ARTICLES ABOUT BIODYNAMIC MASSAGE
The following article was published by Connections June 2001
Biodynamic Massage can help to dissolve the feelings you've had to swallow
Ever considered the effect on your body of your mood, thoughts and feelings? For example, when you feel angry your muscles tighten, your jaw clenches and your heart beats fast. Your body wants to express the anger! If you cannot fully express and resolve this feeling, it gets trapped in your body. You literally "swallow your feelings" and their residues remain stuck in your body. These residues of unresolved feelings, which may be recent or stretch as far back to babyhood, accumulate in the body as energy blocks which eventually restrict aliveness, and may manifest as ill health.
Biodynamic massage works to dissolve these energy blocks gently and safely, and return your body to harmony and wellbeing. Biodynamic massage works on body and mind, assisting the body's ability to heal itself.
So how does biodynamic massage work?
It works on the premise that body and mind are closely linked and reflect each other. When emotions are buried deep in our bodies the most direct way to access and release them is through touch.
When we experience traumas, energy can get stuck in bones, muscles, tissue, skin and aura. Biodynamic massage works at these different levels, depending on the location of the blockage. The therapist applies the most appropriate technique at the time, which may range from awakening the energy of the bone, encouraging the flow of tissue fluids, freeing energy from tight muscles, enabling the free flow of energy etc. This encourages deep breathing and balance of functions like digestion, blood circulation and the nervous system, enabling recovery at physical, mental and emotional levels.
So how does the biodynamic massage therapist know where to work? The therapist listens to the client, uses intuition combined with a sensitive touch, and the use of a special stethoscope to listen to the body for feedback.
Why use a stethoscope? Gerda Boyesen, the creator of biodynamic massage says that our digestive system digests not only food, but also our emotions. During the massage, when the client is relaxed, the digestive system is stimulated. As trapped energy or emotion gets released from muscles, bones and other tissues, it is digested through our intestines and drains away as excess fluid, ready to leave the body. The stethoscope enables the therapist to hear the sounds of the digestive system and be guided as to what is happening in the client's body as a result of the massage. This can act as guidance as to what is happening to the client's body energetically; where energy is trapped, and whether it is ready to be released or is not yet ripe. Thus the therapist knows where there is need to work further and which parts are best left alone at that particular moment.
Biodynamic Massage is guided by verbal communication. The client is encouraged to express feelings, sensations, images or insights that may arise during the session.
Biodynamic massage was developed by Gerda Boyesen in Norway, in the 1960's. It is also based on Reichian theories, which maintain that the body and mind are closely linked and reflect each other.
Biodynamic massage can relax, soothe and help to maintain the client's well being. It can give a sense of boundaries, grounding and help gain body awareness. It can help awaken thoughts, memories and feelings, release them and relax tense muscles. On an energetic level, biodynamic massage can awaken the life energy and improve its flow. Spiritually it can help the client get in touch with deep spiritual experiences and his/her own core.
Biodynamic massage can help with stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, migraine, poor circulation, aches and pains, digestive disorders, give a feeling of general well-being, improve energy flow and increase self-awareness.
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The following article was published in the autumn 2009 issue of the Journal of the Association of Biodynamic Massage Therapists.
Book Review by Ora Sapir (Chiron trained, biodynamic massage therapist)
Biodynamic Massage as a Body Therapy and as a Tool in Body Psychotherapy by Monika Schaible. Chapter 2 in Contemporary Body Psychotherapy the Chiron Approach, Edited by Linda Hartley.
Paperback pp 31 - 45.
Published by Rutledge, 2009, East Sussex
This is a review of chapter number 2, written by Monika Schaible, an Integrative Body Psychotherapist, supervisor, trainer and a member of the Chiron staff.
The chapter examines biodynamic massage, its roots, evolution and how it has been adapted at Chiron, both as a standalone body therapy and within psychotherapy. It was written within the context of the above mentioned book, each chapter representing a facet of body psychotherapy, as taught and practiced at Chiron.
