To Hellerwork and Back, Part 4

The Box We Sit On ...

In his wonderful book, “The Power of Now”, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle reiterates the tale of a beggar who sits for decades on the same old box, suffering the ravages of the seasons as he asks others to help him with some money. Finally someone asks him what is in the box he is sitting upon, and when he looks inside he finds untold riches.

This box that we (quite often literally) sit upon, our body, is often so taken for granted by us that we ignore its wonders. It can take much more than a benevolent passer-by to prompt us to look inside and find its true value. Lucky for me that is all it took, and having found such a passing stranger in Caroline I must admit that as our sessions drew into the home straight I was feeling quite sad at that prospect. But the final sessions paid no respect to my moping, and indeed seemed to gather momentum and flow into each other as we worked together to find that elusive balance in my body.

The eighth session centred around the pelvic bowl again, seat of the feminine power in the body. Caroline worked on the inner thighs, and helped me to free up my movement from that area, easing me to understand what it means to move 'from the core'. The 'spiralling' movement that Hellerwork recommends when walking is the start of this process, but I was still very much leading from the shoulders. Finally the message filtered through my body and my sacrum dropped, allowing all movement to originate from the pelvic area. Easier done than described, but worth all the effort as when I got it right my movements smoothed into such a dreamy flow that even the simplest motion was almost a therapy in itself.

Caroline's demonstration of how this is accessed immediately reminded me of a belly dancer's fluid movements, although not quite so exaggerated. One of my biggest tension-causing activities is driving, and her suggestion that I 'drive from the hips' to alleviate driving tension had an interesting effect during my drive back home that night. Let's just say that I'm hoping there were no hidden cameras in my car as I emulated Axl Rose's side-wiggle to a soundtrack of the Guns 'n' Roses song 'Use Your Illusion' (how appropriate!) and leave it at that.

We had also been discussing my personal practice 'slump', and she recommended some excellent advice. Don't fight the slump or get annoyed by it - just make your way to the mat, lie down on it, and move the way your body feels like moving. More surrender I guess, but a whole lot better than getting worked up over the fact I didn't practice. And what does it matter that perhaps my practice didn't take the form that I hoped for – maybe my expectations (attachments) were simply too high to begin with.

The next session focused on the upper body, traditional bastion, which is something that I have never had any problems with, or so I thought.

At the beginning of the session Caroline had worked with me on that Sanskrit-lovers' favourite Ashtanga posture, Tiriang Mukha Ekapada Paschimottanasana. In class that weekend, as I had started this posture, I realised that it would hurt my left knee to go any further. Then boom, in kicks the ego and instead of backing off I went and did it anyway. Surprise, surprise, sore knees on Sunday!

This was a frustrating aspect of my approach to life, and a decidedly masculine one (not to say some women aren't stupid like this too, but I think we guys have a head-start). It's the epitome of the 'no pain, no gain' mentality, something I always considered an advantage to possess, but slowly I was becoming aware that in fact it was this attitude that possessed me instead.

It was also good timing as I had started having trouble easing up on my right shoulder, probably more a greater awareness of the tension (or, more accurately, compression) I was holding there after the distraction of my right neck had been removed.

In that Hellerwork way of starting the work away from the apparent source, Caroline started at my legs with lots of deep work to my hamstrings, illiotibial band, glutes and sacrum. This was also timely as I'd also had a sense of compressing the sacral area lately, and looking back wonder why I never connected the two problems. Then she moved on up the back to the shoulders, and particularly between the neck, shoulder blades and into the shoulder joints themselves.

At the end of the session Caroline wanted to see if my approach to Tiriang Mukha Ekapada Paschimottanasana had improved, so off I went and eased right into it without effort or strain. The first thing she pointed out was that all of my anticipation had gone. Before the session I had been hunching forward in a kind of defence mechanism to take the weight off my bent knee. This time I was much straighter, and could easily do the posture completely to the left side. On the right I stayed away from completely closing the knee but this time with much more ease and comfort.

