Body-Mind Centering: Creating Body Awareness and Improving Function

Body-Mind Centering Book

Body-Mind Centering® (BMC) is a somatic practice, grounded in your physical body, to study the full range of your mental, emotional, and spiritual being. You use movement, breath, voice, perceptions, and touch to bring awareness to every part of your body and develop your internal awareness to support your external world. You explore all your body's anatomical systems and how they support you in all your activities.

Cellular Awareness

A first step in BMC is developing cellular awareness. Cells are a microcosm of your individual self and contain the potential to develop into more complex and differentiated forms and to encourage higher levels of consciousness to emerge.

Awareness comes through making contact with your cells by focusing your attention on them. You can bring attention to your cells by breathing into them, using imagery, or working with the touch of another person who places focus on your cells. Your focused attention initiates a flow of energy that brings about your awareness.

BMC practitioners are trained in Touch and Repatterning techniques that let them help you find awareness in your body. Practitioners learn to identify each tissue in the body through touch and understand that the tissues of every body have a different vibration and resonance. Practitioners learn to focus their attention in their own tissue, feeling its vibrational frequency in their own body, and to use touch to intensify your experience of the same tissue in your body. They listen and respond to your tissue with an attitude of acceptance and curiosity. The aim is to educate you to feel what is happening in your body, while using release techniques to help bring about change.

Developmental Movement

Developmental movement patterns are the sequence of movements that you went through as a baby and young child to learn to function in the world. Each movement in the sequence was a part of the foundation on which you built other movements.

If you missed developing any movement pattern as a child, that pattern isn't available to you as an adult unless you consciously learn and develop the pattern. Many things could have interrupted your sequence of developmental movements, especially injury, illness, or being pushed into activities before you were developmentally ready.

Missing patterns weaken your movement foundation, create unneeded tension in your body, and cause your movement to be less effective or efficient. That means if you decide to take up an activity that requires learning physical movement, and you don't have the needed underlying developmental movement patterns, you're going to have a tough time and probably set yourself up for frustration and even injury.

BMC also posits that the underdevelopment of certain patterns may be a factor in almost any physical, psychological, or social pattern you have in your adult life. Working with developmental movement patterns is an important part of Body-Mind Centering.

Anatomical Systems

When you consider movement, you may think of bones and muscles. But BMC looks at how all your body's systems (skin, organs, endocrine, fluids, fat, fascia, muscles, ligaments, nervous, and bones) can support your movement. BMC uses experiential exercises to teach you how to make direct contact with the different systems.

Each system has its own quality of  feeling, movement, touch, perception, attention, and sound that reflect an aspect of your inner self. Using movement, breathing, and touch, you can balance these aspects in a more dynamic relationship with each other.

Each body system also provides a type of support. For example, your organs give inner support to your voice, breath, and movement; support you in expressing your feelings; and create aliveness and feeling in your movement. Active organs support from within the framework formed by the muscles and skeleton. Energy blockages and torque in your organs can cause weak joints and alignment problems.

Development of Body-Mind Centering

In the 1960s, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, who was an occupational therapist and trained dancer, began her exploration of the possibilities of the human body. You can read a collection of her articles in Sensing, Feeling, and Action: The Experiential Anatomy of Body-Mind Centering.

Cohen's influences included her study of many types of therapy and movement, including yoga, dance therapy, Laban Movement Analysis, neuromuscular reeducation, and katsugen undo (a Japanese method of training the involuntary nervous system). She was especially influenced by her study with the founders of neurodevelopmental therapy, a method to restore developmental movement patterns in children who have brain injuries.

In 1973, she founded The School for Body-Mind Centering, which she still operates in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Today, you can find BMC principles used in bodywork, psychotherapy, child development, physical and occupational therapy, voice and music, visual arts, meditation, dance, athletics, yoga, and other physical and body-mind disciplines. BMC continues to evolve based on the experiences of Cohen and her students.

The study of Body-Mind Centering is a creative process that helps you understand how your mind is expressed through your body and your body through your mind.

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