, I can feel a new series of electrical connections in the leg, a pathway that hadn't been there.

    He works deep into the hips, then into the pelvis. Each time, a new appearance of connection, a newly established corridor.

    He finds the link between my leg and the pelvis just below my buttock and, no fooling, it feels like he actually lengthens my leg when he digs in and pries.

    Fact is, he's opening up all sorts of new spaces for my pelvis, hips and legs to align. It may only amount to a few millimetres, but it feels massive, as if the cap came off a shaken bottle of soda.

    You store a lot of stress in a lot of places, some of it the result

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