|What is Hellerwork?
Hellerwork is a series of one-hour sessions of
deep tissue bodywork and movement education
designed to realign the body and release chronic
tension and stress. Verbal dialogue is used to
assist the client in becoming aware of emotional
stress that may be related to physical tension.
The number of sessions can vary from person to
person due to the varying needs of individuals.
The plan of the series is organized along the
eleven sections described here and each section
can take one or more sessions to accomplish the
Hellerwork is an integrated system designed to
recondition the whole body. It is not a remedy
for illness; rather, it is a process in which
people are moved from their current "average"
state to an optimal state of health and well
being. This optimal state of health is the body's
"normal" and natural condition.
Although Hellerwork may be effective for
temporary pain or tension relief, we recognize
that pain and tension are usually the result of
an overall pattern of imbalance occurring in the
body. Rather than treating the pain or tension
"symptom" of this imbalance, Hellerwork
focuses on rebalancing the entire body, returning
it to a more aligned, relaxed and youthful state.
To fully understand how Hellerwork works, you
must learn about connective tissue, and how the
force of gravity impacts the connective tissue
system of the body in such a way that it moves
from a "normal" into an "average"
Are Connective Tissue
Any tissue in the body that has a connecting
function is considered to be connective tissue.
Tendons, ligaments, and even blood are connective
tissue. The form of connective tissue that
Hellerwork primarily affects is called fascia.
Fascia is a plastic-like tissue that wraps all of
the muscles, and all of the individual fibers and
bundles of individual fibers that become muscle.
Fascia comes together at the end of the muscle
and becomes the tendon, which attaches the muscle
to the bone.
The fascial system of our body can be seen as a
multi-layer body stocking, with fascial sheaths
wrapping the muscles and weaving in layers
throughout the body. Because of this, stress in
any area of the body has an effect on every other
part of the body. For instance, tension in the
connective tissue of the leg pulls the tissue
throughout the torso.
In its optimal condition, fascia is a loose,
moist tissue. When there is continual loose
movement and balance in the body, the fascial
body stocking stays loose and mobile,
facilitating the movement between different parts
of the body. However, under continual stress and
lack of movement, fascia becomes rigid and loses
its fluidity. Layers of fascia begin to glue to
one another, causing the '"knots" you
may have experienced in your back or neck. The
sheaths of fascia stick in a systematic way,
based on our habitual patterns of movement, or
more correctly, lack of movement. Although people
most often associate tension and stiffness with
their muscles, it is actually the connective
tissue that accumulates much of this stress.
Do Gravity And
Alignment Have to Do With Hellerwork?
Gravity is the force that pulls any two
masses together, notably the earth and our human
bodies. We learn about this force early in life,
but then get used to it, although it continually
pulls on us. Alignment simply means that things
are in a straight line. If items are in a zig-zag
pattern, we would say that they are out of
alignment. In Hellerwork, the main direction of
alignment that we consider is vertical alignment
- are the body's segments stacked in a straight
line from the ground up, or are they at a tilt,
or perhaps a zig-zag.
If a body or structure of any kind is vertically
aligned, gravity is a benign and positive force -
it keeps us on the planet! It also supports us in
being balanced. An imbalanced body, however,
feels gravity as a stress. Consider the two
buildings in the above illustration. The balanced
and erect building has no problem with gravity.
Gravity is the force that makes the earth a
foundation for the building in the first place.
The leaning tower of Pisa, however, is stressed
by gravity. Since it is already imbalanced,
gravity works to pull it down.
It is the same with our bodies - if they are
aligned, gravity is supportive. If they are out
of alignment, gravity becomes a primary force
that is felt by our bodies as a demand to tense
up and hold on!
Did My Body Get This
If you have lived even an hour, your body has
experienced the aging process. Most of us have
experienced years and years of this process.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the
progression of years - many things actually ripen
with age. But what is it that causes people to
physically shorten over time, that makes people
get twisted and compressed into postures that
cannot change by themselves, and that makes
people move more and more slowly and with less
and less comfort as they age?
Connective tissue - specifically fascia - holds
our bodies in their contracted form, and movement
patterns determine the particular form in which
they get stuck. There are three main factors that
cause our movement patterns to become unbalanced.
