By André Fritz


The concept of “Bodymind”, that our emotions affect our structure, our health and our lives is generally accepted, at least in the Holistic world, without a complete understanding of its full impact, let alone the reality of it’s biological nature.

Bodywork, especially those working with fascia (connective tissue) and energy can elicit powerful emotional and physical transformations; but what are the mechanisms that drive this process? Is it voodoo magic, or is it firmly based in physical reality? Part of the problem is that we are stuck with an outdated dualistic (Cartesian/Newtonian) model of the bodymind, whereas we need a new paradigm allowing body/biology to parallel quantum physics, with a monistic view encompassing a network of relationships rather that an assemblage of “parts.”

It is in the very nature of our beings:

1) The structure of our “triune” brain as developed over evolutionary time with its 3 distinct levels of comprehension and functioning and its 2 hemispheres with their distinct personalities.

2) The properties of fascia that make it the vehicle for Reichian “body armor,” as well as its piezoelectric properties that allow it to serve as an interconnected, communicating medium.

3) The chemistry of neuropeptides, which are the chemical messengers of emotions as well as a direct link between our neurological-endocrine and immunological systems.

4) The nature of our autonomic nervous system and its “unconscious” functioning, especially stress-induced responses.

5) Our energetic condition, especially our electro-magnetic fields and the alteration of brain wave emissions that link thought to emotion to health.

What I will attempt to explore is the totality of the bodymind interconnection as a network of interdependent communicating relationships that make us who we are. Instead of “I think, therefore I am,” I would rather move to “I feel, therefore I am,” or perhaps more appropriately, “I am that I am.”

  1. Emotions are felt by the body, but recognized by the mind

Man does not have a brain, but rather a 3-part brain that developed over millions of years of evolution. Not only that, but the two separate hemispheres of our brains have completely different personalities, feminine and masculine, if you will. Our older, “reptilian” brain controls our basic functioning, drives and self-preservation. Our more complex emotions are controlled by our less older, “mammalian” brain. What we consider our “mind,” our “new brain,” basically gathers information, thinks, and plans. Most of our older brain’s functioning remains “unconscious” to us in our daily lives, and yet it controls much of what we do, especially sexually and emotionally; much to the chagrin of the new brain. You see, the old brain’s territory is the body, and that is why bodywork is so effective in reaching it.

Our “ego” is a creation of our new brains, developed in childhood to protect ourselves. We are convinced it is us, but unfortunately, it is not. The new brain works great in foresight and hindsight, but only the body exists in the now, since the old brain has no sense of linear time. To live only in the new brain is repression/denial of our basic beings, whereas living only in the older brain is basically “acting out.” A harmony, balance and integration of all these parts is what is needed for healthy functioning (comparable to aligning all of our chakras).

The left hemisphere of our brain, which controls the right side of our body, is “masculine” in nature and excels at logic, math and spatial perception, while our right hemisphere, which controls the left side of our bodies, is “feminine” in nature and excels at creative endeavors, intuition and imagination. We obviously need an integrated balance of both to function. Bodywork often helps correct those differences that are evident in us due to emotional left/right imbalances. Modern man has allowed this marvelous invention of the new brain to be the master, and has assumed “I think, therefore I am.” It, however, is only a tool, a wonderful tool, that helps makes us who we are. It is far from the totality of who we are, for the body also serves as a vehicle for the soul as well as the mind.

  1. The body is an armored expression of what is released by the ego.

Those familiar with body-centered psychology know of Wilhelm Reich’s concept of body armor, that is, that all unprocessed emotions are locked in the body tissue, and ultimately cause breakdowns in the body systems. The myofascial system of the body is the vehicle for this process to occur.

All of our childhood experiences become imbedded in our tissue as well as our entire history of emotional trauma.  Different areas of the body hold different emotions, but the held emotion is not specific to a particular body restriction. And so our bodies reflect those disowned parts of our personalities, something Jung called the “shadow.”

The fascia is the environment in which all of the body parts live. It wraps every muscle, bone, organ, nervous system, ligament and tendon. It is totally interconnected, and as we shall see, also a communicating medium. Every emotion expresses itself in body character structure or muscular “armor” tension. The use of physical pressure facilitates the breakthrough of feeling and the corresponding recovery of memory; release of tension and reintegration. We replace rigidity with flexibility and conscious thought.

