„What a simple question and not at all a simple answer“ - wrote my colleague once during our correspondence. I believe that everyone who has come across Integrative Bodywork and Movement Therapy (further referred to as IBMT) has their own answer to that question. This time I will share mine, that may differ from the answers of others. I am answering this question based on my own experience and the thoughts of teachers that resonate most with my personal sense. I would also like to note that I write from my knowledge of the current moment and maybe later I would answer this differently.
It is important to start by mentioning that IBMT is one of the modalities of somatics. First sentence and first unknown word. So what does this magic word mean? Th. Hanna defines „soma“ as the body experienced from within. Other definitions of this word also calls that a living body. When we walk on the street, breathe, exercise, a mindful perception of the experience of this moment through the body is what we call soma. In order to perceive our experience, we can ask how: how/what is the way we are, how do we experience certain things, how/what tells us about one or another experience, how do we create connection... Somatics entails many different practices and therapies that invite us to look into our inner experience by applying various methods. This subjective experience of the moment is the essence of IBMT.
Now I invite you to extend your right arm and look at it as an object: observe the color of the skin, explore the texture, notice the length of your arm, the girth and etc. Now notice inner sensations in the arm: trembling, pulsing and so on. Observing inner sensations in the arm is still observing the body as an object although this experience is already subjective. IBMT goes one step forward and invites us to experience the arm as an expression of who we are: an arm that is holding a baby, embracing another person, an arm that can fight, hit, protect, a hand that writes, plays an instrument, a hand that can take care and can hurt. Various symptoms in the body (e.g. pain, discomfort) are also expressions of me. It is an expression of me that needs a specific attention. IBMT seeks to deepen the awareness of who we are through the body.
Another example that can be helpful when trying to deeper understand what is IBMT - comparing how Western medicine and somatic practices view the body. Medicine explores the body as an object (i.e. from the outside): checks blood pressure, levels of hormones in the blood, observes changes in the skin and etc. Then it prescribes treatment: medication, massage, heat or other therapies. We would call it outside in. The body is handled based on the information acquired through observation of the body as an object from outside.
IBMT explores a subjective feeling perceived through the body. This information is used in order to find a more comfortable, more optimum, happier, more energetic being in this world. A simple example is working with pain that arises in specific conditions. At first we gently draw our attention to the clearly perceived experience, e.g. pain, then we gradually move into a deeper and less obvious experience, e.g. we notice places around pain, inner movement that happens as we experience pain, the working of the nervous system. We can travel through sensations, imagery and/or inner dialogue. We can take one step forward and enable the body itself to inform and maybe even surprise us. For example, we can allow a movement to happen in a way that never happened before. This approach is called inside out. This kind of movement we could call body wisdom. Body wisdom can be expressed not only through a new kind of movement but also a sensation, feeling or thought born from within the body. Experiencing self in a new way is one of the main missions of IBMT. Sometimes it is not only the body that can invite one to try something new but also a therapist can offer a client to try a new movement or create a new sensation through touch. In these moments we are engaging with the quality of neuroplasticity - we create new neural pathways.
Another important aspect is integration. When I am thinking how I would describe integration, the words that arise in me are entail, contain, allow to be, not to forget, take care and (sometimes) let go. It seems that this process is teaching me how to take care of myself deeper and deeper.
At the beginning, when first attending the sessions, IBMT practices help to develop certain skills:
Conscious being in the present moment (different IBMT methods help to understand what is happening with me in this moment (what is my body position, what am I feeling and etc.)), and conscious being in the long term (recognising habits, ways that we move, talk, develop relationships).
Self-regulation in the present moment (helps to find ways to be present when stressful situations appear, when one is sad, when it feels difficult, when energy feels lacking: e.g. by inviting to exhale, focus attention on the feet, tremble and etc.) and self-regulation long term (recognise what helps and what doesn’t, how do we know that and etc.).
Social awareness (how our voice, movements and etc. are affecting others).
Later, after getting a feel of our embodied inner process and following it, we can deepen the inner experience and recognise that what we need for our healing and evolving lies within us. By trusting our inner knowledge and intuition and learning skills that allow us to access the wisdom of the body and our consciousness, we become empowered to creatively participate in our journey of healing and evolving.
Before finishing, it is important to mention three areas that are the cornerstones and foundations of IBMT. I believe that these descriptions might present more unknown terms but if curiosity and a wish to explore arises within you, are welcome to learn more in individual sessions with our practitioners face to face or online. Maybe after directly experiencing what you are now reading about, there will be less need for clarification and words since your own direct experience will be alive in the body.
Three foundational IBMT cornerstones are Authentic Movement Discipline, Body-Mind Centering® method and Somatic Psychology.
Discipline of Authentic Movement (created by Janet Adler) helps to discover or create a safe space where a personal story rising from the subconsciousness can be embodied, felt into, seen and integrated. This discipline is seeking to support the growth of inner witness. It is a non-judgemental place within us that is filled with compassion and acceptance, where we can first of all clearly see and hear ourselves and then we can clearly see and hear another.
Body-Mind Centering® method (created by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen) invites us to gently come back and feel our home - our body - again. Here we can re experience the integration of senses, feelings, thinking processes and spirit. By practicing embodied anatomy through touch, imagination, movement or sound we meet information that arises from a specific place in the body, e.g. heart or lungs. We awaken the awareness of the body by exploring developmental movement patterns and looking for new ways to move. When our habitual ways of moving change or become more flexible, thought processes also change. We become more open, spontaneous and have more freedom of choice.
Somatic psychology explores theoretical models that support the integration of personal stories. Theoretical models include embryology and embodiment of the spirit, the effect of the birth process on the development of will and character, the relation between body, mind and feelings, psychoneuroimmunology and etc.
To me IBMT is about a constant integration of experiences and learning to understand what the body is and what it means to be a human living on this earth.