"If you understand the force of intelligence in the body, its mechanical operation, and structure, you can work on any part of the body you can reach with your hands."
Lauren Berry Sr. 1917-1983
Registered Physical Therapist and Structural Engineer.
Laurens story is best described to those that did not experience his work through quotes from Lauren, several published articles about him, his apprentices, and through the eyes of those that witnessed his magic.
From Alexander, a student of Lauren’s: “I have literally seen people lined up around the block waiting to see him. I once called information to get his number, and before I even got his full name out of my mouth, the operator knew who I was talking about. She said Lauren had worked on her son and many of her friends, and that he was wonderful.”*
“It is staggering to contemplate what our bodies include: camera eyes, radio ears, valves, tubes, pulleys, hinges, arches, temperature control, chemical laboratories, a constant repair system, a telegraphic nervous system, a structural frame, storage space, sewage disposal, pipe lines and a variety of pumps. Such is the mechanism of the body, and….it works!" – Lauren Berry
"If you understand the force of intelligence in the body, its mechanical operation and structure, you can work on any part of the body you can reach with your hands" – Lauren Berry
Lauren Berry chose to describe his work in structural engineering terms.
To him, the body was nothing more mysterious than an engineering problem, and it can be “fixed," or brought into harmonious balance, by physical manipulations based on sound engineering principles. Since he worked as a construction engineer for much of his life, Lauren Berry has a background for his claims “The muscles are the main machinery of the body”*
Lauren was described in the 1980’s by Robert Gray in his book “The Colon Health Handbook” as perhaps the ‘greatest of all manipulative healers of our time.’
Lauren would most likely disagree with that as he avoided the word ‘healer’ and when asked, would describe himself as a good mechanic.
For those that witnessed his work, often the word magician came to mind.
Once a student of The Berry Method® becomes competent in this unique approach to massage therapy, Laurens principles behind the magic become apparent.
From Lynn, a student of Lauren’s:
In one of the first classes, he gave an infant the ability to crawl. She was 18 months and had never crawled. After assessing that she had been a forceps delivered child he did work that restructured her face with cranial work. He placed his hands on her head and reshaped her head with the cranial work, then took a rattle and she rolled over and crawled. The room was in tears.
That was the moment I decided he was my teacher.
Over the years I watched him correct postural defects with only his hands and stretching bodies to move the body into alignment. He worked on me using his unique lymphatic work when I was having a serious allergic reaction and this allowed me to breathe, and prevented a visit to the hospital. Once in Redding, where most of his classes were held, he helped a young man about 10 years old who came in on crutches and was scheduled for a hip replacement. When he was finished working with him he walked out of the room. He was told, half-jokingly, to stay off of the diving board at the hotel we were having class at. While Lauren was speaking with his back to the pool, the young man sailed off the diving board into the pool.
He no longer needed crutches.
I watched him move organs into place with skill and ease. Allowing women to have children they would not have been able to have otherwise by lifting a uterus and ovaries back into place. He helped his clients reclaim their lives with his hands.
From Kim, a student of Lauren’s: “I first heard about Lauren through word-of-mouth and went to see him because I had a bad back,” says Kim Santa, a Berkeley massage therapist and long-time Berry student “He certainly didn’t fit the stereotype. You come in and see him looking like a grumpy old cowboy, and some people just turn around and leave. But I got worked on by him and then went to his classes and found that I really liked what he does He just takes people’s bodies and fixes them, like a mechanic, and that appealed to me because it was scientific and factual and it was something you could get your teeth into. And it helped people. I know, because he helped my body a lot. That’s why I became a student. It was like being apprenticed to something like a cabinetmaker or a stonemason, and it took about five years before I felt I started really learning his methods.” *
“One physician who has no qualms about speaking up for Lauren Berry is Dr. Ralph Pelligra of Los Altos. “A lot of physicians recognize the value of manipulation, but they get turned off to people who make claims to cure a whole spectrum of medical illnesses through these methods,” says Pelligra who became acquainted with Berry years ago when he went to him with an old knee injury. “But mechanically, it was obvious to me that Lauren knew what he was doing on an instinctive level. As I once heard it phrased, he not only feels what’s going on in the body, but he sees it. This ability to visualize the mechanics of the body is what makes him unique. He has a deep understanding of the body from his engineering training, plus his anatomical work and his physical therapy training, but he has a special sensitivity and intuition that allows him to pull all of these disciplines together to be a very effective therapist for mechanical problems – the spine, joints, muscles, tendons and so on.
