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Natural Therapies Home | Structural | Hellerwork


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Have you ever wondered if there is a therapy out there that can help you realign your body and release tension? If so, Hellerwork may work well for you. We’ve spoken to Max Walker, a certified Hellerwork practitioner, to find out everything you need to know.

The Development of Hellerwork

Walker outlines exactly how Hellerwork first came to be developed as follows,

“Joseph Heller founded Hellerwork in 1978. Joseph first trained to be a Rolfer with Ida Rolf in 1972 and this was followed by training in a movement discipline called Aston Patterning in 1973. In the mid seventies, Joseph received advanced training from Ida Rolf and Dr Brugh Joy, who did preventive medicine and energy work. He became the first president of the Rolf Institute in 1975.

Hellerwork results from the synthesis of Joseph’s unique combination of expertise and training in structural integration, movement education and body/energy awareness.”

Hellerwork Principles

There are three basic principles to Hellerwork – deep tissue bodywork, movement education and dialogue. Walker explains them further.

“Deep tissue bodywork is designed to release the tension that currently exists in the connective tissue or fascia and to systematically return the body to an aligned position.

“Movement education gives the client new options to replace old postural and movement habits. By creating awareness of how their body is used in everyday situations, the client is empowered to manage their own structure.

“Dialogue creates a deeper awareness of the client’s cultural and emotional patterns, allowing greater choice and the possibility of change.

“The combination of these three elements results in a very effective treatment. Hellerwork realigns and reconditions the body as well as bringing awareness to and changing the patterns that caused the original problems.”

The bodywork is received primarily while lying on a massage table, although some work is carried out when the client is seated or standing. Slow, deep pressure is used to release the tension in the body’s connective tissues, or fascia, and to restore it to its natural state of fluidity and movement.

The Mind and the Body

Because Hellerwork is such an integrative treatment, the mind and the body are linked together. Walker explains.

“The attitudes and emotional life of a person are reflected in their body in many different ways.

“As an example, imagine what kind of a posture a depressed person has. If depression is not acknowledged as contributing to the posture, then that client is not likely to gain any lasting postural improvement from the bodywork.

“Hellerwork aims to build a psychological awareness in the client that helps them to understand the connections between the emotional and the physical.”

Walker is quick to emphasise that the practitioners are not trained as psychotherapists but rather have knowledge of techniques such as “contact and tracking, encouraging mindfulness and creating a safe space in which clients can explore emotional states and core beliefs”.

Conditions Treated by Hellerwork

Walker says that “there are a wide range of conditions that respond to Hellerwork treatment. In broad terms, any condition that can result from accumulated tension or the body being out of alignment”.

Some specific examples include:

  • Chronic back or neck pain
  • Sciatica
  • Migraine or headaches
  • Whiplash
  • Scoliosis
  • RSI
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • TMJ problems
  • Fasciitis

Treatment Sessions

Hellerwork is traditionally performed in a series of eleven sessions, one on one with a practitioner. Walker elaborates,

“The series is divided into three parts – the superficial sessions, the core sessions and the integrative sessions – with the outer layers of tissue being released first to allow access to the deeper structures of the body.

“While it is recommended that clients go through the whole series, it is also possible to customise sessions to suit a particular client’s needs,” Walker says.

Most people are able to utilize this therapy but there are a few exceptions.

“In general terms, Hellerwork is contraindicated for inflammatory conditions such as acute rheumatoid arthritis. Also, people at risk of stroke or aneurysm should not receive bodywork.

“However, a full medical history of the client is always taken prior to the start of the first session so that issues like this can be identified,” Walker is quick to reassure.


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