Good bodywork can soothe away the strains of modern life. It can unravel taut muscles, banish back ache and even soften emotional stress and psychological pain. Yet many people flinch at the intimacy or the intrusiveness. Lying butt-naked on the floor or having probing fingers diving under the ribs is a touch too far for those with a bashful disposition or a low pain threshold.
So three cheers for Zero Balancing, a highly effective bodywork system tailor-made for the shy and retiring.
Zero Balancing was developed by Dr Fritz Smith, an American doctor, acupuncturist and osteopath who investigated a wide range of bodywork therapies and ‘energy healing’ techniques before concluding that the two approaches needed to be combined. In 1973 he introduced his new form of therapy, describing it as, ‘a blending of Eastern and Western ideas in terms of body and structure. It brings energy concepts into touch, or body handling.’
It may sound esoteric but Zero Balancing is, in practice, one of the most down-to-earth therapies going. Its practitioners train for two and a half years and are all already healthcare professionals in other disciplines. In the UK, they tend to be doctors, nurses, osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists and acupuncturists.
Sessions are delightfully pragmatic and very non-invasive. You won’t have to spill out your deepest feelings; nor will you have to strip off your clothes. I first experienced ZB about 17 years ago and was hugely impressed – but there simply weren’t that many practitioners around. Now there are over 200 in the UK, and I visited Richard Walters, near Exeter, to refresh my memory. We sat and chatted a little and Richard asked if there was anything that needed attention. I had the usual neck and back strain of the habitual desk-wallah and my knee had turned nasty on me and I was limping badly. Richard nodded and had me take off my shoes and sit on the couch so he could evaluate my spine. Then I simply lay back and relaxed for the rest of the session.
The Zero Balance touch is quite deep (it works on the bone, rather than the soft tissue) but it’s not unpleasant. Sometimes it feels a little like acupressure, shiatsu or osteopathy but it’s really quite unique.
‘It doesn’t make demands on the body,’ says Walters. ‘We don’t have an opinion of how a body should be. We just find places t,hat are tight and see what the body wants to do.’
He points out that ZB has huge success in treating headaches, neck and shoulder pain and lower back problems. ‘It can be a boon for elderly people who feel themselves tightening up,’ he adds. ‘It can help with balance and stability. We also work well with frozen shoulders and with any chronic joint problems.’ There are very few contraindications for the therapy – Zero Balancers can even work with pregnant women (the session is held lying on your side) and even (using care) with people who have joint prostheses.
Most intriguingly Zero Balancing also helps people cope with times of emotional change or difficulty. ‘We hold a lot in our bones,’ says Walters. ‘It’s about who we are, not how we are. Working on bone touches our core, our identity and taps into deep childhood patterning.’ Walters has had marked success with children who suffer nightmares, and those who have bullying or self-esteem problems.
‘If you know who you are, at a deep level, you can shrug off pretty well anything, be that parents’ issues or peer pressure,’ he says.
My session was delicious. I found myself in an almost meditative state and came off the couch feeling different – lighter, easier in my body and preternaturally calm in my mind. Best of all, as I walked away from Richard’s house I suddenly realised something had changed. I was no longer limping, no longer in pain. My knee was just fine.
For more information and your nearest practitioner contact the Zero Balancing Association: www.zerobalancinguk.org; 0845 603 6805
Sessions generally cost between £30-£50 and you’re advised to have a minimum of three sessions.