muscle work is largely derived from what Boyesen learned from Aadel
Bulow-Hansen and Lillemor Johnson, although she also contributed
techniques for emptying muscle, and integrating it with tissue and
harmonising energy through the different layers of the body, including
bone, muscle, tissue, skin and aura in Energy Distribution. At
Chiron, and in body psychotherapy generally- as I will outline in
this chapter - there has been a shift in emphasis from breaking
down armour, with the technique known as deep draining, to inviting
a more differentiated awareness and tonus in the muscle. The various
kinds of touch include stretching, squeezing, twanging, probing,
stroking, emptying and holding the muscle. Each technique is part
of the massage therapist's dialogue with the client, exploring
responses in the energetic state of the client and their musculature.
are several aspects to assessing the client’s musculature/motoric
ego. In a general psychological way it is important to evaluate
how aware they are of themselves,their feelings, of you, of matter
of fact reality. Are they energetically coherent, fragmented, flowing,
conflicted? What is your impression of their muscularity - are they
heavily or lightly muscled, muscles pumped, squeezed, slack, stringy?
Notice gesture, are there repeated gestures, a variety, or an absence
of gesture? These offer clues to key themes.
quality and breath
biodynamic massage, technique is usually part diagnosis, part relating,
and part responding to specific physiology and to the client as
a whole. In considering the clients' muscles, I am palpating to
discover the degree of tonus, and the energetic quality of the muscle.
Is it hyper or hypo? bulky or thin? is it dry and stringy? or full
and charged? is it surrounded by lots of tissue, or quite separated
out, or glued in? As I probe or hold I am observing the client's
breathing, is it shallow? deepening? and other autonomic responses,
such as sweating or trembling.
am also interested in the clients' experience or sense of the muscle.
Touch helps heighten awareness, and with muscle, small movements
can also increase awareness. By asking questions, I can gather how
much the client has a differentiated sense of their body - can
they feel much sensation in the muscle? if I ask them to do a small
localized movement, can they isolate specific muscles or do the
muscles seem glued together? Are they aware of particular feelings
associated with a muscle or a movement?
of Deep Draining
draining is based on the psychomotor therapy developed by the physiotherapist
Aadel Bulow-Hansen, influenced and supported by Trygve Braatoy.
Braatoy was a psychiatrist who trained with Reich, when he came
in 1935, and believed that massage was an important addition to
the psychoanalytic approach. The massage focussed on hypertonic
muscles, but Bulow-Hansen found that it had no effect unless it
was related to the client’s breathing: "Bulow-Hansen's
technique was so specific and methodical....and always aimed to
release the spontaneous breath...she was constantly watching how
the diaphragm worked" (Cl,1) The respiratory release was often
accompanied by, or followed by, emotional outbursts, vegetative
reactions, and memories of difficult or traumatic events.
the patient gave up more and more of the bodily armour and their
breathing became much freer, the capacity to surrender to spontaneous
and involuntary movements increased greatly. Little by little sensations
of warmth, of prickling in the skin, and of shuddering movements
in the limbs and trunks began to integrate themselves into [...]
reflexive movements of the whole body.(Kat, 165)
to loosen armour, to
facilitate postural change, to deepen breathing, to release repressed
Use to soften character rigidity, to ‘unblock’ a therapeutic
process which seems stuck, to liberate energy where it is held back,
to disturb the client’s defenses.
shock impulses - squeezing or twanging - are given across the muscle
fibres just before the in-breath. Wait for the breath, encourage
Sequence The sequence is highly specific, muscle by muscle, challenge to
the control of breathing, moving around the back between the primary
respiratory muscles and accessory breathing muscles. It addresses
holding patterns in muscles surrounding the spine, the sacrum and
the scapulae. The sequence then continues with a focus on the segments:
the legs, arms and chest, head and neck. The sequence can be varied
in order to track a process or to focus on grounding or expression.
of deep draining
tension and respiration are mutually restricting and mutually liberating.The
shock impulse causes a ‘mini startle-reflex’, thus giving
the body the opportunity to complete its response to a startle pattern
which has become chronic - ie. to contract, and then let go fully,
perhaps with the accompanying expressive response, a shout, crying,
hitting, or kicking. The focus is on deepening breathing, particularly
opening the abdominal respiration, since it is the restriction of
breathing which enables the individual to hold back their feelings.
