You never know where Open Roads will take you…

“Ortho-Bionomy® as a healing modality is an indirect method. You help the person change their relationship to the situation; you do not change the situation.”Richard Valasek, Advanced Instructor of Ortho-Bionomy®

Sometime around 1995 I developed hip and low back pain so debilitating that I was afraid I had either severely damaged something in that area or I had bone cancer. X-rays showed neither of these to be true and, with a metaphoric shrug, the orthopedic physician said the best he could offer was a prescription for medication to alleviate pain and a suggestion to take it easy while I waited for it to get better. I spent the next several years trying to find the fix for whatever was causing this pain and unwittingly launched myself on a wondrous journey of self-discovery. An integral piece of this journey has been my involvement with a type of bodywork called Ortho-Bionomy®..When I first began studying the modality, I had difficulty in talking about what O-B is. I knew it as a therapy modality that helped my pain in ways nothing else had been able to. As I began taking classes to learn more about how I might use it for self-care, I discovered some central ideas: that, as in homeopathy, less is more; that the body is always seeking homeostasis (balance), and by exaggerating a misperception or misalignment, natural self-correcting reflexes in the body will be stimulated to bring things back into balance; that observation and attention alone, without force, can bring about shifts or changes.

Ortho-Bionomy® makes use of the physical body’s proprioceptors to cue through gentle movement, compression, and positioning of the body (proprioception is the “sense of self” we have through joint angle, muscle length, and tension. It tells us where our limbs are in space). Because the body is always seeking homeostasis (balance) and is self-corrective, when something is perceived as unbalanced or out of alignment, these self-corrective reflexes will kick in to bring things back into equilibrium and stability. And this shift into new alignment reverberates throughout the system, like ripples on a pond. O-B can effect profound change with a very small input.

My instructors talked of how the practitioner is really a facilitator for a conversation—literally between “neighborhoods” within the body, and also, on a more subtle level, helping the client become aware of how one’s internal landscape is connecting with the external environment. We don’t attempt to fix something. We are more educators. We use resistance only in the context of reeducation, perhaps an isometric or isotonic movement with follow-through to allow dissipation of built-up energy. Resistance in this context also allows both practitioner and client insight as to where a force originates, in which direction it’s moving, and with what intensity. This helps to see the pattern so it may be changed to offer more functionality and then be strengthened. Much bodywork uses “anti”—if a muscle is tight, stretch; if a lesion creates a pull in one direction, pull the opposite way to force the body “out” of the dysfunctional pattern. In Ortho-Bionomy®, we observe, we allow, we follow without judgment or attachment to outcomes, giving the body a chance to see for itself where the pattern is and how things might shift and realign into an easier (more functional) expression. We may offer different options for ease, allowing the body to choose for itself. Each shift provides the platform for another, etc, etc, until the entire system shifts into new relationship w/Self—ever evolving.

“Ortho-Bionomy is a gentle, non-invasive, system of healing that reminds the body of its natural ability to restore balance. It is based on a simple and profound philosophy: allow the body to correct itself. The hallmark of Ortho-Bionomy is pain relief.

The founder, British-trained Osteopath Arthur Lincoln Pauls, discovered how to gently stimulate the body’s reflexes for self-correction in a way that supports a person’s own healing mechanisms. The body is stimulated using gentle movements, comfortable positioning, brief compression and subtle contact. The result is seemingly effortless pain and tension relief, natural re-alignment, relaxation and a deep sense of well-being. The individual is empowered to participate in their own recovery, and through the process can begin to rediscover the ability to heal and restore comfort, ease and balance back into their body. ” (

This description taken directly from the Society of Ortho-Bionomys website gives an overview of the philosophy and principles behind Ortho-Bionomy®  as bodywork, but it only hints at the profound level of self-awareness that opened to me through its doors.

From my first session as a client in 2005 through today, in my role as a licensed massage therapist who offers the work to my own clients, after hundreds of hours of training, practicing, and giving and receiving Ortho-Bionomy®, I continue to deepen both the practice and understanding of what the Ancients and the New Age call Grounding—of linking my mind and spirit with a physical construct—the body that I live in. As Arthur Pauls intended, I have discovered that the principles behind this lovely, gentle and effective form of bodywork are the very principles that govern my larger existence. When I live my life with a non-judgmental attitude in openness and curiosity, when I allow the forces of life to flow around and through me, trying and choosing the paths and patterns that suit me, when I give myself permission to explore different possibilities for self-expression, adopting those that bring me into my best self as I am at this moment, then I am in harmony and alignment. This is the sweet spot, the place where I’m most fully functional on all levels and living in the fullness and joy of being, easily immersed in the flow of the All.

(Brenda Sistrom is a licensed massage therapist and Associate Practitioner of Ortho-Bionomy® who lives in Gainesville, FL.She continues to expand her understanding and experience of how she can live in and from her body in the fullest, clearest, and healthiest way, ever finding that sweet spot where she’s literally and figuratively comfortable in her own skin. Her practice is dedicated to helping others find the same.


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