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Pulsing - touch with rhythmic movement

by Guy Gladstone


Imagine the following: the heartbeat itself, the pulse of the bloodstream, held by the muscular walls of the veins and arteries, the elastic and layered qualities of those channels, repeated in the structure of the larger extrinsic muscles; the circulation of lymph (the body's drainage system); the finer pulses of meridian energy familiar to acupuncturists; and the pulsating quality of breathing, each inhalation and exhalation sending a ripple down the length of a relaxed spine and its column of cerebro-spinal fluid, thus internally massaging every vertebra and the channelling of the central nervous system. Between them these various 'pulses' involve all three categories of body tissue - endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm, that is the entire substance of the body. Consider too a meaning of impulse, a movement of energy from the core of a body towards its surface. In a body free to feel impulses may translate into emotions. Reflections like these have helped me appreciate the potential of a technique that begins with my imparting to my client's body through my hands an impulsion from the outside. Usually this is an invitation to relax the neck. Rhythmically repeated this impulsion builds a relationship with a whole field of pulses latent within my client's person. Touch like the pulse of music, can set a bodymind dancing, all the while lying on the table. Each move in Pulsing occurs within a matrix of continuous rhythmic rocking applied to the whole body.


The French having a saying, 'reculer pour mieux sauter' which translates to 'move back in order to better jump forward'. This well describes the rationale for what in essence is a regressive experience, a positive return to developmental roots. Adults are refreshed by phases of passivity, inertia, abdication from voluntary effort, and horizontal grounding, all of which have regressive connotations. A degree of muscular tension is necessary to sustain the posture of vertical grounding (i.e. standing upright). As with all forms of massage when the client lies down on the table and accepts its support the musculature gets the message its time to relax. How then is Pulsing an advance on this or sleep for that matter? Pulsing adds an active progressive dimension to massage. The movements imparted cumulatively provide a massive experience of passive movement for the recipient. This is an experience as refreshing as contact with moving air and moving water. You need only recall the effects of wind and waves whilst also enjoying warmth and rest, (say laying on the beach in summer sunshine). Pulsing explores that curious terrain between the voluntary and involuntary, between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. Whereas voluntary movement and involuntary movement governed by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system tend to be wakeful, focused and time-bound, the physiological effects of movement applied to the body during parasympathetic predominance are dream-like, diffused, spacey, tending towards trance states.


I have frequently observed over twenty years of teaching Pulsing how often a high proportion of people attending courses speak of approaching a significant transition in their life, either personally or professionally. It is as though they have intuited a need for a form of kinaesthetic gearing down to better face the turning of a corner, a need met by the device of supplying themselves for two days with the extra security of repeated rhythmic movement. It is a well known law of physics that moving friction is less than starting friction. Once the weekend is underway movement becomes the norm and one might speculate that movement functions as a kinaesthetic analogue of the imagined and anticipated changes and transitions. Relaxing into the varied rhythms of a Pulsing session, feeling how subtle changes in the tempo created by the Pulser's moving hand can prefigure a change to a different mode or plane of movement, the receiver organismically prepares herself to face the future and its varied demands.


One should not underestimate the extraordinary pleasure of passive rhythmic movement. To be relieved of the responsibility of choice and yet to still be very much aware that life goes on, new developments occur, and something is happening, effortlessly, this really is a boon, a groove, a high, an altered state of consciousness that is entrained with confirmations of the world as benign. Pulsing recapitulates the pleasures of movement in childhood, typified by such rhythm machines as swings, seesaws and rocking horses. Rhythmicity is fundamental to bodily life. Breathing, sucking, crying, the peristalsis of the guts and the beat of the heart, all rhythmic phenomena and among the building blocks of experience. Rhythm allays anxiety, enhances pleasure and provides compensatory satisfaction when desires are frustrated. A Pulsing session is an hour or so of play with rhythms and an encounter with the form of emotions, if not their content. Lest anyone has found this apologia for rhythmic movement in hands-on bodywork a shade New Age, I shall give the last word to Charles Darwin, nineteenth century natural historian and protagonist of the biological and survival of the fittest, who remarked that 'emotional expression belongs to rhythmical forms'.1


- Gently releases muscular and emotional tension
- Harmonises the various circulatory pulses
- Eases stiff joints, increasing flexibility
- Like dance develops the inner sense of movement
- Enlarges movement repertoire, expanding the kinesphere
- Yields imagery and suggestions from the unconscious
- Imparts an overall cellular stimulation
- Like Tai Chi becomes a shared physical meditation
- Fosters deeper, easier breathing
- Simultaneously relaxes and energises
- Meets the need for nurturance through touch
- Satisfies the hunger for sensuous experience through passive movement
- Contact with natural body rhythms stimulates self-healing and a centred self-awareness
- A grounded in-the-body experience of wonder and 'good wombing'
- The wavelike movements help you flow with life and attune to an inner wisdom.


1 Darwin, C. 'The Expression of the Emotions'. 1872. J. Murray

© Guy Gladstone

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