They are (1) ongoing physical stresses, (2)
ongoing attitudes and emotions, and (3) incidents
of physical trauma.
Continually carrying a briefcase on one side of
the body is an example of ongoing physical stress.
Gravity pulls the briefcase down, and the
shoulder with it. With repetition, the connective
tissue layers begin to get stiff and to stick to
one another, like ironing two thin sheets of
plastic together. As a result, the body becomes
stuck in that position and, even when the
briefcase is not being carried, the shoulder
still remains lower. The whole body will adjust
to this imbalance, and soon the impact of the
briefcase will be reflected throughout the entire
An example of one's emotional attitude causing
imbalance in the body can be seen when we are
depressed, which is often characterized by a
sunken chest. If this feeling and the bodily
substance become a continual pattern, the body
becomes glued in This posture.
Imbalance is also caused through physical trauma.
For example, if you were to injure your leg, you
would be likely to walk in an themselves, and
that makes people move more and more slowly :it
imbalanced and even awkward way to protect the
injury. After a time, that movement pattern might
become a part of your body's way of moving, even
though the injury had been healed long ago. An
injury also directly traumatizes the connective
tissue at the site of the injury; scarring and
inflexibility may result from this. As described
in the discussion of connective tissue, this
tension is then reflected through the body and
further influences our movement patterns.
As life goes on and aging continues, more and
more of these patterns become embedded in our
connective tissue simply because we don't move
freely. In our misalignment, gravity becomes the
enemy, compounding and magnifying any stress that
is there. As the body accumulates these patterns,
it begins to shorten and shrink. People get
shorter and stiffer. This is what people identify
as aging. This is what makes the body "average"
but not normal.
The Foundational Principles of Hellerwork
1)We recognize the existence of a greater
field in which we live, interact and express.
2) Our purpose is to enhance the individual's
awareness of and relationship to that field.
3) Within the context of a healing
relationship, we work with structure, psyche,
and movement to improve function and well-being.
4) Our process follows an ordered sequence
organizing the body along the line of
gravity, through guided touch and education,
introducing change towards a more functional
Three Main Components
Reconditioning the body after it has gone through
this process of aging requires not only releasing
the rigidity from the connective tissue, but also
bringing awareness to and changing the patterns
that caused the tissue to rigidify in the first
place. The three components of Hellerwork - deep
connective tissue bodywork, movement education,
and verbal dialogue - aim to do just that.
Deep connective tissue body work is designed to
release the tension that currently exists in the
connective tissue, and to return the body
systematically to an aligned position. This
aspect of Hellerwork is a "hands on"
process, in which the Practitioner works with his
or her hands to release tension in the fascia and
to stretch it back into its normal position.
Bodywork accounts for about 60 minutes of the
To the client, this is felt as a great release of
tension throughout the body. Releasing chronic
tension allows the body to feel free and rested,
producing what might be an uncommon (but truly
normal) state of wellbeing.
If the bodywork aspect of Hellerwork is like
taking the dents out of a car's bumper after the
car has run into a tree, then movement education
can be likened to reeducating the driver so that
he won't continue to destroy his vehicle. No
amount of removing dents will keep a car
beautiful if the driver is continually hitting
Through the Hellerwork movement education
program, you become profoundly aware of your body
and your movement patterns, and as a result
discover easier, fuller ways of moving. Simple
and easy to remember suggestions and
visualizations are used to rebalance your
movement for optimal alignment and fluidity.
In movement education, we focus on the use of
your body in daily activities. With all clients
we work with sitting, standing, walking, and
movement patterns that are common to everyone.
Additionally, your particular movement interests,
like your favorite sports, or your job activity,
will become the focus of some movement lessons.
Video feedback is often used to assist the
movement education process, and to allow you to
get a picture of how your body is moving from the
The verbal dialogue component of Hellerwork
focuses on allowing you to become aware of the
relationship between your emotions and attitudes
and your body. As you become aware of these
relationships, you are able to become responsible
for your attitudes so that they are less likely
to limit your body and your self expression.
