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Transformational Bodywork

by Graeme Stroud(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 46 - November 1999

There are no free lunches when we embark on the journey of true healing and consistent personal growth, both of which go hand in hand. That is to say that there are no easy completely painless methods of attaining genuine ongoing liberation from physical, emotional and mental dis-ease.

Sooner or later we have to face reality as it is, and to face our own personal conditioning (physical, emotional and mental) and the pain that we carry around within our bodymind, if we are to achieve lasting health on all levels.

If we wish to suppress symptoms of dis-ease on whatever level, or to simply bring us to a state of balance within our own cosy comfort zone, then there are many, many methods both orthodox and unorthodox of doing this. All of these methods from osteopathy to acupuncture to surgery to the use of antibiotics have their place and can and should be used when a life needs to be saved or one simply needs a breathing space from symptoms.

However, a degree of reflection, meditation, and work on ourselves, and working on other individuals who are experiencing various states of dis-ease (which includes everyone of us), reveals the truth that true and lasting healing only comes with a radical and positive change in consciousness.

Transformational Bodywork is a method of working on the physical body that begins the process of contacting, accepting and transmuting the pain, trauma and congested energy that resides within the physical, emotional and mental bodies. It gives us the opportunity of becoming consciously aware of this, and when the correct attitude is adopted, of transmuting it into understanding, insight and wisdom.

Transformational Bodywork consists of two forms. The first form is the concrete dynamic form of active manual manipulations to the physical body. The second form is the abstract energetic form of deep release and transmutation using myofascial pointholding.

Transformational Bodywork forms an integral part of a way of working on the bodymind, which I have called Bodymind Processing – I use the term bodymind as a convenient way of describing the totality of the incarnate individual. We may subdivide this totality into levels such as physical, emotional, mental, energy and spiritual if we wish. We can also divide ourselves into functional parts such as arms, knees, liver, eyelids, etc. Bodymind Processing recognises that each level or part is not separate from the others and is intimately dependent on the other levels and parts for its well being.

The structure and functioning of the physical body perfectly reflects the other aspects of the bodymind, and hence the total state of health of the individual.

Graeme working quadratus lumborum muscles of the low back, and the posterior muscles of the pelvis. The balance and alignment of the lower spine (especially the sacrum) and the pelvis are of prime importance to the alignment and mobility of the whole body

Graeme working quadratus lumborum muscles of the low back, and the posterior muscles of the pelvis. The balance and alignment of the lower spine (especially the sacrum) and the pelvis are of prime importance to the alignment and mobility of the whole body

The psoas major muscle being worked here connects the trunk of the body to the upper leg. It also has nerve plexii embedded in it. It is of great importance for our overall alignment and general feeling of well being

The psoas major muscle being worked here connects the trunk of the body to the upper leg. It also has nerve plexii embedded in it. It is of great importance for our overall alignment and general feeling of well being

In the picture we see the jaw (temporomandibular joint) and the solar plexus points being held in the manner of myofascial point holding or body electronics i.e. sustained pressure. The muscles of the jaw and the joint itself hold an incredible amount of suppressed/resisted experience i.e. emotion, which among other things can cause teeth grinding and cheek chewing as well as jaw pain. This point is also a reflex point for the heart. The solar plexus area too holds much emotion hence "butterflies" in the stomach and stomach ache when under stress. This area can also be linked to adrenal and pancreas problems when it is very sensitive

In the picture we see the jaw (temporomandibular joint) and the solar plexus points being held in the manner of myofascial point holding or body electronics i.e. sustained pressure. The muscles of the jaw and the joint itself hold an incredible amount of suppressed/resisted experience i.e. emotion, which among other things can cause teeth grinding and cheek chewing as well as jaw pain. This point is also a reflex point for the heart. The solar plexus area too holds much emotion hence "butterflies" in the stomach and stomach ache when under stress. This area can also be linked to adrenal and pancreas problems when it is very sensitive

The Myofascial System and Trauma

Physical and psychological imbalances and traumas are held within the body's myofascial system (the muscles of the body and their surrounding sheath the fascia) as tension, fibrosis and congestion and this thereby affects the structural shape and functioning of the physical body.

