Archives for posts with tag: bodywork

Hand of Grace 2014My sense, as a bodyworker, that healing possibilities through touch are infinite. Professional touch, while geared to provide a consistency of experience to the client, also allows for that person’s individual response to a multitude of factors, including pain sensitivity, pressure, etc. In approaching a new client, for example, I ask her if she is used to touch, therapeutic or otherwise. If not, I approach such a client with greater awareness so as to provide an experience of the potentials of touch.

In massage, for example, my goal is to recede and to allow the client to feel himself on a multitude of physical levels – skin, muscle, fascia, nervous system, fluids, and, for me, most importantly, bone. Bone is the primary focus of my touch in the work I do known as Zero Balancing. Bone, being the densest tissue in the body, and the deepest, is believed and felt to provide a thoroughfare for the strongest flows of energy in the body. The body is an electromagnetic wonder and Zero Balancing’s founder Fritz Smith, MD has shown students over and over that firm touch applied to bone with clarity of attention yields increased and smoother flow. The best method for measuring the skeletal level flow is to feel it operating within. For many, especially those receiving Zero Balancing for the first time, it is a revelation.

“I never knew I could feel this way.”

“This is the first time I had the feeling of living in my bones versus the spaces between my bones.”

Most people describe a tingling, an aliveness, a soothing and pervasive calm that is as satisfying as, but noticeably different from, the giddy, endorphin-laced feeling that follows a full body massage.

Clarity in one’s bones starts to translate into clarity in one’s life. Thoughts, emotions, impulses, physical discomfort, movements and vitality tend to become easier, richer, more spacious, and smoother. Life, once pommeling and punishing, becomes more of a dance in which the person feels connected on multiple levels to a greater whole.

Structure&Energy2-2013Our human skeleton has a verticality that makes it a conduit of both mechanical and electromagnetic forces, what the Chinese taught are universal flows of energy. We are lightning rods, and as Jim McCormick, Five Element Acupuncturist and longtime Zero Balancing practitioner and teacher notes, “We are connected to everything else through our bones.”

One touch, as I myself have felt, can illuminate connections within the body. I remember one particularly amazing ZB session I had where each scapula was clearly linked with the opposite foot, transcending physical and neurological relationships. This discovery was deeply healing for me, a discovery of feet on the ground and wings in the air. For other people, creating or actually rediscovering connections leads to improved flow, strength and support. These relationships can be equally powerful between one person and another. Touch can facilitate this kind of bridge building.

In ZB we experience that bone holds tension, often caused by forces of muscle, tendons and joints acting upon the bone. Bone-held tension is also the result of the insults and impacts of early childhood, when bones are still growing, molding and morphing, unprotected by any muscular “armor” we may form later on. This information, this personal history, can be accessed, and perhaps even decoded, through the skilled touch of an experienced practitioner for the sole benefit of the client. The deepest, earliest, most inaccessible parts of us, are suddenly opened and illuminated, not through thoughtful questioning, but through clear and respectful touch.

Memories long forgotten often emerge vividly during Zero Balancing, and, likewise, during any touch therapy that accesses bone. I myself have experienced this many times, to my own astonishment. Many insults, once cleared, with or without verbal processing, enabled me to transcend established patterns in my closest relationships. The results are many. I feel safer with others. I am more able to be present and listen to others, ignoring and quieting the chatter in my head. I feel my feet more solidly on the ground and this stability makes me a better support for others. I can laugh at myself and at  life. All benefits sparked by the catalyst of healing touch.

When we consider how so many of us are at a loss for how to improve our pain, our lives and our relationships, perhaps it’s time we look at one of the lowest tech, lowest cost, lowest risk methods we can try.

© 2015  Amanda King

Salem, MA

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In the days when Zero Balancing first appeared, people were not sure what to call it. The name ‘Fritzing’ was suggested, after Zero Balancing developer Fritz Smith, MD, an osteopathic physician and Master of Acupuncture. He rejected this moniker, not wishing to bring undue attention to his person and to enable ZB to grow and flourish independent of his authorship and personality.

‘Structural acupressure’ was his name for the work, which combines principles of Eastern approaches to energy healing and Western understanding of body structure, anatomy and scientific inquiry. It was only when a person receiving the work exclaimed that she felt “balanced to zero” that the current name was born.

What is balance but internal harmony and equilibrium? What is Zero? A complete abstraction, whereas nothingness defies quantification, by definition. In our world of stuff, how we long for open, empty space. In our cluttered minds, how we long for peace from thought. Imagine a blissful Zero, without the need to know, or judge, or understand. Imagine your ideal of balance with yourself and within yourself. In a moment, the slate of life is washed clean, and new possibilities, ones never before considered, arise.

Another reason why the name Zero Balancing is quite right for the work of bringing us back to ourselves.Image

©Amanda King, April 2014
Salem, MA

How many times have you imagined that your bones, and the tissues around them, are brittle? When material, living or inanimate, is brittle, breakage is imminent, like ice crunching under your feet. As we age, we expect our bones to stiffen, to lose pliability and elasticity, hence becoming more prone to breakage. While some flexibility is lost with age, how much can we attribute it to our BELIEF that old equals inflexible?

