Archives for posts with tag: health

How do I know that I need bodywork, specifically Zero Balancing?

I had the experience recently of “limping along,” restricted in my low back, calves, shoulders, chest, and other places too numerous to mention. Some of this tension was purely physical, to be sure. I work as a massage therapist, seeing two to six clients each week day, which inevitably involves some heavy lifting. Heads alone can weigh up to 25 pounds. But a fair amount of the tension I was carrying–it sometimes feels crushing–has to do with emotional stress. At this point in my life, I’m losing friends to cancer. Four women in their fifties have died over the last five years. My aunt, my second mother, I fondly called her, had a fall which proved fatal. Both of my parents also recently passed, after several years of my helping them through growing and ever worrisome medical needs.

Life for someone in her early fifties has these sort of personal stressors–so many of my friends share similar stories–not to mention the daily calamities and world-threatening trends, natural and man-made, we read or see on the news. I suspect that my tension, which as I mentioned gives me a personal experience of what it must feel like to be a black hole, sucking my outsides in in some kind of force of nature grip, is the direct result of my literally feeling small and powerless in the face of these events, tragedies and losses.

My point is, my stress is not just in my gray matter, even if it starts there. It reaches its tentacles in the form of signals and stress hormones into my tissues. As these flow, I lock up. And I need someone to pry me loose.

Why don’t you stretch? Why don’t you meditate? Or run or swim? You may be well wondering. I do all these things, plus eat well (when I can) and sleep. I also recently cut out working six days a week.

However, there is no replacement for having someone “reach underneath my tension” as a friend and fellow practitioner calls it, and gently yet firmly create space to allow a flow I only enjoyed on a regular basis when I was a kid.

Receiving ZB from Michael Oruch

Blissed out

Lying on the table during yesterday’s Zero Balancing session in Michael Oruch’s studio and sanctuary in the Bowery in Lower Manhattan, I went from limping along to laughing in a matter of 30 or so minutes. I felt met and tended to on such a deep level–at my marrow–releasing waves, maybe tsunamis of grief–yet all the while feeling completely safe physically and emotionally. Toward the end of the session, (which is offered through clothing and requires no oil or lotion) during which Michael worked my ribs, sacrum, lumbar spine, hip joints, ankles, feet — places so numerous and intractable, try as I might I could not open them with any amount of movement or stretching–I realized I no longer felt small or powerless. In fact, quite the opposite.

This relief and aliveness was undeniable and also, for me, a hallmark of Zero Balancing sessions I’ve received from other practitioners. Walking down the street afterwards, I could say without hesitation that Zero Balancing is one of the best things in this world.

 

© 2017 Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

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aqua-treasure-2015When I receive Zero Balancing myself, often in the course of the session, something strange happens. I stop breathing.

This is not the usual holding my breath. It just stops, as if I no longer need to breathe for the ten or twenty seconds that it seems to last. During that time, a paradox, really, because time dissolves to leave only now, I can feel myself shimmering or slowly undulating, as if my being is suddenly floating in a delicious underwater sea. Eventually, the feeling of scintillating seems to cease of its own accord, and my breathing restarts.

I call this non-breathing time Being with a capital B. In ZB, we also have a name for it, more specifically descriptive: APNEA, or no breath.

Why does the apnea happen? No one, even ZB developer Fritz Smith, M.D., knows for certain, but he has an intriguing theory. When a ZB practitioner touches a person, feeling for held tension in a rib or a scapula, beneath the soft tissue, that tension starts to disperse. Imagine moving a stone in a dammed river–a trickle released builds and its momentum pushes more of the clogs out of the way, feeding the river’s flow.

In Dr. Smith’s book, Inner Bridges: A Guide to Energy Movement and Body Structure, he writes: “In the energy body, the moment-to-moment vibratory needs stimulate the respiratory mechanism. The body’s need for vibration can be most quickly met through the vibration of air molecules.” (p. 157)

Breathe forcefully through your nose. Notice the air enter your nasal passages, the labrynthine twists and turns of the sinuses, before the oxygen reaches your bronchial tubes and the alveoli of your lungs. The movement of the air itself, countless molecules, creates friction as it moves–slowly or rapidly through the nasal tunnels. Is friction a source of nourishment for the body? Perhaps.

Releasing energy back to its full flow by releasing tension held in bone tissue may allow our Chi or Spirit to be nourished to the degree that breathing is suspended–and with it–conventional time and space.

While this phenomenon is interesting to describe, it’s much more enjoyable to experience. In fact, it is so much a part of Zero Balancing, that it is taught in the foundation courses.

© 2017, Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

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

Zero Balancing Session

Evaluating and balancing the sacroiliac joint in a Zero Balancing session.

“An intent to heal can get in the way of seeing.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

In Zero Balancing, at the start of the session, we ask the person receiving the treatment to state their goal. Their goal, ultimately, can take a multitude of directions. Relieve the pain in my left foot.  Help me address my performance anxiety. I want to feel a deeper connection to myself and what is universal in me. 

Once stated — or framed, as we Zero Balancers call it — the intention for the session is clear, empowered and a mutual contract between the practitioner and receiver. The intention creates a rich and potent force that informs every touch in the ZB session that follows. How does this happen? Not with continued intention, which some hands-on or energy work prescribes. Rather, in ZB, once the frame is uttered, clarified and agreed upon, we let it go. We spend the rest of the session giving the person on the table our full and quiet attention. We clear our mind of random thoughts and chatter, and, in doing so, give with exquisite focus and purpose. For this reason, we do not talk much, if at all, with our client as we work.

One way in which Zero Balancers are able to clear our minds while we work is through our mode of touch. Known as Interface, this touch exists at the place of meeting between two beings, two bodies, and two energies. Interface Touch enables us to put our attention (that word again) on where our own working surface — fingers, thumb or palm — meets our client. In the beginning of practice, this takes work! As one becomes more proficient, one feels more, senses more, discovers more about the person in our care.

Because our focus is on our touch, and on the richness of the signals coming to us proprioceptively, we stay in the now. As we do — and this story is my experience after ten years of ZB practice — the frame or intention of the client is magically, mysteriously and often surprisingly addressed. The foot that was hurting and wobbly now feels light, yet stable like a suction cup on the floor. The bones that were aching feel seen, cared for and acknowledged. The worried mind is calm and contented. How did this happen? I have no clue and no control over the outcome. Nor do I want to, for I’ve discovered that the ZB I would envision for you is never as rich or as sweet as the one the universe provides.

© Amanda King, 2012

Amanda King
Cambridge, Massachusetts