Zero Balancing is a hands-on therapy that claims to fix body and mind.
Good bodywork can soothe away the strains of modern life. It can unravel taut muscles, banish backache and even soften emotional stress. Yet many people flinch at the intimacy or intrusiveness.
Lying stark naked on the floor or having probing fingers dive under the ribs is a touch too much for those with a bashful disposition or a low pain threshold. So three cheers for Zero Balancing, a highly effective bodywork system tailor-made for the shy and retiring.
Zero Balancing (ZB) was developed by Dr Fritz Smith, an American doctor, acupuncturist and osteopath, who investigated a wide range of bodywork therapies and "energy healing" techniques. In 1973 he introduced his new form of therapy, describing it as "a blending of Eastern and Western ideas in terms of body and structure. It brings energy concepts into touch, or body handling".
Its practitioners train for two and a half years and are already healthcare professionals. In Britain, they tend to be doctors, nurses, osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists and acupuncturists. Sessions are pragmatic and non-invasive. You won't have to spill your deepest feelings or strip off.
I first experienced ZB about 17 years ago and was very impressed, but there weren't many practitioners around. Now there are more than 200 in Britain and I visited Richard Walters, near Exeter, to refresh my memory.
We chatted a little and Walters asked if there was anything that needed attention. I had the usual neck and back strain of the habitual desk-wallah, plus my knee had turned nasty and I was limping badly. Walters nodded and made me take off my shoes and sit on the couch, so he could evaluate my spine. Then I simply lay back and relaxed for the rest of the session.
The Zero Balance touch is quite deep (it works on the bone, rather than the soft tissue) but not unpleasant. "It doesn't make demands on the body," says Walters. "We don't have an opinion of how a body should be. We just find places that are tight and see what the body wants to do."