Working It Out
By Matthew Breen
'On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your sex life?' Dan Bienenfeld asked me. He's a tall, genial Hellerwork practitioner in the Los Angeles beach community of Pacific Palisades. I guessed this is the 'dialogue' component of Hellerwork's three-pronged approach to wellness.
The other two components of Hellerwork'a therapy developed by former NASA aerospace engineer Joseph Heller in 1978'seemed reasonable enough: deep-tissue structural bodywork and movement education. Manipulating the musculoskeletal structure into proper alignment and teaching one how to move to protect the spine and neck are well-established practices also used in chiropractic and Rolfing therapies. The dialogue part, however, worried me. I didn't come to this session for talk therapy. I'm a relatively private person, though I'm not shy, and I have a good sex life that I'm not ashamed of, so I rated myself high on that scale. I immediately started to feel like I'd done well on the written part of an exam.
Then I stood in bare feet in Dan's office while he checked the alignment of my pelvis, rib cage, and collarbone. Like most people (according to Dan), my pelvis and rib cage are slightly misaligned'one part tips forward, one part is a bit higher. I undressed to my underwear and lay faceup on a massage table. First, Dan manipulated the spaces between my ribs to open up the rib cage, and immediately I was able to breathe more deeply. During this deep-tissue therapy, Dan asked questions about my level of awareness of my body, and the purpose of the dialogue became clearer: Our feelings about our bodies are related to the way we move and hold ourselves, and they can have very physical results.
One client, Dan explains, was closeted much of his life (though he's out now) and was afraid to appear flamboyant. The result of butching it up was 'chronic tension in the hips, shoulders, neck, and back'it's a chain reaction. We're naturally fluid and sensual in our movements, but our society discourages that.' Hellerwork is especially good at helping gay men release movement inhibitions and move more naturally, says Dan, as it did for his client.
According to practitioners, the benefits of a full regimen (11 sessions) include better breathing, posture, length and ease in the body, flexibility, increased energy, reduced stress and pain, and cosmetic benefits. 'Not only do clients look better,' says Dan, 'but they feel like they look better too.' I walked out of my first session feeling an inch taller and as if the weight of the day had been lifted from my shoulders.
For a Hellerwork practitioner near you, visit Hellerwork.com.