Natural Awakenings’ Bodywork Guide




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Rolfing Structural Integration (Rolfing): Deep tissue manipulation of the myofascial system, which is composed of the muscles and the connective tissue, or fascia, by the practitioners’ hands helps restore the body’s natural alignment and sense of integration. As the body is released from old patterns and postures, its range and freedom of physical and emotional expression increases. Rolfing can help ease pain and chronic stress, enhance neurological functioning, improve posture and restore flexibility. Learn more at Rolfing.org.

Rosen Method: It’s named for Marion Rosen, a physiotherapist who discovered that when clients verbalized their emotions and sensations during treatment sessions, their conditions would more quickly improve. The non-invasive method uses gentle, direct touch; practitioners, taught to use hands that “listen” rather than manipulate, focus on chronic muscle tension and call attention to shifts in the breath to help individuals achieve greater self-awareness and relaxation. The technique is often effectively used to treat chronic health conditions. Learn more at RosenMethod.com.

Rubenfeld Synergy Method: This dynamic system for integrating the body, mind, emotions and spirit combines touch, talk and compassionate listening. Practitioners, called synergists, use gentle touch and verbal sharing to access each of these four levels simultaneously, releasing pain and fears held in the body/mind. The modality, created by Ilana Rubenfeld, who received a lifetime achievement award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy in 2002, facilitates pain management, ease of movement, positive body image and self-esteem, as well as recovery from physical and emotional trauma. Learn more at RubenfeldSynergy.com.

Shiatsu: The most widely known form of acupressure, shiatsu is Japanese for “finger pressure”. The technique applies varying degrees of pressure to balance the life energy that flows through specific pathways, or meridians, in the body. Shiatsu is used to release tension and strengthen weak areas in order to facilitate even circulation, cleanse cells and improve the function of vital organs; it also may help to diagnose, prevent and relieve many chronic and acute conditions that manifest on both physical and emotional levels. A branch of shiatsu that originated in the United States, called ohashiatsu, includes meditation and exercise. Learn more at ShiatsuSociety.org and Ohashiatsu.org.

Soma Neuromuscular Integration (also called Soma): Rooted in structural integration, soma was developed by Bill M. Williams, Ph.D., an early student of Ida Rolf. Through a 10-session format, the modality manipulates the fascia and muscles to release chronic, stored structural aberrations, realign the body and integrate the nervous system. This allows the individual to process experiences more effectively and with greater awareness, which can lead to enhanced learning and perceptual abilities. Learn more at Soma-Institute.org.

Sports Massage: The specialized field of sports massage employs a variety of massage techniques and stretching exercises designed to minimize the risk of injury, tend to sports Shiatsu Massage Patientinjuries and support optimum performance.

Structural Integration: (see Rolfing Structural Integration)

Swedish Massage: This is the most commonly practiced form of massage in Western countries. Swedish massage integrates ancient Oriental techniques with contemporary principles of anatomy and physiology. Practitioners rub, knead, pummel, brush and tap the client’s muscles, topped with long, gliding strokes. Swedish massage is especially effective for improving circulation; relieving muscle tension and back and neck pain; promoting relaxation; and decreasing stress. Practitioners vary in training, techniques and session lengths.

Tantsu: This land-based version of watsu was developed by Harold Dull as an alternative way to experience watsu’s free-flow and interplay of breath, movement and stillness. Practitioner and client experience breathing, listening and moving as part of a partnered “dance”, without any specific intent to heal or fix something. Learn more at Watsu.com.

Thai Massage: A form of body therapy, also called nuad bo-ram, Thai massage incorporates gentle rocking motions, rhythmic compression along the body’s energy lines and passive stretching to stimulate the free flow of energy, break up blockages and help restore general well-being. One of the branches of Traditional Thai Medicine (TTM), it is performed on a floor mat, with the client dressed in lightweight, comfortable clothing. No oils are used. Thai massage aids flexibility, inner organ massage, and in oxygenation of the blood and quieting of the mind. Learn more at Thai-Institute.com.

Therapeutic Touch (TT): This contemporary healing modality was developed by natural healer Dora Kunz and nursing professor Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., in the 1970s. Therapeutic Touch is drawn from ancient practices and used to balance and promote energy flow. The practitioner “accesses” the area where the body’s energy field is weak or congested, and then uses his or her hands to direct energy into the field to balance it. Nurses and other healthcare practitioners apply TT to relieve pain, stress and anxiety, and to promote wound healing. Learn more at TherapeuticTouch.org.

