I find myself noticing all the little tensions in my body. Especially when I slow down enough to drop out of busy mind. One of the techniques I’ve been sharing with my clients is a simple self massage using only your breath.
Imagine your ribs. They move in numerous ways but not very far in any direction individually. As a coordinated team they can make a grand motion that stretches your entire torso to it’s maximum potential. Every organ, every muscle and every bit of connective tissue is going along with your full inhale stretch, smoothing out and releasing the wrinkled compression we get from sitting too much, scrunching our necks to see screens or distant objects, and cringing from the hourly news.
Try it now.
Take one long full breath and sniff a wee bit more air in until you feel like you’re going to burst with air. Hold your breath at this peak to a count of 3 – 10. (Build up to a comfortable number so it’s a fun challenge- not painful!) During the hold consciously let your arms and shoulders drop and your low belly, hips & face soften a bit.
Then release the breath with control through your nose. At the bottom of this breath use your abdominal muscles to squeeze a bit more air out through your nose with a quick snort. Now hold your breath out to a count of 3 – 10 so it’s a gentle challenge.
Let your next inhale come in naturally and feel the inspiration both physically and energetically! Repeat 3 at a time many times through out your day. Your whole body is refreshed with oxygen, you’ve expelled additional toxins from your lungs AND many muscles have been given a self massage!
Try it when you can lie on the ground and look up at a brilliant summer sky!
I have been reveling in morning spring walks along Meadow Creek. It is so amazing to see the energy flowing up through the soil and into the plants. One day the sprout structure transforms into a leafy plant and in just a few more days buds form and then our come the blossoms.
The same processes are occurring in our bodies. As we take in the plants, (I love to graze on chickweed or taste a pine needle with a raindrop still on it as I meander back up the hill to my backyard!) the nutrients spread out into our cells that are being replenished, repaired or replaced. And so the earth energy can flow into us as well. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and other ancient healing traditions the understanding of how foods nourished us was by the ways the energetic qualities affected our bodies. As a very simplified explanation we all know how a spicy salsa or Thai curry can bring a sweat to the brow. So we say the energy of chili peppers is warming. In much the same way we get warm from an electric heat pump as energy is transferred from one form to another in our cells from the skin inward rather than food warming us from our internal organs out to the skin.
Energy constantly moves and changes forms and that principle of nature is what we take advantage of in Zero Balancing. When we put even light pressure on the body by lifting or tractioning we encourage the energy that is already present to move and flow through nearby cells and tissues. Physiologists refer to this pressure initiated energy as piezo-electricity which is a property of the collagen in our skin, muscles, ligaments and bones. So while we have a standard protocol for Zero Balancing sessions what happens in an individual is unique each time.
The touch each client receives is based on the practitioner’s evaluations of the body and awareness of the change that is occurring under our fingers. We say we follow the energy of the client and then hold our position stationary until the place we are touching changes in quality. The change may be felt as warmth or a softening and sometimes we don’t notice anything for a few seconds and then we just continue with the protocol until the next pause at an area that may feel knotty or too dense or tight. The protocol addresses all the joints, so by the end of a 35-45 minute period on your back on a massage table you have been touched head to toe. Upon sitting up clients faces are much more relaxed and oftentimes they remark how different they feel. Relaxed, peaceful, lighter, more grounded, connected, or energized in a refreshing way are regular comments on how people feel the energy change after the session and for quite sometime in many instances. With regular sessions those changes last for longer and longer, stress and many physical complaints lessen and sometimes go away completely.
To experience a session with me in Charlottesville, VA you can book an appointment at my scheduling site https://www.timecenter.com/wbwb/ If you are outside of Central Virginia you can go to www.zerobalancing.com and click on the find a practitioner menu. By entering your zip code you can locate certified practitioners.
So far I haven’t met anyone who dislikes Zero Balancing. Occasionally I’ll share a session with someone who doesn’t feel any changes from their session but usually that is because of reduced sensitivity to bodily sensations caused by medications or being so intellectual that the person doesn’t have much awareness of the sense of touch.
