Presence Centered Bodywork

Presence Centered Bodywork is a neurocentric approach to massage and bodywork that’s primary focus is to repattern our relationship to pain, stress, and/or trauma. During a typical bodywork session, clients will work with the connections between the body, mind, heart and spirit through the use of guided meditation, gentle movement, and touch therapy. These integrative sessions of awareness oriented bodywork can help bring about a reduction of pain symptoms while also increasing levels of well-being – reconnecting with what really matters in life while supporting more balance, openness and ease in the body. Each session is client-based, being both symptom specific to address injury, pain reduction and increased function as well as non-symptom specific needs that address general balance, openness and well-being.

Unlike classical deep tissue or massage therapies, this unique approach is completely neurocentric, informed primarily by the health of the nervous system and its relationship to trauma and pain. How we respond to trauma informs our nervous system in a variety of ways and can show up in our body as pain, discomfort, anxiety, tension, and unhealthy digestion. In the simplest sense, trauma can be described as any event in our life that is deeply disturbing, painful or emotionally distressing. This can include: accident or injury, surgical procedures, emotional or physical abuse, political and social climate, childbirth, loss of home, death of family member or friend. It is safe to say that in our modern day American culture that many of us live in a constant “fight or flight” sympathetic state as we are bombarded by everything from political turmoil, climate change, financial difficulty, societal pressures, parenting, and/or stimulation through social media and news. During these sessions we will work to bring the nervous system into a parasympathetic state – offering the body, mind and heart an opportunity to “rest and relax.” This state is available to all of us at any time and it is the goal of each session to return the nervous system to a place of calm, relaxation and acceptance that can be accessed. Over time and through constant practice we can reprogram the nervous system to be balanced and functioning at its optimal state.

What to Expect

As mentioned, sessions are completely designed to be client specific. While some clients may require nervous system “loading” such as trigger point therapy, myofascial therapy or structural bodywork – other clients may benefit more from “unloading” the nervous system through techniques of psychosomatic therapy, gentle touch and somatic awareness. Most importantly, this work is designed to bring clients to a deeper sense of self awareness, embodiment, increased function, and relief from pain. We will also explore the concept that pain can often be “referred,” i.e. pain that is showing up in the wrist may actually have something to do with holding in the shoulder. Everything in our body, mind and spirit is connected and can be approached with healthy curiosity and openness. As a result, you will feel a sense of liberation and freedom in the body – experiencing a sense of relief from pain and discomfort.

How long is each session?

Sessions are 90 mins at a minimum. This timeframe gives the client and therapist an opportunity to fully drop into their work together, creating a safe space to be vulnerable and available for the work at hand. Each session will begin with 15-20 mins of movement, guided meditation and/or check-in. Movement will be used to both further diagnose a condition and felt limitations as well as to bring awareness to the body.   The remainder of the session will consist of touch and bodywork therapy. During the bodywork therapy, you may be asked to provide gentle movement (to promote range of motion), breath awareness, as well as receive cues from your therapist to promote self-awareness and somatic experience. These sessions are not for those who simply want a deep tissue “rub-down.” It is encouraged that clients fully participate in the work and be open and curious to their experience. It is recommended that clients start with a minimum of five sessions so that the relationship with the therapist be built in a safe container for which optimal healing can happen.   

 I like deep tissue, will this type of bodywork work for me?

Yes. This is an opportunity to shift the conversation of deep tissue massage to one that includes deeply profound and connective therapy. Often, deep tissue massage is abrupt, painful, and only exacerbates an existing fight or flight condition. Using techniques such as Myofascial Therapy and Structural Bodywork, are extremely effective in situations where muscles are very tense. Compared to classical deep tissue massage that is intended to address the muscles and soft tissue to a client’s preferred pressure, Myofascial Therapy accesses the fascial layer using gentle and sustained pressure applied to points of restriction thus allowing the connective tissue and nervous system to repattern the pain response. The amount of pressure used will depend solely on how the client’s tissue responds to the applied pressure. Myofascial Release Therapy is known to improve posture, boost athletic performance and break the pain cycle. It is very beneficial for those who suffer from pain (chronic, acute, and severe) because of its gentle and non-invasive approach. Clients often feel more relaxed, at home in their bodies, and have better range of motion after this type of therapy is applied.

What may I experience as a result of this work?

  • Relief from chronic or acute pain and discomfort
  • Enhanced self-awareness and embodiment
  • Sense of freedom and well-being
  • Increased range of motion and function
  • Develop a new relationship to the nervous system though releasing negative or limiting patterning being held in the emotional and physical body
  • Renewed excitement and participation in life
  • Increased athletic performance
  • Improved balance and body posture
  • Acceptance of past life events, traumas or life situation
  • Sense of calm, peace, and inner stillness
  • Ability to resource the parasympathetic nervous system to better approach difficulties and challenges


Who offers this modality at Pura Vida? Hannah Hanford



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