ZB founder Fritz Smith, MD at work. Photo by Giovanni Pescetto

ZB founder Fritz Smith, MD at work. Photo by Giovanni Pescetto

Something happens during a Zero Balancing touch therapy session that causes me to question this prevailing wisdom. At times, with a touch, as I engage structure and energy, bone tissue seems to warm and melt under my fingers. Massage and other manual therapists describe similar reactions to their work: tissue, once dense or locked in position, warms and becomes soft. It literally melts under the skilled touch of the therapist.

Bones, the structural underpinnings of the body, may be more susceptible than other tissues to becoming rigid. Our culture easily equates softness with weakness. How many times have you been told to stand firm? To be unyielding? To hold steady? These beliefs, while based in language, affect us to the core: our bones. We stiffen and resist change from without. If our stance is threatened, we reinforce our already rigid structure all the more.

Imagine what might happen if you were to let these beliefs go. If, of a moment, you could release your bones from the work of holding you in place. How would you and your skeleton handle the aging process?

“I was sure I was going to get arthritis in my hip because it often bothered me. It hasn’t hurt at all since I’ve been coming for ZB.”  

Might you absorb shocks more easily of your bones and joints could absorb and transfer life’s impacts rather than be cracked by them? This is not to say that Zero Balancing or other bodywork helps bones to become unbreakable, but that with conscious touch and release of old beliefs, they become more likely to bend.

© Amanda King

August 2013, Salem, MA

In massage, which is one of my foundational studies and loves, touch is attenuated. Some practitioners even work through a session without removing their hands from the client’s body. In a massage this type of touch equals value, and it is what the person on the table craves.

In Zero Balancing, my other foundational study and love, the long strokes of massage on skin are replaced by the gentle staccato touches of the practitioner’s hands or fingers on the client’s bones.

Touch to the tarsal bones of the foot.

Touch to the tarsal bones of the foot.

Bones, Zero Balancing founder Fritz Smith, MD, discovered early in his over fifty years of teaching and practice, hold and transmit vibration. In touching them relatively quickly and firmly, using an approach called Interface, Zero Balancers seek to both access and free that held vibration back into the person’s system.

The best way to do this, Dr. Smith teaches, rather than to linger, is to be quick and clear when touching bone.

This clarity of touch pays dividends. Released tension once held in bone tends to recharge and animate a person’s entire musculoskeletal system. Often, after a ZB session, people report feeling more energized while at the same time feeling calmer.

Because this touch occurs on such a deep level, we hold it usually no longer than ten seconds. If an area is particularly tight or congested — say on the scapula, the lower ribs, or at the upper trapezius muscles of the shoulders and neck (yes muscle, but sometimes as hard as bone!) — often a series of even shorter touches or fulcrums are used. This allows the tension to mobilize and dissolve, leaving the person feeling deeply open and refreshed.

Long or short, one type of touch is not better than another. In working with the muscles, fascia or soft tissue, long continuous strokes bring great relief and elongation of the tissue. In working with the bones, tiny touches or brief, deep contact are akin to striking a beautiful bell and allowing its music to pour forth.

Amanda King
Cambridge, MA
© 2013

In the time that I have practiced Zero Balancing, I have discovered a need of my own to create a focus for my learning. On one occasion, I might choose to see my client’s energy in terms of movement through body structure. Or, I might choose to focus my attention on limiting mind chatter so that I might be present and focused on the session for the good of the person on the table.

This week my practice is about letting go of any notions of weakness or fragility in my tools — my arms, hands, shoulders, as well as my legs and feet. My intent — to feel my own strength — not only allows me to erase decades of personal and familial conditioning, but it also gives me new confidence that I can work with anyone. By anyone, I mean my usual clients: men and women. Many people require a fair degree of contact so that they might feel that the tension they hold in their skeleton is not only accessed, but mobilized and released.

How did I uncover this strength ten years into my Zero Balancing practice? I studied this past weekend with ZB faculty member MIchael Oruch, who has developed a series of workshops for bodyworkers, Zero Balancers specifically, utilizing principles from Qigong. One takeaway from the class: a curve is stronger than a straight line. A curved hand, for example, held in position under my client’s back, has its own integrity. My hand becomes a bolster, a support and the structural foundation of a powerful fulcrum designed to catalyze and disperse deeply held tension. The client breathes, exhales and surrenders fully. Instead of collapsing under this increased weight, my curved hand holds steady, maintaining contact for the moments required. I do not strain, even under the weight of a large man or woman. My shoulders drop. I can smile as I feel their tissue soften under my hands.

Michael himself had a daily Qigong practice for many years before he came to Zero Balancing. He then attended, according to his own estimates, close to 80 workshops with Zero Balancing founder Fritz Smith, MD in the space of five years, observing the master at work. Fritz, who is not a big person, nevertheless, in my own experience, feels big when he is working on you. His curved hands and fingers, carefully positioned on a rib or cradling my sacrum, hold all of me while he works to free a particular spot. That is the magic of Zero Balancing and its greatest expression: to acknowledge and hold a person in his or her totality, even while covering a seemingly small territory with one’s hands. It is all about connection, clarity of touch and complete focus on the client.

Knowing that I am strong means that I can be a stable source of support for each person who seeks my care.

© Amanda King
August, 2012