I recently attended a Zero Balancing Refinement Day held in Charlottesville, VA at Studio ZB in my office building. My faculty colleagues, Elliot Abhau and Judith Sullivan, facilitated the great day of exploring a very succinct Zero Balancing protocol that can be done almost anywhere in just a couple of minutes. In an earlier post I describe a typical ZB session that is done on a massage table. This one is done with the client seated and begins with the practitioner standing on one side and ending at the client’s feet kneeling in front as pictured. The beauty of this is that many people who can’t or don’t want to lie down can feel relaxed and grounded in a couple of minutes. So far I’ve offered it to my son’s classmates sitting on a garden bench waiting for their parents to pick them up in the midst of a noisy group of middle schoolers. Each child I balanced paused, relaxed into my hands and returned to their assigned waiting area much more quiet than before. I also have used it for a couple of elder clients who get stiff from being prone too long. I can see the potential for helping people confined to wheel chairs and for young children when they are sitting on their parent’s lap.
Elliot developed the basic seated form out of a desire to provide people quick care and refined it while offering sessions to massage practitioners at a convention. Judith added some of her flavor to it and along with Roxanne Broadbent shares it during volunteer days with The Haven, an organization supporting the homeless in Charlottesville. When our Refinement Day was over we all felt very refreshed from having given or received the seated session three or more times. That’s why I love ZB!
Zero Balancing (ZB) is based on a standard protocol that uses evaluation of specific joints to guide the practitioner through balancing the whole skeleton system. Yes, I said the whole skeletal system and it only lasts 35-45 minutes! In a session of ZB you remained fully clothed and are resting on your back on a massage table so our hands can slide easily under the body. We use fulcrums, lifting motions that create a point of support, to create a just right pressure into bone. We also use gentle traction and rotations to remove the looseness from feet, hips, ankles, shoulders and the neck.
The session begins with a health history. We perform a seated evaluation of the range of motion of the shoulders and sacroiliac joints. Then you lie down for the rest of the session. First the lower torso is addressed along the spine. Whenever our evaluation indicates held tension we place a fulcrum at that point holding the appropriate angle for the client in stillness as the body reorients. We then evaluate the hips rotating internally and externally then gently traction to balance them before moving to the feet. I have to point out here that ZB has the most complete foot protocol I’ve experienced and it has helped me tremendously! Our bones in the ankle and heel region of the foot can not be consciously moved so attention to those bones that help decompress the complex arches can really give you a feeling of a spring in your step.
At your the head your practitioner applies comfortable pressure into the trapezius muscle at the top of your shoulders. She evaluates and balances the upper back by lifting into ribs, shoulder blades and shoulder joints. The neck is evaluated by holding the base of your skull to lift, side bend and rotate in a comfortable range for you. The neck fulcrums combine rotation and fingers sliding through muscle tissue. We carefully traction the shoulder and address any hand and finger issues before offering a few motions into the skull and integrating the entire session through body in a series of 5 curving tractions from the head to the feet. In the last movement while the whole body is in a fulcrum we can assess the greater connection you have to yourself. You then have a few minutes to be still before sitting to have a short seated evaluation and returning to a slow walk around the office.
When a person stands up after a session their eyes are more clear, the mouth is softer and lines of forehead tension are erased. Clients regularly report feeling taller and that their feet feel more firmly on the earth. Practitioners see more even shoulder height, relaxed hands and upright but relaxed torsos. Many clients say they sleep better and feel more like themselves again.