A limitation of this review is that whilst Monika wrote the chapter from the point of view of a body psychotherapist (hence the title), I read it from the point of view of a body therapist (in line with my training). I am not in a position to review the contents of the psychotherapy components, though I briefly summarise them (to the best of my understanding).
Monika begins with her own background that led her to pursue a career in body psychotherapy and train at Chiron, in her search to unite body and mind.
Monika defines biodynamic massage as a holistic body therapy, which aims to unite mind, body and spirit, and free the life force, which may be blocked due to unexpressed emotions or actions. It is an integral part of Biodynamic psychology/psychotherapy (as developed by Gerda Boyesen).
Next Monika provides an over view of the history and roots of biodynamic massage within the wider fields of psychoanalysis and body psychotherapy, which includes Reich, Walter Cannon, Michael Gershon, David Boadella, Adel Buelow Hansen, Lillemor Johnson and Gerda Boyesen, the founder of biodynamic massage.
A prominent place is devoted to Gerda Boyesen and her method, including her training, work and most importantly her contributions to (i) the thinking of the importance of touch in psychotherapy and counselling (though its use has been the subject of disputes), (ii) the concept of the life force, as the basis of biodynamic massage (and the disagreements regarding the existence of energy in everything), and (iii) psycho-peristalsis as a means to self-regulation.
Next Monika focuses on body armour, (i) muscular (Reichian) (ii) connective tissue (Gerda Boyesen’s) and (iii) viscera (Gerda Boyesen’s), their impact on the energy flow, self-regulation, and the therapist’s role in releasing emotional charge held in the armour, and discharging toxins through the digestive tract.
Gerda’s concept of the vasomotoric cycle is explained: the interplay between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, how it can be impacted at any stage by lack of action or expression, and the therapist’s role in identifying the blocks and enabling the client to complete the cycle for self regulation.
Monika describes the concept of biodynamic massage, its purpose, how it works, and at what levels. She includes the main techniques, which are Emptying, Energy Distribution, and Deep Draining, with explanations of the resulting processes at a deeper level.
Some of the main influences on biodynamic massage include the following:
Reich’s interest in the body, the breath, movement, energy, orgone theory, muscular armouring, vegetotherapy etc.
The idea of psycho-peristalsis, originated from the biologist Walter Cannon (early last century). He discovered and developed the idea that emotions are part of the self-regulatory system of the body, and their impact on gut movements. His ideas were further enhanced by Gerda, incorporating them into the psychotherapeutic process. She developed massage techniques to help self-regulation, by controlling the emotional charge.
David Boadella has contributed to the understanding of body psychology with his germ layer theory. The three layers which form in the foetus shortly after gestation, eventually correspond to thinking, acting and feeling. Health is determined by the integration of the three, and impacted by prenatal development.
Hansen’s neuromuscular massage for hypertonic muscles and Lillemor Johnson’s method of toning hypotonic muscles were refined by Gerda to form the basis for the development of biodynamic massage.
Next, Monika moves on to discuss how biodynamic massage has developed at Chiron.
Biodynamic massage as taught and practiced at Chiron is rooted in the Gerda Boyesen’s method, where the massage is an integral part of Biodynamic psychotherapy. However, at Chiron, there is a greater distinction between the massage as standalone and its integration into psychotherapy. In body therapy the therapist works within the boundaries of the protective resistance aiming to melt the defences, whilst in psychotherapy the aim is to bring the defences to consciousness, explore and work them through.
According to Monika, the most important change from Boyesen’s method is the recognition of the significance of the therapeutic relationship. In Biodynamic psychotherapy, the therapist works as a facilitator, whilst Chiron has incorporated the relational aspect into its work.
At Chiron, psychotherapy that includes biodynamic massage uses three major psychotherapeutic approaches: (i) drives and the client’s inner world, (ii) the relational model, and (iii) the vegetative self-regulatory system. This requires flexibility, and skill in working with the client.