At this point I had become used to the 'rhythm' of the sessions, and perhaps it is only fair to forewarn you of the 'after-effects'. Basically, as I was then very aware, the first few days after a session can be mildly uncomfortable, as my body gets used to its new structure and adapts (back towards the way it 'should be'). It's kinda like breaking in a new pair of shoes, except in this case it's the shoes breaking you in. Now I'm not talking any serious difficulty or problems, less than if you over-exerted yourself at the gym, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

The last two sessions were very much at my control, and at my choosing we went back over many of the areas where we had noticed most resistance, such as the hamstrings, hips and neck. These sessions aimed to bring together all the aspects of Hellerwork and create a balance from which I could walk out the door and never need to return.

Two years on, I can honestly say that these sessions did their trick. If I had taken away nothing else bar the changes to my neck, I would have been happy enough. However I got so much more, in a framework that I can apply to anything I encounter for the rest of my life. Hellerwork may seem expensive at first glance, but spread that cost over how much longer you expect to live and you'll soon find it very cheap indeed.

I really enjoyed the bodywork, and found that all my physical problems were improved, even the ones i hadn't noticed before Hellerwork brought them out.

The postural work, learning to walk and sit and move differently, is really amazing. When you do manage to walk 'free and easy' it feels so comfortable and natural that you will not be able to fathom why you don't do it all the time. Since then surgery has taken away the cartilage tears in both knees, but it also took away most of the cartilage in the right one. When that knee gets sore, the Hellerwork way of walking eases up the pain there in a way that limping (to avoid the pain) cannot.

The psychosomatic element was perhaps not my favourite aspect, but it made me so aware of the mental attitudes that were at the root of my physical problems. Primarily these are my 'naught to sixty' approach to getting things done, and intense impatience when my efforts don't come to fruition. I had always known that I am pretty 'hard' on myself (and on others), but quite how rough I had been definitely come to the fore during these sessions. I came to realise that I had been incapable of distinguishing between striving for perfection (which is a good ideal) and expecting perfection (which is not). Perfectionism, impatience, frustration, disappointment – I find myself able to break this cycle more and more often now, which is refreshing.

Though I cannot claim that Hellerwork 'cured' me of these attitudes, Caroline did expose them to me and illustrate the harm that they have done. She showed me that there is 'another way'. I am sure it will take a while to settle these new ways in to my unconscious, but hey, it took me almost 35 years to get to this state, so I figure I've a few more years to untie this Gordian knot.

The Hellerwork sessions also transformed my attitude towards learning Yoga. Although I still enjoy the occasional group class, I learned so much in my brief time with Caroline that I now focus on learning (and teaching) in a one-to-one environment, where I can truly begin to understand the needs of the student and do my best to meet them.

So, off into the big bad world with my Hellerwork-adjusted body and mind. Did it cure me of all aches and pains? Of course not - no magic potion there! But what Caroline has given me is a set of tools to help me see off the worst of my habits over time. Where at the start of the sessions I had hope of change, I now have a plan and the methods of how to effect that change - yoga, of course, is the framework in which I will conduct this change.

So, now that you’ve heard about me and my experiences, what about you? Are you just going to sit there, or do you feel like getting up and taking a look at that box you’ve been sitting on? Maybe with the help of a passing stranger you might even manage to open it up, find some treasure inside? If you’re interested, I think I may know just the person to help you ...

Hellerwork article: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

Written by Scott Rennie

Scott teaches general "Yoga for Wellbeing" classes and specialist "Yoga for Pregnancy" classes throughout Ayrshire and Glasgow. He is affiliated as a teacher to the Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation (, and is also available for one-to-one sessions to help you develop a regular home practice, deepen your existing practice or to tackle specific issues that cannot be addressed in group classes. You can find further details or contact him through his website at Scott's Hellerwork session took place at Mulberry House, Edinburgh. You can contact Caroline Tremlett via email at: carolinetremlett [AT] aol [DOT] com. To learn more about Hellerwork, visit