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Feeling the Pulse

by Steve Clifford

Imagine a baby deep in the womb being rocked gently as its mother moves, her heartbeat communicating, sending out a constant rhythmic message... reassuring, comforting, soothing... Now, imagine that you were being rocked ever so gently, for an hour or more, as if being cradled in the arms of a loving parent. The lights are low and gentle music plays, as your body relaxes to light rhythmical massage accompanied by gentle stretching and manipulation, all tension leaving your body, as you are transported into a comfort zone, into a blissful state of deep relaxation. This is the essence of Pulsing, one of the most nurturing and gentle systems of bodywork. Nourishing, comforting and connecting, movement is a fundamental principle enabling humans to engage with the world around them. The body is the physical manifestation of our self and movement represents the nonverbal expressiveness central to our existence. Pulsing has been described as the 'Tai-chi of massage', with its combination of rhythmic flowing movements. The gentle wavelike sensations encourage connection with the natural pulsations which exist within our bodies: heartbeat, bloodstream, breath, lymph circulation. With its very gentle style of manipulation, it is a form of movement re-education and it resembles the 'functional technique' of osteopathy, except that "each move is contained within a continuous rocking motion applied to the whole body," as Gladstone described in The Journal of Biosynthesis.

For me, discovering Pulsing was like discovering something I had always known, in that awareness of our natural pulsation and rhythm is the first step to a deeper self-awareness, a connection with the world, the universe, whose rhythm and dance is replayed over and over again. Like dance, Pulsing becomes a shared experience where focused awareness leads to an exchange of information and connection with both inner and outer worlds. Like movement, physical contact in the form of touch is vital for human existence. The very act of touching stimulates the central nervous system and serves to release beneficial chemicals into the body. It is a sad fact that as we get older the amount of physical contact we receive diminishes. Pulsing seeks to redress this imbalance with the Pulsing practitioner encouraging the client to 'listen' to their body, identifying areas where they feel tense, tight, weak, uncomfortable or painful and becoming aware of protective holding patterns, this is the beginning of the healing process and the first step to letting go. For many, conscious awareness of our relationship and connection with the rhythmic pulsation that exists within us has all but disappeared. Lack of energy, tiredness, lethargy and feeling generally out of condition prevail, as we negotiate our modern day-to-day lives. Flow and grace long surrendered to clumsiness and poor co-ordination, maladies often indicative of disharmony and imbalance. Aches, pains and tension headaches are about as connected as many get to their bodies these days. Taking time to listen and re-connect to the joyful rhythm of our own bodies is, I believe, the key to well-being and good health. 'There is a powerful source of rhythmic knowledge in every human being, as we find our way back to this ancient wisdom, we unite with the essence of life,' writes Reinhard Flatischler in The Forgotten Power of Rhythm.

With its emphasis on the free flow of pulsatory energy in the body, the relationship with movement and expression, it seeks to assist individuals toward healthy functioning using the 'experience of the body as a healing tool. The original concept championed by Reich himself was that a free 'Now of energy coursing through the individual promotes vitality, aliveness and pleasure. Put simply, when energy comes together, there is life; when energy departs, there is death. For humans to stay healthy, energy needs to move freely throughout the body. When the vital flow of energy is blocked, there is sickness; when there is free flow, there exists health and well-being. " It is this pulsation or rhythmic energy that is the form and expression of our aliveness," writes Christine Caldwell in Getting in Touch.

During a Pulsing session the practitioner imparts movement through his or her body to the client, who is able to enjoy the rhythmic wave-like motion, which supports a state of blissful regression. The continuous rocking induces a deep sense of security and can promote a pleasurable hypnagogic state. It also produces an upward and outward expansion (most bodies are compressed downwards and inwards). In working with the joints and ligaments, Pulsing promotes openness and space between articulating surfaces. Pulsing is a rhythmic movement-based manipulative therapy, where the practitioner applies a systematic manual application of pressure and movement in varying degrees to the soft tissue of the body - the skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments arid fascia (membranes surrounding the muscle). The combination of rocking and other gentle, rhythmic movements create a free flow of movement, unheeded by reflex resistance. Pulsing is a very nurturing and safe form of bodywork, with massage and manipulation contained within the rhythmic rocking movements. Different practitioners tend to bring their own style to the work arid sometimes Pulsing moves are incorporated into other modalities such as Swedish massage, Bioenergetics, or Postural Integration.

"At the heart of each of us, whatever our imperfections, there exists a Silent pulse of perfect rhythm, a complex of wave forms and resonances, which is absolutely individual and unique, and yet which connects us with everything in the universe" writes G. Leonard in The Silent Pulse. "The act of getting in touch with this pulse can transform our personal experience and in some way alter the world around us." Pulsing values the essential completeness or integration of the body and provides a platform for individuals to re-learn and connect with themselves. Pulsing enables people to relate lie their bodies, encouraging an understanding of the way tension is held. Recognising the more subtle messages present in breathing, posture and physiological manifestations can be a very rewarding journey. As we move forward into the 21st century we need to re-establish and re-value, respecting and nurturing that which is so precious. It is only by relating to the body, listening and identifying with it, that we can begin to acknowledge the true value of ourselves, or as Heckler said in The Anatomy of Change: "I am a body" rather than "I have a body".

© 2007 Steve Clifford. This article previously appeared in Kindred Spirit magazine.

Steve Clifford can be contacted at