What Is NSR?

NSR stands for Neutral Supportive Relaxation. It is an approach to helping
the body return to its natural state of relaxed, flexible, spontaneous
movement and unencumbered well-being.

NSR came out of my practice with the Feldenkrais Method and with the
Japanese martial art of aikido and owes much to these sophisticated
methodologies. It is much simpler than the Feldenkrais method however,
both in its actual practice and in theory.

The essence of NSR is the process of placing the body in positions of rest,
while supporting the limbs with a neutral, caring quality that leads to complete relaxation.


Neutrality is a critical factor in NSR. What this means is that the body is
supported in a way that only the support itself is perceived by the nervous
system. The supporter is not a part of the body awareness. In fact, if practiced
correctly, the practitioner disappears from the moment-to-moment
awareness of the client.

The purpose of NSR is to allow the body to find a position of deep rest, and
the neutral quality of touch enables this because the body is not distracted
by additional information from the touch itself or by any impositions from
the practitioner. When the body finds a position of supportive relaxation, it
can release inherent tensions and holding patterns. In turn, this deep
relaxation automatically increases sensitivity in the relaxed areas. This
increased sensitivity will register any ancillary sensations and usually
processes them as interference, which reduces or interferes with the deep
relaxation. For this reason, in order to intensify and prolong the deep
relaxation that becomes available with a supportive touch, the quality of the
touch needs to be neutral—having no other tactile component than to simply
provide support.

The simplest way to explain this is by example. Suppose a client is lying on
his back and a practitioner is supporting the client’s arm by placing his own
palm under the client's elbow. If the palm is slightly cupped and fingers
extended, only the support is perceived by the client's nervous system.
However, if the practitioner has rounded his fingers so that they curve
around the client's arm, the client's highly sensitive nervous system
perceives this additional touch, not as supportive, but as extraneous "noise"
that interferes with the deep relaxation, which would otherwise be available.

Neutrality extends beyond the aspect of touch, however. When the
practitioner maintains a neutral attitude toward the client, there is less
inclination to add anything personally to the session. The client can feel if
something is being imposed upon his structure, no matter how subtly, and
usually this is resisted. By maintaining an attitude of neutrality, the
practitioner doesn't impose anything on the client, and the client’s body can
relax without resisting any imposition.

Attitudinal neutrality also helps the practitioner in perceiving the messages
his client's body is giving. Without preconceived ideas or judgments, the
practitioner can sense the subtle, important messaging from the client's body
and respond appropriately. Neutrality of attitude keeps the practitioner
from imposing his own values and views on the session and lets the client’s
body tell the story and guide the session.


Support against gravity is the main focus of NSR. The body organizes itself
to support itself against gravity, and through the course of our lives, we
have all developed holding patterns that reinforce this organization.
Unfortunately, rather than using the skeletal structure to provide the
majority of support, with the muscles only involved in fine tuning for
balance, most of us have developed layers of patterns in which it is the
muscles that support us against gravity, not the bones.

Eventually, this excessive use of the muscles produces unwanted side effects
of tightness, inflexibility, pain, and discomfort. Fortunately, the body is able
to revert back to its normal state of relaxation and comfort if something else
does the work of the muscles to support it against gravity. The NSR
practitioner does this work.

The practitioner supports the limbs against gravity for the client in such a
way that the muscles and nervous system can relax and let go. At this point,
the client's body has the opportunity to reorganize itself to a state where it
no longer has to remain in the fixed holding patterns that it has developed
over the course of a lifetime.

Supportive is also an attitude on the part of the practitioner. The intent is to
provide deep comfort through the support. The hands are soft and supple—
the feeling is one of providing care and comfort while holding the limbs. It
was slightly misleading when I said above that a neutral attitude doesn't
impose anything. A supportive attitude "imposes" feelings of good will and
a wish for health and healing for the client. Of course, "imposing" isn't really
correct, but this attitude makes a difference in the quality of support, and it
is an important part of NSR. If you don't have your client's well-being and
hope of comfort and healing forefront in your intent during the practice, you
will not be able to provide the deepest level of support that NSR can offer.


With the application of neutral support, the body amazingly enters very
quickly into a state of profound relaxation. Upon arising from the table,
clients may experience a feeling of airy diffusion, deep grounding, or a
combination of both. A significant shift in the perception and organization of
the body is not unusual. Pain may be gone completely or significantly
reduced. There is often a feeling of profound surprise that such a simple
non-doing practice can produce such strong results.