Archives for posts with tag: manual therapy

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

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Engaging the hip through traction is part of Zero Balancing.

In Zero Balancing, a fulcrum is the working tool. The point of balance, created using a curved hand or fingers, or through the building of a stretch or vector held stationary, creates a space akin to the eye of a hurricane. Around this still place, offered to the body through touch, those mysterious ingredients that are a being – flesh, bone, mind, spirit – can organize themselves, often in a matter of moments.

In Zero Balancing, the practitioner’s touch aims for bone tissue and connects with, but does not invade, the musculoskeletal structure. Bone tissue, with its high degree of collagen fiber makeup, actually conducts energy when compressed or stretched. Energy set in motion from deep within the bones affects not just the place touched, but the entire body-mind system. Sometimes these shifts are palpable only to the person on the table. At other times, the entire field of the room can change as a result of a well-placed fulcrum.

The more one practices any body-mind system, such as Tai Chi, yoga or meditation, the more one becomes sensitive to this subtle weather.

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