My experience with Zentherapy® (Structural Integration offshoot)

In the early 90’s, I was interested in Rolfing and the 10 series sessions idea. I went through the sessions and also went through the Hellerwork 11 session series. I also got just regular massage sessions from someone who was trained in Zentherapy® which is one of the unofficial offshoots of Rolfing created by William “Dub” Leigh who trained with Ida Rolf in the Early days as Esalen. He also went on to study and learn the ways of Zen at the Chozen-Ji Temple in HI. He also studied with Moshe Feldenkrais and used the movement series to go along with each session.

My session with the person who was trained in Zentherapy® (not using names) was really just a basic massage session, but when I got off of the table, I felt like a different person. I know I was almost drooling and exclaiming – What did you do to me! So we invited Dub Leigh to Seattle to put on trainings in ZenBodyTherapy®and Zen Triggerpoint therapy®.

These early trainings accepted massage therapists and non-massage therapists into the trainings. They started with early morning meditation and you had to be on time for the start or you were left out in the hallway. Throughout the training the teachers were to be taken care of in every way possible starting with getting Dubs favorite orange juice, providing lunch for the teahers and making sure they had everything they needed. The training hosts would also take care of getting the location set up and filling the class with students. That way, they could focus on training and not worry about the details of putting on the training.

The trainings were painful and often crazy. People were yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. I was often so bruised I could hardly believe it. It was part that I bruised easily but also it seemed like a competition as to who could take the most pain. People also did crazy things like rolling off the table and crawling around on the floor. The work was so deep and painful and I now think that most of us were in some state of Rhabdomyolysis as they were always telling us to keep drinking water until our urine was clear in color. I know mine was often not clear! In one of the Triggerpoint trainings I was feeling really sick after the morning session work on me. Going to lunch I could not even function correctly. I just looked at my food and was white as a ghost. The teacher was with us and told me to go outside and sit on a bench outside. I couldn’t eat or drink anything. When we got back to class the teachers told me to get on the table and they both started working on me (Not Dub and Audrey but other teachers in training). They do this pulling of the arms and legs one at a time and also one arm and the opposite leg. They kept pulling gently on my fingers. I was sweating at the time. Cold and clammy. Finally something happened and I felt like I went back to myself.

The trainings were intensives. The Zenbodytherapy was 5 weekends with 2 weekends back to back. The Triggerpoint therapy Trainings were 4 weekends with 2 weekends back to back and maybe a month in between. We repeated these trainings over and over with them letting us get the repeat trainings at half-price. I did this for about 4 years. That was about 150 hours of training a year for 4 years. I was exhausted.

Dub offered to teach an advanced class which would be 2 weekends back to back and people had to give the sessions to people and send their photos into be accepted into the training. I was accepted and also volunteered to set up the advanced training which meant getting the location, getting students to it and all the details. I got everything set up.

The first weekend we left on Sunday with something called the pelvic lift and working on the sacral area. During the week, I ended up with a severe bout of vertigo that caused me to vomit and not be able to stand up. I couldn’t not attend the second weekend. Later, talking to Audrey, Dubs assistant, she said something like “Oh we were supposed to finish working on the neck after doing the sacral work.” Oh great. That spell of vertigo ended up lasting me a lifetime of having vertigo off and on. That was in about 1989. I went to the doctor and they called it Benign Positional Vertigo and there wasn’t anything I could do. They told me to take meclazzine which helped greatly. Through the years, I had vertigo on and off and it affected my ability to work greatly. I would wake up every few months or so with a bad case of it and had to call my clients to cancel. I went to chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy and massage of all sorts. Sometimes it would be better with less boughts of it. I also had a client who seemed to get it when I had it and we thought it was a virus we were passing back and forth between us. I don’t think it was that.

I was having an unusually challenging bout of it and found a chiropractor who did really gentle work and used a tool called an Arthrostim that felt sort of like a little jack-hammer on the back of my neck when I was in the seated position, with head slightly forward. It felt great and I felt more stable than I did for years. Then I got in a MVC and had minor whiplash and SI issues and I went to him regularly for treatment for about 6 months. At the end, one day I just looked down to pick up my phone and immediately felt like there was an earthquake happening. It knocked me to the floor. Somehow I got up and was OK. I then had severe vertigo.

It ended up being the crystals in the ears moving around and I had the epley maneuver done by a PT. First they did testing with goggles on to watch my eye movements. The testing alone made me vomit so I couldn’t get the treatment. I had to go back for the treatment. I did and it seemed to help. I always wondered if the little tool had eventually caused the crystals to move. I won’t ever really know I guess. All I know is that is has been living hell. Most recently, I am free from Vertigo…knock on wood.

I did give the 10 sessions for awhile on clients, but it was just too painful for people and I just thought that it wasn’t right. The things I learned though in the trainings has made me a much better therapist. The intensive training taught me different ways to look at the body and work with the body and increased my knowledge of how it all works together.

More recently, my studies in pain education has made me wonder what were we all doing with all the pain stuff. My recent research into Ida Rolf, Rolfing and Structural Integration also led me to information that Ida understood that the pain was all drama and that when people got worked on by her, they did not experience pain. When they got worked on by others, there was pain. It was the same way with being worked on by Dub. Somehow they were just not able to teach what they do. Why they let everyone go on inflicting pain is beyond me. It is was it is. It was what it was.

Zentherapy Training in the US is only offered through Bill Thompson at the Alexander School of Massage in Tacoma WA.