The Best Kept Secret in Bodywork:
By Joseph Hunton, President, American Hellerwork Association



This is the time of year when people traditionally reflect on the past and think about what they can do to be happier and healthier in the future. Along with losing weight and getting more exercise, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is reducing stress. Unfortunately, like the other two, it’s also one of the hardest resolutions to keep. Stress — and its harmful effects on the body — can be greatly reduced through a form of bodywork that has often been overlooked.

Hellerwork is a dynamic, three-part system of deep tissue bodywork, movement education, and dialogue designed to relieve stress and pain, improve posture and alignment, enhance movement and flexibility and increase energy.

During the eleven 90-minute session series, tension and stress are released and the natural structural balance of the body is restored to a more aligned and relaxed state through a variety of gentle, “hands-on” deep tissue bodywork techniques. Movement education is used to help the client develop a better awareness of their body and movement patterns. Dialogue is used to assist the client in becoming aware of emotional stress that may be related to physical tension. Hellerwork reflects the holistic approach to health, viewing the body as a complete and balanced entity, rather than merely a sum of disparate parts.

This unique combination is designed to produce permanent change for lasting good health and personal growth.

The Fascia Connection
To fully understand the process, it helps to learn about fascia, the connective tissue that Hellerwork directly affects. Fascia is a plastic-like tissue that wraps the muscles and all the fibers that become muscle. It is like a multi-layer body stocking, wrapping muscles and weaving in layers throughout the body. In its optimal condition, fascia is loose and moist, and facilitates movement and flexibility.

However, due to chronic physical or emotional stress, lack of movement, or physical trauma, the fascia can become rigid and lose its flexibility. This results in the layers sticking to one another, often causing “knots,” pain, adhesions or restriction of movement. Our own movement patterns often determine how our fascia gets stuck. Also, because it is literally “connective” tissue, tension in one part of the body can affect many other areas of the body, as well.

A body that is already out of balance may react to the simple force of gravity as a stressor, and become even more imbalanced and rigid. This is often what causes people to stiffen and shorten as they age.

Hellerwork is designed to realign the body by releasing the rigidity from the connective tissue, facilitating change of the patterns that caused that rigidity and imbalance in the first place, and initiating dialogue to raise awareness of the impact of emotions and attitudes on the body.

The Three Components of Hellerwork
The deep, connective tissue bodywork releases tension in the fascia to systematically return the body to an aligned position. The practitioner achieves this through a “hands-on” process, by manually stretching the fascia back to its normal position. The client often feels a great release of tension, which produces an uncommon — but normal — state of well-being.

The movement education teaches the client to become more aware of their body and movements. During sessions, clients will spend part of the time standing, sitting and walking, and are coached on their movement patterns. Simple but effective, easy-to-remember suggestions and visualizations are used to help the client rebalance their movements for optimal alignment and fluidity. Video feedback may be used to enhance this process.

The verbal dialogue component helps the client become aware of emotions and attitudes and how they affect the body. The focus of the dialogue begins with, but is not limited to, the theme of each session. These themes highlight common attitudes and emotions associated with different parts of the body.

For example, during the first session, the practitioner works primarily on the chest and the theme is “Inspiration.” During the bodywork, the practitioner may ask, “Do you feel inspired? What inspires you? What affects your ability to feel inspired?” This dialogue helps the client become aware of how emotions can impact the body. By becoming aware of these emotional patterns, the process of change in the mind and body can begin.

The Sessions
Each of the eleven Hellerwork sessions has a theme and each one is designed to focus on a specific area of the body to facilitate better alignment, flexibility and balance. Themes of the sessions are: Inspiration; Standing on Your Own Two Feet; Reaching Out; Control and Surrender; The Guts; Holding Back; Losing Your Head; The Feminine; The Masculine; Integration and Coming Out.

 There isn’t one standard reaction to Hellerwork, but typical responses to sessions often include a feeling of increased height due to better alignment, ease of breathing, increased range of motion, a more graceful walk, more energy, increased relaxation, enhanced awareness and openness, and often a connection to buried emotions and intuition.

The Hellerwork practitioners are a unique group of extensively trained health educators and professionals who are committed to actualizing the principles of Hellerwork, not only in their sessions, but in their daily lives.

If you are interested in exploring Hellerwork as a client or a practitioner, please visit   

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