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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

The Heal Center is a Family Affair

Who could have known that a woman in the country of South Africa looking for a way to help her 4-year-old son recover from hip surgery in 1984 would discover the benefits of aromatherapy, reflexology and energy healing? Who could have predicted that she would subsequently bring that knowledge to Sandy Springs and establish The Heal Center? That mother is Roz Zollinger, and her son, Michael Zollinger, is now dedicated to extending the center’s mission beyond education into treatments and services.

The family moved to Atlanta in 1989, when Michael was 9. “Looking back, I was exposed to all these things,” he recalls. “I thought it was a normal part of my environment to be surrounded by little bottles of essential oils and people working on each others’ feet.”

Roz saw a lack of awareness of holistic modalities here. “The awareness of massage, reflexology and aromatherapy were in their infancy stage,” says Michael. “That’s when she started putting classes together. There was more acceptance of alternative treatments in the community there [in South Africa],” where she attended The South African Institute of Reflexology, traveled to London to study aromatherapy, and an Australian energy healer was a big influence in her education.

After teaching for a few years out of her house, Roz started The Heal Center in 1992, while Michael was in middle school. He says, “I think the community sees us first as a source of education. What attracts the most people are my mother’s classes in aromatherapy and reflexology.”

She developed a group of followers by giving talks and demonstrations, including therapists that later joined her at The Heal Center. She worked with acupuncturists, massage therapists, homeopaths and a colon therapist, sharing her center and her teaching space, and that continues today.

Michael went off to college and furthered his creative passion, eventually graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in classical guitar performance. He says, “I was leaning toward environmental studies, but it just wasn’t holding my attention.” It was there that he had an epiphany that foreshadowed his present career.

“Part of the requirement for music school was taking on the Alexander Technique to become more aware of our posture and how we use our bodies. I think that was part of what led me to this path, and the other part was all the injured musicians walking around with braces on their wrists, tendonitis all over and back issues, Michael explains.

“I noticed that the practice rooms overlooked the football field and realized we’re doing very similar things, except that the athletes know how to take care of their bodies with stretching and exercise and warming up, whereas a musician sits down and practices for three hours of often strenuous music and technical studies and then may wake up with tendonitis, among other issues. There is a big disconnect in how we are using our bodies,” he says.

Michael attended the Academy of Somatic Healing Arts, in Atlanta, and started practicing in 2007. The Wellness Collective began two years ago. “We thought that bringing in international teachers was a good way to introduce a new perspective and more advanced offerings,” says Michael. As for the role of his mother, “She’s continuing, there’s no doubt about that,” he notes. “I’m stepping in to put the therapy group together, support her classes and build the awareness of the value of bodywork and massage by helping my clients achieve optimum health and wellness.”

There is a central number at The Heal Center where people call for classes and therapies. If the inquiry is about therapy, “We have a brief discussion about what the issue is and its background; what type of therapy they are most comfortable with; there are some people that don’t like to be touched as much. They might want to try other treatments, like acupuncture, or something more physical or direct, like bodywork, massage or chiropractic,” says Michael, who is a licensed, NTCMB-certified massage therapist.

He notes, “My work often involves Structural Integration, the bodywork and the massage therapy side. I tend to work structurally and be posture-oriented in my work. I seek results, but in a relaxing and client-feedback focused setting. Reflexology is popular with a lot of people that have pain, insomnia, anxiety and stress and often with infertility issues.”

Most people call in knowing what kind of therapy they want because they have already attended classes at The Heal Center and met some of the therapists. “Many of the students are practitioners themselves; massage therapists will learn reflexology and vice-versa, or both may learn about essential oils,” says Michael. “They’re not looking to change jobs; they just want to use it on family and friends.” Another motive is to receive required continuing education credits awarded by the classes.

Michael cites as a big inspiration Dr. Steven Saul, a local doctor who took him under his wing. “He really had me working alongside him, showing me the nuts and bolts of assessment and his treatment,” says Michael. “He is a very well-rounded chiropractor, so that made a big impression on my work.”

The Heal Center and Wellness Collective is located at 180 Allen Rd., Ste. 101 N., in Sandy Springs. For more information, call 404-303-0007 or visit HealCenterAtlanta.com.

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