the moment when the massage is beginning to dissolve the ‘dynamically
loaded’ muscle tensions [.....] the diaphragm will begin to
flutter. sometimes it will appear to ‘labour’, as if
‘making up its mind’ which way to go. Eventually a breath
will work its way through, usually in a wave pattern that is new
for this client. At other times a big breath will come through all
of a suddent, more like a great gasp, and may be followed by shudders
down through the entire body. (Equilibrium, 51)
theory is that, with each shock impulse, the muscle will contract
sharply, and then relax as it recovers, before contracting again
but not to the chronically shortened state it was in before. This
expansion invites more fluid back into the muscle, making it riper,
softer, more alive and sometimes more painful
long term effect of loosening the “incrustation”, as
Reich described armour, are changes in posture, concomitant with
changes in muscle tension, expression of feelings and deeper breathing.
Gerda Boyesen comments that she still considers deep draining to
be “the most direct approach to effect radical postural changes”.
(BTN, 65) It is distinct from other forms of re-structuring through
bodywork, such as Rolfing and Postural Integration, which manipulate
and re-organise the connective
tissue surrounding the muscles. (See Ida Rolf, Rolfing)
draining also contrasts with other forms of bodywork in that it
actively encourages expression - movement, sound, crying etc. This
is integral to this massage which focuses on challenging and melting
characterological defences. This technique is only ultimately effective
if the feelings and ideas which caused the initial contraction are
released and recognised. However, awareness can develop in stages
and it is not only the drama of catharsis that signals a shift,
but also the client’s experience of subtler movements of energy
and a deeper sense of connection to the body.
Case example: uncovering a deeper vulnerability
I felt frustrated, I didn’t want to do anything. Therapy feels
like work - I never make it easy for myself, I said. ‘Shall
we make it easy?’ the therapist joked, as I got on the massage
table. When the therapist started work around my throat, I had
images of quicksand. As the massage therapist put her hand under
my back I was surprised by how deep she was going. It was painful,
but I felt met by it. It seemed to contact my frustration. Tension
on the left side seemed to dissolve, and I felt tingling down my
body; the right side felt more defended. I became aware of the tightness
of my jaw; I felt an animal sense of wanting to bite; I felt how
much I held my disapproval and my disdain in the tension of the
jaw. Then it changed suddenley. I felt a melting sensation around
my mouth, and could imagine being a baby wanting to suck. I felt
so open, I felt I could not tolerate the therapist doing the wrong
thing now. But she stroked very gently around my face and down my
body, heightening and spreading that soft, soft feeling. Afterwards
I felt very grateful and peaceful, and wonderfully alive.
client complained of having to work too hard in therapy. There was
a quivering in the throat, especially in the sternocleidomastoid
muscle, as she reported seeing images of quicksand. I decided not
to pursue her associations to quicksand, which would mean her ‘working’.
I started by putting my hand under her back and twanging rapidly
up the muscles of the spine, and going deep into the levator scapulae,
which was tight with fear. She found it painful but breathed deeply
into the process. As I worked on the muscles on the left side of
the neck, she described a sense of expansion around the head. The
right side, she noted, felt more closed. I felt the change in the
energy around the head which she had described, the muscles had
become sensitized and softened. I worked gently on the skin level
now around the mouth, jaw, chin. The whole area felt so porous,
like the energy field around a baby. I stroked the energy down over
the chest and into the arms, and down over the hips to the legs.
The legs felt rigid and thick, in contrast to the intense vulnerability
around the head. She had not worked, nor stayed in the quicksand
where her needs would be smothered; instead, she had let me loosen
her defences, and allowed herself to open energetically and receive.
therapeutic challenge of deep draining
draining is by far the most technically demanding massage in the
biodynamic repertoire. At Chiron it is no longer taught to students
in training for the Biodynamic Massage Certificate, but only to
psychotherapy students. The therapist needs to be able to locate
the muscles quickly and to know and understand the sequence. It
is important to observe the breathing response and other autonomic
signals. But above all they need to be able to ‘hold’
the client with their presence, to know how far they can challenge,
and how to respond to the client’s reaction to the massage.