When I left your office I looked up into the sky and just said, “thank you.” DC mother and teacher
In my last post I talked about ZB incorporating the energetic anatomy as understood in Eastern healing systems. By utilizing the feel of energy flow through the body’s structure each Zero Balancing becomes customized and can accomplish a lot on multiple dimensions of a person. There are common phrases that let us know tissue held memories are true and impact us on a long standing basis. ” I was cut to the quick. The accident was gut-wrenching. Leaving the family home made my heart ache. They were bone-tired.” Zero Balancers are taught to use their fingers to look and feel for density, too much or too little range of motion in a joint, a lack of resiliency or feeling of dullness in a bone as well as how the energy is able flow from one bone to the next. It is our understanding that when releases occur the energy is freed to be recycled into the client. There are times that a client feels a sensitivity in one place for no apparent reason and the practitioner feels it too. My favorite sensation of energy release is when I feel the bone soften much like I’m cutting through a soft stick of butter. Other times I feel like I’m holding a 4th of July sparkler. My client may say, “I felt that in my left toe,” when I have my finger on a rib.
So really what happens in a Zero Balancing session is up to you. What you want, what you need and what your body is prepared to do. Zero Balancers believe in the body’s self-healing capacities no matter whether they are trained in physical therapy, acupuncture, nursing, massage therapy, chiropractic or other healing methods. Our full body protocol is a whole Being support system that can be used in many contexts for people of all ages.
It’s a question I get asked all the time. And truthfully, it’s not that easy to explain. I do know that the first time I experienced it I wanted to learn how to do it and knew I could.
I was sitting in the cozy wood fire warmed kitchen of my friend, Ida Smith, while my husband received his session. She didn’t even touch me or tell me anything about what she was doing. What I felt in the room was what hooked me. Yes it felt peaceful and relaxing but a very, very, deep grounded presence was what spoke to my inner being.
During my first class, six months later, in 1994, Ida helped me to understand that the depth of what I felt was partially because Zero Balancing focuses on touching the bone. Dr. Fritz Smith, the founder of Zero Balancing, grew up with his chiropractor father touching his bones regularly and went on to become an osteopath as an adult. Dr. Smith had a thriving practice for patients with back pain in California in the early 1960’s.
I learned the rest of the reason that I felt the deep presence was that Zero Balancers connect with the natural energy flows through the body tissues as understood in Eastern medical traditions such as acupuncture, ayurveda and yoga. Most people are now familiar with healing practices that come out of these traditions. Chi gong uses slow fluid body positions to move chi in the meridians, MBSR, mindfulness based stress reduction, uses the breath to support quieting the mind both support the body’s natural movement toward homeostasis and health. The internal energy flows Dr. Smith incorporated in Zero Balancing came from his training as an acupuncturist with Dr. J.R. Worsley and studying meditative techniques that use the breath energy.
So when I give a Zero Balancing session my touch attention is focused on bone, the core of the body, in areas where the energy should flow clear and strong. The spine is a prime example of where structure and energy meet. If you look at a profile view of a healthy child you can see the natural curves moving forward and back from the base of the skull to the pelvis. You can compare the spine with the flow of a meandering stream. The water (energy) moves easily and fastest around a bend yet when debris or stones build up the flow is impeded and an area of stagnated water pools behind the debris. As I move my fingers along the ribs and sacrum I lift gently and feel for differences from side to side and for the pliability of the bone and connective tissues. If I get the sensation of density (debris) or stickiness in movement (stagnation) I can use my touch to share that information with the bone and let my client’s body reorient and make changes as appropriate. Unlike some techniques we don’t force any changes. The session continues and I feel for any other or related structural or energetic imbalances.
Since Zero Balancing touch is clear and very attentive our clients take that attention in as being listened too deeply even though they don’t often talk much during a session. That in itself can be very healing in stressful times of constant requests for our attention from the outer world. So a short answer to, “What is Zero Balancing?” is “It is a gentle system of touch that connects with the deep energy flow of the full skeletal system and the whole person.”
Experience Zero Balancing for yourself and develop your own definition! Many clients that find it relieves chronic and occasional stress, helps them sleep well, significantly reduces pain and helps untangle mis-alignments in joints that they’ve had for many years. Almost everyone leaves feeling their feet on the ground and with a smile on their face.
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