Discovering the Heart of Bodywork - My path to an integrative approach to bodywork
Sol Petersen

Fascination with the body and the mind led me to study Physical Education and Psychology. T'ai Ji, Yoga, accupressure and massage all deepened my interest and experience as a bodyworker. In 1983 I began my study of Structural Integration, a method developed by Ida Rolf. Structural Integration is based on a guiding principle that by rebalancing the human structure within gravity and freeing natural movement an individual's innate wholeness is revealed. I found the work both inspiring and incredibly effective. I continued my training with the Hellerwork School of Structural Integration and the Guild of Structural Integration, leading Hellerwork Structural Integration Trainings in N.Z. and Europe over a twelve year period.

During this time my passion to discover the heart of bodywork and to create a person-centred approach to body therapy only increased. I trained in Hakomi Body Psychotherapy, Watsu, Aston, Trager and Cranio-Sacral Therapy as I continued to develop my personal approach to Integrative Bodywork. In 2000 under the name Mana Integrative Therapies I started running classes in Myofascial Relaease, Psychotherapeutic Skills for bodyworkers and Structural Integration in Europe and New Zealand.

Tine Langkilde attended a workshop for massage therapists with me in Denmark. This is what she wrote after the workshop:
"As a massage therapist I was very successful at releasing pain and tension but something was missing. How could I help people to stop creating the same tensions and use their body in a more balanced way?"
When I observed Sol working with a client it was clear that I must learn this approach. Here were the elements I was missing. I saw him build a session, which was a mixture of a movement lesson and bodywork with a very fine awareness of body sensations and emotions. In this structural bodywork the client was not passive but participated with active movements on the table, seated or standing all the while being guided in wakeful attention. It made me so aware of how I had been bored working on people who were just getting relaxed and falling asleep. The space of the session was a beautiful gentle way of listening, a loving presence which allowed the individual's needs and process to unfold without effort. My work as a therapist has changed radically - it has become more and more intuitive and satisfying. Now I see that my job is to assist clients to release their own pain and to discover a new bodywisdom that they can apply to their life."

The Myofascial Massage Training is an immersion in the experience of person-centred structural bodywork. It is through the discovery within one's own anatomy, structure, movement, emotions, touching and perceiving that you begin to learn the art of embodiment and how you can assist another in the awakening and healing of their own body.

As one participant said, "Over these nine days I feel I've rediscovered me! I've been aided to recognise what's happening in my body. I've experienced amazing changes in my inner being and in my structure and whats truly amazing is how much the two are closely linked. Greater self awareness is something I'll always have with me from here on - Its a gift I want to share with as many people as possible."
If you are new to the field the Heart of Bodywork is an excellent beginning. If you are already a practitioner this course will help you to develop your intuitive skills, broaden your base of techniques, introduce you to watsu aquatic bodywork, and help you to integrate the relational side of bodywork into the practice of the Art of Bodywork.


The School of Person Centred Bodywork provides practitioner level education in Myofascial Massage and in Structural Integration*. Continuing professional development (CPD) workshops are also offered in a variety of approaches and techniques as well as introductory workshops in the various aspects of our person centred approach. At the School of Person Centred Bodywork we embrace the idea that people are central to their own healing and that our primary role is to support this. We work with the idea of a therapeutic partnership where the input from both the client and therapist play their part. In line with our approach with our clients we recognise that when we are students we are central to our own learning and that the learning environment should be inspiring, challenging and secure. Learning is a highly individual process and we aim to support each individual in reaching their potential, to encourage the discovery of knowledge through direct personal experience, to share the joy of learning, touching, moving, listening and being with people. We want our students to find their own way of practising within the definition of the work.

Our myofascial massage training belongs to the field of structural bodywork. We recognise that how we are organised structurally says something about the story of our lives and that working towards easy, fluid, balanced movement requires that the structures of the body are in good relationship to one another and with gravity. Our bodies can become tense and rigid through the stressful effects of unbalanced movement habits, emotional tension or physical injury. As life goes on, more and more of these patterns may become embedded in the body's tissues. In our misalignment gravity no longer supports us but compounds and magnifies stress that is there. We may begin to shorten and shrink, finding ourselves in restrictive postures, moving more slowly with less comfort. The myofascia of the body is the tissue responsible for much of this structural organisation.
There are two main ways that our structure is maintained and our function optimised. One is through the activity of our muscles via the nervous system, this is the 'myo' in myofascia, referring to the muscle fibres and their associated nerve supply. The nervous system responds to information coming from both external and internal sources, influencing the state of our muscles and their co-ordination and ultimately our structure and movement patterns.
The other influence on our structure and function is through the organisation and the balance of tensions in the connective tissues. The term 'fascia' in myofascia refers to the connective tissue wrappings found in and around muscle. Muscle fascia is part of one continuous connective tissue organ that includes the ligaments, tendons, wrappings around bone, the dura and more. In its optimal state fascia is flexible and responsive but when overly stressed reacts by shortening and thickening, eventually restricting movement.
Typically in a session we work with the myofascial system through the use of carefully applied touch directed at the fascia, changing its state towards fluidity and responsiveness. This is accompanied by guided, active, participation that challenges the clients nervous system to
co-ordinate towards effortless movement.

The Myofascial Massage Practitioner Training is a certified training in person-centred bodywork. This training is designed for those interested in working with hands-on bodywork, movement and guided awareness. This course will be of interest to body therapy practitioners or those in
related fields such as fitness, physical education, medicine, counselling, teachers of martial arts, pilates, yoga and other movement fields.
Application from individuals without prior experience are welcome, recommendations of pre-training/study will be given.

The integrated approach to teaching used on this training means that you will be working with a number of the components of the syllabus at all times, for example while doing a palpation exercise to feel for hyper-toned tissue you will be expected to know or find out what tissues are under your hands, you will also be expected to be in a therapeutic relationship with your partner, which for us means staying in dialogue to explore their experience.
Principles: Person-centred approach, relationship of structure and function within the field of gravity, influences on alignment including injury, accident, misuse, habitual patterns, attitudes and emotion.
Healing Relationship: Foundations of mindfulness, therapist client relationship, boundaries, safety, developing loving presence.
Communication Skills: the fundamentals of dialogue for bringing awareness to our patterns, active listening skills, making contact, developing rapport, tracking.
Movement Education: Fundamental movement principles for enhancing the use of our selves in various activities including how to maintain your own structural integrity as you work.
Anatomy: Myofascial anatomy in the context of structural bodywork, structure and function of connective tissue (specifically fascia), muscle, nervous system. Palpation of the relevant tissues of the body is a primary consideration.
Assessment Skills: Body reading, palpation skills and other assessment methods for the structural, functional and energetic body. Strategies for deciding on an approach specific to the client needs.
Bodywork Techniques: Exploration of touch to affect change, specific active and passive myofascial techniques for restoring normality to soft tissues.
Safety (contraindications): Principles of knowing when and how to apply techniques.

We run concurrently with the Myofascial massage training two anatomy and physiology weekends for those without adequate anatomy and physiology background.