Massage for the Soul – Zero Balancing

If you wanted to massage your soul, how would you do it?

We all want to feel healthy – not just in our bodies.  We want to enjoy clear thinking, emotional vibrancy, spiritual inspiration – things more commonly more associated with soul than with body.

Recently someone called Zero Balancing a “massage for the soul.”  Why is that?

The deepest part of us, even below our sense of self, is the feeling of connection with soul, with spirit.  Anatomically, the deepest part of us is the skeletal system.  It is the singular insight of Zero Balancing to realize that bone is a medium for soul and spirit, as well as forming the structural armature for our physical body.

There are key joints in the body for the transmission of energy, for deeper support.  These are joints that are not primarily locomotor joints, such as the elbow, they are more intrinsic and connect bones critical to structural and energetic balance.  For instance, there is no muscle running from the back of the sacrum to the ilium, the pelvis.  But this joint is critical for the transmission of force and energy from the upper to the lower body.

There is no muscle running from one cuneiform bone to another in the foot.  But these play a critical role in creating our arch and thus support our every step.

For massage therapists and other manual therapists, to address these foundation joints is a critical skill.  And that is what Zero Balancing does.

The musculo-skeletal system is the medium of manual therapists.  So it is critical that we have tools to address the body and soul of the skeletal as well as the muscular systems.  That’s what you get from knowing Zero Balancing!

We have room for just five more people in the Zero Balancing I class that is this January 26-29! Begin the new year learning deeper skills to help your clients in body and soul!

Helen Keller was Right about Massage (and life)

Helen Keller was right – “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

In some ways every day is an adventure; every day a hero’s journey. We don’t know what will happen. We can see the obstacles and opportunities that arise as part of the incredible journeys, short and long, we take in this life. We all love the fresh sense of adventure in our lives.

For advanced students, massage therapists, and bodyworkers, the adventure of the journey to the center of the self is very key to their lives. We begin, after learning the basics, to plumb the depths of who we are. We get increasingly blown away by those deeper layers and dynamics of anatomy, the mysterious and labyrinthian ways of physiology. We understand psychology, first our own, then others, more and more deeply. And we see an infinite depth to the exploration of the relationships of energy and structure; personality and body; mind and spirit.

Once you are “hooked”, there is no turning back from this adventure. In 1977 I thought, “Oh I guess I’ll be a massage therapist.” Thirty three years later, I feel, as I walk through this realm, that the ground keeps dropping down deeper. This paths go everywhere; the vistas ever more fascinating. True confessions, it’s almost the same feeling I had when I first started to get to know my wife, Julie. Each date added a another level of appreciation of her depth – I sensed she would surprise me every day and be infinitely interesting. I am so happy to say I was right!

I am also so happy how right I and so many are about what an incredible adventure it is to set sail into the waters of advanced bodywork. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I can’t imagine anyone seriously in this field being without this precious knowledge and the powerful techniques which accompany them.  Reminding you – TLC’s Advanced Clinical Training (ACT) starts November 7.  It is an integrative training engaging us in learning about the whole person so we can be full-fledged health professionals addressing both the structural and energetic sources of pain and tension, giving you the skill levels to much more dramatically amplify the health momentum for each client.

It is already half-full. We want every bodyworker who’s tapped into this adventure to take this next step. We’ve eliminated all your excuses not to do it.  We have payment plans that will fit almost any budget. The schedule is designed for working thereapists; just one class a week Mondays 10-5, November through August.  There is minimal homework with, however, deep work learning together in each class.

Helen Keller’s full quote is – “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

I and the other core ACT faculty members – Jan Hutchinson, Dena Roberts, Cindy Anderson – invite you to free your spirit, body and mind and to help those you touch to do the same.  We heartily look forward to joining in this adventure with you!

Click here for information about the Advanced Clinical Training.