Reich developed his technique of pinching or pressing on chronically
contracted muscles, he was working as a psychoanalyst and watching
closely for inhibited or feigned responses in the context of the
relationship with him. One of his significant contributions to psychoanalysis
was the understanding of the negative transference, when patients
projected on to him feelings or attributes of significant early
figures. When working on his patients’ armour he expected
and was able to receive the full impact of the patients’ feelings
special kind of massage during which [there is an] analysis based
on expressions of pain .....a technically controlled form of torture.....”(Tot,75)
the psychiatric clinic where Gerda Boyesen learned deep draining
there was a definitive separation between the massage treatment
and the psychiatric sessions, one was carried out by a physiotherapist,
the other by a psychiatrist (there was some communication between
them). Although later she trained biodynamic therapist to work with
massage and a psychological process, she did not really re-integrate
them. In particular she did not acknowledge or address the negative
transference, which can be evoked in any massage process, but is
easily triggered by deep draining.
part this was possible because Boyesen managed to inspire in her
clients and students a strong positive identification with the technique
and its benefits. The biodynamic approach explicitly sides with
the repressed impulses in the body.
Classically, the therapist assumes the (relatively) uncomplicated
‘good parent’ position encouraging ‘healthy’
self-expression and the setting of limits. So the massage therapist
is alert to any embryonic expressive movements in the client, and
encourages noises or words which help release feelings, giving permission
for the client to assert themselves. The therapist invites the client
to come out, to expand into the contact.
was deep draining her back, and noticed her legs twitching. I invited
her to turn over and went and held her feet, giving a bit of resistance.
On an impulse I said, "these are
your feet, your legs". She started kicking, and shouting, "get off!,
get off me". I encouraged her protest, aware that these feelings
were probably connected with her history of sexual abuse.
believe that the emphasis on vegetative release - the somatic rather
than the expressive, ie. sweating, diahorrhea, skin rashes - was
Boyesen’s unconscious way of diverting some of the negative
charge. Somatisation itself can be a normal part of a process -
the ‘healing crisis’ is a phenomena of holistic treatment
and psychotherapy - but intense, sustained somatisation is a symptom
of an uncontained process. Boyesen comments on deep draining that
its “effectiveness was also a contra-indication, since the
changes could take place too rapidly. I heard of cases of acute
pneumonia and inflammation of other organs, eg. glands, as a result
of the treatment [at the Bulow-Hansen Institute]” (BTN, 65)
She stopped working with deep draining until she had developed more
supportive complementary techniques.
loosening of rigid muscular attitudes produced peculiar body sensations
in the patient: involuntary trembling and twitching of the muscles,
sensations of hot and cold, itching, the feeling of having pins
and needles." (Kat 167f)
Change in the climate
draining was developed in a psychiatric hospital, where patients
were contained by their psychiatrist and the institution. Reich
saw his patients five times a week. Nowadays, when therapists in
private practice are getting more borderline clients, the implications
of such a powerful technique have to be considered more carefully.
In extreme cases, it may push pre-psychotic or borderline clients
beyond their capacity to cope, and even for clients with more internal
structure, it can be construed as invasive or even abusive. Of course,
all this depends not just on the technique but the therapist's whole
stance towards the client and their therapeutic understanding of
deep draining the client reported tremendous energy flow up his
back, neck, head and arms. He compared himself to a bottle, which
was filling up with energy. He said that what I did for him was
"huge", that I touched very deep inside him.(OS)
Boyesen came to
in the late 60's, there was a revolutionary atmosphere - it was
a time of breaking down old structures and believing in the healing
power of love and peace. The widespread cultural optimism about
human potential, the sense of liberation and embracing radical change
probably helped contain the cathartic processes which characterised
encounter, primal therapy, psychodrama etc. Through the 80's, 90's
and now at the beginning of the new millenium, we are more cautious.
Bernd Eiden has commented on the shift in the kind of clients who
come to Chiron.
Clients with borderline and severe narcissistic structures
are more common, so are clients with histories of abuse. There has
been a considerable advance in understanding shock and trauma in
body psychotherapy, and a recognition of the need to develop a more
integrated, containing style of work.
was doing some deep draining - there was peristalsis and some deep
breaths, but I had the sense of invading her. And I said, "even
though I can't see it, I feel as though you're trembling".
