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Pulsing - get rhythm!

by Richard Lawton

If there's one song that makes me start dancing round the room with a silly grin on my face, it's Get Rhythm by NRBQ, with its suggested remedy for those times when you're feeling low:

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues!

NRBQ are a band little-known by the general public but adored by their fans. They released this song in 1978, which, coincidentally, was the year Curtis Turchin first came to the UK to teach Pulsing, a rhythmic bodywork modality that is also little-known by the general public but adored by its fans.

Pulsing is a whole body sequence of joint manipulation to encourage skeletal stretching, which challenges the muscles to soften and lengthen to conform to the changed skeletal pattern, assisted by some soft-tissue manipulation in key areas. This takes place within a matrix of shifting patterns of rhythmic, rocking motions that encourage the body to re-experience its innate movement potential. A baseline rhythm is set that is close the heart rate of the baby in the womb; this soft, sometimes almost hypnotic movement connects to our inner depths and brings echoes of a time when we were completely supported and nurtured.

For most of the session the practitioner will be rocking the client's body in this way, the speed varying according to whether there is a need to be more nurturing or more energising. Arms and legs may be lifted, rotated, stretched or bounced to encourage mobility. There is an emphasis on freeing the head and neck, helping the spine become more flexible and releasing deep-seated tension in the chest and diaphragm to encourage relaxed breathing. During the work, the client is asked to surrender into the movement and connect with breath and awareness to the pulse of their body. As they relax, sometimes the whole body will spontaneously yield and ride the wave of flowing movement.

Although the focus is on skeletal stretching, as the pulsations reverberate through the whole body all the organs and soft tissues are being gently massaged, including deep muscles that would never be touched by traditional hands-on approaches. The effect is that relaxation occurs not from the skin inwards but from the inside out, resulting in a more profound experience.

The benefits of Pulsing are wide-ranging, covering many physical and psychosomatic problems. Muscular tension and joint stiffness are eased, and flexibility, balance and co-ordination are improved. Given Pulsing's essentially nurturing character, this physical relaxation combined with work to promote deeper breathing can help melt away chronic stress. The rhythmic lulling encourages relaxed sleep and eases insomnia, while the fluidity of the movement improves circulation, lymphatic flow and digestion. In connecting us with our natural and primal body rhythms - so often thrown out of tune by stress and anxiety - Pulsing promotes a rebalancing of the body's homeostatic and self-healing capacity. Regular sessions invariably result in an increased sense of well-being and greatly improved levels of energy.

Pulsing is an incredibly versatile form of bodywork that requires a high level of sensitivity, intuition and creativity on the part of practitioners. A successful session depends significantly on their ability to connect and to establish their own rhythm as they move around the couch, since pulsing the client is performed not by strength but by the practitioner's own body in movement. In addition to its own intrinsic possibilities, Pulsing can also easily incorporate elements of other approaches, such as remedial massage, acupressure or energy-work, making it very fulfilling for the practitioner who wishes to integrate a diversity of skills or who relishes the ability to shift in an instant from whole-body treatment to targeted work and back again.

Sessions may be conducted in various modes, according to the client's need and the practitioner's background. It may be used purely as a manual therapy to promote deep relaxation and musculoskeletal realignment, while practitioners trained in process work may offer it as a bodymind therapy that includes emotional release and healing. Clients may choose to engage with playfulness, laughter, anger or tears; sink into the supportive, nurturing rhythm; or enter a meditative state. A session may include any or all of these. Whichever form of Pulsing is experienced, clients invariably report feeling nurtured, supported, deeply relaxed and energised. There is usually a greater sense of aliveness, lightness and freedom of movement. It is a blissful and liberating form of bodywork - arguably one of the very best.

So listen up and do what the song says. Get rhythm - you'll love it!

© 2010 Richard Lawton

This article originally appeared in the Inspire Massage Workshops newsletter, Autumn 2010

Richard Lawton can be contacted at