Next, Monika considers the subject of touch in integrating biodynamic massage into psychotherapy. Chiron values the role of touch, which facilitates deeper processes to surface, ripe for working though. She examines touch in great depth (in various parts of the chapter), its value, pitfalls and the reasons behind objections. She concludes that therapists need to use discretion and sensitivity as to when to use it or not.
However, during the process of joining UKCP there was a big question mark over the future of biodynamic massage at Chiron. This gave rise to tensions among tutors and students concerning touch. Roz Caroll brought together findings from neuroscience in the context of body psychotherapy and biodynamic massage. This resulted in the latter staying a core therapy within Chiron. Nowadays some psychotherapists choose to work with biodynamic massage, others without.
New clients wishing to include biodynamic massage in their psychotherapy are assessed rigorously at Chiron. Monika describes her own method of such an assessment, and the aspects she pays particular attention to (the breath, quality of tissues, temperature, somatic resonance etc).
To end this chapter, Monika summarises that the roots of biodynamic massage are diverse and cannot be separated from other influences, such as Reich, body therapies, biology chemistry and a great deal more.
Monika concludes that touch and biodynamic massage have proven valuable in her own experience.
Finally she expresses her appreciation of the project she had undertaken in writing this chapter, which was a journey of rediscovery.
I enjoyed reading the chapter. I found it rich in information, with interesting explanations of the depth of processes, all interlinking and giving a clear picture. Reading it, I was reminded of aspects I had forgotten since training, and I learnt some new ones as well. It also gave me further insights and understanding of the practice.
However, as a massage therapist I found two areas missing in this chapter that I think are worth mentioning. These are modifications to the original Gerda Boyesen’s biodynamic massage techniques that were developed within Chiron.
(i) Chiron has developed a modified version of Deep Draining, which is slower, with breathing space, and holding the muscle after each twang aiming to strengthen the motoric ego and soften muscle armouring. It is not as cathartic as the classical (original) version.
(ii) Definition Work, which is an adaptation from the muscle tensing work taught by Babette Rothschild in her Somatic Trauma Training. It involves locating the muscle and holding it, and at the same time using brief, minimal resistance work to help the client feel the muscle more clearly.
To end this review, I strongly recommend therapists and students read this chapter (and others as well). It makes a very interesting reading and could enrich their experience.
I wish to thank the AHBMT and particularly Ruth Hoskins, the journal editor, in providing me with the opportunity to review this chapter and for donating the book in return. Reading the book (as a whole) has been a most valuable experience for me. Thank you!
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I first came across the term “Intersubjectivity” whilst reading the book Contemporary Body Psychotherapy the Chiron Approach (1). I was fascinated and curious.
Here I aim to clarify and explore embodied Intersubjectivity, and self-other relations.
What is Intersubjectivity? It is the connection with others at a deep level. Within therapy, this is about the engagement between therapist and client at gut level, including feelings, emotions, sensations, thoughts, and the relationship. Here the focus shifts from the contents to the interaction, whereby and the latter becomes central.
The parts of the nervous system that relate to this subject are:
(i) the somatic part that processes sensory information, controls voluntary muscles and relates to touch, and
(ii) the autonomic part that includes the limbic system, which is about survival, emotions, mental memory, and behaviour.
Researchers found that the limbic part of the brain produces sounds, expressing feelings and emotions, wordlessly. They are ancient and primitive and are found in both humans and non-humans alike. These are limbic melodies (3).
Being in tune with these melodies, can bring a shift in the unfolding process. When these melodies are in harmony between two beings, there is limbic resonance (4). This is a concept of empathic harmony; non-verbal connection; a symphony of mutual exchanges, attuning to each other’s inner states. The idea is that our nervous systems are not self contained, but are attuned to those around us, involving mutual adaptation. It is central to our social connections, and is used by some therapies and healing.