She said there was a pain shooting up to her head and she had an
image of a flashing light. And so I asked her, "how far would
you let me go before you said 'stop!'?"
negative transference which is understood and handled appropriately
can still work hand in hand with deep draining. Muscle armour develops
out of a need to bind anxiety, and so it inevitably re-surfaces
as the armour melts. The clash of needs and perceptions in the client
can bring into awareness powerful unconscious dynamics, and thus
facilitate release and integration. It is the therapist’s
fear of their own sadistic impulses which can limit their capacity
to hold the client with their strong feelings and to evaluate how
far their defences can be challenged. Often the client experiences
a mixture of feelings, the original fear which inhibited expression,
anger and sadness, plus the fierce desire to own and embody his
or her impulses and feelings.
draining can open a 'can of worms' ........but it can also awaken
a deep joy, a feeling of being at one with the body, and an appreciation
of being in it.
to soften armour,
to deepen breathing, to enhance awareness of muscles
to release and integrate feelings, to strengthen the motoric ego,
fewer shock impulses. Contact with the muscles is firm and deep
but not overly provocative. May use stethoscope, and include emptying.
may follow formal sequence or vary, emphasis on containing and grounding.
deep draining does not press so directly towards loosening armour
and it offers more containment where feelings may be overwhelming.
Rather than focussing on provocation, there is more emphasis on
integrating the charge as it builds up. The contact with the muscles
is firm, and invites the client to feel his or her way of using
muscle, for example, how the muscles are supporting or holding back.
The therapist uses less shock impulses, and carefully monitors their
effect on the system. He or she waits till the muscles relax before
going in deeper. Holding, or a few membrane or hypotonic strokes
may be included.
metaphor of armour for hypertonic muscles can conceal another aspect
of muscles, which is the tremendous resonance between muscles in
the body. The body is like a stringed instrument. When I teach deep
draining, I suggest the image of twanging a guitar string....
had a client who loved deep draining, who always wanted more, and
would say, 'go deeper, go deeper', but then I realised that he was
actually afraid of contact, of stillness, of light touch. As he
pulled me in deeper physically, he was running away inside, wanting
me to find him, and yet afraid of being found.
massage was developed by Lillemor Johnson, who was influenced by
Drs Trygve Braatoy and Nic Waal. She criticised the techniques for
dissolving muscle armour and pointed out the limitations and failures
of focussing exclusively on hypertonic muscles.
She pioneered techniques for working with underdeveloped or
hypotonic muscles, which related to deficiencies
in the individual’s infantile environment. These deficiencies
usually relate to lack of support, lack of attention, and/or major
losses. They indicate a psychological collapse, which is palpable
in the muscle which is flaccid and inelastic. Johnson perceived
however that in hypotonic muscle were latent or remote qualities
which could be nourished by gentle stimulus and attention to the
describes a shy client with a closed mouth, crooked smile, and shifting
gaze, “the respiration will be even, halting in the expiratory
phase, indicating that anxiety is held back in the missing stage
to nourish underdeveloped muscle, to modify tonus, to encourage
expansion through the breath
to build resources where there is collapse and resignation,
stretching the muscle on the in-breath, stretching and squeezing
tissue, structural stretch of back, legs, arms etc. Can combine
with some lifting.
follows usual biodynamic sequence, may vary according to areas
massage works with subtle and light touch which serves to awaken
and energize muscles that have resigned. Johnson drew attention
to breaks in the natural breathing rhythm, as a way to pinpoint
where expression is blocked. By staying attuned to the client’s
breathing wave, the massage therapist can encourage the breath to
come into the muscle.
he lay on his back, I lifted the head gently and stretched it with
the in-breath. Then I stretched the arm, pulling it gently away
from the socket - this time, his breath, when I invited it to extend
a little longer, became staccato. I took hold of his hand, his
breathing deepened and quietened. I began to lightly squeeze the
slack muscles just underneath his arm - the breath quivered again.
He said he was feeling disgust, and turn his head away from me.
I asked what other feelings there were. His chest heaved into a
sob, he said he was afraid to give in to his sadness.
work and movement
work is not a massage technique, but a bodywork intervention used
to help the client connect to a sense of their own impulse. It may
be incorporated into a massage in order to give some focus for the
emotional/energetic charge building in the client. The massage therapist
offers the client something to push against, usually by placing
their hand against the client's foot, hand, shoulder etc. Sometimes
this encourages the client who is inhibiting their force to get
in touch with the desire to kick or push. For others, it offers
an opportunity to express their anger, or the need for a boundary,
in a concrete physical way.
order to work with the body's spontaneous self-regulating process,
the massage therapist needs to catch gestures which may give clues
to the clients inner process. An inner sensation may become an impulse.
