Massage & Bodywork

SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019

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Ta k e 5 a n d t r y t h e A B M P F i v e - M i n u t e M u s c l e s a t w w w. a b m p . c o m / f i v e - m i n u t e - m u s c l e s . 79 In our work, it is easy to see we are helping to relax and free our clients through the muscles and fascia and, since those tissues act like guy-wires that position and move the bones, we indeed help create new possibilities of skeletal alignment and vitality through bodywork. This realization led me to study— and eventually teach—Zero Balancing, a form of bodywork that focuses on the skeletal side of the musculoskeletal equation and emphasizes contacting energy as well as structure. TOUCH AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM As more research and critical thinking emerged over the years, we learned we are not directly changing the muscles, fascia, or bones. Indeed, the term used most commonly to define massage— soft-tissue manipulation—is not quite accurate. Muscles, fascia, and bones are not self-organizing, nor do they "release" themselves. Muscles don't relax or tense up of their own accord any more than lights turn on or off without electricity. It is more accurate to know our touch affects the nervous system (or energy, if you prefer) and, in turn, affects the relative tensions and relaxation of the musculoskeletal system. Thus, it would appear our therapeutic effects arise from communicating with the nervous system through the musculoskeletal system— not by directly manipulating it. Just as we communicate through cell phones, but are not talking to the phones themselves, we are sending messages to the nervous system using the foundational language of caring, skillful touch. Similarly, when we play music, we are using the instruments to make the beautiful sounds. For example, you might play guitar, but you make music. Dan Siegel, MD, discusses these kinds of communications as interpersonal neurobiology and as "energy and information flow." TOUCH AND THE MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM What effects do our touch communications have on the nervous system, energy, and information flow? In 2015 and 2017, two Zero Balancing studies were conducted at the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in Austin, Texas. The studies were sponsored by the Zero Balancing Touch Foundation and were conducted by James Strickland, a former researcher for the University of Texas and other organizations that specialize in physiological psychology, and Stuart Reynolds, PhD, a psychological diagnostician who specializes in applied behavior analysis. Both are directors of the Neuro Synchrony Institute. Though the Strickland and Reynolds findings have not been independently verified, their results suggest what we might hope for and expect. Their unique and innovative technology allows for noninvasive physiological measurement under difficult circumstances that were previously impossible. For that reason, there are very few comparable touch studies by other researchers. 2017 Study In March 2017, seven certified Zero Balancing practitioners (from the US and UK) performed sessions with 30 recipients. Both givers and receivers wore wrist sensors that measured electrodermal activity (EDA, a galvanic skin response), heart rate, movement, and temperature. All sessions were recorded on video, and participants filled out before-and- after well-being questionnaires. The 2017 study also included an assessment of electroencephalogram (EEG), or brainwave, measurements during a Zero Balancing session. The initial results correlated well with the somatic measures and further studies are planned. Zero Balancing is unique in that it focuses especially on the experience of the person as evoked through the skeletal system, as well as soft tissues. Rather than using high-velocity manipulation to address subluxations, Zero Balancing uses clear and gentle sustained tractions, distractions, rotations, and mindful touch to evoke experiences of release. We know from the many varieties of massage and bodywork that there is a continuum of relaxation—from a delicious letting go of surface tension, to relieving tension held at a deeper level of muscles and psyche, to an experience of inner peace. Zero Balancing, because it focuses with mindfulness on the deepest layer, often can evoke this deepest relaxation and the sense of inner peace. Like a great yoga or meditation session, it can give rise to a sense of bliss, inner restoration, and a deeper contact with one's essence.

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