As the name suggests, biodynamic massage therapy is fundamentally a massage-based therapy which sits at the intersection between massage and therapy practices. As a practice, it has similarities with other forms of massage. First and foremost, the wellbeing, privacy and safety of the client are centre stage. This means we pay particular attention to create a clean, secure, comfortable, safe and relaxing space.
As you would expect from the word ‘massage’, I use touch to deliver a series of body-centred interventions on a massage table. However, there are many ways in which biodynamic massage therapy is different to routine massages and it is in these differences that the ‘therapy’ aspect of biodynamic massage can be found. These differences are contained in four distinct aspects of how biodynamic massage therapy is delivered:
- Oil is not used, so there is direct person-to-person contact between the therapist and the client. The overall aim in biodynamic massage therapy is to increase our awareness of ourselves as whole beings, become better connected with our nature and facilitate learning and integration. The delivery of these broad aims necessitates unmediated and contactful presence
- Clients only undress to a level they are comfortable with. This is part of putting the client in the driving seat - they are not here to have treatments ‘done to’ them - they are co-creators and can determine what feels right for them. I have seen how important this is to clients, particularly at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship, when so much is new and unknown
- A stethoscope is placed on the belly to listen to gut rumblings called psycho-peristalsis. These sounds are used by the therapist as guidance as to what is happening in the autonomic nervous system. This is a unique aspect of biodynamic massage therapy. This layer of feedback from the gut provides both the therapist and the client with additional information. Over time, clients learn to listen to their own gut sounds and develop curiosity and interest in their own gut reactions as each session unfolds. From a biodynamic perspective, a key function of the gut is to digest and process emotional material and residue from experiences, and from thoughts and memories which carried a level of energy.
- There is no set routine - each session and what happens within each session depends on how things unfold
From my perspective, it is the combination of the lack of a defined sequence of delivery and the person-to-person contact that makes biodynamic massage work as a therapy. The heart of effective therapy, as shown by repeated studies, is that the therapist-client relationship is the key that makes for effective therapy. What this means in a biodynamic massage context is that there is a need for the therapist to be attentive and attuned in a moment-by-moment way to what is happening in the client’s body as the massage session unfolds.
As a biodynamic therapist, I can choose from 11 different techniques which I can use as stand-alone methods or in combination. Each technique carries with it a specific set of intentions. For instance, if someone is very overwhelmed and feeling scattered, using ‘packing’, with its intention of re-affirming boundaries, can have the effect of bringing someone back to themselves so that their ‘all over the place’ energy can be brought back into the body and grounded. I can also choose the depth of contact - skin, connective tissue, muscle, bone and the in-between spaces. I can ask myself “What does this being, in their life-space, need from me? What does this part of them want from me?” The ‘answer’ arises from the body, and gives rise to a range of potential responses - from matter-of-fact acceptance to being more provocative. I can also choose the speed - slower for more a more sedative effect and faster for more invigorating.
Just like many talking therapies, dialogue is central to the therapeutic process. In biodynamic massage therapy the lack of routine provides an open space for touch-based dialogue to happen. The dialogue is mostly but not exclusively non-verbal between the therapist and the client’s whole being - how their body responds to touch, what is conveyed through the body via touch to the consciousness of the therapist and vice-versa, what is being conveyed via the gut sounds and, from time to time, verbal checking with the client in to understand their feelings about how things are going for them and ask for their input in relation to what is wanted or needed in that moment.
Even though the body is constantly in flux, for regular clients, patterns are likely to emerge over time. It is also possible that different parts of the body will open up and become more accessible and available. For example, someone could re-connect with their sense of power. This in turn may shape the way they stand up for themselves in situations where previously they may have given up and felt defeated. Individuals may connect their set ways of being or holding with historical ways of responding and coping with life’s events - for instance, the difficulty in letting go and letting themselves be taken care of because they grew up in an environment where no attention was being paid to them. Some of these patterns and the stories that accompany them may be known to us and certainly some patterns would have developed outside of our awareness. Biodynamic massage therapy offers an opportunity for us to befriend these patterns and through it, to develop a deeper understanding of how we are, who we are and what it means for us as we flow with life - energetically, physiologically and psychologically. Depending on the issues surfaced, Psychotherapy may be needed to provide additional support.
Biodynamic massage therapy is an effective, responsive and multi-faceted approach to understanding ourselves better through our feelings and body. Because it has ‘massage therapy’ in its name, the gateway for new clients is usually through presenting their injuries, stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression and other health-related conditions. Where clients are more matter of fact and more interested in symptomatic relief, as a therapist I can deliver biodynamic massage as someone’s routine maintenance and as a source of regular support. Where the client needs or is interested in deeper exploration and where someone finds themselves in a situation where what they are suffering from is not easily ‘solved’ by traditional interventions, the multi-layered approach of biodynamic massage therapy offers a holding and creative therapeutic space where it is possible to connect body and being.