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Body Works

Body works is a new clinic in town which believes in "a holistic and comprehensive approach to physical and mental well-being ... through realigning the body" and Ayesha de Kretser reports she feels a lot better after her realignment.

People tend to ignore niggling injuries if they don't see them as severely restricting their day-to-day activities. Add to this the fact that not many of us really think too much about our posture and the way we move and these injuries tend to be compounded.

Richard brown has trained in a range of different disciplines, including traditional shiatsu, traditional Chinese medicine (acupuncture), myofascial manipulation and manual therapy. He combines these different skills into his Body Works practice, and has more than six years experience delivering treatments in Hong Kong.

Brown recently arrived in Shanghai and has established a practice on Maoming Road. Located in the peaceful grounds of the Jinjiang Hotel, his simple studio is part of the hotel's adjoining office block complex.

Awareness is the first step to healing most afflictions, and the skeletal and muscular varieties are no different. In beginning the consultation, Brown asks you to list all pre-existing conditions, in much the same way as you would at any medical examination. From this he can get an idea of where to start or concentrate his work.

In a myofascial session, he then completes an assessment of the body, where he feels the spine and surrounding areas to determine where there is tension or muscles are being strained.

Next comes some pretty full on manipulation, where the soft tissue is pressed (sometimes to the point of severe discomfort) while the limbs are pulled in different directions.

In my session, he diagnosed a case of uneven hips, caused by a scoliosis of the lower spine. In conjunction with rounded shoulders and bad posture, my body, according to Brown, had developed tighter muscles incapable of extending to a full range of motions to compensate. Brown himself describes Body Works as "a holistic and comprehensive approach to physical and mental well-being of the individual through realigning the body and teaching improved biomechanical efficiency for selected or gross body movement."

Sounds like a pretty full-on job, but is actually a lot less complicated and at time gentler than you might think. Over time, sessions can be designed to work on a specific problem or to increase overall health.

Brown has developed his own techniques based on pilates and yoga exercises but with a more technical and applied focus. Stretches combined with manipulation have an incredible impact if delivered correctly. With years of experience as a personal trainer and martial arts teacher, Brown is very familiar with the ins and outs of how the body works.

The treatment is broken down into two different types of treatment - structural integration and functional integration.

Structural integration is based around posture, and can benefit anyone, whether they suffer from an musculo-skeletal pain, are recovering from an operation or just want to improve posture or sporting ability.

Some of the conditions Brown says people can expect relief from include back pain, chronic/acute pain, musculo-skeletal injuries, chronic fatigue and headaches.

The actual focus of structural integration treatment is on the fascia and muscles which connect the body together. Healthy muscles are very different from muscles which are just tight. In order to get the best out of your body, muscles need to be lengthened rather than contracted.

Brown's functional integration, or movement, sessions combine Eastern and Western concepts of physiology, kinesiology, anatomy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, ayurvedic principles, martial arts, philosophy and psychology.

"Movement training consists of a series of exercises targeting core stabilization and the role of this stabilization in gross body and extremity movements," says Brown.

These exercises are designed to address the body's autonomic neural patterns in relation to muscle tonus, posture and muscle recruitment for specific actions or movements.

As well as these, Brown offers sports training and martial arts instruction for all levels of experience.

Passionate about his work and with a clear and precise vocabulary to explain exactly what and why he is affecting different actions, Brown is a skilled operator. He manages to keep you on the table by laughing away at some joke or another when he does anything that might be really painful, although there were not many times in my session that I was tempted to flee.

It's always nice to be able to see some improvement at the end of any treatment and I left with my uneven hips realigned, making my legs of equal length. Also improved was the curvature of my spine, which felt far more comfortable and less stressed.

However, Brown warns that the full effects of a session will not be obvious for at least a day, as the body needs time to get rid of all the toxins he releases into the blood flow through his manipulations.

This means a session can also leave you feeling a little weary, so be sure to factor this in before you make an appointment. For anyone who's interested in making their body work better, this clinic is a "must see."