The Most Important Muscle? – Deep Massage and the Rectus Abdominis

Forward flexion of the torso – sitting or moving in hunched over position – is the most common postural distortion.  Forward flexion may give rise to serious structural and energetic problems

Leaning forward makes our back and neck work harder to keep us upright. It gives us less room for breathing – compromising nourishment to every single cell in the body.  It crowds vital organs, giving them less room for effective digestion, assimilation and elimination.  It compromises the enteric nervous system, described as the “second brain,” influencing a wide range of functions in the body.

What muscle is most implicated in this?  The rectus abdominis!

Though the iliopsoas enjoys iconic status, the rectus abdominis may well be more important for structural and energetic health.

The rectus abdominis interdigitates with the originating fibers of pectoralis major as well.  So it contributes also to rounding of the shoulders.

So here you are hunched over, rounding your shoulders, head hanging out in the space in front of the rest of your body like a lost bowling ball, with compromised breathing, digestion, and a dysfunctioning enteric nervous system.

You need a therapist who knows how to comfortably and effectively lengthen the belly and tendons of rectus abdominis!

This weekend in my Deep Massage workshop I will be deepening your ability to address rectus abdominis wonderfully (as well as supporting it through the diaphragm and psoas).

And in our Advanced Clinical Training, which begins November 7th, you will begin a journey and learning endeavor that will take you deeper and higher than you have ever been personally and professionally.

Rectus abdominis is just one component of how we can learn to address the energetic and structural nature of the individuals we see with techniques and understandings that can make an unprecedented and incredibly positive difference in their lives.

What exactly is Clinical Massage?

We hear the terms “medical massage”, “clinical massage”, and “orthopedic massage therapy” used in our field these days. What really is Clinical Massage?

Some people think that it is massage that primarily addresses physical complaints of the muscles and connective tissues. Others think it is also important to address the nervous system. Still others look at the contributions of the mind and emotions.

It has been an assumption in our school that the best result in massage comes from the skill to address the whole person – not just the body, mind or emotions.

On the one hand, Clinical Massage certainly requires a deep familiarity with anatomy, kinesiology and the physiology of how tissue gets injured and how to facilitate its healing. It requires deeper techniques – cross-fiber, deep effleurage, trigger point work, muscle energy techniques, etc. – to address anatomically based tension and pain.

On the other hand, probably as much pain results from the client’s psychology and the chronic postures he/she adopts in response to it. Every deep belief about oneself manifests in one’s body. A lack of self-esteem will affect one’s breathing and therefore every cell. A person with an exaggerated sense of duty will stand and move with more rigidity than truly serves them. A person who grew tall early may slump over because he/she was embarrassed about it. So recognizing the importance of these issues may be as important in clinical work as dealing with fascial adhesions.

As Dr. John Sarno, MD said science is empirical – it works with what is. In a human being what is is body, mind and emotion. Therefore, a medical approach that ignores emotion or mind is simply bad science.

A scientific approach to manual therapy that takes the mind and emotions as well as the tissues into account is a lot more likely to have the optimum clinical result.

What a relief to see hands-on therapy leading medicine on the road to understanding and treating the whole person!

“Wisdom of the Body” – Stanley Kunitz on poetry (and massage)

These words are excerpted from the essay “The Wisdom of the Body” from Stanley Kunitz’ book Next-to-Last Things.  I’ve found them inspiring my massage therapy again and again over the years.

For ages before (human writing), “immense quantities of human experience,” in Alfred North Whitehead’s phrase,”had been accumulating in men’s bodies.”  The body, in its genetic code, holds the long odyssey of the race.  When our organs are working healthily and harmoniously, the joy that floods our being cannot be much different from what Adam knew.  No interpreter is needed for a conversation between bodies…

“This is what you shall do,” wrote Walt Whitman in his preface to Leaves of Grass:

     “Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labour to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men – go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families – re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.”

