CEU’s at Oregon School of Massage (OSM) – coming  September 2012

The following article by Sara Sunstein, a Berkley Ortho-Bionomy practitioner and teacher, describes her introduction to the work and some commentary from her perspective as a practitioner. She will be at Oregon School of Massage-Portland offering the following:

Sept 13, 7 pm:  Massage Connections – Introduction to Ortho-bionomy
Sept 14-16 (Fri eve-Sun afternoon):   Ortho-Bionomy Basics

For additional information or to register call OSM at 503-244-3420.


by Sara Sunstein, M.A. ©2006-2012

Ortho-Bionomy®–I’ve been around it for 30 years now, teaching for over 25 of those years, and still find myself stammering when people ask me what is Ortho-Bionomy. In this era of sound bites and specialization, how do I describe a philosophy of life, disguised as bodywork, in 10 seconds or 30 words? I can tell you it was developed by a Judo black belt turned osteopath, and that by moving with the body’s tensions, a practitioner creates comfort and support, which in turn stimulate self-healing reflexes to bring about greater ease, balance, and awareness. But having read that, do you have any idea of how Ortho-Bionomy feels? Can the intangibles of Ortho-Bionomy (O-B) be conveyed in words?

Because it was life-altering, my first experience of
O-B remains vivid in my memory. I’d taken a very hard fall onto my tailbone during a dance class in contact improvisation. My tailbone wanted nothing to do with the rest of my body. It felt badly bruised; all around it was stiff, my body doing its best to immobilize the injured area. Standing, sitting, and walking all hurt. My best solution to the pain was lying on my back with my knees bent. I took the advice of a dancer friend of mine to make an appointment with a woman he described as “a little crazy, but really good.”

The woman who greeted me was about my age, smiling, blue eyes sparkling. Bubbly and perky, her energy solidly on the ground, she seemed like an overgrown pixie, or a skinny Glenda Goodwitch. I followed her to a small lavender room, barely larger than the massage table in it.

After hearing my story, she asked me to lie on the table, face up. I didn’t need to take off my clothes. She pressed a few points on my belly near the edge of my pelvic bones and asked me if any were tender, tight, or sensitive. Yes, all of them! Then she asked me to bend my knees, one at a time, so my feet were flat on the table. As soon as I’d done that, she tucked my lower legs together under her arm and lifted them, securing them between her arm and side. With her support, my legs felt surprisingly and pleasantly weightless. She moved her torso, steering my legs into a different angle in my hip sockets. My pelvis began shifting. My attention woke up, and I felt engaged in a way I’d never felt during massage. “What’s going on here?” I wondered, while she continued to hold my legs.

And then, my world changed. Within seconds, all the pain I’d been experiencing, including in the tailbone, vanished. An emotional tension I’d not even been aware of vanished as well. (By its absence, I’d become aware of its having been there.) My entire body and being seemed to exhale for the first time in a long time. My very essence resonated with the process.

By the end of the hour, the chronic tension in my low back had eased along with the tailbone. The weights I usually carried through my shoulders, my brain, and heart had lifted. I floated out of her house, my body feeling like champagne bubbles. Colors looked brighter. Feeling spacious, relaxed, and happy, and quietly enlivened, I was experiencing body, mind and spirit fully integrated as one. No longer feeling debilitated, I was confident the remaining tension around my tailbone would ease with another session or two.

Something happened during that session that I had no words for, simply my experience. The energetics had been so light and easy, and the bodywork was unlike any I’d had before. She hadn’t dug into the pain, hurting me in the name of healing. Somehow, she had used comfort to release tensions. And along the way, more than my “body” was touched. Emotional and mental lightness had arisen without any catharsis, upset, or my directly facing any emotional concerns.

It’s the non-verbal “something” that accompanies O-B that is so difficult to describe. I can show you, but I can’t tell you. From the beginning of my career, and to this day, I hear comments similar to my own, like “That’s magic!” “How did you do that?!” I continue to try to discern the qualities that contribute to that magic.

Some of them have to do with the body’s brilliance. Arthur Pauls, D.O., the founder of Ortho-Bionomy, said, “We only show [the body] reminders of what is, the rest is spontaneous. Would you show water how to run down a hill? It knows how, it only has to be set free.” When Ortho-Bionomists acknowledge and dialog with the body, we’re activating–and setting free—the individual’s innate capacity to heal. In our witnessing and allowing, rather than imposing an external model of “correct,” we’re honoring the person’s power, processes, and integrity. Offering presence, attention, and acceptance of what-is, we’re inviting clients to do the same, to reconnect with themselves—and perhaps, others–without judgment. Aren’t these attitudes themselves healing, regardless of “techniques”?

And, what about O-B’s “aura,” which holds the energy of the work? Like the practitioner I first saw, it’s playful, light-hearted, approaching the cosmic laugh.

These are the aspects most visible to me now. The light of a different season may reveal others, currently in shadow. Given that, I’d like to offer a revision, for now, of the 10-second description of Ortho-Bionomy: “A field where a wondrous synergistic melding of touch, physiology, relationship, and cosmos occurs.” Please, join me there.

Sara Sunstein, Associate Advanced Instructor, trained with Arthur L Pauls, D.O, among others. She maintains a practice in Berkeley, and teaches up and down the West Coast. 510.526.5414. http://www.sarasunstein.com

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