As a result of this, over time, the physical body becomes aberrated and this has a detrimental effect on the overall health of the body, and certain body parts in particular, depending on the individual. Aberrated structure causes aberrated physiology, which in turn causes more aberrated structure, and so on.

The physical body records all resistance to experience on all the levels, it records all "negative" experience, microtrauma, macrotrauma, chronic repetitive and acute sudden traumas, negative word and thought patterns. It's all in the physical body forming the body shape and functioning, and also influencing our perception of the world through our physical, emotional and mental reactions to life's events.

Eventually physical, emotional and mental patterns become more fixed and ingrained causing less efficient functioning on all levels and causing us to react to most situations rather than acting according to what is needed in any given circumstance.

Transformational Bodywork

The first form of Transformational Bodywork consists of a series of active, generally deep pressure manipulations of the myofascial system of the physical body. The goal is to improve the functioning of the physical body in movement and stillness by clearing the traumas, tension, fibrosis and congestion from the soft tissues of the physical body.

When this happens the body becomes balanced and aligned in relation with itself and its environment. This enables profound healing to occur both on the physical and psychological levels. The body shows an upward lift against the downward pull of gravity, and great ease of movement and an unobstructed flow of physical energy and vital force (otherwise known as chi, ki, prana etc.)

The deep pressure manipulations used are derived from neuromuscular and inhibition techniques, and particularly Zen-Bodytherapy, which itself is very derivative of structural integration (otherwise known as Rolfing), as well as techniques developed by myself.

Transformational Bodywork uses twelve basic sessions lasting about 1½ hours each to integrate the structure of the entire physical body, each session working on specific body areas.

Particularly troublesome areas will need special attention and extra sessions, and usually indicate great emotional and mental holding within the bodymind. If this is the case then the myofascial pointholding work will release this at a deeper more permanent level. Specific pointholding will de-sensitise an over-sensitive nervous system, so that the individual can then cope with the deep pressure work.

A good example of this would be a man I was treating using the twelve sessions, who was a keen runner. He simply wanted to get relief from his knee pain and be able to run and exercise more efficiently. He was not particularly interested or aware of the interrelation of the physical and other levels. However, every time I began working on his chest he would burst into tears, particularly on the left side of his chest. This was a great shock and embarrassment to him; he could not understand this. It happened every time; he could not control it. I then did one pointholding session on him which released an enormous amount of pain, turmoil, and trauma regarding events that occurred many years in the past. Again he was deeply shocked that this could be released by simply holding a couple of points at the base of the skull and letting the process take its course. However, after this, every time I again worked his chest there were no tears, much reduced pain in his chest muscles on deep pressure, and the muscles had a much softer less tense and fibrous consistency. So not only was this man very happy to be able to again run marathons faster and with no knee pain, due to the deep pressure manipulations, he also had got rid of a great deal of emotional pain, thanks to the myofascial pointholding. The deep pressure manipulations necessitate the receiver being present and "in the now" throughout. It can at times be painful, but is made much easier if one does not resist the pain, if one can lovingly and willingly accept the discomfort. The tension releases, the myofascia softens and great changes can be brought about relatively quickly.

The pressure used by the giver inevitably varies according to what the individual can tolerate; the receiver is never taken beyond what they can handle. The giver needs to be very sensitive to this.

As well as being aware of the receiver's needs, the giver also needs to be very aware of his own positioning and energy, so as to use his own energy optimally. The giver also has to be focused totally on the moment and what is going on under his fingertips in the tissue. Each session therefore is really a dynamic meditative relationship between the giver and receiver. The attitude of the giver being one of what I call ruthless compassion and empathy rather than sympathy. The attitude of the receiver being that of total acceptance of whatever comes up or is experienced during the deep pressure manipulation form of Transformational Bodywork. Much deeper changes occur on the emotional and mental levels during the myofascial pointholding work.

