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- from the rock opera "Tommy" by The Who
When the first caveman stood up in the wrong end of the cave and bumped his head, his first reaction was to touch it, to rub it. He was performing touch therapy upon himself.
And touch therapy is also the oldest form of one person helping another in healing. When the first little cave-kid fell and twisted his ankle, his cave-mom probably rubbed it for him just as moms do today. Little has changed in 400,000 years.
In considering the numerous alternative therapies that Americans turn to, the one they are most likely to have experienced is some form of massage therapy. In health clubs, hotels and beauty salons, massage therapists are getting in touch with mainstream America in increasing numbers.
No one has to be convinced that a good massage can loosen up tired or sore muscles, release tension and improve circulation. And the medical benefits of all that a massage brings with it are well documented. There are, however, even deeper levels to which bodywork can go, once departing from the basics of "...the manipulation of soft tissue...," as the American Massage Therapy Association defines massage. Many massage therapists are utilizing advanced techniques to aid their clients in reaching a healing balance in the areas of physical, psychological and emotional well-being. In using the mind/body connection, as we so often do these days, wouldn't it be wise to approach all that touch connects with? One of these advanced techniques is Hellerwork.
Hellerwork came to us as the result of Joseph Heller's career change later in life. No, this was not a career change from being a novelist. This is a different Joseph Heller we are talking about here. Our Joseph Heller was a scientist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. His specialty was the effects of stress and gravity on the energies necessary to maintain motion, as in space rockets. The demands of his job led him to seek his own form of stress release and in the late 60s, he became affiliated with a self-help group in Los Angeles. It was there that he made the acquaintance of Ida Rolf. Rolf had made a name for herself in the area of healing by developing a bodywork technique known as Structural Integration, more commonly known as Rolfing.
Rolfing is an approach that takes into account the effects that gravity and structural misuse have on the human body. Of course, being a scientist, Joseph Heller was drawn to this approach. After training, Heller became actively involved as a bodyworker, using Rolfing as his base. His career change became complete when he became director of the Rolf Institute in Boulder, Co. in 1975.
Three years later, Heller set out on his own having developed the modality that bears his name. What was it that he sought to add to Rolfing that he thought could improve it? To Heller, it made no sense that he would help someone restore their body by Rolfing and then watch them go out and do the same things that brought them to his therapy table in the first place.
The first thing Heller saw was a need for reeducation involving everyday movement. The repetitive motions of standing, sitting, bending over and so on were what he considered the basics that required proper form. In honoring stress-free ways of moving, he felt that we can introduce less tension to the body.
Also, as others before him had, Heller felt that emotional tension is stored in the body. In fact, a common experience in all types of bodywork is an emotional release during the therapy. Hellerwork seeks to facilitate that release by a method of verbal dialogue and processing.
Finally, the physical restoration of the body involves the massage element of the therapy. There is a particular focus that Hellerwork takes. Most of the work is done with the muscle fascia. This is the connective tissue that holds the muscle groups together and joins them to the skeletal structure.
By combining the three areas of movement reeducation, dialogue processing, and deep tissue massage, Hellerwork improves fitness, vitality, flexibility and health.
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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.