Mind and Body, Inc. is committed to remaining in the vanguard of knowledge and practice with therapeutic techniques; consequently, we keep our practice invigorated by attending workshops and seminars that will provide useful therapies and information for our clients. Toward this end, I attended a visceral manipulation workshop with the internationally recognized Barral Institute in Tampa, FL on December 5-8 2013.
Visceral work has been an interest of mine for many years, so I could not forego the opportunity to study with the leading organization in this field of endeavor. Dr. Jean Pierre Barral is a French Ostheopath who possesses superior skills in manual bodywork, and has spent the past 40-plus years in its study. He has been teaching visceral manipulation in the U.S. for about 25 years. In fact, Dr. Barral was selected by Time Magazine in 2001 as an innovator in manual therapy (Time Magazine, 2001).
Moreover, Dee Ahearn, who has studied with Dr. Barral for more than two decades and is regarded as one of the experts within the field in this country, was the leader of the seminar I took at the Barral Institute in Tampa in December.
I was excited to get to spend four days exploring the techniques of the founder of Visceral Manipulation in a workshop, as I have seen them before in my Structural Integration training and in weekend seminars, which has given me first-hand insight into their potential benefit. While in the workshop, I found that my background in Structural Integration was quite helpful in learning the visceral manipulation techniques; familiarity with the fascia was helpful in order to be able to feel the pulse of the internal organs. In my opinion, it is through the fascia that we can access the internal organs from the outside. I was pleased by the information I gained and by the teaching of this fascinating therapy in the seminar. It was well worth the time and energy invested, and I am happy to bring this information back to my practice at Mind and Body, Inc!
Visceral Manipulation: Theory of Organ Movement
In the field of Visceral Manipulation there is the theory that all internal organs have a movement or pulse*, similar to that which can easily be observed in the heart and the lungs, but which is not so obvious in the other internal organs. Furthermore, the theory continues that when there is little or no movement, there may be stagnation and the possibility of illness. The conception that the liver, kidneys and other internal organs have a specific movement, or pulse, and that we may positively affect the disposition of the internal organs by manipulation of the area above and around them with soft touch is very exciting. This is similar to the pulse of the cerebrospinal fluid in craniosacral therapy but not the same; in visceral manipulation the touch is firmer than the very soft touch therapy of craniosacral work.
As with many alternative therapies, there can be questions of scientific proof. It is only recently that mainstream medicine has turned its attention to some of these therapies and begun to establish their effectiveness. Yet, millions of people have been benefiting from the existence of therapies such as yoga and other body work. I am a body worker and yogi precisely because I have experienced great benefits from Alternative Therapies. Moreover, Dr. Barral has come up with some of the most interesting and innovative hands-on bodywork I have seen in my 20-year career.
Visceral Manipulation: Insight into Techniques
Here are some concepts from the visceral work of Dr. Barral:
- “Restricted organ movement can cause or contribute to joint pain, back pain, digestive problems, incontinence, impotence and even infertility.” **
- “Your body is made up of many interrelated components such as bones, muscles, nerves, a thin connective tissue called fascia, as well as the internal organs (viscera). Your organs are in perpetual motion. When you breathe, walk and stretch, your organs move in your chest and abdomen.”**
- “This movement of organs is transmitted through fascia to other structures of the body. When you are healthy, all the structures move with an interconnected fluidity. Optimum health relies on a harmonious relationship between the motions of the organs and other structures of the body.”**
- “When an organ is no longer freely mobile but is fixed to another structure, the body is forced to compensate. This disharmony creates fixed, abnormal points of tension and the chronic irritation gives way to functional and structural problems throughout the body.”**
My focus has always been structural, as I know that by manipulating the fascia and separating muscles we may greatly improve posture and functional movement. Fascial abdominal work may improve low back functional movement. The visceral techniques present a great complement to the myofascial structural work of the abdomen. Dr. Barral lists areas of the body associated with each organ***, a concept that is similar to but not the same as reflexology. For example, in Visceral Manipulation, the liver corresponds to the right shoulder and the stomach to the left shoulder.***
In the interests of providing my practice and my clients the greatest range of therapeutic tools to draw from, I look forward to continued studies of Visceral Manipulation and to gaining a greater perspective on this complementary work to my own myofascial and stretching techniques as well as to sharing this new information with you.
Yours in health,
Note: Magnus Eklund is a licensed massage therapist LMT 144 and does not make any claims to cure or diagnose illness. In matters of your health, always consult with your Medical Health Care Practitioner prior to receiving any form of massage or bodywork.
*Source: Visceral Manipulation. Barral, Mercier, 2005, page 3.
***Source: Visceral Manipulation : Abdomen 1. Barral, Polec, Grant, Wetzler, 2009.