The twelve basic sessions which usually take place one to two weeks apart are a very good way of getting a freer, more aligned body in a relatively short space of time, along with a certain amount of improvement on the psychological level. Unlike Rolfing for example (which uses ten sessions) we don't believe in stopping when the twelve sessions are over. How often one should receive the work after the twelve sessions have been completed depends very much on the individual concerned.

Myofascial Pointholding

The myofascial pointholding work, which can be used before or alongside the deep pressure work, takes this work a stage further and deeper.

Myofascial pointholding is a technique that I have adapted from a remarkable system of healing and body regeneration called Body Electronics, and applied it to the myofascial system (this seemed natural to me since I am a bodyworker).

Very briefly, Body Electronics is an extremely powerful method of bringing about very deep and profound healing on all levels, recognising that disease often results from deep seated suppressed emotions, thought patterns, word patterns as described before. It works by using sustained pressure (not necessarily very deep as in the manipulations described before) on various parts of the body which relate to various organs glands, the nervous system, circulatory system, the spine, the cranium, etc. The pressure is sustained usually for hours at a time on each point or points that are held without breaking contact. After a while the points being held begin to heat up. This is a sign that whatever physical, emotional, or mental pain or trauma is locked in that body part is beginning to be released or transmuted. Then the person will start to feel whatever is being released.

This will be on all levels and could for example be a deep ache, tingling, a feeling of heat or coldness on the physical level. Accompanied by for example anger, grief, guilt or other emotions, and often associated thought or word patterns which could be for example "I want to kill you", or "nobody loves me", or "leave me alone", etc. The physical, emotional and mental symptoms build up and up, under careful guidance by the giver, and with an attitude of enthusiasm, willingness and love for whatever comes up by the receiver. Since what is coming up has been suppressed into the bodymind because it has been resisted, i.e. not wanted to be experienced in the first place, perhaps, many years before, the only way to truly release and transmute whatever it is, is to feel it with love and enthusiasm when it comes to the conscious level. When this happens the person has true insight into what was suppressed, why it was suppressed, and has a holistic non-judgmental (of oneself or others) view of whatever it was that happened. Eventually the points being held which can become really burning hot (like putting your finger on the end of a lighted cigarette) begin to cool down; they then pulse for a while before going back to normal body temperature when the person has finished the process. This may take from 1½ to 5 hours, or very occasionally longer. The body itself controls how long it takes, and what is released. There's no forcing, the body know what it can handle to release, and there's no overlay programming as with hypnosis.

This very brief explanation does not in any way do this remarkable process justice, it really has to be experienced to be understood.

Body Electronics (a name which can be misleading since most people seem to think you're going to wire them up to some electrical equipment) was developed by American naturopath, acupuncturist and psychologist Dr John Whitman Ray. I have simply applied the technique, which usually works on the acupressure and reflexology points (and in more advanced phases to the spine and cranium) to the myofascial system, which houses a tremendous amount of suppressed experience in us all. This suppressed experience eventually causes physical degeneration wherever it is stored.

After a point holding session a person may go through a healing crisis, particularly if the cleansing diet and the advised nutritional supplements are taken. The healing crisis can be on all levels again and is the physical, emotional and mental bodies "cleansing" themselves.

