Bodywork Basics : A Guide to the Powers and Pleasures of Your Body
by Anne Kent Rush
Dell, 224 page

America's health-care crisis has created fissures in the health care world, but more significantly perhaps, it has shaken up and changed our views about health. Interest in complementary and alternative medicine has grown steadily in recent years, and according to a study of patterns in public's use of complementary and alternative medicine, two of the three most popular forms are body oriented and use touch as a primary medium--massage therapy and chiropractic.

According to Ann Kent Rush, author of "Bodywork Basics," massage and chiropractic are part of a larger collection of body-oriented methods called Bodywork. She describes Bodywork as both physical and mental exercises aimed at increasing self-awareness and communication, by broadening one's experience of the senses, emphasizing self-involvement in one's healing, and learning about one's body.

Rush has been a figure in the Bodywork scene for almost 30 years. She is perhaps best known for her illustrations in "The Massage Book," by George Downing, which appeared in 1972 and inspired thousands of people to try their hand at massage and remains a classic how-to manual. Some of those early readers of "The Massage Book" formed a vanguard that revived massage therapy as a profession and returned it to the health-care ranks. "Bodywork Basics" reflects Rush's background in a medley of styles, such as yoga, Tai Chi, massage, polarity therapy, and body awareness.

Rush surveys 23 Bodywork methods for eliminating stress, relieving pain, and healing emotional and physical wounds. Bodywork can also heighten joy, increase pleasure, improve health, and provide something to help others when things are going well. The book suggests readers design a personal program formed from the Bodywork methods and integrate Bodywork principles and exercises into a well-balanced life.

Rush's survey serves as a primer, keeping the explanations of each method very basic--perhaps too basic. Readers coming upon the subject for the first time will find encouragement to learn and try more, but they will only get a sampling here. Many chapters simply are not very adequate interpretations of their methods, with not nearly enough information for designing a personal program or integrating principles into one's lifestyle.

The book is also contains some distracting errors. For example, the book states that there is no national U.S. certification credential for shiatsu, yet there is one. The Swedish massage chapter lists four basic strokes, yet there are five classic Swedish strokes. And of the four listed, one does not belong and another has an incorrect definition.

In addition, no two chapters use the same format to describe each method. While this allows the author to focus on each method's most relevant or useful features, it makes it difficult for readers to compare methods. For example, contraindications are mentioned in the chapter on massage, but not in many other chapters. Readers are bound to wonder whether contraindications are more of a concern in massage, or less clearly identified for other methods. Some chapters include information about the credentials for a given method, while other chapters don't.

In short, "Bodywork Basics" is a very light introduction to these worthwhile techniques, but for reference or a deeper introduction, readers might do better with a less basic book or one that focuses a specific method from among the Bodywork mix.

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