I think it’s this sensitivity and intuition that make the difference between a healer and a well-trained scholar knowing when to press hard and when not to, when to pull and when to push, etc. I don’t use the word ‘healer’ in a mystical sense at all, but in the sense of this intuition. It’s a talent and an art. He’s given a very high percentage of relief to the patients I’ve sent over the years. He hasn’t healed every one of them, but I can’t think of a one who wasn’t satisfied that Lauren helped them. They all speak highly of him.”*
The following was in “Working with Functional Intelligence” by Michael Joyce. Published in Somatics magazine in the early 1980s.
“What do you get if you take a stunt motorcycle rider from a carnival, a Tibetan monk, a skilled mechanic, a frumpy Finn, several years researching in an autopsy room, a brassy love of our fellow man, and shake it all up in a barrel? You get Lauren Berry, who may be the most remarkably effective practitioner and teacher in the field of somatology today. What is so remarkable about Berry is his understanding of intelligence in tissue. For him, the human body is living mechanical wisdom. Knowing is embodied in the functional quality of tissue and can be evoked toward better health.
What is so remarkable about Berry is his understanding of intelligence in tissue. For him, the human body is living mechanical wisdom. Knowing is embodied in the functional quality of tissue and can be evoked toward better health. At both a theoretic and practical level, Lauren Berry's work recognizes the interplay of the muscular and organic functions of the body. Every part of the body, muscle, tissue, or organ is naturally inclined toward improving function. By stimulating this inclination, Berry says he “opens avenues of communication of universal intelligence in the body," restoring the balance and harmony of bodily function.
If there a secret to Lauren Berry, it is the knowledge and use of his hands. It is knowledge gained from fifty years of experience, which he shared openly and willingly with his students. Many of the students who assisted him in his teaching have studied with him for years. Lauren regularly showed them new material. The breadth of the application of his understanding of the intelligence of body mechanics was impressive. A day in Lauren's office demonstrated the range of his work: a good number of low back and sciatic nerve situations resolved with his basic series of movements balancing the muscles and ligaments of the spine. This basic series is used on almost everybody as a preliminary work specific to their individual need.***
For example: Randy is a seven-year-old boy who nearly drowned two years ago. He was without oxygen for ten minutes or more and sustained brain damage severe enough to leave his body contorted in spasm, including daily vomiting. He was unable to speak. He could only swallow his food laboriously drop by drop and he weighed barely thirty pounds. A year of Feldenkrais work has subdued the spasms but had only somewhat reduced the vomiting. Randy took to Lauren immediately, laughing and grinning as he went through the basic series. Lauren's hands then focused on his left hip, a source of daily pain following surgery to remove a pin some months before. After a minute or two, Lauren stopped, and Randy looked at his mother. He smiled and pointed to his hip. Is the pain in your hip gone?" she asked. Randy signaled yes. Lauren then began to work gently in the abdomen and throat. He explained that the stomach relies in part on suspension from the throat to hold it in position. Lauren spoke softly. Swallow for me, Randy? He did it and broke into a wide grin, and he swallowed again and again.
"Is it easier?" his mother asked. Randy signaled yes. Lauren explained that he had just moved Randy's stomach in a way that relaxed the neck enough to open his throat by gently guiding the thyroid bone into its proper soft tissue notch. This bone acts as a spreader allowing room for the passages of the throat.
Follow up seven weeks later with Randy's mother, she reported that he continues to eat and swallow with ease. Has vomited only once, and has gained two pounds. In a struggle over a toy with his three-year-old brother he also uttered his first word. Mine!” *** Laurens path to mechanic/magician was rather unique.
