Nancy DeLucrezia, founder of Neuro-Structural Bodywork and of The Kali Institute, talks about the importance of connecting fascial release with neuro-muscular re-education- or how to address both the hardware and the software of our bodies. She also talks about Breathwork and somato-emotional release, and her own process of becoming embodied and of healing. This is a good one for the manual and movement therapists out there, as well as for those of you who are curious about one of these therapeutic processes that you might be going through. It’s also just a nice primer to understanding how bodies make long-term progress and change.
Nancy describes Neuro-Structural Bodywork and how it synthesizes vs. a whole new realm of work. In particular: fascial release , neuro-muscular reeducation, Restorative Exercise (the work of Katy Bowman), Breathwork, and Shaitsu.
An analogy of working on your computer- there are both hardware and software issues. The hardware issues are more addressed by the fascial release- you’re cleaning out the closets so to speak from a structural point of view. But the software that runs your body need to also be addressed. This is the neuro-muscular reeducation.
If you tied a baby elephant up by its ankle and it grew up that way it could only walk 10 ft in any direct. Once it grew up you could take away the chain on its ankle so it was free to walk anywhere, but it wouldn’t necessarily go anywhere because it had learned to occupy that 10 ft space. So you can free up restriction in the body, caused by an impact trauma or repetitive mis-motion, and your nervous system doesn’t’ necessarily integrate that information without prompting.
With Restorative Exercise it’s all so logical and mechanically specific and the physics are so accurate that it encompasses more levels of how it is that our body learns to move, and position itself in space.
The neurological part is most important, and the physical part is more of a facilitator.
People who just do fascial release without understanding the neurological component, it’s not necessarily faster because the neurological part is where the change happens.
It’s like dieting- if you do a crash diet and lose a bunch of weight, if you don’t change your lifestyle and habits you’re just going to gain the weight back.
Nancy talks about how she got into the work because of her own pain. She was running a PR firm in New York and she wasn’t aware that she had a body at all. She met some people in bodywork and started exploring the idea of living in a body.
She was born with really flat feet which caused her pelvis to be out of alignment chronically and she had compression to the right femoral nerve and she was in a lot of pain much of the time. Eventually she went to massage school at the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy.
The Breathwork was really instrumental for her in creating a shift in her body. This form of breathing can put you in a radically altered state of consciousness. It is a cleansing of a lot of emotional and somatic stress.
It is more interesting for Nancy than psychotherapy because psychotherapy is just another mental activity. Lately psychology is starting to acknowledge that trauma lives in the body, but they still don’t touch people. The healthcare practitioners who work with with a person’s trauma are not allowed to touch their clients.
She always preferred to be in the bodywork field because when you touch somebody you can go right to the emotional closet. If you’re going to do fascial release it is probably good to have training in emotional release.
A place that was hurt when you were hit by a car or a part of the body that was a target of abuse will actually be location specific in the tissue.
My story of having a vivid memory recall during a Rolfing session of getting a thorn in my foot as a young child and how I had avoided walking on that part of my foot into adulthood.
It sounds unbelievable but in Breathwork people will often, though not always, have memories as far back as birth. It’s more common with people whose umbilical cords were cut before they were breathing, because the first breath they took was literally a form of trauma. It creates a subtle trauma in the body. Many who work through that feel they have taken the first breath in their life.
When you touch a body you are also touching in to everything that ever happened to that body. Nancy believes it’s all there, every single moment, recorded in the archives [of soft tissue and nervous system].
It wouldn’t be to our benefit to remember every single moment or trauma that happens to our body, but it’s all there and there can be this backlog.
Some more emotive therapies, especially in the 80’s, were all about purging and it got a little crazy for a while. You don’t need to sort or analyze everything. There is a certain amount that can happen without our conscious mind getting involved.
“You don’t need to go through the trash to take it to the curb.”
If you’re crawling around on the floor and foaming at the mouth [as an exaggeration of the big cathartic emotional release] are you really getting better, or are you just repeating the pattern of what now you’ve learned to do as an alternative behavior to repression?
I think by the 90’s people were more into “How gentle and easy can this be?” rather than “How dramatic and exciting can this be?”
Nancy’s left leg felt like a “flap” that stuck out to the side laterally, she didn’t feel like she was on her foot. Over the years that changed a lot.
She had some sessions where her tissue was excavated dramatically, and it wasn’t pleasant.
Over the years she’s gotten the foot to change. She took footprints and you could see the arch coming back into her foot over a series of months.
The structural change plateaued and then it became a question of the nervous system.
When she met Katy Bowman she told her her arches were collapsing from all the way at the top of her legs from her adductors, etc. The next few years working with her her weight shifted out of her ankle and totally changed.
Anything musculo-skeletal comes down to alignment. If you’re not in alignment you’re not getting circulation in neurology.
At the cellular level if you’re getting enough nutrient and oxygen rich blood and communication in the nervous system, your cells do just fine regenerating themselves.
Nancy talks about how she hates the term “deep tissue”. It’s very misleading. What does deep tissue mean? That you don’t work on any superficial tissue? Is it Swedish Massage where you press really hard?
Fascial release is a whole different approach. Some people mistakenly think that it’s pressing really hard and violating a person. But when you get to a point that the person’s resistance to what you’re doing to them exceeds what you are undoing then you are either breaking even or losing ground.
Nancy tells the story of a client who came to her with massive, significant trauma from multiple motorcycle accidents. Her spine was so severely scoliotic. Nancy was really enjoying working with her because she was changing and the physical difference was really clear. Then there was a plateau and she started to get frustrated and she said to the client, “I don’t know what do to because I feel like I’m not succeeding at providing you with change.” And she said, “The goal was not to straighten my spine, I feel 100% better in my body since starting this work, isn’t that enough?” and it has always stuck with her.
The ideal session is when someone comes to you and uses you to work on themselves. Really we can’t do anything with people except to help facilitate their own process.
Nancy recently took a class in cupping and she is playing with that in her own process and learning.
Taking the idea from the beginning of the interview of our movement patterns and alignment being the “software” that we are running in our systems, see if you can take a day to notice what “software” you are running. We become the shapes and the movements that we make most of the time, so can you write down the 3 most obvious patterns that you are doing the most frequently in your typical day?