The nervous system contains a network of neurons, which transmit signals between different parts of the body. The sensory motor system is responsible for mirror neurons (5). These fire when an individual mirrors another. Such neurons are believed to occur in humans and other species. Neuroscientists believe that mirror neurons are very important for learning. They are interactive moment to moment, with constant mutual feedback. If the feedback stops, so does the process. An example is mother and baby interaction, whereby mother can make sense of the baby’s cry and feed this back to the baby who in return calms down. However, if she does not make sense of the baby’s cries, the feedback stops, and the baby will continue to cry.
At subconscious level, we communicate non-verbally by moderating body language and voice to match those around us, to initiate, regulate and terminate social interaction. We learn these skills at childhood and they contribute to establishing relationships successfully.
The limbic system is critical for emotional processing and behavior. During imitation, there is great activity in and out of the limbic system. Visual images are sent to the mirror neurons which then transmit information to the limbic areas processing emotional content. It is believed that this activity generates empathy, feeling another’s feelings. With awareness, this can enable the therapist to understand the feelings of the client.
Awareness brings choices, being in touch with our feelings, and seeing how the relationship with another impacts on us. Through mindfulness of breathing we can get indications of tensions when things are not right, and how to come back to our body.
Dancing with another, the movements can include symmetric body patterns, posture, gestures, to connect when we mirror each other, match our rhythms and movements, establishing rapport and harmony.
Alternatively, the movements can be asymmetric. These arise when in conflict or disagreement.
Leading is about power: who is in control? Who is leading? How do we negotiate?
Co-regulation is the continuous changeability in response to others’ continuous changeability. It is a dynamic process (6), which includes tone of voice, facial gesture etc. This is how we impact on each other at psycho-biological level. If an angry person enters the room, we will either feel agitated by the anger, or the angry person may calm down by our own calmness. It has been identified by neuroscientists as nature’s way of supporting self-regulation, by balancing and integrating emotional and physiological states.
Somatic transference is about projecting onto the therapist, conscious material from earlier years. This is facilitated through limbic resonance.
In therapy, both co-regulation and somatic transference impact on the relationship. Two breathing and two autonomic nervous systems interact and relate.
Finally, as a biodynamic massage therapist, I find these concepts very helpful in my interaction with my clients, being able to assess what is happening in the silence between us.
(1) Contemporary Body Psychotherapy the Chiron Approach, ed Linda Hartley, Hove, 2009
(4) A General Theory of Love. Vintage Book USA 2000.
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The following article was published in the autumn 2011 issue of the Journal of the Association of Biodynamic Massage Therapists
My most memorable experience as a Biodynamic Massage client
I am going to describe a fragment of a session which stayed in my memory for years, for the deep nourishment it provided, and the experience it imparted.
I was in the supine position, when the therapist reached for my hand. Hmmmmm.....sensations of enormous pleasure, expansion in every part of my body, total relaxation, deeper breath, gratification, receptivity and thirst for more and more. I got in touch with my hand’s need to be touched, to receive, to be nurtured. This gave rise to the awareness of how, as a massage therapist, my hands are always busy giving, giving, giving. I realised that I do not appreciate them. I do not think about them. I do not offer them anything in return. They are just there to do my work. Now there was recognition and awareness of the hands needs; the needs to receive. I groaned with pleasure and communicated to the therapist how wonderful this experience was and how much I needed it. In return the therapist stayed with my hands for a long time. It felt like a bottom-less pit, the need to receive, receive, receive, never enough. I was catching up on years of neglect.
It was a very powerful experience of connecting with my hands, my tools, recognising them, identifying their needs and meeting them.
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In biodynamic psychology, we recognise cycles of impetus/charge, expression, discharge and integration.
During impetus/charge, raw emotions surge up the core of the body towards the neck and head. If the cycle is completed, that is, the person is able to take action (expression), the emotions subside and melt downward and the residual charge is eliminated through the peristalsis (discharge). Now the body is ready for integration, relaxation and repair.