The myofascial system is a network or pathway through which energy and information seems to flow; a semi-conductor like computer chips. All acupuncture meridians, for example, lie along fascial planes, and perhaps through fascia, this is how those signals are connected and processed. In addition, as energy blocks are released, and energy flows through a system, it tends to organize that system, and in humans it reinforces our sense of self.

How we stand in the world reflects our feelings about our standing in the world. If we can change the body, we have the potential to change belief, and hence ourselves. We can rid ourselves of the emotional and physical baggage we carry around with us everyday in our lives so that we can grow and be fulfilled emotionally and physically, and perhaps spiritually as well.

III.  “Emotions are the Key to Health”

        (Dr. Candace Pert)

One of the most exciting and far-reaching, recent discoveries in biology is that of the neuropeptides, the chemical messengers of emotions. Made directly from DNA, 50-60 neuropeptides have been identified so far. They regulate mood states (pleasure, pain, learning, appetite, sexuality, anxiety, etc.) and are also the agents that alter consciousness. In addition, they affect our memory and ability to learn. But perhaps most important of all, neuropeptides link the nervous, endocrine and immune systems into a two-way information network.

They and their receptor sites predominate in the “old-brain” (limbic system and brainstem), but are also located throughout the body, so emotions are not just in the brain, but also everywhere in the body. Consciousness is not just in the head; the body is the outward manifestation of the mind, the skin is the surface of the brain. Overcome with feelings is really overcome with neuropeptides. Even before we register our perceptions, they are colored by emotion. Emotions tell us what to do, what to pay attention to, and are thus of prime importance for evolution. For you see, neuropeptides have remained unchanged in creatures from protozoan to man, and are the same in all creatures, giving a simplicity and unity to all life. Neuropeptides give us a real physical basis for emotions that now is scientifically knowable.

Neuropeptides, and drugs with similar chemical signatures, work as a key into a lock (a receptor site). For example, morphine fits into the same receptor site and has a similar chemical configuration as the brain’s opium (endorphins), and hence both block pain. Breathing practices affect endorphins in the brainstem to be released, which alter pain thresholds and consciousness. There are receptor sites for neuropeptides on human monocytes, the building block of the immune system, and they also help direct activity of the immune system.

The discovery of the neuropeptides has challenged biology to remodel a new paradigm of brain functions; the brain being more of a gland, and the egocentric hierarchy of the new brain (neo-cortex) over the lower brain and body being invalidated by the system of neuropeptides. It is a non-linear or quantum view with your emotional status contributing to your disease status. “Our feelings and our bodies are like water flowing into water. We learn to swim within the energies of the body senses.”

  1. Our ability to create change far outdistances our ability to adapt to it.

Most people think of the Central Nervous System (C.N.S.) when they hear the term, “the nervous system,” but there is another equally important system called the Autonomic Nervous System (A.N.S.). Unlike the C.N.S., which controls motor (muscle) functioning and transmission of sensation (pleasure/pain) signals, the A.N.S. “automatically” controls our major organ functioning, heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, hormones and sexual functioning. It is broken down into two branches: the sympathetic, which is excitatory and expends energy and the parasympathetic, which is inhibitory and conserves energy.

The sympathetic branch creates the “fight or flight” response in our bodies which originally maintained our basic survival. The problem is that modern humans sense “fight or flight” situations when there truly are none. Our breathing quickens, heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, muscles become tense and adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream. Normally, the parasympathetic branch dominates, but fear, as well as other strong emotions and physical activity, stimulates the sympathetic branch and causes a “fight or flight” response. Long term “sympathetic tuning” in modern humans is what we know as being “stressed out.” We, humans, create threats to our existence where there are none, and then we try to control our responses, and inhibit ourselves from taking action (freezing). Long term exposure to this level of arousal breaks down the auto-immune system, and gives rise to a host of stress induced diseases such as: ulcers, colitis, chronic back pain, psoriasis, temporo-mandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), asthma, allergies, and many more.

Like Yoga and meditation, bodyworks produces an increase in brain alpha waves and changes in the A.N.S. which help balance it, expand its limits and relieve stress and tension, and thus eliminating the cause of most stress-induced diseases. Bodywork, thus, is an antidote to the severe stress modern humans find in their lives, and should be viewed as a “moving meditation” that helps cleanse the body and the spirit.

