David Lauterstein: Massage Therapy Hall of Fame 2011

By David Lauterstein, as published the World Massage Festival, which David has been nominated as a 2011 Hall of Fame inductee.

I am David Lauterstein, Co-founder of The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in Austin.  I have been a massage therapy teacher since 1982 and therapist since 1977.

Here’s my story!

I was raised in Chicago by a mother who was a pianist, a father who was a dentist, and my Godmother who was a tall, wonderful African-American woman, Millie Barry.

My earliest interest was music and the first 25 years of my life that was my passion.  I played guitar, banjo, dobro, and mandolin throughout high school.

I loved playing with bluesmen particularly and was good friends with MIchael Bloomfield.  I also had the honor to play with Otis Spann and others and to meet Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Son House, Fred McDowell, Sleepy John Estes, Big Joe Williams and many other wonderful folk musicians.

In 1967 I studied Indian classical music at the Society for the Study of Eastern Arts in Berkeley, California.  Then I did an about face and decided to get my degree in Western classical music, studying mostly at the University of Illinois where I got my degree in music composition and spent a year doing post-graduate studies with Wolf Rosenberg in Munich.

Beginning in 1972, my interests in yoga, martial arts, and psychotherapy started becoming more important to me and I began transitioning to what I later discovered as my life work – massage therapy.

Coming back from Munich, I got into Gestalt psychotherapy, body-centered explorations, and Rolfing.  My Rolfing experiences, at the hands primarily of Allen Davidson, were especially profound.  I started a study group with Allen and a number of other Rolfers, psychotherapists, and martial artists.  During the time of that study group I found myself experimenting more and more with bodywork and in 1977 I graduated from the Chicago School of Massage Therapy and began a professional practice in massage therapy in Chicago.

I practiced for a number of years and learned by trading and receiving from anyone in town or passing through.  Thus, I was exposed early on to Aston Patterning, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, Polarity, Hoshino Therapy, Zero Balancing, body-centered psychotherapy, shiatsu, and other fascinating approaches.

In 1982 I met Rolfer, Daniel Blake, who wanted to teach a training in “Structural Bodywork”.  This was his offshoot of Rolfing in which he tried to teach how Ida Rolf actually practiced (she rarely did the 10-session recipe unless she was teaching).  In 1982-83 I did 500 hours of advanced training with Daniel and was certified by the Structural Bodywork Institute.  At that time, I was also fascinated with Craniosacral Therapy and studied with Daniel Bensky and the Australian osteopath, Charles Lincoln and his wife Deborah.   I also studied character structure with body-centered psychotherapist, Robert Phillips and began a long association with psychotherapist, Paul D. Brown.

In 1982 I began teaching at the Chicago School of Massage Therapy.  I was, along with Jim Hackett, the primary instructor in anatomy and deep tissue massage.

I discovered how much I loved teaching.  Shortly thereafter I began teaching throughout the U.S.  Some of my first workshops were in Texas and I fell in love with Austin.  At this time I wrote the book, Putting the Soul Back in the Body:  A Manual of Imaginative Anatomy for Massage Therapists.

I moved to Austin in 1984 with the intention of just teaching advanced trainings.  However, I found that good basic training was lacking.  So I joined forces with the first massage school in Texas, the Texas School of Massage Studies, becoming their Dean of Faculty.  As such, the first thing I did was hire an advanced student of mine, John Conway.  At this time, I was also the editor of the national magazine, the Massage Therapy Journal.

After three and half years at the Texas School of Massage Studies, John and i decided we wanted to work at a school that was “run in a manner as healing as the subjects we teach”.  We both deeply wanted to be teaching at a school in which the compassionate and exacting principles governing high level massage were practiced also in the way that staff and students were treated.  So we started The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in January, 1989.

Although Texas at that time required only 250 hours, we began with a radical three semester curriculum encompassing 700 hours from our very start!  We covered Swedish, Deep, Sports Massage, and Shiatsu.  We also included advanced studies in psychologically-oriented bodywork, Craniosacral therapy, Zero Balancing, and advanced Structural Bodywork.

Paralleling these early years, I began in 1986 studying Zero Balancing with its founder, Dr. Fritz Smith, MD.  I found in classes and discussions with Fritz that the Deep Massage teaching I had been doing dovetailed remarkably with Zero Balancing’s philosophy and practice.  In the 23 years since I have been teaching primarily Deep Massage:  The Lauterstein Method and Zero Balancing.  What distinguishes these approaches is a very conscious engagement of both the body’s structure as well its energy.  So many bodyworkers either practice medically or in a new age manner – yet I’ve always been interested in how to practice in a unified manner –  with scientific rigor as well as heightened imagination and spirit.

I have taught throughout the U.S. since 1982 and in England also annually since 1996.  I have written the Seven Dimensions of Touch, What is Zero Balancing?, the Poetics of Touch and other essays published internationally.

In 2008 I recorded my first CD for massage and bodywork, Roots and Branches.  This is the first CD recorded live in the studio simultaneous to actual massages being performed in the studio – so we would have a music that actually arose from massage itself.   I also have recorded two DVD’s of Deep Massage: The Lauterstein Method which accompany the workshops I teach.

The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School has just celebrated its 22nd Anniversary!  I am proud of our training of 1000’s of wonderful therapists.  We continue to strive each day for the highest standards in the field!  I have been a therapist for 34 years yet I am still struck with wonder by the endless depth of what we learn and what we can accomplish with bodywork and high level education.