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by Jim Berns

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Does this have something to do with straightening teeth? Weeding gardens? Maybe bones? The pain relief technique Ortho-Bionomy has been taught throughout Europe and the U.S. for over 20 years, yet people still donOt know what the name really means! henever I am traveling and teaching around the country and someone asks me the name of what I do, I pause, knowing that when I announce the title of this body therapy, I will usually get some form of response like the above statements. So after teaching Ortho-Bionomy for over 14 years, I just smile inside and prepare for the inquisition that follows. Instead of the impish response that I would like to give (such as It's make a living by touching people all over, or I put people in very comfortable positions that they would normally go into, and then they pay me), I usually respond with a more professional statement.

Ortho means the correct use of; Bio is life; and Onomy means the principles or laws governing. Put it all together and you have Ortho-Bionomy, the correct use of the principles of life.

Ortho-Bionomy was developed by a British doctor, Arthur Lincoln Pauls, in his early years as an Osteopath. Before practicing Osteopathy Dr. Pauls was a Judo instructor. Every day in Judo he practiced the principle of following someone's movement and energy in the direction they were going, and if possible exaggerating that direction. Yet when Arthur went to Osteopathy school and learned all the medical and manipulative techniques at that time, he was disturbed to find that his teachers did not understand this principle.

Dr. Pauls then read a paper by an American Osteopath, Dr. Lawrence Jones, called Spontaneous Release Through Positioning. This paper said that a person can release rather quickly, by simply positioning the person in the posture that the contracting muscles were drawing into. When Dr. Pauls read this, he realized that this was the closest application of the Judo principles he knew, and he wanted to learn more. He took what he had learned from Dr. Jones and went back to England to practice and expand these concepts even further.

When I was first introduced to Ortho-Bionomy, I had been doing massage therapy for a few years and was close to being burned out. I had studied (and was quite good at) a wide variety of therapies from deep-tissue to subtle energy work. But there was a part of me that was frustrated with the chronic reoccurrence of the same problems.Clients would come in with certain muscle contractions; I would stretch them out and then they would come back a week or two later with the same patterns. I was worn out by the struggle of fighting their body: trying to move it from where it was to where I thought it should be. Inside of me somewhere, I believed there must be an easier way to help people out of their pain.

One day when my shoulders and neck were really hurting from a full day of doing massage, I found a colleague, James Wahler, working at the Lotus Sutra in Cotati. (If you remember this place you've been in the area quite a while.) I asked him for the professional courtesy of sticking his thumbs in my aching shoulders. (This was the fastest relief I knew at the time, even though I knew it would not totally relieve the discomfort.) He told me to lie down on the massage table and asked if he could first try a technique he had just learned. He gently turned by head into a very comfortable position and just held me there. I thought to myself, When are you going to be done with this fooling around and get down to the thumbs? He straightened my head and said I was done. I said, No way, I need as I reached up to the spot that had been killing me. The pain was gone! I found some additional smaller spots and he repeated the procedure and relieved them also.

I was impressed to say the least. This was totally different that anything I had experienced or read about. I wanted to learn more. I asked him, What was that? He said it was called Ortho-Bionomy. I responded with (of course) Ortho-what? He then proceeded to tell me about Ortho-Bionomy and the principles behind it.

He said that the human body has an incredible wisdom within itself to protect and nurture. When an infection occurs, it automatically knows what to do. We don't need to tell the white corpuscles what to do or where to go; they know. When you bump into something and bruise a muscle, the body automatically curves around it to protect and give it time to heal itself. When we are feeling scared we often place our body in a position that feel safe in, that gives us the temporary security and time we need before we step back out into the world. Ortho-Bionomy simply exaggerates the position that the body is taking to take care of itself. This is one of the principles of martial arts such as Judo, Tai Chi and Aikido.

I was really attracted to the idea of following the wisdom of the body, as well as not forcing the body to change. It made a lot of sense. When my body is forced to change when it is not ready, it usually goes back close the original contraction anyway. My friend James explained that when the body is shown through gentle exaggeration what it is doing, it often responds and opens up itself from within.

The clincher of what James said was that this type of bodywork was totally painless for the client and was easy on the body of the practitioner as well. Finally a technique that was painless, easy on my body and effective. Ortho-Bionomy got the client's body to respond from within to release its own tension, rather than depend on me to do all the work.

For more information, call Jim Berns at (707) 823-8067.

Related Info:
A Glossary of Bodywork Therapies
Natural Relief from Back Pain
How To Heal Yourself
Acupuncture for Headaches
Preventing Osteoporosis
Living Well: A Guide to Anti-Aging
Bodywork Practitioners


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