Body-oriented psychotherapy is a method of soul therapy that exists as long as humankind lives. Her techniques developed in parallel in the eastern and western directions, because for centuries in the eastern currents there was a different culture of the body and physicality in general. Now, different approaches are found in modern psychological body-oriented practice. The methods of this direction are easily superimposed on other methods of psychological work. Moreover, very often, using the body-oriented approach, we can raise from the unconscious those deep contents that are blocked when working with other methods.
Finally, it has become more common in our culture to pay attention to the experiences of our own body, and not only when it is ill. They began to treat the body more respectfully, but still the dominant is often shifted to the side of the head, the body remains less attention. This is clearly seen in the statistics of drawing dough, when it is proposed to draw a person, and many people on the sheet do not have enough room for the body. That is why throat problems are so common, because the throat connects the head with the body.
In the European tradition, the history of the bodily approach is difficult to trace, in psychology it is customary to begin with Wilhelm Reich. Despite his frequent criticism, he introduced all the concepts that body-oriented therapists use to this day. Modern European corporal psychotherapy has grown under the strong influence of psychoanalysis, so it can be considered as a method of working with the same problem, but through a different entrance.
The bodily direction allows the psychologist to work with the client, which is hard to realize and verbalize his problem. He would be ready to explain why he feels bad, but he literally lacks words. The other extreme is when the client is excessively talkative and even uses speech to avoid the problem. Body-oriented psychotherapy will allow depriving him of his usual pattern of protection, covering up a psychological problem.
Body-oriented psychotherapy methods
The body does not lie, revealing the very essence of spiritual experiences. It is difficult to hide your resistance in the body – it can even be fixed. You can deny your anxiety, but you can not hide the trembling in the hands or stiffness of the whole body. And since working with resistance in solving a psychological problem often takes most of the time, an objective, materialistic bodily approach turns out to be very effective.
Absolutely all human experiences are encoded in the body. And those that we can not decode through speech, it is possible to uncover through the body. The amount of non-verbal information signaling the human condition is simply enormous, and you just need to learn how to work with it. Supercontrol problems are manifested in the head, in the arms and shoulders – the difficulty of contact with people, intimate problems are reflected in the pelvis, and the legs carry us information about the difficulties of a person’s support, his confidence and movement in life.
Body-oriented therapy is built on an attempt to refer to the animal body of a person, to what is natural in us, naturally, and contains a lot of useful information. However, our social body often comes into conflict with instinctive aspirations, taboos them and gives rise to many psychological problems. We often have difficulty hearing our body and do not know how to build interaction with it.
Reich’s body-oriented psychotherapy is based on the studied psychological defenses and their manifestation in the body – the so-called muscular armor. This concept was introduced by Reich to refer to squeezed muscles and cramped breathing, which form like armor, the physical manifestation of various methods of psychological defenses considered by psychoanalysis. The method of Reich was to modify the state of the body, as well as the impact on the clamped area. For each individual muscle group, he developed techniques to reduce stress and release squeezed emotions. Technicians were aimed at breaking the muscular armor, for this they touched the client by squeezing or pinching. Pleasure Reich saw as the natural flow of energy from the center of the body to the outside, and anxiety – the displacement of this movement on the person himself inside.
Alexander Lowen modified Reich’s therapy and created his own direction – bioenergy, which is widely known by this name even today. Body-oriented psychotherapy Lowen considers the body as a bioelectric ocean with uninterrupted chemical-energetic exchange. The goal of therapy is also the emotional release, emancipation of the person. Lowen used the Reichian breathing technique, and also put into work various tense postures of the body to fill the blocked areas with energy. In the postures developed by him, the pressure on the muscles is constantly and so increased that the person is forced to relax them as a result, unable to cope with an exorbitant load. For the purpose of adopting your own body, the technique used to observe it naked in front of a mirror or in front of other participants in the training, who gave their comments afterwards. The description of the body made it possible to create an image of the muscular armor, characteristic of a particular person, and the problems coming from him.
The method of the next well-known psychotherapist, Moshe Feldenkrais, deals with the conflict between the social mask and the natural sense of satisfaction, instincts, and impulses. If a person merges with his social mask – he loses himself, as if the Feldenkrais method allows us to form new, more harmonious habits that will smooth out this conflicting tension and give an opportunity to manifest internal contents. Feldenkrais considered deformed patterns of muscular acts, which, with their strengthening, become increasingly stagnant and act outside of consciousness. He paid great attention to freedom of movement in simple actions, the client was recommended to independently look for the best position for his body, corresponding to his individual anatomy.
Matthias Alexander also explored bodily habits, postures, posture in order to find more harmonious and natural positions. He considered the most correct maximum straightening, stretching the spine up. In Alexander’s therapy, pressure is also used, following from the head and further down, due to which the client relaxes more and more, while trying to straighten up. The result is a feeling of liberation and lightness. This method is often used by public people, dancers, singers, since Alexander himself invented this technique, having lost his voice, and thanks to the found solution he was able to return to the stage again. It is also effective for therapy in cases of injuries, injuries, a number of chronic diseases.