  1. “Magic is just the science we don’t understand yet.”

Chi, Prana, Reiki, Electro-magnetic field, Light, Orgone energy, Will to live, Universal intelligence, L-fields, M-fields, Kirlian energy are all different names man has used to describe the same thing: your basic life force; the animating current of life. Any time an electric current flows, a magnetic field will be set up and this field is measurable by modern science. The electro-magnetic field (with water) forms the matrix of life, and due to water’s dipolar field, structures can form that transmit energy and electronic excitation. Connective tissue is a liquid crystal which bounds not just the muscles but the nervous and circulatory system and organs as well, and can conduct electrical energy across its surface, especially with the application of physical pressure from the hands (a phonone).

One often hears the term “energy work” or “I work with releasing energy blocks,” but what is it, how does it flow and what is blocking it? First of all, energy is energy; there is no bad energy, just well-directed or mis-directed. The life force does not differentiate between physical and emotional pain; both are simply expressions of blocked life force. Emotions are moving energy currents throughout the body. That energy flow is restricted by armor blocks, created by stress and trauma, and since fascia is the vehicle for that armoring, cleaning up that flow allows for the expansion and joy that are part of the birthright of humanity. The deep pressure of Rolfing releases those blocks and allows the life force to flow more easily. Fear of the future and regret of the past are the barriers we face to being here and now.

Since the flow of energy through a system organizes that system, and since the body is self-organizing with its own innate intelligence, a healer doesn’t exorcise or take anything away from a person, but changes the person’s energy vibration with his own by using thought that is intentional in its purpose to help direct energy. Bodywork can be the meeting of one consciousness with another with tactile forgiveness. To achieve this, the practitioner needs to be centered within themselves, present to their clients’ process, trusting of the body’s innate knowledge and relaxed and loving in their attitude and work. Since the heart has the strongest electro-magnetic field in the body (not the brain), and since the heart chakra opens up the hands, it becomes evident that the healer must be open and connected to his/her client and that their electro-magnetic fields interact, and are altered. Any time one person puts their hands on another this occurs, but it is the intention and direction of that touch which is key. Perhaps the healer’s body and brain waves are phase-locked (attuned) with the earth’s electro-magnetic field (Schumann Resonance) and this is transmitted out through their hands. As Vedic medicine put it; “Healing involves aligning our bodies with the larger body for the effortless flow of information.”

The body is not a highly sophisticated machine as seen by western medicine, an assemblage of parts. Dr. Valerie Hunt, in her seminal study at U.C.L.A., noted that Rolfing affects the aura or electro-magnetic field, and produces greater right hemisphere activity (creativity and intuition). It is then a powerful modality to alter the electro-magnetic field to a more refined, equal and higher frequencies. As Fritjof Capra put it, “The universe (and body) are one dynamic whole whose parts are essentially interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process.”

Some Final Thoughts:

Ida Rolf is quoted as saying, “There is no psychology, there is only physiology, at least that is all I can get my hands on,” but there is psychology in that physiology. Humans are grown, not assembled; they evolve and take in history. Our bodies are representative of that history. The body is the vehicle by which we gain transformation, and bodywork directly works with the non-conscious by making clients aware of the sub cortical self. “The world just is, my body just is. Good and bad arise from my relationship to it. I can create positive or negative value in every event and aspect of my life.” – Don Johnson

The greatest changes in the physical body occur when there are corresponding changes in awareness and attitude. As John Upledger puts it, “You can make all the bodily adjustments you like but if you don’t deal with the emotional issues that are causing them, they won’t hold.” I echo Milton Trager’s sentiments: “I am convinced that for every physical non-yielding condition there is a physic counterpart in the unconscious mind corresponding exactly to the degree of the physical manifestation. These patterns often develop in response to adverse circumstances, such as accidents, surgery, illness, poor posture, emotional trauma, stresses of daily living or poor movement habits. The purpose of my work is to break up these sensory and mental patterns which inhibit free movement and cause pain and disruption of normal function.”

“People say what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experience on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our inner-most being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive in our bodies.”

Joseph Campbell


“My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than the intellect. The body-unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos.”

D. H. Lawrence

Andre' Fritz Structural integration and body centered therapy
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