Stanley Kunitz

We need to refrain, as Walt Whitman does, from speaking of mind as though it were somehow opposed to body, or of spirit as though it were somehow superior to mind.  In my philosophy, all three – body, mind, spirit – are merely stages of incandescence, or awareness, in the same living organism.  As the lights go on within, we begin to see everything that is, everything that happens, impinging on us.  Our most sublime thoughts have their feet planted in clay; our best songs are body-songs.

Massage Therapy Hall of Fame (and Self Horn-Tooting….awkward :)

Today I’m being inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame.  Thank you to Mike Hinkle, the World Massage Festival, and the world of massage therapy and bodywork for this recognition.  So many people spend their whole lives teaching and/or working with clients with virtually no appreciation outside of their immediate circle.  So thank you very much!

I’m immediately celebrating by spending the day that coincidentally has me NOT at the Festival.  My son, wife and her mother are all born on July 16th!  So I’m in Austin with my personal Hall of Fall family members.

The Hall of Fame induction somewhat influenced me to a new wave of productivity – this has been a great year.  I am putting the finishing touches on my book on Deep Massage; a new article on energy and integration will be published this Fall in Massage and Bodywork magazine;  our school is in its 23rd year of success; and I will soon begin writing a biography of Fritz Smith, MD, the founder of Zero Balancing.  Plus a new year of teaching here and in England.  It’s a good life.

I sense a turning point in our field – after years of striving for legitimacy and for scientific/medical competence – we are finally beginning to look at the art as well as the science, at energy as well as structure.  Health means whole and for our field to continue being a leader in the healthcare field we need to keep on working with the whole person, not just their physical body or their energy.  So many of us now are becoming “thought leaders” in the integrative vision of healthcare.  It’s an exciting time and I’m happy to be part of it.

Thanks everyone for your support and I pledge to be worthy of it.



p.s. to feel complete I’d like to just list names of people who have helped greatly along the way:

Faye, Aubrey and Lisa Lauterstein, Millie Barry, Keith Kartman, Michael Bloomfield, Herbert Brun, Paul Brown, Bob King, Nancy Dail, Daniel Blake, Julie Lauterstein, Jake Lauterstein, Katja Lauterstein, Cherry and Jerry Harper, Fritz Smith, Paul Cohen, Zanna Heighton, Clive Taylor, Pam Geggus, Jeff Lennard, Alan Hext, Giovanni Pescetto, Mary Zinman (and all the other ZB faculty), John Conway, the staff and faculty and each student at Lauterstein-Conway Massage School.

Peace is a Need, So is Work! Massage Combines Peace and Work.

Seth Godin writes a fantastic blog.  Every day he comes up with brilliant tips on life and work.  Here’s his from today –

“When is it due?

Here’s the schedule. Follow it.

There’s your in box. Empty it.

When something is imminent, speed up. When you’re off the deadline machine, take a breath and poke around a bit, explore, relax.


The goal isn’t to do work and hand it in just before it’s due. The goal is to do the work as beautifully as you can, faster than anyone else, so you can do more work.

If it takes a deadline to get you off your butt and to push past the resistance, then move the deadlines forward.

You don’t work on an assembly line any more. You work in project world, and more projects mean more chances to screw up, to learn, to make a reputation and to have more impact.

When it’s you against the boss, the goal is to do less work.

When it’s you against the project, the goal is to do more work.”

What he said today brought up memories of my incredible music composition teacher at University of Illinois, Herbert Brun, in the mid-70’s.  Herbert was a radical his whole life.  He was a pioneer in electronic and computer music and a sometimes maddening but uncompromising exponent of his brand of critical thinking.

He worked closely with Heinz Von Forester at the Biological Computer Lab at U of I and Humberto Maturana, the visionary Chilean neuophysiologist. Thank you Herbert (1918-2000) for being one of my teachers.

Herbert in this video shows how peace is a need (not just an idle dream or desire).

“Needs are conditions that have to met so that they can happen again.”

“Peace has to met by our conflicts, our differences, so it can happen again.”

Similarly, as Seth Godin implies in his post today, work, meaningful work, is a need.