Touch for Health (TFH): Created by Chiropractor John F. Thie in the 1970s, Touch for Health is a widely used kinesiology system aimed at restoring the body’s natural energies through acupressure, touch and massage. Muscle-testing biofeedback first identifies imbalances in the body’s energy flow to organs and glands; it is designed to then help rebalance that energy to improve overall health, while strengthening a person’s resistance to common ailments and physical complaints. Many TFH techniques can be successfully practiced by clients at home. Learn more at TouchForHealth.us.

Trager Approach (also known as Psychophysical Integration): This system of movement reeducation addresses the mental roots of muscle tension. By gently rocking, cradling and moving the client’s fully clothed body, the practitioner encourages him or her to believe that physically restrictive patterns can be changed. The Trager Approach includes “mentastics”, simple, active, self-induced movements a client can incorporate into regular daily activities. Trager work has been successfully applied to a variety of neuromuscular disorders and mobility problems, as well as everyday stresses and discomforts. Learn more at Trager.com.

Trauma Touch Therapy (TTT): An innovative, somatic approach, TTT addresses the needs of those that have suffered trauma and abuse, including sexual or emotional, witnessing or being victimized by violent crime, battery, war or surgical trauma. The intent is to create a safe, nurturing environment in which the individual can slowly explore healthy touch and investigate sensation and feeling in their body. Certified therapists encourage empowerment and choice; individualized sessions support the psychotherapeutic process.

Trigger Point Therapy (Myotherapy): This massage technique is used to relieve pain, similar to Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT). Practitioners apply pressure to specific “trigger points” on the body—tender, congested spots of muscle tissue that may radiate pain to other areas—in order to release tension and spasms. Treatment decreases the swelling and stiffness associated with muscular pain and increases range of motion. Learn more at MyofascialTherapy.org.

Tui Na: A manipulative therapy integral to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), tui na (“tui” means to push and “na” is a squeezing, lifting technique) that employs Taoist and martial arts principles to rebalance the body. Practitioners possess more than 365 hand techniques; most are variations of pressing, rubbing, waving, shaking, percussing or manipulating movements. Tui na is used to relieve arthritic joint pain, sciatica, muscle spasms and other pains in the back, neck and shoulders. It may also help ease chronic conditions such as insomnia, constipation, headaches and stress associated with tension. Learn more at Tui-Na.com.

Watsu (Water Shiatsu): This uniquely nurturing therapy combines the acupressure and meridian stretches of Zen shiatsu with yoga-like postures, all performed in water; this takes weight off the vertebrae and allows for movements not possible on land. In the most basic move, the Water Breath Dance, the practitioner gently floats an individual in their arms, letting the person sink a little as they both breathe out, then allowing the water to lift them as they both breathe in. This connection is maintained in all the stretches and moves and returned to throughout the session. Pioneered by multilingual author Harold Dull in 1980, watsu’s goal is to free the spine and increase the flow of energy along the body’s meridians; Zen Shiatsu Patienthe also developed tantsu, which replicates watsu’s nurturing stretches on land. Learn more at Watsu.com.

Zen Shiatsu: Founded by writer Shizuto Masunaga, this method of acupressure includes the practice of Buddhist meditation and integrates elements of shiatsu with the goal of rebalancing and revitalizing chi, or life-force energy. A client lies on a mat or sits in a chair, fully clothed, while the practitioner uses one hand to “listen” and the other to provide the appropriate pressure. Full-body stretches and pressures may be used to release areas of chronic stagnation and blockage; clients are encouraged to breathe deeply into their lines of tension. Zen shiatsu can be effective in conditions where emotional disturbance or stress is an underlying factor.

Zen-Touch Shiatsu: This hybrid of shiatsu, acupressure and Asian/Eastern bodywork was created by American Seymour Koblin in 1984. It differs from other forms of shiatsu, including Zen shiatsu, by its combined use of light, or “hands off the body”, energy work and extensive, passive stretching methods. Practitioners apply gentle pressure while stretching the client’s limbs gradually, maintaining an attitude of compassion, respect and energetic empathy that serves to stimulate the flow of chi, aiding circulation and vitality. Learn more at SeymourKoblin.com.

Zero Balancing: Developed by Fritz Smith, a doctor, osteopath and acupuncturist, zero balancing addresses the relationship between energy and structures of the body. Practitioners use moderate finger pressure and gentle traction on areas of tension in the bones, joints and soft tissue to create fulcrums, or points of balance, around which the body can relax and reorganize. The goal is to clear blocks in the body’s energy flow, amplify vitality and contribute to better postural alignment. Learn more at ZeroBalancing.com.


Please note: The contents of this Bodywork Guide are for informational purposes only. The information is not intended to be used in place of a visit or consultation with a healthcare professional. Always seek out a practitioner that is licensed, certified or otherwise professionally qualified to conduct a selected treatment, as appropriate.

Updated 2013

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