However, if the cycle is incomplete, that is, the expression is held back, due to a conflict regarding the emergency situation, the emotional energy is stuck at the neck and head and is prevented from melting down and being discharged through the peristalsis. The cycle is incomplete and the body cannot recover. When rising emotions are not discharged, the charge remains as a layer of repressed emotions. The upward flow of energy is not balanced by an equal flow downward.
When the body gets stuck somewhere in the cycle and cannot complete it on a regular basis, the body is caught up in chronic stress, which can lead to ill health.
In health, we need to be able to move between stress and relaxation and regeneration.
In biodynamic massage we aim to help the client complete the cycle and teach the body to self-regulate (relax and regenerate).
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Energies according to Biodynamic Theory
In biodynamic theory we recognise that everything has energy, all physical, mental, emotional entities.
Energy pulsates, in and out, just like the breath. In health, energy lows freely.
In addition, vertical and horizontal energies are recognised too. The vertical energy flows up and down our centre (self, emotions, ego), where our emotions are digested. This energy expresses ‘who I am’ and ‘what I feel’. This is linked to the core (as above). The horizontal energy is about interacting with others and the universe.
In the ideal world, the energies should be balanced. However, at times there may be an excess of horizontal energy at the expense of the vertical one (the individual who is not connected to his true self, but is over concerned with his connection with others, e.g., ‘what they think of me’) or vice versa (the individual who is over-involved with himself, over emotional and cannot handle the external world). The biodynamic massage therapist aims to help the client balance these energies.
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Biodynamic Massage and the Digestive System
The digestive system enables the absorption and the elimination of food. It can also digest our emotions.
When you are stressed, the digestive processes stop to enable energy to flow in response to the stressful situation, in order to deal with it. After you deal with the stress, your body moves into relaxation mode and the digestive system resumes its work.
The digestive system processes food (or emotions), by a wave like contractions of the intestines, thus moving the processed food forwards towards the exit. These movements cause what we call "gargling" noises. These are the sounds of the peristalsis. So when you are stressed, the peristalsis stops, whilst in relaxation, it is activated.
During a Biodynamic Massage session, the therapist will use a stethoscope, in order to listen to the client's peristalsis. During the Biodynamic Massage session, as you relax, your digestive system is stimulated. Emotions that are released can drain away as excess fluid, helping to bring your body to balance.
In order to listen to the peristalsis, the Biodynamic Massage therapist uses a tool, that is, a stethoscope. It enables hearing the sounds of the peristalsis and guides the Biodynamic Massage therapist as to what is happening in your body as a result of the massage. It tells the therapist where energy is trapped and when it is ready to be released. It enables the therapist to know where he/she needs to work further and which parts are best left alone at that moment.
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Vegetotherapy (William Reich)
The vegetative systems are body systems that support the living process, not necessarily connected to our consciousness. 'Vegetotherapy', as developed by Wilhelm Reich, involves bodywork techniques for working with the breath to loosen the body, to allow "vegetative" or autonomic nervous system response, such as muscular twitching, deeper/expansive breathing, releasing memories, and expression of deep emotion.
Biodynamic massage aims to encourage these vegetative responses, to enable release to blocked emotions or energy.
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As a biodynamic massage therapist I tune in to my body, and use my sensations to perceive what is going on for my client in his/her body.
All emotional arousals such as stress, threat, fear, happiness are expressed intially at body level (heart rate, red face, tensions etc). By tunning into my own body, I can sense what is happeing to my client and help to shift the arousal.
I need to observe my client at the same time as I tune in to my body, and bridge the two. I observe my client's body language, tone of voice, colour, breathing etc.
During a biodynamic massage session, I want to bring my client to the here and now and focus his or her attention of how he or she feels in his or her body here and now; and where exactly in the body. We Can work together with this material.