Nobody can prove what I am about to say, but I think it is so: every energy in which we live is a nourishment to us. It is something that is literally contributing food to the individual. If you are living in a field of light, your eyes probably are good, as you deprive yourself of light consistently, the eyes starve and eventually you can't see. If you are living within a field of sound, the same is true of your ears. Now it would be absolutely ridiculous if we lived in a field of gravity and it had no effect on us, yet down through the ages, this has been our assumption, that it didn't make any difference. This assumption is still held among a lot of people. They think it doesn't make any difference how you carry yourself, because you are a spirit, an immortal an superior something, which is in charge of the situation. Well, a spirit is in charge of the situation, but not in the way many think. The spirit is in charge to tell the individual that he can so organize his body that he is now in line with a supporting force

Ida Rolf

 

Pilates and Other Traditions

There are numerous other bodywork traditions, besides the Reich and Lowen one, that are also intended to increase feeling and purpose. All these traditions are like the Zen metaphor of fingers pointing (to the moon). That is, despite some differences, they all aim at the same way of being. Because actually getting to the moon is not easy, there is always a temptation to accumulate more fingers instead. What is beneficial, however, usually, is just to actually, patiently, honestly, without forcing things, and without prematurely convincing others, follow one tradition without mistaking the finger for the moon.

Many traditions come to mind that are doubtless pointing to the same arrival as Reich and Lowen: Qi Gong, Feldenkreis, Alexander method, yoga, Rolfing, Tai Chi, Trager, Hellerwork, dance therapy, chiropractic, cranio-sacral work, osteopathy, etc

Reich and Lowen bodywork has this unique aspect: personal emotional expression is considered necessary and central. For instance crying is considered bodywork, the deeper the better! This is unique as far as I know. (In conversational psychotherapy, crying is somehow expected but not encouraged, and immediate re-assurance is almost always given to stop it short.)

There is one tradition of which I am aware that is particularly consistent with the Reich and Lowen tradition-- Pilates. All bodywork traditions can be roughly divided into two types: corrective and exploratory. The Reich and Lowen tradition is clearly corrective, that is, the therapist is supposed to know of a form or way of being that if not perfect, is very good, and good for everybody. The therapist is trying to get clients to eventually approximate that form (but not by imitating it). There is room for individuality, but the basic premise of the therapy is to achieve a satisfying commonality first, then let 'true' individuality be built on top. This is a fundamental underlying belief of the Reich and Lowen tradition, and also a fundamental underlying belief of Pilates.

Nobody explains the need, the role, and the ultimate effect of bodywork better than Lowen. However, both Reich and Lowen provide a limited amount of physical practices. These physical practices are varied and it is an oversimplification but perhaps useful to think of them meant to 'crack' or 'blow the top' off of armoring.

Pilates was aware of the emotional implications of body misalignment and rigidity, but he did not think of himself as working with psychological forces, but rather as working with a functional body that has gone 'off track'. From this point of view, the concepts of disassembly and re-assembly seem fitting. Moreover, it is an active therapy, in which the client must participate willingly.Also Pilates, which is presently niched with physical fitness, has had no trouble staying with touch and physical focus. It are neither afraid of it, nor have to fear condemnation for it. Psychotherapy, even based on Reich and Lowen, has had a hard time staying with physical work. This is probably based on the body alienation of most therapists, but is also reinforced by the present regulatory climate.

Yoga and Chi Gung (Qigong)

Nobody who does Lowenian bodywork will miss the similarity with yoga (yogasana) and Chi Gung, both in the form and the paradigm of 'moving energy" These asian traditions are clearly systems of re-balancing and re-harmonizing body and mind. They work. Done in large groups, the format is much more affordable. Two practical differences seem to become evident among participants in the United States.

First, yoga and Chi Gung, in the teaching traditions, seem to assume only a modest alienation from the body. Our truly unfit, depersonalized Western bodies are addressed at too high a level, and it is almost impossible to do the movements as intended. Just repetition does not help. Instead, an almost aerobic struggle ensues, which is a good workout, but the intended experience can be elusive. Yogasana seems a method of neuro-muscular 'reset' more than a complete re-wiring. Neuro-muscular redevelopment requires a very remedial approach, at least with adults.

Second, yoga and Chi Gung deal with restoring basic health and developing spirituality simultaneously. This can tempt many people to try to leap-frog from say depression to enlightenment, skipping basic emotional repair. This is especially true when the participant is dabbling and has no teacher.

Yogasanas are final positions. The emphasis can be on arrival not the journey. This contrasts with Pilates, which prescribes movements not positions (except for some 'starting positions which are not extreme). While both Pilates and yogasana seem to aim for the same bodily state, this training difference is very important, especially for over-achieving Western egos. Endgaining and injury possibly is a greater possibility with yoga.