Body-oriented psychotherapy – exercises
For any work with the body, it is of primary importance to feel it and to ground it. Stand up straight, legs straightened, stretching the top of your head up and even slightly pushing your chest forward. Feel how from the legs all the energy goes up, this is a state of elevation and even some suspension. Inhale, then, bending your knees, relaxing your pelvis, exhale. Imagine that you are now sitting in a soft armchair, as if you are rooting into the ground. Look around, you will feel more present, as if you will even begin to feel the air with your skin. This is the easiest exercise to ground and begin a deeper work with anything, whether it concerns emotional experiences or further work with the body.
The following exercise is devoted to the opening of the clamp in the area of the mouth – the jaw clamp. We often squeeze the jaw at the time of physical exertion or the need to be persistent, to achieve the goal. Also, if we don’t like something, but we don’t have the opportunity to say it, we clench our jaw again. Sometimes the jaw is compressed so strongly that blood circulation in this area is disturbed. To perform this exercise, you can sit or stand. Put your hand under your chin upside down and now try to inhale, open your mouth, lower your jaw down, but your hand should prevent this movement. As you exhale, the jaw relaxes and closes again. After several such movements, you will feel the place of closing of the jaws, you can massage it, relaxing the muscles. As a result, you will feel the heat, it will become easier to pronounce the words and, perhaps, even breathe.
An example of a solid block can be shoulders tucked up. If we further strengthen this clamp, it turns out that the neck literally hides in the shoulders, which, like the tortoise shell, protect it from a possible blow or push from behind. When a person has already got used to this shoulder position – this means that there were many stressful situations in his life when he had to contract internally. The simplest exercise here is to try to throw something off your shoulder. To enhance the image, you can imagine how someone’s hand is on the shoulder, and we don’t want it to be there. Shake it off the shoulder and do it confidently.
Another exercise with the same goal of freeing the shoulders is repulsion. Expose hands, as if trying to push an unpleasant person away from you. A variation is also possible when you are elbowed backwards. You can even help yourself pull back with words, saying no contact.
In exercises with the presence of another person who is practicing both body-oriented psychotherapy of Reich and body-oriented psychotherapy of Lowen, he can, while you are lying on your back, behind your head, massage your forehead, then the neck area behind your head. It is better if the action is performed by a professional therapist. Sway your body in time with your massage movements. Next – the transition to the muscles of the neck, massaging the tendons, the place where the muscles are attached to the skull, soft muscle tension. Again, you need to pull the neck and even a little hair, if the length allows.
At any time, if the voltage is present, you can again return to the forehead area, mix it in, tightly touching the hands with the head. The support and absence of sharp movements is necessary. In the hair part of the head also need to perform kneading movements, stretch the scalp. This can be done in different directions with any movements, fingers and knuckles. With each new push you can change the location of the fingers. Capturing the crease of the brow ridges, you can pull it to the side and close back.
Having worked with a frontal clamp, the transition to the mimic muscles. Symmetrically setting the fingers on the sides of the nose, they need to slowly spread to the sides to the ears. We move down the nasolabial fold, pulling the muscle. We work out the maxillary muscles, we pay special attention to places of stress. We remove the tension from the jaw bone, put our hands on the sides of the center of the chin and slowly move them back to the ears. The slower the movement, the deeper it is. Working with facial muscles – we work with the emotions stuck in them.
Further work is shifted to the neck and shoulders. If similar kneading techniques are used in the neck, support and strong pressure are allowed in the shoulders in order to straighten them. Pressing is performed with swaying movements, then moving to the arms. Taking the hand, which must be completely relaxed, you need to perform a swaying, take the wrist and pull, then release and repeat from the swaying cycle again. Then comes the kneading of the brush, which, like plasticine, should be pulled out with soft parts of the palms, and also walked with kneading movements on each finger, as if tightening tension. You can use and twist movement. You need to complete everything with a soothing wiggle.
Body-oriented psychotherapy techniques
The body, as our largest resource, contains all the information recorded in itself. Like the rings on the tree, it stores the history of our life about those difficult and emotionally-saturated situations that remain as notches on it, manifested in painful sensations and uncomfortable muscle clamps. Work with the body makes it possible to get into the depths, the essence, into those nuclear experiences that can persist as the results of conflicts in relationships, at work, internal conflicts, fears, insomnia, emotional stress, which can not be contained, even panic attacks.
In any situation, the body is turned on, because it assumes absolutely all the stresses passing through a person’s life. At the time of stress, excitement, breathing changes, followed by changes in the composition of the blood, hormones, which at the level of physiology prepares a person for action. If the gestalt is not closed – this state is then deposited in the muscles.
For the treatment of negative conditions in the body-oriented approach, various techniques are used, ranging from the grounding already described. Then centering is often used when the client is lying down in a star posture, and the therapist massages his head, arms and legs, removing excess tension from each part. If the first technique can be performed independently and is suitable for use even outside of therapy, then the second requires the presence of a therapist.
Separate attention is given to common breathing techniques, which in various variants are known from ancient spiritual practices. By tracking the natural way of breathing a person can diagnose his psychological problems. Then, through a change in the rhythm and depth of breathing, a new state of consciousness is reached. In the surface form, this can be the usual relaxation or raising the tone, which is applicable in everyday use, when a person wants to calm down or tune in, on the contrary, to work. In therapeutic work, breathing techniques can be used much more actively, even in some cases, for immersing a person in a trance. Of course, this requires the guidance of a qualified therapist.
Work with the body is aimed at addressing internal resources, developing the sensation of a given moment of life, the full presence and release of blocked, trapped energy. All of this – the essential components of a full, joyful life.