Asheville’s Ortho-Bionomy practitioners offer a structural approach to healing

BEING PRESENT: Jessica Mark, owner of Happy Body, brings clients into balance through Ortho-Bionomy. Photo by Emily Nichols

After a car accident last year, Teresa Macaluso began traditional physical therapy for whiplash. But the neck manipulations were too aggressive, she says. Macaluso tried Ortho-Bionomy sessions with Happy Body owner Jessica Mark. “I really liked the gentle techniques to relieve the muscle pain. I liked that the client is part of the process, and you feel encouraged and a lot more aware of your body,” says Macaluso. And the treatment helped.

British osteopath Dr. Arthur Lincoln Pauls created Ortho-Bionomy in the 1970s after studying how the body responds to certain ways of physical and energetic holding and compressing. Macaluso explains, “Even though massage pressure is deeper, the benefit of Ortho-Bionomy is [better], in my experience. It reminds the body of the natural ability to self-correct, proper alignment and the way that the body should be in regard to balance.”

Ortho-Bionomy utilizes the body’s reflexes to help the client recognize when a body part is not at ease by combining the technique of pushing and pulling certain body parts to create space or comfort with compression on the same area, says Mark. The noninvasive practice is gentle and works directly with the nervous system, she says. Mark works with those who have acute and chronic pain, digestive issues, bone and respiratory problems, musculoskeletal injuries, temporomandibular joint issues and headaches. Ortho-Bionomy practictioners also work with babies who have colic and kids with anxiety issues.

“There is no manipulation or fixing,” says Alex Moody, an Ortho-Bionomy practitioner at Happy Body. “You are giving the body a chance to self-recognize if something like a shoulder is elevated. You can physically bring the shoulder higher up for the body to recognize what it is doing. You are strengthening the reflexes in your own system. It is listening-body work versus telling-body work,” says Moody, who says she loves investigating the intersection of structural and energetic body work. “Instead of having something done to you,” says Moody, “let’s listen to it.”

“The brain of our bodies is not in our prefrontal cortex,” Mark adds. “It’s in all of our cell membranes. The cell membrane has the ability to discern what it pulls in or expunges out. Trauma can overwhelm the system, and the body is taking in info that may or may not be able to be moved through the system. Talk therapy and breathing exercises are great, but what happens when it [trauma] just can’t find a way out? You are doing all these things, and the nervous system is not connecting; there is not an exit ramp.”

Ortho-Bionomy shows the body where the “exit ramps” are to release whatever is stored in the cells, she continues. While there are no specific areas in the body that are exit ramps, practitioners are “trained to feel that — we help the body self-recognize,” says Mark.

The adage “No pain, no gain” does not apply to to Ortho-Bionomy: its techniques and principles are based on “less is more” and helping clients move away from pain, says Mark. If the nervous system is agitated, it cannot release. “We are trying to get a response from the body that is productive for their nervous system to recognize where they are and right it their self,” says Mark.

There are many bodywork modalities that offer healing and balance, Mark notes. “How can we get the body to shift? That’s where reflexes come in and self-correct,” she says. Ortho-Bionomy suggests a possible solution.

We override our reflexes daily, Mark continues. For example, we eat when we are not hungry and watch TV when really we want to sleep. “You are setting up a pattern in your body, and it shuts down and then you don’t have ‘righting’ reflexes,” she says. “You have the ability to take steps with caution and have total presence. We provide the body with a lot more choices, and we widen the map of possibility with Ortho-Bionomy.” 

Macaluso attends local workshops held by Mark at Happy Body and says she’s interested in being trained in Ortho-Bionomy.  A 500-hour certification program is required to be a basic practitioner and another 500 hours of training for certification as an advanced practitioner. Moody is a basic practitioner, and Mark is an advanced practitioner. 

“After several sessions, you can feel your body of memories and the way the body should be. I think Western medicine and this treatment can work really well together, that everybody would gain. I have my regular medical doctors, but this has been a happy symbiosis,” says Macaluso. 

Christine Dismukes agrees that Ortho-Bionomy is a beneficial complementary practice. A retired nurse in her 60s, Dismukes suffered from a bulging disc in her back after falling off a horse. She has started Ortho-Bionomy sessions with Mark. “I feel so much better,” says Dismukes. “There is no more pain down my legs, and my back doesn’t hurt.”

Dismukes says she received a diagnosis from a medical doctor and was glad to know why her back hurt, which gave her options for treatment. “There are ways to heal it, and the last thing I want to do is jump into surgery. That is a last resort,” says Dismukes. She’d like to find modalities that can help as she ages. “With Ortho-Bionomy and exercising, I will continue to have good health and independence.”

More Info

WHAT: Ortho-Bionomy lecture

WHERE: Happy Body, 1378 Hendersonville Road, Suite E2

WHEN: Wednesday, Aug. 16, 6:30-8 p.m.

COST: Free

Happy Body

Ortho-Bionomy International



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