A fist, a turn of the head, a facial expression, a movement of the
leg are indications of a feeling coming to the surface.
a massage, if I see any sign of movement trying to emerge in the
client, I would always try to encourage it, because my conviction
is that this is going to liberate and express much more energy than
would result from what I'm going to do with my hands."
(Clover Southwell, AGM)
major limitation of biodynamic massage is imposed by the table.
It is possible to invite the client to sit, or get off the table
and move, but it is not always appropriate, and there is a certain
clumsiness, the client may need to put some clothes on. Particularly
with muscle work, where so much of the dynamic of discovery emerges
in spontaneous movement, massage is restricted by the fact that
the client is lying down.
passive movement there is a heightened consciousness of muscular
tensions around the joints, spatial relations, and feelings, especially
if movements are slow and there are periods of stillness. If the
client can allow a process of being held and moved, the nervous
system can re-organise precisely because it permits all attention
to be given to stimuli both internal and external.
work is developed from the braking techniques taught by Babette
Rothschild in her Somatic Trauma Therapy Course.
These techniques have been adapted for use in a massage context
at Chiron. Definition work is very focussed and matter of fact,
with the client quite active in the process.
to build containment - strengthen the ego - by consciously toning
find muscle, palpate, bring clients awareness to it. Give minimum
resistance to it - ie. opposing its function eg. for sternocleidomastoid
therapist puts hand under chin and asks client to push down.(Alternatively
the therapist may invite the client to turn their head, while a
slight resistance to the movement is offered) It is important to
tell client to contract muscle slowly, not to push or force anything,
just enough so they can feel it in action. With the client, identify
the point at which the muscle is working to just optimum degree
- ie. the client has a sense of the function of the muscle and the
feelings that it evokes, and feels contained with them.
Sequence there may be a clue about where to start from the client - eg. they
can't feel their legs, feel nauseous, or they just have a sense
they want to start with the arms, etc. Sometimes it is useful to
do the opposing pair of muscles. The guide is the client’s
sense of what feels right.
massage is designed to heighten body awareness and help reinforce
positive choices. It requires the client to actively sense, evaluate
and give clear feedback to the therapist. The therapist has to
keep inviting the client to notice whether each movement makes them
feel 'better' or 'worse'. Better usually means feeling more grounded
and contained, and feeling the function of the muscle, a sense of
control. 'Worse' usually is any symptom such as nausea, dizziness,
discomfort. Clients also need to be encouraged not to overdo it,
holding a contraction for twenty seconds may be enough. Less is
contrast to working with the expression of feelings, definition
work is explicitly about containing - but not repressing - impulses
by keeping movement small, and fine-tuning the amount of resistance
given. This is ego-strengthening for the client in a number of ways:
it tones the muscle, it is very specific, the client is explicitly
asked to keep self-regulating - how does that feel? do you want
to hold this for longer? shall I do the other side? It can be quite
experimental - working out where to give minimal resistance - the
client can feel which muscles are being used, can explore, make
suggestions. There's lots of dialogue and invention. It can be a
great relief for the client to discover how effective this is in
of working with muscle
In working for expression and release, the therapist needs to distinguish
and discrimate between organic movements, and more mechanical gestures,
which may be an attempt to please the therapist or a way of warding
off spontaneous movements.
Pain is primarily linked with changes in tension in the muscles,
and tender muscles are often those in which the tension is changing.
Muscle that are stiff, and are not painful at all at the beginning
of a massage, often become tender as they soften, a sign that the
body and breathing are changing.
activity devoid of sensation does not lead to change" March55
The client may go into a very receptive mode, allowing themselves
to let go; or there may be a conscious experiencing of their muscle
in a new way; or there may be a more explicit process - exploring
movement, feelings, memories or images.
What is important is that you sense the client is present with
is in the interaction between motor and sensory happenings” B.B.
Talking can be an avoidance, or a way of integrating a process.
Often the client needs to be encouraged to find a language for what
is happening, for describing sensation, and connecting it with feeling.
rhythm of focus from inner to outer experience created a containing
space, which held contrasts and graduations of feeling."
Roz Carroll, June 2000