The Rosen Method, also known as Rosen Method Bodywork and Movement, involves the use of touch and movement to release tension in the body and promote deeper awareness of felt experience. The techniques move beyond the physical level, helping individuals to connect with hidden emotions and experiences. In the process, clients often become aware of the limitations they may have placed on themselves and are introduced to the possibility of a fuller, richer life.
What Is the Rosen Method?
A unique, somatic approach to unearthing repressed experiences and emotions, the Rosen Method involves two components, bodywork and movement, though they are usually practiced separately. This approach was developed by Marion Rosen, a German-born physical therapist who studied the use of breath, movement and massage in the treatment of psychiatric conditions. After migrating to the United States, Rosen began teaching movement classes in 1957, later incorporating the bodywork techniques she learned in Germany into her physical therapy practice and training other practitioners in their use.
Rosen Method practitioners recognize the importance of the mind-body connection and the various ways emotional states may manifest in the body. The method is based on the idea that individuals unconsciously tense the muscles in their bodies as a way of preventing negative feelings and memories from entering consciousness. While chronic muscle tension protects individuals from becoming overwhelmed emotionally, it also restricts the flow of breath through the body and can lead to physical pain and discomfort.
Through the use of gentle touch and carefully selected movements, the Rosen Method helps people release tension, free their breath, and let go of unconscious defenses that may be effectively limiting their existence. After receiving this treatment, some may become more aware of bodily sensations as well as the emotions and experiences associated with them. Gradually, they may be able to achieve a deeper connection with the self and begin to experience the wholeness that results from fully knowing and embracing all aspects of the self.
What Happens in a Rosen Method Session?
To a casual observer, Rosen Method Bodywork may seem like a form of massage, since the client lies on a massage table and the practitioner makes direct contact with the skin. However, no oils or lotions are used, and there is no manipulation of body tissues. Clients are usually dressed in their underwear but may leave on as much clothing as they wish. A light blanket is used for draping to ensure the client’s comfort. The session usually begins with clients lying face down, but they eventually turn onto their backs so the practitioner can also make contact with the muscles on the front of the body.
The primary aim of Rosen Method Bodywork is not to remove tension or pain but to help the client become aware of the sensations and emotions linked to tense, painful areas of the body. Once this awareness develops, it is believed the body will naturally heal itself without the need for any outside help. Practitioners therefore view their role as somewhat like that of a “midwife,” encouraging and supporting the emergence of the client’s suppressed feelings and experiences.
Rosen Method practitioners use a combination of touch, talk, and presence to heighten their clients’ awareness of felt experience.
- Touch. By means of slow, gentle touch, the practitioner uses hands to explore the client’s body and feel where tension is being held. The practitioner may adjust the pressure exerted by the hand in response to changes in the client’s body or make subtle movements with the palm and fingers. By locating and connecting with the client’s tension the practitioner helps to increase the client’s own awareness of such tension, along with the associated feelings and sensations.
- Talk. Practitioners use words to further enhance their clients’ awareness of bodily experience. For example, they might explain how past experiences can be stored in body tissues as tension and how an area of tension can affect the movement or posture of a particular part of the body. They might also share with their clients the changes they feel and observe in the body as the session progresses. However, practitioners make no attempt to interpret what they observe or to offer advice, and they typically use words sparingly so as not to interfere with the client’s self-awareness.
- Presence. Practitioners enter each session without expectations or preconceived ideas, with a goal of remaining fully receptive and available to the client, encouraging, inviting and following them as they journey toward greater awareness. Recognizing that clients’ experiences are revealed through their bodies, practitioners listen with their whole presence for any sign of tension or emerging emotions. They observe the client’s breathing, muscles, facial expressions, and body posture and movement, as well as speech. All forms of bodily experience are allowed to occur without judgment or interference. The practitioner’s respectful, supportive presence helps create a safe environment where individuals can feel comfortable re-experiencing and processing painful events and emotions.
Bodywork clients may also engage in movement classes, but the two are done separately. Rosen Movement, designed to prevent aches, pains, and stiffness in the body by gently guiding individuals through a series of purposeful movements, can help lubricate the joints and increase range of motion in both the upper and lower body. Through gentle stretches, muscles that have habitually been contracted are allowed to lengthen so an individual is gradually able to move with greater ease. Rosen Movement also facilitates greater expansion of the rib cage and chest, allowing the individual to breathe more freely and deeply.
Movement classes, like Bodywork sessions, typically last 50-60 minutes. They may be done individually or in a group, and the movements are usually performed to music selected by the practitioner. Movements start out slow and simple but gradually progress to routines that are more complex and dance-like. As clients begin to discover the areas that do not move freely, forgotten experiences and emotions associated with these areas may begin to surface. Pauses during the session allow individuals the opportunity to focus more deeply on what they are experiencing and process emerging material. With each new session, people receiving treatment may be able to discover more about themselves and experience a greater sense of well-being.
Benefits of the Rosen Method
Rosen Method Bodywork has been applied to the management of various physical conditions, either as a stand-alone treatment or as a complement to other forms of medical care. Conditions addressed with this approach include:
- Headaches, joint pain, and back pain
- Muscle pain and tension
- Respiratory illnesses such as asthma
- Sleep disturbances
- Chronic fatigue
- Gastrointestinal problems
Rosen Method Bodywork has also been used as a complement to psychotherapy in cases of trauma, grief, abuse, and other forms of emotional distress. In one study, clients reported a reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, as well as an increase in overall happiness and well-being. They also reported experiencing greater self-confidence, healthier interpersonal relationships, and a renewed outlook on life.
Rosen Method Movement can be beneficial to people of all ages who want to improve physical functioning and flexibility. Clients generally find they experience greater ease of movement, a broader range of motion, increased energy, and an improved sense of balance and coordination. The movements they are guided through may also help improve their mood, and people may, through the Rosen Method, learn to move more freely, breathe more deeply, and live more fully in the present moment.
Rosen Method Precautions
Rosen Method Bodywork produces change through the body but is not designed to thoroughly address cognitive issues. It may reduce certain symptoms, but those experiencing severe or serious mental health concerns are generally advised to seek help from a licensed mental health professional.
Since tension is released from muscles during Rosen Method Bodywork, clients may experience some soreness after their session, but this usually resolves within a few days. This form of bodywork may not be recommended for individuals who have infectious skin and respiratory conditions. Individuals who have chronic physical challenges, are seriously ill, or have suffered an acute injury should consult with a medical practitioner before engaging in Rosen Method Movement. In general, it is best to consult with one’s primary care practitioner before receiving massage therapy.
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