The focus of the dialogue begins - with but is
not limited to - the theme of each section. The
theme highlights the more common attitudes and
emotions that are associated with the area of the
body that is worked on in each session. In
Section 1, where we work on the chest, the theme
is "Inspiration." Your Practitioner
will inquire into your experience of inspiration:
Do you feel inspired? What inspires you? What
affects your ability to feel inspired? Through
this process you can begin to understand some of
the attitudinal and emotional forces that impact
your body. Simply becoming aware of them begins
the process of change. As the tension that is
associated with these emotional patterns is
released, some of the pattern itself may be
released. Your awareness facilitates the process
of change in your body and mind.
Structure Of The
Hellerwork is like peeling an onion - the first
layer must he gone through before we can go to
the next layer. The series is divided into three
groups of sections to facilitate this layer-by-layer
release: (1) the superficial sections, (2) the
core sections, and (3) the integrative sections.
Your practitioner will determine in consultation
with you how many sessions are needed to release
each of these layers in your particular body. The
sections described in this handbook are a general
plan of action which in many cases can be
accomplished in one session but sometimes
requires more. In this way you and your
practitioner can customize the Hellerwork series
to your own needs.
The Superficial Sections
Sections one through three focus on the surface,
or "superficial" layers of the body's
connective tissue, which are associated with
those muscles that are near the surface of the
body, also called the sleeve muscles.
Developmentally, the superficial sections deal
with issues of infancy and childhood: breathing,
standing up, and reaching out.
Sections four through seven are the core sections.
When we talk about the core, we mean the deeper
musculature and connective tissue of the body.
The concept of core tissue is demonstrated in the
picture of the apple, which also has core and
superficial tissue. The nature of the core
muscles - also called intrinsic muscles - is that
they assist us in fine motor movement. These
muscles must be used in order to produce graceful
and fluid movement. For instance, Tai Chi Chuan
relies on the refined movement of the intrinsic
muscles. Prior to Hellerwork, these muscles are
often under utilized, tight and immobile. The
core sections focus on development issues of
adolescence: control and surrender, gut feelings,
holding back feelings and intellectual
The Integrative Sections
Sections eight through eleven are designed to
integrate the core and sleeve during these
sessions, the Practitioner balances and aligns
the unique patterns of each client's body. In the
earlier sections a clear map existed to guide the
flow of each section. Because each body is so
unique, the integrative sections have no general
map. The specific focus of these sections is on
rotational patterns in the body. The eleventh
section is unique in that it does not necessarily
include bodywork and it integrates the Hellerwork
series with your entire life. Developmentally,
the integrative sections focus on issues of
maturity: masculine and feminine styles and
values, integration and coming out into the world.
Follow Up For the Hellerwork Series
When you complete the Hellerwork series your body
is in a new state of alignment. It is much more
balanced and much freer in movement. You are more
aware of your body and able to determined its
Your body will continue to change for some time
as a result of the Hellerwork series, perhaps for
as long as a year. If you continue using the
movement education lessons the changes will
Your should talk with your Practitioner at the
end of your Hellerwork series to determine your
optimal followup program. We also recommend that
you have a session after any kind of trauma,
physical or emotional. In that session, your
Practitioner can focus on rebalancing your entire
body. (Remember that Hellerwork is not a
treatment for your injury. Consult your physician
for proper treatment.)
Of course, it is all up to you. You are in touch
with your body and are in the best position to
know its needs.
Your Hellerwork Practitioner
Hellerwork Practitioners are a unique group of
health educators. They have all received
extensive training in Hellerwork. They are
individuals who are committed to actualizing the
principles of Hellerwork, not only in their
Hellerwork sessions, but in their personal lives.
These principles include the results easily
visible in the Hellerwork series: body alignment,
fluid movement, and the free flow of energy in
the body. Practitioners are equally committed to
less visible principles - relationships that are
filled with true rapport, selfexpression And free
flowing communication. Hellerwork Practitioners
practice the true meaning of responsibility - the
ability to respond. It is these characteristics
that make your Practitioner unique.
All Hellerwork Practitioners are certified by
Hellerwork International, which is responsible
for the continuing education required of all
Practitioners, and for the maintenance of the
highest professional standards. If you would like
a directory of all the Practitioners throughout
the world, or have any questions or comments you
would like to address to Hellerwork International
you can contact them at: