Ortho-Bionomy® - What Is It? By Ric Chamberlin, LMT
What's in a name? The origin of the name Ortho-Bionomy comes from the Greek "ortho" which means correct or straight, "bio" which means life, and "nomy" which means the laws or study of. Put together it means "the correct application of the laws of life."
Ortho-Bionomy - What is it? Most descriptions of Ortho-Bionomy start by describing it's central technique: Gentle positioning and holding with subtle compression, putting the focus on where the client is comfortable, helping them move past, and releasing, stuck patterns of tension. Often the work involves the practitioner following the body's patterns as it finds it's way out of stuck places. What is unique is that Ortho-Bionomy works with the body rather than against the body. This means that when an imbalance is discovered, often caused by a contracted (tightened) muscle, the Ortho-Bionomy practitioner positions the clients body in such a way as to exaggerate the contracture. This is usually where the client finds the most comfort. Held in this position healing reflexes are engaged and the muscle begins to relax allowing the rest of the body's structure to self align restoring balance.
But How Can This Work? This is all possible because of a specific part of our nervous system called proprioception. Our "proprioceptive nerves" are a system that covers our entire body sending information to our brain as to where we are in time and space. It's the mechanism by which we can touch our fingers together even with our eyes closed. It's also a key part of our self healing mechanism that helps us find comfort and balance. Sometimes our bodies ability to retain balance is thrown off and the nerves ability to send information to the brain is impaired allowing the body to fall into patterns of tension and imbalance. This can be due to stress, emotional or physical, or by injury or overuse. This is made worse when we ignore or tune out our bodies. By positioning for comfort, holding, and compressing, proprioception is stimulated. A message is sent that says basically "this is where you are comfortable, now you can take over". Ortho-Bionomy honors what already exists and allows the wisdom of the body to spontaneously release tension and restore balance. Because this healing is internal the body learns more quickly how to maintain the restored balance. Even though the results can be quick this is not a "quick fix" but rather a process of reeducation of the body.
Do We Really Have the Ability to Self Correct? The bodies ability to correct itself was brought home to me by one significant turning point in my life. I took a Tai Chi class a few years ago. I thought the graceful, slow movements of this art would help me learn to slow down. Before we started on the more difficult form the Tai Chi Master had us simply walk slowly across the floor. Extremely slow. This was much harder than it would seem at first. Walking at a normal pace it's not difficult for our bodies to make minor adjustments to keep balanced. We only have a foot off the ground for a split second. Walking slowly one foot is off the ground while the body is shifting forward for many seconds at a time. I quickly realized how difficult it was to maintain balance on one foot especially while moving forward. The result was much stumbling and starting over. The harder I tried the more I stumbled. The more I silently cursed myself for losing balance the more anxiety I had. The more anxiety I had the more I stumbled. Over and over the Master kept saying "Just notice what your body is doing, don't try to change it". "Just notice, don't judge". "Your body knows what to do". Finally it became clear to me. The harder I try the more elusive balance becomes. When I try too hard I'm letting my head do most of the work. If I just pay attention to my body and trust my body's wisdom and don't try to force an outcome I am able to walk smoother. My body does know what to do. All I have to do is pay attention and my body will do most of the work. This same principal is at work in Ortho-Bionomy. The practitioner helps by showing the client's body something new (actually something that has been forgotten), where to find comfort. After that the practitioner just waits, being present with what's going on, just noticing along with the client, allowing whatever needs to happen next. The client's body does the work of correcting, releasing, balancing.
The Whole Being - A Unity There is a connection between our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. Whatever happens on one level effects the others. Physical pain can lead to emotional reactions. Emotional upset can lead to physical symptoms. Being overwhelmed by the physical or emotional or being disconnected from either can make it difficult to connect with the divine. Ortho-Bionomy honors the wholeness of the individual. The same sense of being present, not judging but allowing, that helps facilitate the release of physical tension also makes it possible for stuck emotions to move and dissipate. Bringing awareness back to the body also brings awareness to the our emotional and spiritual selves.
What is an Ortho-Bionomy Session Like? An Ortho-Bionomy session is done with the client fully clothed. Comfortable clothes are recommended. Each session is unique depending on what the client needs and what the practitioner notices. A session always starts with discussion as to the concerns and needs of the client. An assessment may be done to determine structural balance and freedom of movement in joints. The positioning and holding, described above, is usually a part of the work. Other techniques used might be: -Gentle movements, within the clients comfort range, to assess and further release tension. -Gentle isometrics to engage muscles and further their release. -Posture exercises to increase awareness.
What Does the Client Experience? Everyone's experience is unique. For many, depending to the techniques used, the experience is quite relaxing as tension and stress seem to melt away. The end of the session often brings a sense of greater connection with ourself, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Often times when people get off the table they remark how they feel taller. This is usually due to a self correction in posture and an increased awareness of their body. Often there is an immediate reduction in pain. Sometimes it takes a day or two for this to be noticed. Sometimes there is a reduction in the emotional "pull" of some past trauma or current crises that we were focusing on before the session.
Why Should I Try Ortho-Bionomy? People who might benefit from Ortho-Bionomy are those: -Experiencing pain, chronic or acute. -Recovering from an injury. -Wishing to improve their mobility or flexibility. -Feeling unbalanced structurally. -Feeling the different parts of their body just aren't talking to each other. -Seeking more balance in their life. -Seeking inner awareness and clarity. -Seeking improved energy balance and flow. -Looking for a gentle way to promote healing. -Who have tried everything and nothing else seems to work.
The underlying principal of Ortho-Bionomy is honoring the wisdom of the body. This principal can help us not only to relieve pain, but applied to our life to move toward harmony with our whole being.
Ric Chamberlin Registered Practitioner - Society of Ortho-Bionomy International ® Licensed Massage Therapist - State of Nebraska The Healing Connection 900 S 74th Plaza, Suite 116, Omaha, NE 68114 402 850 0752