People have been coming to Lauren Berry for a long time - ever since the precocious age of 6, in fact, when he started his healing career. It came about, he says, partly because his mother had a strange predilection about living in haunted houses. “Every time she heard about a new one, she just had to go and live in it,” Berry says, laughing. “Don`t ask me why; it's just the way she was.”
One of the haunted houses was on 5th Avenue in East Oakland, and across the street lived an old retired Finnish Dr. that practiced Swedish Gymnastics. From this Finn, Berry says, he learned the basics of his work. "He was a fierce old guy with a big walrus mustache out to here, and all the kids on the block were scared to death of him I was, too, but for some reason I stood up to him, and one day he took me in his house and threw me up on a table and just cracked the hell out of me. Then he got up on the table himself and told me to do to him what he’d done to me. I did, and he got real mad. He started muttering something about ‘a god-dhawm natural,’ how he hated ‘a god-dhawm natural’ I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, I’d just done what he told me to do, but he was really acting angry, and I guess I sort of figured out he was telling me I was pretty good at it. The next time he got me on the table, I wasn’t so trusting, but l did it anyway, and he started manipulating my abdomen. Then he told me to go home and do the same thing to my mother.
"Now, my mother was a very sickly woman. Her blood pressure was so high you couldn’t even get a reading on it, and she had diabetes and kidney stones and a poor stomach, and many other things. And here I was at the age of 6, massaging her. And by God, in about three months, she got better. I didn’t have any understanding of what the hell I was doing, but my mother became a well woman. And I guess the word sort of started getting around from there, and people started coming to me.” In droves.… It got so bad, Berry says, that he’d come home from school to find the parlor filled with people who wanted him to work on them. Sometimes he’d go upstairs and crawl out a window and down a tree to escape and go play. But with the patients also came "donations," and for a struggling, fatherless family during the Depression, this was a great boon. (Lauren's mother recovered enough to bear twins at the age of 55.)
'Although he worked as a registered physical therapist, his deep understanding of the mechanics of the body came from childhood experiences with a Finnish doctor who practiced " Swedish Gymnastics", with cadavers in a city morgue, and from his later training as a structural engineer. From this experience came possibly one of his greatest contributions to the field of bodywork. He became aware that each muscle has a relative position within its surrounding tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones) where it functions at its healthiest efficiency. This position is determined by those surrounding structures which create a ‘groove’ within which each muscle fits. He came to understand that tissue can become misplaced and distorted within its relationship to its surroundings and get out of its groove. A good portion of Lauren's magic included simply applying this body of knowledge and ‘putting things’ back where they belong. Lauren addressed the muscles, tendons, and ligaments as the "guy wires" of the body. He found that their distortion was often the major contributor to mechanical problems of the spine and extremities.
He also believed that everything in the body is innately programmed to self-correct. However, if your natural center of gravity (located in the pelvic girdle on a line between the fifth lumbar-sacral articulation and a point approximately two inches below the navel) is off balance, then everything above and below becomes distorted in order to adapt to a new center of gravity. This situation interferes with the body's ability to maintain itself.
Therapists who study and practice the Lauren Berry Method® use precise massage techniques that include soft tissue manipulation. Some of the goals are to relieve spasms, correct distortions, and release adhesions in the connective tissue, skeletal muscles, and the smooth muscle of organs. These techniques stimulate the body's natural inclination toward balance and ease in its structure and function. For example, such corrections can quickly restore a knee to full, pain-free mechanical function or relieve back discomfort**
The Institute of Integral Health, a non-profit teaching organization, continues to carry on Lauren's work. This compilation was created by Taum Sayers initially for Laurens induction into The World Massage Festival Hall of Fame in August 2013 in Long Beach, CA. This is the full version.
*From a 1982 two page article in The San Francisco Examiner written by Burr Snider, Examiner staff writer.
**From Knaster's "Discovering The Body's Wisdom" (Bantam Books, 1996), p. 171
***From an Article in Somatics magazine, early 1980’s “Working with Functional Intelligence” by Michael Joyce. The remarkable work and extraordinary career of a man whose hands evoke "The force of intelligence in the body."