You are here: Column Archives: Bodywork, pt. 2


(Part 2 of: 1 l 2 l 3 )
"Rub it," revisited

by Michael Braunstein


It is not expected that all readers acknowledge and understand the workings of subtle energies. This possibility does not lessen the viability of those practices.


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Massage is probably the best known of the so-called "alternative therapies." Many Americans have experienced professional massage and the number of licensed massage therapists has increased exponentially in the past 15 years. The health benefits are broad. Proponents cite relaxation, relief of pain, improved circulation, enhanced immune system, decreased stress, to name just a few. One of the biggest changes in professional massage is the way therapists now utilize techniques from other cultures and specific modalities to focus their skills. The abilities and services now offered is far beyond what we once simply called a massage. In fact, a growing number of therapists describe themselves as "bodyworkers" in order to include the idea of all the different modalities associated with their work.

Last month, we began a list of descriptions of the various techniques often available when you go to a massage therapist. We continue that list this month.
Remember, the most basic understanding of massage is that it can benefit circulation on the gross level, such as the blood system. As a person and practitioner improves ones' capabilities to work with and understand the more subtle energies, the practices become more like "energywork" than bodywork. Some modalities of energywork are described here. It is not expected that all readers acknowledge and understand the workings of subtle energies. This possibility does not lessen the viability of those practices. After all, Christopher Columbus had no scientific evidence of how a compass works. Thank goodness he didn't let his ignorance deter his faith or detour his journey. He who thinks he knows it all, has no motivation for learning.

  • Lomilomi Massage - Aloha means good-bye and hello in the ancient Hawaiian language. Lomilomi means only "rub, rub;" no ambiguity here. If you go to a bodyworker who offers lomilomi massage, you can experience a technique handed down, generation to generation, from ancient Hawaiian kahunas, the culture's version of medicine men. Lomilomi is deeply spiritual in nature, based on the traditions of the Polynesian influence throughout the islands of the Pacific. The technique was formalized by Hawaiian-born nurse, Margaret Machado. The strokes used are similar to the shiatsu technique of Japan and are often deeper than Swedish massage, the type most Americans know. But lomilomi strokes are gentler and shorter than shiatsu. Pressure with fingers at certain points is also part of the technique, but it is of shorter duration than most acupressure. Two identifying techniques of authentic lomilomi are the emphasis on spirit/body connection and the use of forearm and elbow as a massage tool.

  • LooyenWork - One of the metaphysical tenets of bodywork is that tension and memory are actually stored in the body. Stress and emotional trauma accumulates and becomes locked in. Bodywork can release emotional blocks that are harming the body and contributing to illness. Body therapy thus becomes psychotherapy. Some therapists believe that the deeper the massage, the deeper the issues that can be released. Therefore some of the techniques that are deep-tissue oriented can actually be somewhat physically painful to endure. Not so with Looyenwork. It is was developed by Ted Looyen, a Dutch-born counselor/bodyworker from Australia who now practices in Mill Valley, Calif. His system works with the core emotional issue of a client and releases the stored value it holds. Though the massage is deep tissue, it is gentle, in keeping with Looyen's belief that pain does not heal pain. This is one of many forms of bodywork that connect the notion of emotional well-being and psychotherapy with the physical release afforded by massage techniques.

  • Lymph System Massage - Americans are most familiar with Swedish or European-style massage. Basically gentle, long rhythmic strokes are used to loosen muscles and improve circulation. In the 1930s, a Danish doctor, Hans Vodder, noticed the connection between swollen and blocked lymph glands and colds, infections and other ailments. Since the lymph system is designed to remove bacteria and toxins from the body, he reasoned that improving that function might help. His wife was a masseuse and he wondered if the gentle massage of the lymph system would benefit his patients. He found that it was so. Together they developed a specific technique that massages the lymph nodes and lymph system using a gentle Euro-technique. It was taught in an Austrian school and was introduced to North America in 1982. It is used to treat a wide variety of ailments including edema, burns, acne, inflammation, and arthritis. A characteristic of lymph system massage is that the strokes are always with the muscle fiber rather than cross-fiber. That is because the lymph system runs in the direction of the muscle fiber.

