Zero Balancing: The Integration of Energy and Structure
by David Lauterstein, co-director of The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School

I believe Zero Balancing is essential for all people interested in the health of body, mind, and spirit. When I first heard of it in 1982 1 had no idea what it was. People who told me about it could not quite explain it. However, that very mystery intrigued me. Then in 1986 at a massage convention, I received a Zero Balancing and in twenty minutes of unfamiliar bodywork, I went from being exhausted to being completely energized. “What was that!?” I asked.

She said, “That was Zero Balancing!”


The next year at a conference, I met Zero Balancing’s founder, Fritz Smith, MD. Five minutes into Dr. Smith’s talk my mind dropped open, like a dropping jaw. For the last 14 years, Zero Balancing has been my main bodywork study.

Combining Energy and Structural Work

Zero Balancing is the only therapy which has as its essential content the simultaneous contact of energy and structure. Bodywork today suffers from there being in some sense two camps—the energy workers and the structural workers. It is my experience that separation of people’s energy and structure is itself a sign and a cause of dis-ease. Energy work alone often seems esoteric to many clients who are preoccupied with muscle tension. Structural work alone, on the other hand, leaves out the personhood of the client, addressing only “tissues.” The most effective bodywork will combine energy work and structural work.

The Fulcrum—A Working Tool for Integrating Energy and Structure

In Zero Balancing the main working tool is the fulcrum. In a brilliant manner, the fulcrum solves the issue of how to address energy and structure simultaneously and consciously. A fulcrum is an experience around which we balance. Zero Balancing teaches specific steps to the fulcrum which ensure the therapist is engaging both energy and structure.

  1. Center yourself. This brings awareness into your movement, the energy and structure together in your work.
  2. Take out the looseness from the soft tissues or joints to be addressed. Once we’ve taken out the looseness, we are actually in contact. Notice how a handshake feels if you do not grip firmly enough to feel the other person.
  3. Take up the “slack” in the soft tissues. When the slack has been taken up, the movements of the therapist are felt with crystal clarity by the client.
  4. Add two or more vectors of force. Many people experience themselves often as being at loose ends in their lives. By slowly adding clearer, stronger force fields to imbalanced areas within the self, Zero Balancing dramatically heightens the client’s health and psycho-physical clarity.
  5. Hold and balance. Zero Balancing works with “transformation through stillness.” Once we’ve put a clearer, stronger input into the person’s system than that which previously existed, we patiently hold this while the client integrates a deeply positive new experience.
  6. Monitor for changes. Zero Balancing teaches a very specific set of “working signs” to look for. These, most often through altered breathing or facial expression, show when the person has integrated the fulcrum.
  7. Clearly disengage. Each fulcrum is a unique, powerful experience framed by taking our hands off the body and allowing for a moment to pass before beginning the next fulcrum. It is analogous to dropping a pebble into a pond, watching the ripples, and waiting for the pool to come to rest again before dropping in anything more.

Accessing the Skeletal System

After doing bodywork for ten years, I had the feeling that there was a significant aspect of my clients that I wasn’t touching. In Dr. Smith’s talk, he described how Zero Balancing accesses and positively impacts the energy and structure of the skeletal system.

Instantly I realized that was it! The deepest layer of anatomy, underlying the skin and the muscles, is the skeleton and the soft tissues associated with it. Zero Balancing, by working with the soft tissue connections between the bones and the energy flowing through them, enables therapists to touch this all-important foundation layer of the self.

In Zero Balancing, attention is paid especially to joints which primarily support us by transmitting force through the body, rather than joints that are primarily active in locomotion. These joints, called “foundation” and “semi-foundation” joints, have a limited range of motion but play a critical role in alignment. For instance, small changes in the feet, sacroiliac, and intervertebral areas can have enormous consequences. Zero Balancing, by aiming clearer, stronger force fields into these critical areas, uniquely opens up windows of structural and energetic opportunity.

Energy Model

One of my challenges as a bodyworker is to have an energy model clearly linked to anatomical knowledge.

In the Zero Balancing model, first there is the foundation layer—associated with the skeletal system—an energy flowing deep within us that sustains us, a fundamental life force. Our language intuitively recognizes this when we say, “I just feel it in my bones.” Then, there are three internal energy flows through which we manifest our individuality:

  1. Force fields which transmit through the skeletal system as we walk and move within the gravitational field;
  2. the soft tissues and organs through which we actively sustain our lives;
  3. the boundaries of our physical body which allow us to enjoy the experience of being self-contained yet permeable. Finally, akin to the aura, Zero Balancing recognizes the background energy field which surrounds and permeates us, as variable and ever present as the weather.

By bringing our structures and energies into harmony, we help in the creation of a new world—one in which we are much more deeply in touch with ourselves and with each other. Zero Balancing is essential because we as individuals and as a society can not afford to live without this touch—without this deep commitment to connection and to kindness—in our very bones.