Archives for posts with tag: massage

What Bodies Are: Collage by Amanda King

Recently, after a deep massage, I went through what I would call an emotional storm. It started the next day and was exacerbated by a disturbing dream in which someone I loved called to tell me she was in the hospital, but her voice trailed off before I could find out which hospital. I woke with a pervasive feeling of crisis and dread which I could not easily shake. These feelings were as familiar as breathing–or not breathing–bringing me back to a period two years ago when my elderly parents, who lived in another city, experienced a string of medical emergencies, falls, fractures, ER visits, and the like, causing me to drop work and sleep to drive many times the 200-mile distance to their aid. That period ended after what I can only call a series of harrowing shocks and losses, and my husband and I finally settled back, after my parents’ bittersweet passing, to “normal life.”

Then the process of grieving began, which took its own toll: heaviness in limbs, heart and lungs; difficulty smiling; new, deeper pouches under my eyes; grayer hair; the feeling that life might punch me in the gut again when I least expected it.

Slowly, and with the help of many gifted practitioners–a grief counselor, Zero Balancers, acupuncturists, a specialist in flower essences, a polarity therapist, and massage therapists–my heart and limbs felt lighter and I began to feel like myself again.

Until this week when, after the most recent massage–offered by a strong and sweet young woman just one year out of massage school–all the tumultuous feelings returned.

Returned? Or released?

How beautifully our bodies store in their many layers and depths emotions and sensations we are not ready to process. Then, in a moment of quiet and safety, they can bubble to the surface of our skin and our consciousness.

In this case, I felt the massage, one of the deepest I’ve requested, scraped residual sorrow out of my cells.

My teacher, Dr. Fritz Smith, the founder of Zero Balancing, likes to say that every session is like a wrapped present: you never know what you will find. This was certainly the case for me in receiving work from this lovely young woman.

It also helped me to understand on a corporal, visceral level how the soft tissue–muscles, fascia, internal organs (heart, lungs, guts)–absorbs and cushions the daily shocks and frustrations of life. Psychiatrist and trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk writes about this extensively in his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. “One of the ways the memory of helplessness is stored is as muscle tension or feelings of disintegration in the affected body areas.” p. 267. He goes on to write: “One of the clearest lessons from contemporary neuroscience is that our sense of ourselves is anchored in a vital connection with our bodies. We do not truly know ourselves unless we can feel and interpret our physical sensations; we need to register and act on these sensations to navigate safely through life.” p. 274

Zero Balancing teaches that the soft tissue, also home to acupuncture meridians, typically stores emotions felt–expressed and unexpressed–while bone, the deepest, densest tissue in the body aside from the teeth–frequently holds experiences from early childhood when bones are so plastic and forming, as we take our first steps, for example. In childhood, our soft tissue is soft, not yet hardened into a protective layer that so many of us over a certain age share. In childhood especially, things “cut to the quick” because physical muscular barriers are not there. In my own Zero Balancing sessions, I have uncovered long-forgotten memories and sensations from pivotal childhood moments, along with other experiences that affected me to the core.

Which brings me to my point: how wonderful to let go of grief, anguish, anger, frustration, humiliation or whatever else your loyal tissues may have packaged up in literal human Ziplocs.

Sometimes you can let go by yourself–through running, yoga, meditation, boxing, etc. But sometimes, like I did, you need a helping hand.

 

© 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

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.

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