“The goal is to do the work as beautifully as you can, faster than anyone else, so you can do more work.”

Herbert Brun

Of course implied here is we need to rest and celebrate after each project is done beautifully, so that work and the desire to do beautiful work can happen again.

Work has to be done beautifully and met with rest so that it can happen again.

Of course, for us massage therapists, the content of our work often is to help the client experience and resolve the conflicts of life in a peaceful, relaxed way.  We generate peace and create the conditions for rest so that work and peace can happen again.

The Evolution of Slowness – Massage Helps Thoughtfulness

Deliberation is born of joy. — Rumi

Andrew Taylor Still, Osteopath’s founder, said the body contains all the healing substances it needs.  And indeed humans have within their nervous systems equally the antidote to the social epidemic of excess stress.

The autonomic system embodies the advantage of a speedy, whole body response to changing circumstance.  However, we have evolved a yet higher capacity.

We have, even during the most trying of circumstances, the ability to slow down and to decide how we shall respond.  The ability to make decisions deliberately is perhaps our most uniquely human characteristic.

Between stimulus and response there is a vast realm.  We have the ability to sort through our feelings, our thoughts and sensations and to consciously decide how we are to respond.  This is the unique capacity of the human cerebrum.

The cerebrum housing the conscious mind, is, essentially, a mechanism we use to slow down our processes and to decide who we want to be and how we want to act; as opposed to speedy and automatic reactions that characterize all lower levels of the nervous system.

The ability to slow down is one of the great privileges of being human.

Massage therapists and other practitioners of meditative disciplines represent advocacy groups precisely for the social necessity of slowing down, contemplating our situation, our habitual responses, and then making deliberative, balanced responses.



What are Energy and Structure? Clarity will Help our Massages!

As you may notice, over the last few weeks in this blog I’ve been focusing mostly on structure/energy, art/science and their integration in bodywork.  Bit-by-bit I want to assemble a position paper that helps brings clarity to these things and helps our field take a closer look at integrative healthcare.  Thanks for listening and your feedback.

Here’s the next installment:

What is Structure?  What is Energy?

When we think about structure, it includes:

Generally, the physical aspect of the person

Structure may also be thought of as objective, tangible, palpable, and visible.

Energy, most broadly defined, is the entire realm of experience beyond just the physical.  It may be thought of as subjective, intangible, not necessarily palpable, and not necessarily visible.

Energy includes then:


It also includes the realm of sensation, emotion and mind:


And the realm of spirit:


Some of these of course can be described in the language of neurological and endocrine processes.  The autonomic nervous system is in many ways an energetic system, responding to feelings, thoughts, sensations, etc. by changing the overall energetic and physical state of the organism.  Other energetic phenomena, particularly associations we may have with given sensations, may be described in terms of activities within the limbic system (hypothalamus, amygdala, etc.) in the diencephalon of the brain and then affecting the whole person through the neuro-endocrine response.

Indeed we can use anatomical and physiological language to describe human structure and energy, and that is extremely helpful.  However, to reduce ourselves only to that language would be to lose the full richness of life.  Poetry is as good, and as valuable in its way, as science in capturing the living quality of experience.


Energy in Bodywork & Massage Therapy

The broadest use of the term energy in bodywork has been applied to bodywork that consciously aims at more than just soft tissues.  The scientific method is empirical.  It looks at and works with what is there.  In the case of a human, what is there is a body, and certainly mind and emotions as well.  As Dr. John Sarno said, “A medicine that ignores emotions is simply bad science.”  Many people include soul and spirit as well – though some find their existence somewhat less obvious.

Generally a consummate therapist who consistently earns the trust of his or her clients will be someone who relates not just to the anatomy and physiology of the client, but also their personhood. Optimally healthcare professionals care about their patients/clients – how they feel, what stresses they are under, what knowledge they have about what’s going on with them – in addition to having great skill in effectively addressing disease and injury.

Another way to say this is that they consider both structure and energy in their practice.

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