  • Myofascial Release Therapy - Basically, the body seems to be made of hard stuff (bones) and soft stuff (tissue.) The tissue is the part we massage. Mostly, massage is concerned with the muscle tissue. But there is a whole other important part of tissue that can benefit from massage. Muscles are throughout our body. They, as well as our arteries, organs, bones and everything else, are held together by a type of tissue called connective tissue. This includes a Saran-Wrap-kind-of-sheath known as the fascia. Think of it this way. If you have a chunk of meat and you wrap it in Saran Wrap very tightly it will have no place to flex or move. That's ok for meat in your fridge; not so good for meat on your body. By manipulation of the fascia that connects and surrounds our musculature, flexibility is maintained and the adverse effects of inflammation, age, trauma etc. can be treated. Because the fascia is body-wide, a tension or trauma in one part of the body can affect another part. The fascia respond to trained touch to release the tension or problem altogether. Myofascial Release is a specific technique acquired to accomplish this.

  • Naprapathy - This also concerns connective tissue. Originated by a chiropractor in Chicago in 1907, naprapathy is a gentle massage of connective tissue to restore optimal flow of energy through the body. Naprapathy also is holistic in nature in that it pays attention to nutrition, movement, lifestyle and diet. A prime focus of this technique is the attention to the ligaments that encase the spinal column.

  • Ortho-Bionomy - Ortho-Bionomy is another gentle massage technique and is often called the most homeopathic of bodywork. Allopathy, which is the Western conventional medical model, espouses the philosophy of fighting against a symptom. Homeopathy takes a different approach. It moves in the direction that the illness does and uses its own energy to defeat it. This is similar to the techniques of martial arts which seek to use an opponent's own energy to defeat him. In fact, O-B was developed by an English doctor, Arthur Pauls, who was a black belt in judo. In O-B, movements and gentle manipulations find the position of comfort in response to a pain then accentuate that release. When in pain, the body tends to adopt certain positions to accommodate. O-B places the client in the most comfortable position that helps alleviate the pain, then works from there to release the core problem.

  • Pfrimmer Technique - One of the first forms of deep muscle massage, it was developed in the 1940s, so it pre-dates the most common, Rolfing. Using strong strokes across the muscle fiber, (rather than along the length of the fibers,) this technique is designed to free adhesions and improve circulation, both lymphatic and vascular.

  • Polarity Therapy - Polarity therapy is one of the disciplines that could be placed in the category of "energywork." It was developed by a chiropractor and they very definitely work with manipulating the body. However, chiropractic is also very aware of the energy flow that the body maintains. Randolph Stone was a regular physician and also a D.C. and naturopathic physician. He combined his knowledge of ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Hermetic, Cabalistic, yogic, acupuncture and shiatsu techniques to outline the system of Polarity Therapy. While it includes touch, the focus of the work is on creating energy poles with the hands of the practitioner. The placement and intent is designed to improve the flow of energy through the body. Other parts of the therapy also consider diet and exercise.

  • Postural Integration - Dr. Jack Painter developed this form of deep tissue bodywork. Deep tissue techniques recognize that the body traps emotions and negative feelings in body "armoring," as Reichian therapy describes it. Painter's technique pays special attention to the fascia and the release of emotional obstructions in a psychotherapeutic manner. It incorporates what is known as "breathwork." Most of us understand how a few deep breaths can have an effect on us. Breathing with intent, release of blockages is facilitated.

  • Reflexology - This could easily be considered a Western version of acupressure with some subtle differences. It is sometimes called "zone therapy" which describes that there are zones on the body that correspond to various organs or other parts of the body. For example, reflexology teaches that there are points on the feet that relate to our organs and other parts of our body. Reflexology does not maintain that touching a point on the foot can magically heal an organ, as many skeptics often use as attack. It does consider that there are reflexes in the body. It does consider that stimulating a reflex point causes a stimulation in the natural energy of the related organ. And it does consider that the body does have a natural healing energy. QED

Be well.

Bodywork Article 2 of: 1 l 2 l 3

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Michael Braunstein is Executive Director of Heartland Healing and certified by the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners in clinical hypnotherapy. He graduated from the Los Angeles Hypnotism Training Institute and was an instructor at the UCLA Extension University for 11 years.

Heartland Healing is devoted to the examination of various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information and not as medical advice. It is not meant as an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or by Heartland Healing Center, Inc.

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