On the physical level this may be experienced as a skin rash, acne spots, bad breath, thick phlegm may be coughed up, the urine and faeces may change colour. These and other symptoms are the body ridding itself of toxins. Likewise the other levels are also ridding themselves of "toxins" so a person can feel a bit out of sorts for a period, usually a day or two, sometimes longer, before a new superior level of balance and health is attained. As often as not, however, people report feeling immediately energised and freer after a processing, again on all levels. Body Electronics has been used to treat pretty much any symptom of disease that you can think of. If the attitude of the person is correct, the diet and supplements are followed, and point-holding undergone regularly and system- atically then the healing potential of this remarkable process is enormous. Just a few of the symptoms that I have seen improve include musculoskeletal problems, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, diabetes, asthma, clinical depression, low confidence and self esteem, aggressive behaviour, drug addiction, nervous system disorders and many others. Dr. Ray has had success with most serious health problems according to his reports.

No case is typical as everyone is different but an example I'd like to mention is a young man who had been coming to me for deep tissue bodywork and osteopathy for a great deal of tension and discomfort he was experiencing in his back, shoulders and neck. The usual deep pressure work and joint manipulations gave only limited relief. It then came to light that this man was clinically depressed, was taking Prozac and had had suicidal thoughts.
I suggested on a number of occasions that he undergo pointholding as I believed he would benefit greatly from the experience. He was unsure and though he seemed interested backed off as he was afraid of what would come up and if he would be able to handle it.

Eventually he did have a go and a tremendous amount of emotion and pain was released, he entered into the spirit of the process with great enthusiasm faced up to some of his "demons" and came out smiling. The next time I saw this man a few weeks later his face and eyes had completely changed. He had a positive expression, was smiling and had a sparkle in his eyes. He now had a great enthusiasm for life, had less tension in his musculo-skeletal system and was off the Prozac. This was just from one processing. He has continued on this path for about three years now with fairly regular pointholding sessions and has now much knowledge and wisdom about life and the total interconnectedness of the bodymind. Interestingly this man, who had many years previous to pointholding experienced a bad electric shock, relived totally the electric shock. Under processing his body went into convulsions, and he felt it was happening again, and felt he would die. I also felt the electricity running into my fingers from the points I was holding. This happened for a while during the first three pointholding sessions he took part in. He has had many more since with none of these symptoms. The shock has been released.

I mention this as a good example that any trauma no matter how small or great, or on any level, physical, emotional and mental is all stored within the bodymind, affecting our health, until it can be released by being prepared to experience it again without resistance and with love and enthusiasm.

The modalities that comprise bodymind processing: transformational bodywork's two forms; general bodymind pointholding; (body electronics) naturopathic lifestyle and nutrition; meditative awareness; energy exercises form an organic whole, whereby all aspects of the bodymind are taken into account. The techniques I feel go beyond the word therapy and I prefer to think of them as methods of psychophysical liberation, while at the same time on a more down to earth level can also be used to relieve for example a pulled hamstring, anxiety, headaches, stiff shoulders and so on. Until the emotional and mental component of the physical dis-ease is released and transmuted then permanent healing cannot take place. This goes for serious problems like heart disease as well as problems like a pulled muscle. Even a pulled muscle has an emotional component embedded within the bodymind of the muscle i.e. the shock, trauma, sense of failure, embarrassment or any other emotion or thought that occurred at the time of the pull. Unless this is released the muscle will not completely heal.

I believe that practically anyone could benefit from these processes, but also realise that not everyone at all is ready for the discipline required and to face up to the hurts that they are carrying around. That's fine, it is not for everyone. The road to health and transformation cannot always be easy, and may at times seem a very long and difficult one, but the rewards can be priceless and most definitely worth the effort. And when one gets to the top of the mountain, what does one do? Walk on!

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About Graeme Stroud

Graeme Stroud ND, MRN, DO, ACOH is a registered osteopath and naturopath, a certified Zen bodytherapist, a qualified healer and the founder of Bodymind Processing and Transformational Bodywork. He owns and runs the Basildon Clinic of Osteopathy Sports Medicine and Natural Health. Graeme runs workshops and courses on Transformational Body-work and all of the other aspects of Bodymind Processing. He can be contacted at Cornwallis House, Howard Chase, Basildon, Essex, SS14 3BB, Telephone: 01268 287733.

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