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Pulsing is a rhythmic, movement-based somatic therapy that can be classed as a form of post-Reichian bodywork. It uses a very gentle and nurturing approach to increase body awareness and sensitivity and to connect to the body's natural rhythms.
Pulsing was developed in the late 1970s by Curtis Turchin, a practitioner of Postural Integration (PI), itself one of the deepest and most fundamental approaches to bodywork. Dr Milton Trager, founder of the Trager Approach, demonstrated his movement-based bodywork at the Esalen Institute in the mid-1970s. Turchin was inspired by this form of working to develop a systematic approach that he called Pulsing.
Forms and Practice
It involves the application of pressure and movement (stretching, lifting, shaking, rotating and swinging) to the soft tissue of the body (skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia) within a continuous soft rhythmic rocking. The client is encouraged to be passive - in the sense of not trying to do anything, but allowing the body to relax into the movements. This in itself quickly highlights areas of muscular tension and holding.
Children and adults will often rock themselves when distressed: there appears to be a deep comfort and security to be found in gentle movement. With its flowing and wave-like movements, Pulsing perhaps recalls a body-memory of the foetal experience in the womb, where the baby is constantly subject to rhythmic pulsation, or of being cradled and rocked during infancy.
Pulsing can take a number of forms, distinguished by the intent with which it is approached by both client and therapist (for example, relaxing, playful or as deeper emotional therapy). In the 'lighter' modes, clients sometimes experience gentle emotional release and often enter a trance-like state. Sessions usually have a deeply relaxing yet energising effect. Here the benefits may include a release of deep physical tension, an increase in flexibility and movement repertoire, and an improved general sense of well-being and energy. On a deeper level, it can also be performed explicitly as a form of body psychotherapy, encouraging the client to become aware of their emotional responses, patterns of breathing and physical areas where "they feel tense, tight, weak, uncomfortable or painful and aware of protective holding patterns". In this way clients may discover and release deeply embodied emotions. Whichever form is used, many of the effects of Pulsing occur below the level of conscious awareness and continue to resonate in the bodymind for some time after sessions.
Pulsing claims to have wide-ranging benefits for many physical and psychosomatic problems. These include easing muscular tension and joint stiffness, and promoting flexibility, balance and co-ordination. The fluidity of the movement improves circulation, lymphatic flow and digestion, while in seeking to connect people to their natural body rhythms it promotes a rebalancing of the body's homeostatic and self-healing capacity. On an emotional level the rhythm "allays anxiety, enhances pleasure and provides compensatory satisfaction when desires are frustrated". In this it echoes Charles Darwin's observation that "'emotional expression belongs to rhythmical forms".
- Turchin, Curtis: Pulsing in: Energy and Character. Vol. 10, No.2, May 1979.
- Rowan, J.: A Guide to Humanistic Psychology. UKAHPP 2001
- Gladstone, G.: Pulsing-Massage in Motion in: Energy and Character, The journal of Biosynthesis. Vol 16, No2, August 1985
- Clifford, S. The Gentle Pulse. 2005
- Lawton, R. , Pulsing - get rhythm!, 2010, accessed 20 March 2011.
- Gladstone, G. , Pulsing - touch with rhythmic movement , 2010, accessed 28 March 2011.
- Darwin, C. The Expression of the Emotions. John Murray. 1872.