Hellerwork: An Alternative Wellness Program

Add Hellerwork to your list of alternative wellness programs. It is a series of one-hour sessions of deep tissue body-work and movement education designed to realign the body and release chronic tension and stress. Verbal dialogue is used to assist the client in becoming aware of emotional stress that may be related to physical tension.

Hellerwork (named after Joseph Heller, an engineer with a Rolfing background) is not a remedy for illness. Rather, it is a process in which people “are moved from their current, average state to an optimal state of health and well being.” Hellerwork doesn’t address symptoms. Instead, it focuses on rebalancing the body, returning it to a more aligned, relaxed and youthful state.

Hellerwork is different because it is a total body-mind approach, it is a holistic process to restructure the body and to bring it into proper alignment, all in the context of the forces of gravity.

It is a way for people to improve their daily lives, we see people from all walks of life. Some of them have no physical complaints, but want to improve their well-being. Others are simply stuck in their bodies, while a third group is experiencing some kind of dysfunction.

Although there are thousands of people who believe in the benefits of Hellerwork, there has been little scientific data to support the practice. In that sense, Hellerwork takes its place beside scores of other wellness, fitness and massage therapies. Even Heller would agree that there is a need for more research. Most of the evidence is anecdotal. I can demonstrate increased range of motion and ability to move, but we need to know more about how and why this works.

Emphasis on Connective Tissue

Hellerwork practitioners place an emphasis on the body’s connective tissues, particularly the fascia. Visualize the fascia as a kind of body stocking. When one part of it is stressed, pulled down by gravity, or contracted, the rest of the body is also affected.

As long as the fascia stays loose and mobile, movement among the parts of the body is smooth. When the fascia becomes rigid, we begin to feel those knots in our back or neck. Tension and stiffness, according to Hellerwork, is not just in the muscles but in the connective tissue that envelops them.

What Happens In a Session?

So what does Hellerwork do to get us beyond normal and toward an optimal state of well-being? Three things. The first is deep connective tissue massage that is designed to release the tension in the connective tissue. The practitioner uses his or her hands, knuckles and elbows to stretch the fascia back to its normal position.

The second is movement education, in which the person is made aware of body actions that include sitting, walking, standing, exercising and job-related posture.

The third phase, verbal dialogue, allows you to become aware of the relationship between emotions and the body. Each session has a theme, and each theme is related to an area of the body. “Inspiration,” for example, deals with the rib cage and breathing. The purpose of the “Reaching Out” session is to release tension in the arms and shoulders. “Holding Back” is focused on the spine and pelvis.

Hellerwork practitioners are trained in anatomy, psychology and movement education. Training sessions are conducted throughout the country.

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